Driving to work, I was recapitulating the schedule for the day. My companion during my rides, the FM radio was crooning the latest hits. It was an improvised version of the famous song of yesteryears “Tum-toh-theherey-pardesi….”, another chartbuster by the new kid on the block who had taken the music industry by storm. I was impressed with the combination of her soulful voice and the Sufiana touch. She gave wings to my memory to flutter back into the lanes of nostalgia.
Back then, how much I used to despise this song! And, it reminded me of her. She was the maid’s daughter, must have been around 6-7 years and used to accompany her mother. Her chirpy talks and bright smile used to give Maa company in her empty nest when I had left for college. She followed Maa around the house sharing a helping hand whenever required. The only time she would abandon Maa’s company was whenever this song played on the radio. Her eyes would widen as if she was listening with her pair of eyes. When Maa requested, she would gleefully sing and dance to this number. During my vacations, while I was home, I couldn’t bear the sight of Jhilmil listening to this song. She would look at me with pleading eyes, “Bhai, bass ek aakhri baar sunney do”. The magic in her eyes and her mellifluous voice was enough to melt hearts.
I got pulled back from my reverie, when the DJ announced in her customary style, “Let’s catch up after this short break”. I had reached the parking lot and was just parking when the programme resumed and the DJ finally disclosed the name of the new sensation, “Ms Jhilmil”. It struck me like lightning, I wasn’t sure whether I was more shocked or more thrilled. However, it certainly was a scintillating feeling. I also granted myself the privilege to feel proud, maybe because I was part of the journey when she was taking her baby steps towards stardom. The lure of her voice made me immobile and I remained seated since the DJ was about to interview Jhilmil.
She started with a warm Namastey to her fans and narrated her journey. How I wished to stop them, but the tears betrayed me when she disclosed how Maa had been instrumental in shaping her career, having been her first Guru and later enrolled her into music classes. I giggled with tear-filled eyes when said, “Bhai used to get angry and so I used to hide away from him”. What an irony, the one who was glued to the radio long back now had millions glued to FM to listen to her!
Just then the DJ announced, “One last question from the listeners”. My fingers were beyond my control and I instantly dialled the Radio-Station number. “Yes Sir?” she inquisitively asked. I responded, “Bass ek aakhri baar sunney do, Jhilmil”.
After a long silence, there was a gasp, “Bhai!”
Tum-toh-theherey-pardesi : A quawwali composed by Altaf Raja in 1997
bass ek aakhri baar sunney do: Let me listen, for one last time
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