Recently I read the biography of a living legend in Indian Music – an icon whose name is pronounced with a near reverence by one and all. She is held in esteem not only for her lovely voice and her contribution to music but also for her personality. There is an aura almost spiritual about her. She never seemed to even know the magnitude of her success. For her, singing was just something she did naturally from her soul like the lark and the cuckoo – she did not do it for money or fame.
She was born into a caste which did not have much acceptance in society – they were called the “entertainment class” but her marriage, her dedication to her work, her personality and her way of life raised her completely above her birth and totally “Sanskritised” her that no one cares to mention anything disparaging about the class she came from. She is celebrated and loved for what she is – the person, the singer, one of the rare gems of India, yes, a Bharat Ratna..
As a twenty year old, she too had a great love; a handsome and brilliant young man who was another musical phenomenon of her time. She thought there would be no purpose in her life if she did not marry him.
But fate had other plans and she married another man who was deeply in love with her. This man polished her, drew the career path for her, steered its course to the last detail, found the powerful backing for show casing her music in the right arenas and managed the publicity and literally created her brand equity. She just knew how to sing and sing from her heart and he did the rest. Without him, her biographer says, she “ might just have been a face in the crowd, a great voice among several great voices. With him she became the “queen of music, a title bestowed upon her by Jawaharlal Nehru.
But in the end was she happy? Would she have been happier had she married the man she was so much in love with? Hypothetical questions for which one will never know the answers including herself. Who knows what might have been?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the woman in her might have been fulfilled and contented if she had followed the course of her love but the singer would have had a brilliant few years and then become a footnote in musical history. Voices like that are not created by God to be lost in a crowd . She deserves every bit of all the adulations, accolades and adoration that she has enjoyed all her life, sharing space with presidents and princes. We should be grateful that she chose the path she did for what she gave to the world and what the world gave back to her.
What might have brought her more happiness than the contentment of having served Man and God well during one’s limited life and be recognized for one’s worth during one’s lifetime?
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