Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tree of Music for Daughter -Kalpavruksha Kanyesathi


I was watching an old Lata Mangeshkar interview where she is reminiscing about her father, through his music. 

The interviewer asks, "It is said that you have perfect gandhar in your voice and that is a gift from your father?". 

And she explains what that means. She says, "the gandhar (ga in the seven notes) that a well-tuned tambora can produce, it is said that I can create the exact same sound with my voice." She then talks some more about who else had perfect gandhar in their voice or rather who else her father believed could create perfect gandhar (she names Bal Gandharva). 

It is an old Doordarshan interview, I think - when there used to be a fly in residence in the Mumbai DD studio- (I remember that fly...being the subject of many viewers' letters, questions, and comments at the time) - and the air conditioning was probably malfunctioning, so you see her wiping her face with her handkerchief every now and then. But she speaks with grace and joy about her father and her younger days and there is no sadness or regret that comes across for the extreme hardships and struggle - financial and otherwise that we've heard her family went through while she and her siblings were growing up. 

The story of the Mangeshkar family is very well known to maharashtrians: Dinanath Mangeshkar was born in Goa. He was an accomplished theater actor and singer of classical, semi-classical music. He had four daughters  - Lata, Asha, Usha, Meena, and a son Hridaynath. Dinanath passed away when Lata was eleven - leaving his wife and children in penury and socially shunned. The responsibility of caring for the family then fell on Lata's young shoulders -she being the oldest child. Through grit, hard work and their father's gift of music, the siblings then raised themselves out of their difficult circumstances to climb the heights of unimaginable success in the world of music. 

It is hard to put in words what maharashtrians feel about the Mangeshkars. They are a household name in the state. The two sisters are often referred to, publicly, as Latadidi and Ashatai - both the suffixes mean older sister (that's what they are called at home by their siblings , I believe). And maybe, although it isn't said openly, marathi -speakers are proud of the family for keeping the flag of marathi flying high for such a long time, in a film industry that is otherwise dominated by hindi- speaking people from the north. 

Nevertheless, after receiving generous love from mumbaikars for decades, Latabai became the subject of their ire a few years ago. The Mangeshkar family lives on Pedder road in Mumbai. It is a very busy stretch of road that cuts through some wealthy residential neighborhoods of the city taking commuters, morning and evening, from their homes in north Mumbai to Nariman Point and other business enclaves in the south and back. Some years ago, LM was accused by the media of trying to use her exalted status to block the construction of a flyover that was proposed to ease the traffic congestion. 

That furor has now passed. There is no flyover there- yet. And perhaps, one might argue, Pedder Road looks better without one. I don' know if LM still lives there. Some say she lives mostly in Pune now, where the family has built a hospital in memory of her father- the late Dinanath.  

*Kalpavruksha Kanyesathi

How often did I hear the story behind the song above from my mother growing up? - Every single time it played on the radio. That it is an expression of Lata's feelings and gratitude toward her father (written by  P. Savalaram).  Roughly translated it says:

 you planted the tree of music
for your daughter, baba
and left

it's blossomed now
will you come back to see

After you were gone
you were worshipped 
when the seven notes came alive
 your greatness became known
our home by the river
became pilgrimage 
without you 
(this) temple of riches is godless

 sun and moon are your eyes
watching over from far
nothing is lacking now
it's raining good fortune  
through your five fingers
you live on

come back just once 
and pat our back 
come back just once

*Kalpavruksha is a mythical, wish- granting tree. However, I don't think the poet would have meant it that way.  So I translated it as the tree of music. 

I am also not sure about the line - gangekathi ghar he apule - our home by the Ganga. I don't know which one of the Mangeshkar family's homes the poet was referring to.  I vaguely remember reading somewhere that they lived in Sangli at one time which is by the river Krishna. But the home that might be construed as pilgrimage -visited by many admirers and temple of riches, I thought, would be their home in Mumbai on Peddar Road which is by the Arabian sea.

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