'Aage bhi jaane na tu, peeche bhi jaane na tu…' Asha Bhosle sang in my head. My body was frozen though. I had disobeyed a simple instruction: ‘Don’t look down!’ And now I could not move. No matter how much my NCC teammates were asking me to look at the Dhauladhar peak ahead instead of the drop, I was rooted to the ladder across ice. I could not move. And there she was singing in my head, ‘Jo bhi hai, bas yahi ek pal hai.’
The song is all I remember of that moment of pure fear. Imagine what GoPro guys would have loved had I fallen (the thing wasn’t invented yet) down the chasm like a Jhumka falls Bareilly ke bazaar mein…
I admit buying jhumkas because we could dance to that and other Asha Bhosle songs on Chitrahaar on Doordarshan. And dance we did. To Mera naam hai Shabnam, Piya tu ab toh aaja… We wore borrowed hoops and nodded our heads coyly as heroines did in these songs: Isharon isharon mein dil lene wale, Chhod do aanchal, Deewana hua baadal...
During Durga Puja, at the community pandals we showed off our talents at the cultural programs to Asha Bhosle songs in Bengali: Kine de reshmi churi, noile jaabo baaper baadi… This song helped many little girls with grow up. In the song, the lad asks her out to the mela, and she agrees only if he buys her Chola Puri… Food for the soul her voice has been.
And not even the best of us Karaoke queens have been able to imitate her whiskey laden voice that could melt icebergs when she laughed and sighed and sang, ‘Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera na ghabraaiye!’ (was she laughing because Biswajeet was wearing so much lipstick in the song, we always wondered!).
Of course whenever the didi in the upstairs apartment played Lal Patthar vinyl we pretended to be Raj Kumar stumbling off a horse and entering the concert where Rakhee sang, ‘Sooni sooni raat ki sitar par…’ And when we wanted to pretend to be as beautiful as Madhubala, we stood in front of a table fan (with hairbrush for mic) and let it blow our hair gently as the boombox played, ‘Aaiye meherbaan!’
It was fun growing up to Asha Bhosle’s Marathi songs being played on the fancy Radiogram where we learnt Bhabi (Vahini in Marathi) had to be Gori gori paan, phula saarkhi chhan (fair and as pretty as a flower), we invited peacocks to dance in Mango groves (Nach re mora ambyachya vanat) and how consent was a thing when the farmer lad asked Gomu to go up the garden path with him (Gomu sangatine, majhya tu yeshil kaay?)...
Mum taught me to appreciate Asha Bhosle’s songs from Marathi Musicals (Natyasangeet) like Kathin kathin kathin kiti, Chandane shimpit jaa, Shoora mi vandile, Ravi mi ha chandra kasa, Yuvati mana and others.
It’s her birthday week (September 8) and you will read well-researched documentation of her life in music. Awards, achievements and milestones. And pictures. How her voice has remained magical from ‘Zara holle holle chalo more sajna’ to ‘Zara sa jhoom loon main…’
I’m here to share how her voice has accompanied my every affair of the heart, from falling in love to being dizzy in love and suffering those inevitable heartbreaks. After all, she said it best when she said, ‘Woh haseen dard de do, jise main gale lagaa loon!’
As a certified Zeenat Aman fan I admit that I spent three months worth allowance on glitter hoops and begged for a white flared jumpsuit or at least a maxi dress so I could sing, ‘Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko’ to a bewildered beau. He was horrified (so was Mother Superior) when we girls borrowed gold sequined dresses from the school costume trunk and sang ‘Jawaan Jaan-e-man’ at the school social. Yes, there were those events which turned into proms…
High school romances were mostly in our heads, spent singing, ‘Kali ghata chhaye mora jiya tarsaye’. In college we found love poetry and courage in the form of ‘Aao huzoor tumko sitaron pe le chaloon’. And when we realised ‘Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahani’, we sang, ‘Aata hai mujhko pyaar mein jal jaana, yeh mera dil pyaar ka deewana’.
The bewildered beau returned, only to run for cover as I sang, ‘Raat akeli hai bujh gaye diye’. Friends and family sometimes asked, ‘Haal kaisa janaab ka?’, you sometimes admitted, ‘Aaj koi pyaar se dil ki baatein keh gaya!’ or sometimes you checked your phone again and again and sang, ‘Kisi nazar ko tera intezaar aaj bhi hai’. Youth had the confidence enough to pull a face at the phone and sing, 'Jaaiye aap kahaan jaayenge, yeh nazar laut ke phir aayegi.’
If your friends found you stalking your loved one’s FaceBook page, they would start singing, ‘Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq!’
And when the lads broke my heart, I had several songs to keep me distracted. From ‘Dum maaro dum’ and ‘Maine hoton se lagayi toh…’ to ‘Parde mein rehne do’. Finally each time drowning in the pity party of ‘Mera kuch samaan tumhare paas pada hai… If someone did appear on the scene to save the damsel in distress, Asha promptly suggested, ‘Aao na, gale lagalo na, lagi bujha do na o jaane jaan! Tumne jo agan lagayi hai dekho na kahan kahan!’
Asha Bhosle has elevated our humdrum lives into an extended irrepressible seduction just like this song. And I am grateful to her for this joy. And when I Google for a resting place to call home, she sings again in Marathi this time, ‘Jeevalaga! Raahile re door ghar maazhe, paaul thakle, maathyavarche jad zhaale ozhe!’
(‘O beloved, my home is far, my feet are tired and the burden on my head has grown…’)
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.