Lata Mangeshkar 1929-2022. End of an era

Lata Mangeshkar (1929-2022): The Nightingale Is Silent - YouTube

Lata ji, probably the most recognized and most admired (and certainly the most prolific) female singer of the 20th century has passed away. She reigned as the queen of Indian playback singing for over 50 years. There are videos on the internet of people from Azerbaijan to Zambia singing singing her songs, but it was in the Indian subcontinent that she was Queen and goddess rolled into one; there won’t be another like her.

Chinmayi Sripaada on Twitter: "Wowww. Looks like Goddess Saraswati. 🙏" / Twitter

Tributes are pouring in from all over the world. This one from Pakistani political scientist Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed captures some of what an older generation of Pakistanis felt about her:

With her, an age and an era may also be passing. In spite of partition and all the TNT nonsense it promoted, it takes generations and decades to erase all aspects of common culture. Old Bollywood songs are a repository of Indic wisdom and culture (all layers, upto and including cabarets and nightclubs imported from Europe) that may be superior to any holy book (and are treated as such by their fans, who can sing them or listen to them in every conceivable situation and find solace, romance, passion, pathos and, sometimes, good advice). In our family the elders would break out into Lata songs at the slightest opportunity; for my father (and many others of his generation) the ability to play endless bollywood songs on youtube was the saving grace of their golden years. Many a lonely old person was young again listening to those songs and humming along.

In the last few years I noticed some people (mostly younger people) calling her “sanghi” for her Hindutva sympathies. And on the opposite side, Shah Rukh Khan blowing blessings on her was enough for some Hindutvvadis to get upset and claim that he had spit on her at her funeral. Such attitudes may indeed become standard some day. I hope not, but who knows. Partitions and separations have consequences. Maybe it cannot be helped. But to us, she will always be the nightingale of India and a major link to a culture that may or may not survive too long. Then again, perhaps one should not be pessimistic. There are hidden depths in our cultures, we may surprise yet..

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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

30 thoughts on “Lata Mangeshkar 1929-2022. End of an era”

  1. She felt like family to hundreds of millions.

    Her voice is perhaps the most beautiful piece of great art experience available to the masses in India.

    Simple, sublime, pure.

  2. To me it’s fascinating to see hows she is being “cancelled”. I always had this inkling that it was due to savarkar. But it seems their is bigger backstory behind hating her. And how’s she was a symbol of “Brahminism” without being a Brahmin.

      1. I agree with everything he said (except I know nothing about her polictics) but timing is important. Critiquing her right at her death is tactless.

    1. Hey, don’t politicize this. I know you constantly feel that urge. Try to resist it for once. Lots of idiots will have lots of idiotic takes. Ignore them.

      1. I haven’t yet posted what my other fav group bangalis are posting abt her death. But will respect ur wish…

  3. –^–

    From Marathi Bhajans to Bollywood numbers – she covered it all;
    For me her Pasaydaan (Dnyaneshwar) is first thing i remember

    lot of awesome playlists on YouTube already

  4. “With her, an age and an era may also be passing. In spite of partition and all the TNT nonsense it promoted, it takes generations and decades to erase all aspects of common culture”

    This common culture still does have the odd resonance across borders – Coke Studio for example. There are still a few cross-border collaborations like the Mekaal Hasan Band (great music, I highly recommend people check them out in case they haven’t).

    1. Are there any people who share a native language but don’t share a culture? In the long run, i don’t see how the bond between North Indians and Pakistanis ever gets completely severed

      1. Well technically Pakistani geographic areas don’t originally share a language with Northern India (Hindi belt), and this is very apparent if you visit rural areas where people feel more comfortable speaking their own ethnic languages rather than Urdu. Adopting Urdu kind of forced linked Pakistan with North India. I also think Urdu/Hindi is diverging slowly but surely, may take another 100 years but it’s happening. Perhaps this process of diversion may be stopped/reversed by mass adoption of English vocabulary in local languages.

      2. I think you are stretching things a bit here. Urdu is not the native language for most Pakistanis, and only a small fraction of North Indians understand other Pakistani languages. If Pakistan dumps Urdu and starts using English as its lingua franca, the cultural bond between North India and Pakistan might disappear within a couple of generations.

      3. EU expansion included scores of different languages, but stopped at religious boundaries.

        Without undermining the achievements and legacy of artists like Lata Mangeshkar, subcontinental elites generally over estimate how much of their tastes are shared by the broader population. That the revenues of India’s great entertainment machines, cinema and cricket, are half of Haldiram’s tells us their actual reach.

        North Indian and Pakistani elites may spar on the internet, but that is only due to the common legacy of English rule. But the masses in these regions have vastly different values.

        Master Saleem, a Muslim, sings a Kali Maa jagran in heavily Sikh Amritsar. Can you imagine such a scene in nearby Lahore ?

        1. “That the revenues of India’s great entertainment…”

          +1, money is a measure of mental space occupied. There would be some normalization factor involved but I am guessing the overall trend won’t change.

      4. “Are there any people who share a native language but don’t share a culture?”

        – I’m sure there are many. Off the top of my head I can think of the Dutch and Flemish as an example – they are mutually intelligible but Flemish culture is closer to that of their fellow Catholic Walloons. Another example might be the Bosnians and Serbians – can understand each other but different cultures.

        “I also think Urdu/Hindi is diverging slowly but surely, may take another 100 years but it’s happening. Perhaps this process of diversion may be stopped/reversed by mass adoption of English vocabulary in local languages.”

        – I agree. I’m no hindiwallah and I prefer standard hindustani to shuddh Hindi but Pakistani urdu is peppered with phrases that I can barely understand. Granted it’s only Pak-punjabis I’ve interacted with and not Karachi-wallahs, I’m sure there are differences in Urdu between the different regions as well. But like you mention I don’t think a full separation will happen thanks to the overbearing effect of English. In the few Pakistani TV news clips I’ve come across on SM the panelists have the same annoying proclivity to use English phrases as their Hindi news counterparts.

        To the dudes here who are scoring petty political points as always – cut that shit out, please.

        1. but Pakistani urdu is peppered with phrases that I can barely understand

          I’m a Hindi speaker. The colloquial Urdu I’ve heard Pakistanis speak, either in real life (when I interacted with them in the US) or on TV, like say a cricket match, is perfectly intelligible to me. I have heard some (very few) Pakistani news or opinion programs on YouTube and a lot of the vocabulary there does go over my head.

      5. “ Are there any people who share a native language but don’t share a culture?”

        What are we counting as a culture here ?

        American culture is different from uk culture.

        Latin American cultures are different from Spanish culture.

        The list goes on…

        1. @sumit
          I consider the US/Canada/UK/Aus to cluster together as a cultures, fwiw. I think we all “get” each other but we like to pretend we don’t. Its just banter. I don’t know enough about the hispanophone world to gauge the dialect distances. If dominican republic to argentina is like jamaican vs minnesota english, then its considerable, but then I’d say they only nominally speak the same language.
          Broadly, my sense is that language is the least superficial component of our cultural environment, you just can’t fake it (or acquire it easily) and its acts as an epistemic bubble of sorts. Religious or racial identity can cause groups to take up opposing poles within those linguistic bubbles, and even the most bitter of adversarial relations can manifest, but I’d still see them as intra-cultural in a way. This is unsettling to “citizen of the world” cosmopolitan idealists and liberals I’ve noticed (and I was one among them once). If you can’t share your thoughts with someone effortlessly, then you are on a bridge between worlds.

          1. People can very easily be multilingual. In fact, it is the default condition in countries like India.

            Abrahamic religions explicitly prohibit any possibility of ‘multi-religiosity’. Hinduism/Jainism/Buddhism allow for it, but are confronted with far more restrictive Abrahamic religions, which is the principle reason for social and political hostility in the subcontinent.

            A lot of the intransigence about linguistic identities comes from language groups lacking the economic and social cachet to continue surviving automatically. I am not sure what the resolution to this conundrum is. But I can tell you that an independent Karnataka would likely produce less Kannada literature and media than the state does. Kolkata produces more 5 times more Bengali movies than Dhaka does.

          2. @vikram
            I think you are conflating antagonism with cultural dissimilarity, which may be consistent with the way you’ve defined the terms. For me, foreignness is the opposite of cultural similarity (which is not cultural affinity). Pakistanis (punjabi & mohajirs) and North Indian Hindus have cultural similarity, perhaps occupying opposing poles of a shared social-cultural space. They also have aversion to each other, and would rather associate with distinctly foreign cultures (like the US, France or Turkey) to which they are respectively dissimilar.

          3. My 2 cents is the northern areas of india and Pakistani areas have already diverged. And it will keep on diverging , notwithstanding the language.

            Coke studios don’t represent the masses.

          4. Cultures are psycho-social systems that arise to emphasize specific values. For Pakistanis and Indians, values diverge dramatically (Anekantavada vs tauheed, Ahimsa vs jihad, vegetarianism vs unclean/clean foods etc), and outside influences (whether from Persia, UK, US or even China) are used to buttress these values.

            You seem to suggest that people can share a culture only if they can be intelligible. But intelligibility has many planes. I can understand most of what Pakistanis say, but their underlying motivations and values have no resonance with me. Gandhis and Anna Hazare’s make sense to Indians, but make no impression on Pakistanis.

            Culture cannot be reduced to mere aesthetics, it is a decidedly psychological phenomenon.

  5. Omar, thank you for creating this page for Lata. As I listened to the many tributes, especially the one by Dr. Ahmed, and listened to her songs, the reel of my life unspooled right there. Each song she sang created a memory for me. I remembered the time and place when I first heard the song and also the bundle of emotions it created.

    To borrow from what Einstein said of the Mahatma, “generations to come will scarce believ that such a one as this (Lata) ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

  6. pls someone tell me in very short summary about aryan migration theory or invasion ? what is truth ? is there chance of outward migration ? are north and south indian different as in aryan vs dravidian ?

  7. In a world which “values” bad boy, sex, drugs, rock & roll, Lata was an antidote that uplifted the lives of a BILLION+ of people. She responded to adversity at the age of 13, by raising her 4 siblings in pre-independence India to attain the stature that the family occupies. Her legacy is unrivaled. Society, the world over, needs role models like Lata Mangeshkar.

  8. lot’s of wise comments, but nobody seemed to have noticed that the video titled “yeh dil aur unki nigahon ke saaye” is a doctored video. The audio is from the song “yeh dil aur unki nigahon..”, but the visuals are from madhumati song “aaja re pardesi”.

    seriously, that left me scratching my head. i can understand the motives behind fake news, fake videos etc. but fake bollywood songs? why would somebody do that? wtf. kya zamana aa gaya hai.

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