October 2, 2015. It is the Bhaav Sargam night in Dubai. Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar is in town to present his much-acclaimed Marathi bhaavgeet show. As one of the main organizers, I am both nervous and excited. It is not just another musical concert. It has a definite purpose. It is the inaugural event of the proposed Lata Mangeshkar Sanmaan Samaroh, which plans to celebrate the Indian melody queen’s musical contribution on the occasion of her birthday (which falls on September 28). In the beginning of the show, Panditji formally announces the launch of my web museum Lata Online, making a long-cherished dream come true. Panditji’s formal announcement, the AV-presentation about the site, the applause of the appreciative audience….everything is simply magical!
The first half of the program is an unqualified success. The jam-packed audience thoroughly enjoys Hridaynath’s brilliant singing, friendly banter and thought-provoking analysis. Now we are in the midst of the program interval. The program's second half is still few minutes away. People are just coming back to their seats after having interval snacks. The maestro calls me near and asks me to place a call to Mumbai. He speaks to someone for a few moments. Then he tells me- "I will ask Didi to say a few words to the audience. Let the second half begin and I'll call you on the stage to place a call to Prabhu Kunj."
Didi…Lata Didi…so she will be talking to the audience! Wow! I am thrilled. With great difficulty I resist the temptation to share that 'secret' with my wife! As the concert restarts, as planned the 'little brother' asks me to come up on stage and place a call to his 'big sister'. He has created a buzz in the audience by announcing what the upcoming phone experience is all about. I try to call the number...the same number that he had used for his earlier call. A grating voice tells me...."line mein kharabi ke kaaran yeh call poori nahi sakti!"! (Because of faulty lines, the call cannot be completed!) After a few tries we let go. He says-'We will try again after two songs."
While he keeps the audience hooked with some fabulous Meera Bhajan, in the wings, I keep trying to call that number. The frantic tries again yield the same result! My heart sinks. He cracks a joke on me to keep the audience busy. Then he tells his daughter to try another number. We get the maid on phone! She is instructed to go and hand over the phone to Didi.
Then a long pause. A voice comes.
"KoN? Didi?" (Who is this? didi?)
"naahi...mee Usha." (No…I am Usha.)
"didila de lagech." (Give it quickly to didi.)
Then she comes....the voice of the nation...She starts off in Hindi....
'Marathi..Marathi' the crowd chants. She obviously doesn't know. She completes her talk in Hindi…how she doesn’t do shows any more, how much she wants to visit Dubai, how she wishes that people shower appreciation and affection on her brother and his daughter.
Then her brother tells her to speak in Marathi.
‘Oh, so I should speak in Marathi. I didn’t know that.” Her slightly embarrassed suppressed laugh makes the audience squeal with delight.
She speaks again...now in Marathi! Sweet as ever! Lata Mangeshkar...Lata forever! After the call is over, there is spontaneous rapturous applause. Someone shouts....Ganpati bappa morya! The call to the divine!