Friday, September 22, 2023

Lata Didi: A Tribute

Harsh Goenka pens a heartfelt tribute to his “Didi” and family friend

She is ageless, timeless. Over seven decades she has given us the most sublime and enchanting music. We are indeed fortunate to have lived when Lataji’s melodious voice resonated on the planet. The days when Lataji would come home are amongst the special memories for us as a family. Lataji was like a member of our family and we often saw her at home. She was the ‘rakhi’ sister to my father and mother and her charming soft demeanour and affection touched our hearts. It was with my mother that Lataji had a close bond at the time and they had their own space discussing families, sarees and common friends. What stood out for me was that, here was the supreme singing diva of our generation and yet she was like any normal person talking plain simple things that people talk, in the most down to earth manner imaginable. Success did not alter her. She was humble, extremely curious and had a child-like innocence. Unlike all artistes who have a peak to their career, Lataji remained in her prime all through. I have had the good fortune of listening to her sing absolutely raw in our living room, devoid of the trappings of a studio and recording gear. I recall the time she sang a few lines from “Aayega aane walaa”. It was a ‘raungtey khade ho gaye’ moment. Simply magical and unforgettable.

For the world she was the numero uno voice, but for us she was, is and will forever be Lata Didi. Like all true Mumbaikars she had a deep passion for cricket. She would discuss the nuances of the game with me, whether it was a Test match or an IPL game. My connection with her grew because of our music company HMV. She knew every member of the staff at the HMV office and it was always a treat for them when she visited the office. She never forgot a festive occasion, whether a birthday or a wedding, and we would get beautiful gifts from her. Just two months back, I spoke with Lata on the phone for half an hour. Her voice was still very fresh and she still had the same enthusiasm. Of course she lamented that she could not move. But we discussed cricket and strangely, some politics. She had a lot of praise for PM Narendra Modi and spoke of their mutual affection. One of her proudest achievements was how she created the Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital in Pune. She was committed to that hospital. Her melody is immortal and will continue to sing to each one of us. Whether it is a love ballad or a grieving requiem or a galvanising anthem, that one single voice, the unmistakable sound of the nightingale of our times will always ring through the heart of India.

Dearest Lata didi,
Tere bina zindagi se koi,
shikwa to nahi
Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin,
zindagi to nahi.
The heavens will sound sweeter from today.


The writer is Chairman, RPG Enterprises

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