Lata Mangeshkar – Notes beyond Borders


Imran Iftikhar (Member Core Team, Theatre Wallay) reflects on his other-worldly relationship with Lata Mangeshkar

Imran Iftikhar

I was on a plane when I first heard that Lata had passed away. I wasn’t really shocked – she was 92, had just contracted pneumonia and Covid, and had been on a ventilator for the past few weeks. It was the news that I’d been bracing myself to hear for a few days. When I started reading the article that had been shared on our family WhatsApp group (Lata Mangeshkar dies at 92), however, it hit me harder than I thought it would. I felt actual grief like one feels at the loss of a family member or a loved one. To be honest I was a little surprised at my reaction.

She was an Indian singer, someone I did not know personally, someone I’d never met. I was overreacting, I decided as I sank back down in my airplane seat. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that she was not just any celebrity. She was Lata, probably the biggest celebrity of my time, and that of my parents and my grandparents too. There exists no artist whose work has touched the hearts of so many people, transcending all borders, boundaries, religions, cultures, and languages. Her influence in the world of South Asian music is unparalleled and likely to remain so. There can be no one like her. With the demise of Lata Mangeshkar truly came the end of an era.

Lata Mangeshkar

When I first started listening to music – and I started later than most people my age – I began to mirror the music preferences of my family members, who were all fans of old South Asian music. Songs by Lata, Kishore, Mukesh, Rafi, Noor Jahan, Mehdi Hasan, Habib Wali Muhammad and Runa Laila, among others, would blare on my mom’s cassette player, at home, and in the car, constantly. But, either by coincidence or preference, most of the songs were those sung by Lata, and so my childhood memories are infused with her voice more than any other singer. I began to truly appreciate old Indian music when I was in high school and I never stopped listening to it since. Thus it is safe to say that Lata’s melodious voice has been a source of calm and serenity for me for as long as I’ve been listening to music.

It’s a voice that can exude passion, sorrow and joy in equal intensity and had the power to evoke the most powerful emotions in me.I’ve been sharing small clips of Lata’s music on Instagram for the past few days. But to be honest I haven’t been able to listen to an entire song since I found out about her passing because my eyes well up every time I hear her voice. Every time, without fail. And I’ve been meaning to write a post about Lata but somehow I couldn’t find the words. How does one pay tribute to such a legend? One can hardly put up her picture and write RIP Lata Mangeshkar.

I wanted to write something more. I know this will be lost in the sea of tributes that have emerged in the last few days but I felt that I had to say something about the importance of Lata’s music in my life. Lata’s passing was, of course, something that was eventually going to happen. And I always dreaded it because I knew it would be paradigm-altering. And now that she has passed, my prediction rings true. We have lost one of the greatest artists, and the world will truly never be the same again.

Rest in Peace, Lataji! You will be missed by millions.