As the most melodious voice that India and Indians have ever listened to fell silent, an entire nation grieved the passing away of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. The news sent almost all of us scurrying back to our favourite music albums… saved most likely on our phone apps, to listen once more to that magical, mesmerising voice. As S R Madhu points out in his tribute, this was the voice that had kept company to lonely truck drivers ploughing through national highways, roadside vendors peddling their wares in Delhi, or for that matter anywhere else, and our homesick Army jawans keeping vigil at our borders. We can add a thousand other groups and subgroups to this list without exaggerating.
Like all human beings, even the most extraordinary and exceptional ones, Lata too had her warts, but weighed against the solace, comfort, joy, excitement and absolute calm her melodies provided, they simply melt away. Surely there won’t be another Lata for generations to come, and the vacuum she leaves behind is colossal. For two to three generations of Indians who grew up with her melodies, right from being put to sleep at night by their mothers crooning Lata songs, to wooing their sweethearts through some Lata solo or a duet to mourning over a love lost, and many other poignant moments of life, her passing away is a huge, huge loss. The only comfort is that she lived a full and fulfilling life made richer by the love and adulation of millions of her fans. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Shah Rukh Khan, her celebrity fans turned up physically, during a Covid pandemic, to pay their last respects to her.
Mercifully, and at least for the time being, the Covid pandemic seems to be ebbing, and borders are being opened up and travel is increasing. But the number of lives lost — Lata too succumbed to Covid-related complications — and the trail of destruction this virus will leave behind are unprecedented. The economic havoc this pandemic has caused cannot be fathomed by the privileged… like us. At all times we had a comfortable home to remain confined in, means to get food and food ingredients during the most ferocious part of this pandemic, and enough online implements and tools to ensure that our children did not miss their classes. Add to that Netflix and Prime Video and we managed to negotiate our way through the challenges we faced thanks to the coronavirus.
The service rendered by Rotary and Rotarians across the globe to help people who were left reeling under the pandemic’s impact will be gratefully remembered by the people whose tears you wiped, whose children you fed and whose livelihoods you supported. That “Rotary is in the business of service” was proved again and again by your amazing community service projects that helped tens of thousands of people devastated by this pandemic. Trust me, the words of comfort you uttered while helping these people, wouldn’t have been any less than a melodious Lata song for those whose lives you touched and changed, however briefly.
Rotarians, you deserve a salute, for the service you did, and continue to do.