"Kisi Ke Itne Paas Ho, Ki Humse Dur Ho Gaye"
[You are so close to someone that you are distant from me]
The lines are from a very favourite song of mine - "Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh" by the legendary Lata Mangeshkar. The euphony of her voice gives vehemence to the heartbreaking lines. I always enjoyed the emotional paradigm expressed in the song, especially in that specific line.
Lata Mangeshkar passed away today at the age of 92. She is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential singers in India. The death of Lata-ji also ended an era in music. The reverence Lata Mangeshkar is regarded with didn't just come from her vocal finesse, but also her saint-like devotion to the art.
I was born in the mid-'90s – a time by which Lata Mangeshkar had already long achieved her legendary cachet. The sort of music Lata-ji had been famous for was already being sidelined by then, but the soulful depth of her voice remained timeless and sui generis.
Born as Hema Mangeshkar on 28 September 1929, Lata Mangeshkar has gained honorific titles such as the Nightingale of India and Queen of Melody in her seven-decade long career. She has recorded songs in over 36 languages.
The timelessness of Lata-ji touched me from more than one side – through her old golden hits from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, to the filmy ones running from the 1980s to my contemporary times.
It's not just her voice that has enriched music, but also her emotions. As I near my 30s, one may say half of my life is gone, and each of its moments can be delineated by one or more songs by Lata Mangeshkar. Be it the feeling of joy, union, loneliness, love, inner despair, betrayal, anger, anguish, hope and more.
Much of my sense of romanticised love revolves around the old golden era songs – mostly voiced by Lata Mangeshkar.
My parents and grandmother have been fans of Lata Mangeshkar, and her songs would be heard playing in the music system or being sung by either my mother, aunt or grandmother during certain leisure hours of the day.
I remember a very fond memory with my mother: we were on a transatlantic voyage from Canada to the UAE. There would be regular BBQ parties on the ship's deck every evening after the sun would set. My mother and I would take long walks through the upper deck as the sky would go red and together we would sing the famous Bangla song by Lata-ji – "Nijhumo Shondhay."
From post-Khichuri dinner "Yeh Raat Bhigi Bhigi" on rainy nights, to a Friday afternoon family time over another rewatch of Mughal-e-Azam and drooling over "Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya" – I grew up with rich lyrics that came alive through Lata-ji voice.
As I grew older, life became complex to the point of reaching disarray; and along came a de-romanticised view of life. When I failed to get into a good public university despite my best efforts, and the weight of ambitions became too heavy to bear in the face of uncertainty - "Tujhse Naraz Nahi Zindagi Hairaan Hoon Main" and "Guzra Hua Zamana" became my anthem.
My young heart's falling in love has been serenaded by Lata Ji's "Aap Ki Nazroon Ne Samjha Payar Ki Kabil Hume," "Payar Hua, Ekrar Hua," "Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega," "Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya," "Dil Se," "Lag Jaa Gale," "Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein," all the songs from the 1997 Bollywood film "Dil Toh Pagal Hai" and 1995's "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge."
As heartbreaks came – in the form of unrequited love, being cheated on and fate simply being cruel; Lata Mageshkar's "Yeh Zindagi Usiki Hai," "Do Pal," "Tere Liye," "Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh," "Mohabbat Ki Jhooti Kahani Pe Roye" not only dramatised the feelings – but also acted as a remedy and offered refuge.
The festive moods would be captured by her "Didi Tera Devar Diwana," "Teri Mehfil Main," "Mohe Panghat Me Nandlal" and so on.
Even as I entered work life, the quotidian perils had a way of shaping themselves in the forms of Lata Mangeshkar songs – the title song from 2001's "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" being a recurring theme.
Singing is an art and art imitates life; Lata Mangeshkar's vocal artistry emanated life in all its glee and grief. It has not only fortified certain human feelings in us – but in many cases precipitated them into being.
Lata Mangeshkar's death only marks the end of her breathing – through her singing, she will forever live on and go on to mend many more.