Ever since I turned 5 or maybe 6, I have believed God lives in THAT voice. So many many years later, it hasnt changed. To hearLataMangeshkar sing is to have known God. To haveknown her personallyis to have foundmokshafar beyond any acknowledged religion can teach you.
I got to know her very late. For decades I hero-worshipped her from very far away like one does the Gods. If asked why I didnt meet her personally Id reason ridiculously, You worship God, you dont shake hand with Her.
Or some such nonsense to explain my fearof meeting in person the God that I worshipped. Suppose she turns out to have feet of clay?
But as luck would have it, LataDiditurned out to be as beautiful in person as she was in voiceOkay, maybe thats an exaggeration. No personality can ever match THAT VOICE. None at all. Not evenLataMangeshkarherself.
(An aside: which heroineis able to carry off LataMangeshkars voice most adequately:Meena Kumari,Nutan,WaheedaRehman,Madhubala, Vyjanthimala,Sadhana,Hema Malini,SharmilaTagore? Answer: all, and none of the above).
For years and years, I trusted only my ears and continued worshipping the voice from afar. It was childhood faith. At 6, believed the VOICE waswithout an embodiment. Just something createdto assure mankind about the existence of God.
It was my dear friendSanjeevKohli, the son of the illustrious composerMadanMohan, who arranged my first meeting with her, an encounter that turned into a kinship that has lasted for 28 years now.
I vividly remember my first meeting with her at the Shiv SenaBhavaninMumbai. She was supposed to reach in the evening at an appointed hour to rehearse for a concert that was being hosted byAnupamKher. I metAnupam. But I didnt meet my God. She was unwell.She sent a message for meto meet her the next day at the same venue.
I think shes just brushing me off, I told my friend over the phone. I could hear the sound of my breaking heart. My friend joined me the next day inMumbai.And we both trooped down to Shiv SenaBhawan.
I was convinced she wont turn up. But she did. How do I describe the moment when I first met her? I wont. Because there are no words thereplicate the way my heart waltzed into my chest. It must have been as magical forMeerabaiwhen she saw Krishna.
The magic has remained for 28 years. I consider myself hugely privileged to have known her. I know of so many who just want a glimpse of her. Scores of people stand below her homePrabhuKunjonPeddarRoad in SouthMumbaiin the hope of catching a glimpse of her in the balcony.
I remember a friendtextingme excitedly that she had JUST seen HER in her balcony while driving below onPeddarRoad. I never broke her heart by telling her the devastating truth: LataDidi never comes out on that famous little balcony of her residence where she has lived for 40 yearsabd wherefans gaze in the hope of seeing her. But here is where I feel blessed. Ive not only sat for hours with her in thatcosyfamily home inPrabhuKunjIve also been privileged to see her room where no one is allowed to enter.
Once during our lengthy telephonic conversations, I mentioned to her that Id like to see the sanctumsanctorum. Many months later when we met atPrabhuKunjshe remembered my request, You wanted to see my room?
And she took me to the sparkling neat little room which I am sure none of herBhaktshave ever seen.
Thank you, Didi, for taking me where very few have the honour of going, for being the only God Ive ever known. Thank you for those hundreds of songs which have lit up the darkest of my days. What would I be without them?
LataDidi, thank you for themusic.
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