Fading away like the stars of the morning,

Losing their light in the glorious Sun

Thus would we pass from the Earth and it’s toiling,

Only remembered by what we have done’

                                           -Horatius Bonar

India woke up on the morning of February 6 2022 to news the nation and her citizens never wished to hear.

Latha Mangeshkar passed away at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, where she was hospitalized on January 8 after testing positive for Covid-19. She was 92 at her passing. Her superlative singing capabilities have had her name etched indelibly in Golden letters into Indian culture and identity. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the iconic singer had significantly helped India secure lofty heights in the world of music.  The musical Indian ambassador was fondly monikered ‘Nightingale of India’ for having enthralled her country and its people with her mellifluous voice across decades.

Incidentally she is the second singer of national acclaim, repute and mass endearing that Covid snatched away from Indian music aficionados. S P Balasubrahmaniam had succumbed to the pandemic on 26 September 2020. Her singing prowess earned her numerous national and international awards and recognitions that listing them would make a chapter by itself.

But, it would be unfair to her if the prominent ones aren’t mentioned.

The 50,000 songs she recorded helped her win three national film awards, 15 Bengal Journalists’ Association Awards, four Filmfare best Female Playback awards, the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 and Filmfare special awards in 1994 and 2004.she was honored with Bharat Ratna in 2001, Dadasaheb Phalke Award 1n 1989,Padma Bhushan in 1969, and Padma Vibhushan in  1999. France conferred its highest civilian award, Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor on her in 2007. She was one of the first Indian playback singers ever to perform at Royal Albert Hall in London.  It isn’t the recognition she received in terms of awards and other titles that placed her on the high pedestal she truly deserved to occupy. It was the unique voice she possessed and the manner in which she used it to render songs that did.     

Among the long list of awards and recognitions that rightfully came her way, the most famous were the two monikers by which her fans fondly referred to her, and will forever remember her. She was famously referred to as ‘Nightingale of India’ and ‘queen of melody’. She had sung in over 36 Indian languages, primarily in Hindi, Bengali and Marathi, and few foreign ones as well.

 The country will miss her. The void she leaves behind is huge. The permanency of that void is palpable. Though the general saying is that ‘nobody is indispensible’, there are exceptions. She is truly one of them. There might never be another of her kind. Ever.  Ironically, it is the songs which she rendered melodiously that will cause the lingering sense of loss that will tug at her fans’ hearts.

Paradoxically, it will also be the same songs that will moor her passing entirely on the physical plane.

Lataji, as she was called respectfully will be immortalized by the melodies she sang as only she could. Music never dies. It is Immortality of music that will carry the singer to immortality on its wings. Each time her songs are broadcast over the good old radio, and telecast on television she will be remembered. Every time her songs are rendered by singers of tomorrow’s generations on various stages or musical reality shows, she will spring back to life.

Her passing away stops at the physical. She will continue to influence each of us spiritually, emotionally and romantically whenever her songs are replayed, irrespective of the medium. For, such was her musical ability, powered by versatility.  

As Lataji made her last journey on the evening of January 6 2022, grateful Indians who lined the streets to catch a last glimpse of their melody queen would surely have whispered ‘thank you for the music, Lataji’, along with the prayer that she rests in eternal peace.