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Kaushiki Chakraborty pays tribute to Lata Mangeshkar

Calling the late singing sensation Ma Saraswati the speaker shares memories of their close relationship

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 07.02.22, 06:09 AM
Kaushiki Chakraborty with Lata Mangeshkar at the Deenanath Mangeshkar award ceremony in 2017. Also present is her husband and musician Parthasarathi Desikan.

Kaushiki Chakraborty with Lata Mangeshkar at the Deenanath Mangeshkar award ceremony in 2017. Also present is her husband and musician Parthasarathi Desikan.

Lata Mangeshkar for us was Ma Saraswati since childhood, but in recent years she became a thakur with whom we could interact on a human level.

In 2013, I first got the opportunity to sing in front of Lataji at a hotel in Kolkata. She blessed me and invited me home. I heard to my embarrassment that she knew of me and even had a few CDs of mine.


Since then, I have lost count of the number of times we have been to Prabhukunj, her Peddar Road house — Partha (Sarathi Desikan; husband), our son Rishith and I.

We would carry her favourite nolen gur-er sandesh from Kolkata. I’d make patishapta for her and find out which other sweets she loved. She would sit on a sofa and I’d settle on the carpet, listening to her speak of her childhood, early days of taalim.... She would play her favourite bandishes by Aamir Khan sahib or Abdul Karim Khaan sahib and ask if I had heard them too.

She had a different equation with my son. On his fifth birthday, I remember he was running around with his friends and I had to call him to say Lataji was on the phone. Since then, she would call on his birthdays. He loves to paint and would send her his sketches of Ganpati on WhatsApp, to which she would respond. She had gifted him a Ganpati idol.

Once she called me at 11.30pm. I took the call worried what had happened. She said she wanted me to accept the Deenanath Mangeshkar award (instituted in her father’s memory). It is bestowed on doyens so I was rather diffident. But she assured me that I was worthy. I received the award from her and she spoke on stage about me. I also performed that night. It seems like a dream now. Kamal Haasan and Aamir Khan got the award that year (2017) as well.

She came several times to Nehru Centre to hear me perform. She would sit in the green room. Once time was short and I left the stage after a khayal. “Aj tumne thumri nahin sunaya?” she asked as I returned to the green room. I told her I had to clear the stage for the next artiste. She said she had come to hear me sing thumri. “Thoda 10 minute aur ga lete! Abhi baith ke mujhe sunao,” she said. So I sat there and sang for her.

Once while she was leaving, a volunteer requested her to leave a bit later, saying “Bahar bahut bhir ho jayegi.” She told him softly: “Mujhe pata hai bhir mein kya karna hai. Mujhe abhi ghar jana hai.” The youth realised that he had erred by mentioning a crowd as a deterrant to someone who was used to mass adulation all her life.

She had various kinds of hobbies. She loved to take photographs as do I. She would ask what camera and lens I used. She loved to spend time in jungles clicking animals. At one time, there were seven-eight dogs in her house.

She would share tips on cooking, like how to make Marathi snacks like kanda poha. She would sing us songs that took her fancy.

Once at a concert in Pune, I was singing a Marathi abhang earlier recorded by her. I mentioned that and started singing. Adinath (Mangeshkar, her nephew) was in the audience. I had no clue that she was listening to my performance over his phone! At the end, Adinath asked for a microphone. Suddenly there was Lataji’s voice on the auditorium sound system: “Namaste, Kaushiki, aap kaise hain?” I was so overwhelmed that I broke down. She had a whole conversation with me like that on the speaker phone, as I answered through my tears.

She was a legend but she was such a simple person. Nothing in her house suggested she was Lata Mangeshkar. Not a trophy was on sight. No sign of excess, be it in the furniture or her clothes.

Sometimes in putting such personalities on a pedestal, we push them away. But they also take pleasure in simple things which we feel wary of sharing with them. Eventually she became a real person for me.

This morning, I told my son that she was no more. When I do not have a tape to measure her stature with, what would a 12-year-old know who Lata Mangeshkar was! But he had tears in his eyes.

She would listen to my songs on YouTube and call me up. She had no need to do these things for an inconsequential person like me. Yet she enriched my life with these little gestures.

Some day, we will become seniors in our craft ourselves. She has left us with a lesson that it is not enough to pursue music, it is also important to inspire juniors. We should not keep our distance thinking why would I tell a junior that I like his or her music. Life can get suffocating if one builds such barriers around oneself.

Amader bari Saraswati-r bhashan hoy na. That is why we never brought a new idol for puja. How could our Saraswati take leave this year?! But a person like her cannot depart. She will remain with me as long as I stay devoted to music.

Last updated on 08.02.22, 11:42 PM

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