|Hira Devi Waiba; and Aditya Bhawan, the house of the singer at Kadamtala. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, Jan. 19: Nepali folk singer Hira Devi Waiba died at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital this morning, where she was admitted yesterday with severe burns that she suffered while warming herself by the fire at her home.
Waiba, 71, lived by herself at her residence in Kadamtala on the outskirts of Siliguri. She is survived by her 92-year-old mother and a son and a daughter who stay in London and in Hong Kong.
At the time of the incident around 10am yesterday, family members said, Waiba was alone in the house except for the caretaker.
“With her back against a fire that had been lit in a pot on the balcony, she was making a list of groceries for the caretaker to fetch. The flannel gown she was wearing caught fire. The caretaker tried to douse the flames by draping her in garments strung outside but in vain,” a family member said.
Neighbours rushed to Waiba’s house on hearing her screams and took her to NBMCH, 2km away. Doctors there said she had suffered 60 per cent burns on her lower limbs, abdomen, chest and arms. She died at 5.30am today.
Waiba originally belongs to a family of musicians from Ambootia in Kurseong and is hailed as the pioneer of Nepali folk songs in the country. She has sung nearly 300 folk songs during her musical career spanning 40 years.
The funeral will be probably held on Friday. “Her son and daughter are supposed to come tomorrow. We have not informed her mother of her death as yet,” Waiba’s nephew Asim Moktan said.
Contemporaries remember Waiba as the pioneer of folk song in the country, whose career catapulted to international level when she recorded three songs for Radio Nepal in 1966.
“Hira didi recorded three songs for famous composers of Nepal in 1966. The recordings were done in Kurseong and as soon as they were played over the Royal Nepal Radio in 1966, she became an instant hit,” recalled Lakshman Srimal, a Nepali writer and composer.
The songs were phariya lyaidiachan tehi pani man parena, wara dauri jada, para dauri jada and mayalu binti cha hai mero. Waiba also worked as an announcer for the All India Radio in Kurseong from 1963 to 1965.
As a tribute to her father Waiba had opened SM Waiba International Music and Dance Academy at her home in 2008.
She was given the Mitrasen Purashkar by the Nepali Akademi of Darjeeling in 1986, the Mitrasen Smriti Puraskar in 1996 (by the Sikkim government) and the Agham Singh Giri Puraskar in 2001.
The Nepal government had given her the Sadhna Samman and the Madhurima Phul Kumari Mahato Award.