The only time I met her was in London in 1974. She was the first Indian to perform at Royal Albert Hall.
Immortality will not bypass Lata Mangeshkar. The law of diminishing returns will never pursue her. She was a genius. Her songs will be played, heard and sung for decades to come. Her fragrant memory will endure.
The first time I heard her voice was in 1950. It was song from the film “Mahal”.
Lata Mangeshkar and I have one thing in common. We were born in the same year—1929.
The only time I met her was in London in 1974. She was the first Indian to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. Not a seat was vacant. Dilip Kumar spoke a few words.
My wife, the leader of the Labour Party, Michael Foot and I sat in a posh box-cabin on the first floor. After every song the audience was on their feet.
Two days later, Lata Mangeshkar came to meet me at India House. I was than Deputy High Commissioner in London. She said in Hindi, “I have come to ask you for a favour.” “Please, tell me what it is.” She showed me a gramophone record made of gold. All the songs she sang in the UK were in it. It was a gift from a society run by Indians in London. Could I give her letter for the Bombay Customs Commissioner asking him not to charge any duty, as the record had been presented to her.
I said I would certainly do so. I did. I took her round India House. Work stopped in every section. Everyone wanted her autograph.
Before she left, I asked her if she could have dinner with my wife and me at our house in Park Street. She came punctually at 7.30 pm. The photograph, published with this article was taken before the dinner.
Our son, Jagat was six and daughter four and a half. Lataji took to them. Ritu took out her tongue to show it to our very distinguished guest, who was hugely amused.
My letter did not impress the Customs officials in Bombay. Lata Mangeshkar paid the required amount. When I heard of this outrage, I made sure that things were put right.
Rahen na Rahen hum,
Earlier in the week, a widely read newspaper, on its front page carried a depressing item. It gave the number of days state Assemblies and Parliament met.
The Punjab and Haryana Assemblies in 2021 met for 11 and 17 days, respectively. Delhi for 8 days. Andhra Pradesh 8 days. Goa 13 days. Odisha 52, Kerala 11, Karnataka 40, Madhya Pradesh 33, Maharashtra 15, Tamil Nadu 7 days and Uttar Pradesh 14 days.
The Lok Sabha met for 63 days. The US House of Representatives was in session for 166 days. The Senate for 192 days, both in 2020 and 2021. The House of Commons 147 days in 2020. Japan’s Diet meets for 150 days a year.
On Thursday, 15 February, First India News carried the following item. The reporter’s name Aishwary Pradhan. I quote, “Jaipur: Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has written a letter to CM Ashok Gehlot demanding that Rajasthani language be declared the official language.”
“Raje mentioned that the mother tongue of Rajasthan is one of the richest languages of the world.” Then follows a direct quote from Vasundharaji. “It signifies our culture and feelings. Every person wants Rajasthani to be made the official language.”
Vasundhara Rajeji was an admired Chief Minister of Rajasthan for ten years. What steps did she take to make Rajasthani the official language? She is among the most experienced legislators in the country. She has been a member of the Lok Sabha.
If she has been quoted correctly then certain fundamental questions need to be addressed. First “every person” does not ask for making Rajasthani as the official language. The people of Bharatpur and Dholpur speak Braj Bhasha and Hindi. Alwar has its own dialect. The Bhils also have their own.
How many books are published in Rajasthani, how many newspapers, how many textbooks in schools, how many books on physics, chemistry? Is noting of government files done in Hindi or Rajasthani?
Does Rajasthani have its own alphabet? How many dictionaries are written in Rajasthani? Is Rajasthani richer than Hindi or Bengali?
I shall give the former Chief Minister the benefit of doubt. She was misquoted.
Alan Nazareth joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1959, retiring in 1994. He is a public spirted man. He has written a widely read book on Gandhiji, which has been translated in 12 Indian and 23 foreign languages.
On 31 January, he organised a webinar on “The Great Pertinence of Gandhi to India in the 75th year of its Independence”. It was a virtual one, and hosted by the India International Centre, New Delhi. Former Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah gave the inaugural address. Others who spoke included former Vice-President of India, Hamid Ansari, Lord Bhikhu Parekh and Rajmohan Gandhi.