Legendary playback singer Lata Mangeshkar recently turned 90 and while the varied melodies of the life and career of the Nightingale of India are known, lesser known is her closeness to cricket, in particular, one cricketing figure — player-turned-administrator Raj Singh Dungarpur.
According to a biography of the late Ranji player, BCCI President and national selector by Samar Singh and Harsh Vardhan, former Union Minister N.K.P. Salve, who was President of Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) from 1982-85, revealed that when it came to reward the team that won the World Cup in 1983, “Raj Singh came up with a brilliant idea of requesting Lata Mangeshkar to do a musical programme in Delhi to raise money for the purpose, as the BCCI was not flush with funds in those days.”
“Lataji agreed and helped raise a substantial amount that enabled the BCCI to reward each player of the winning team with Rs 1 lakh which was not a petty amount in those days,” Salve said.
On her 75th birthday in 2004, Dungarpur paid tributes to the melody queen and recalled how he came to know Lata Mangeshkar:
“In 1959, could be August, I came to Bombay to do law. I told Dilip Sardesai’s first cousin, Sopan Sardesai, that I couldn’t exist without playing cricket. He told me that the only place that you get to play was at Walkeshwar House where Lata Mangeshkar’s brother and his friends played tennis ball cricket. I said I’m not bothered by who plays, but I have to be there. They (the Mangeshkars) used to stay in a two-bedroom flat in a building behind the Walkeshwar House. She was, in those days, I suppose recording all day; nor was I hung up on seeing her. I just played and went back to my sister’s house on Napean Sea Road.
“But her family must have discussed that I had come, so she said, we must offer him a cup of tea. I was invited to come up. I can’t remember if it was raining. She was utterly charming; she came to see me off and gave me her car. They were celebrating ‘nariyal poornima’ shortly and she invited my brother and me for dinner. Everybody was quite crazy about cricket and I was just a Ranji Trophy player. Sopan Sardesai and the Mangeshkar family lived in Nana Chowk, in what would be perhaps little above a chawl. From there she went to Walkeshwar and then to Peddar Road. That’s how I started to know her. I went for a couple of her recordings and so on.”
Many residents of then Bombay, close to Dungarpur, are in know of the intimacy the two had. In the 1970s, Lata was keen to have an event in London. Dungarpur happened to be the person to organise it at Albert Hall, and having done so, was found sitting in back row as she sang her choicest songs. He would not let it be known who the person behind the show was.
Later, recalling the time when Lata came to know that she had been conferred the Bharat Ratna (in 2001), Dungarpur said that they were in London. “She opened the flat and it was 11.30 at night. The phone was ringing. She picked it up and said, ‘Wow!’ I said, “Hell! What is wow for Lata Mangeshkar?
“She said, ‘Rachna (her favourite niece) is telling me that I’ve got the Bharat Ratna.’ The phones never stopped all night. The next morning... in London, you have to make a cup of tea for yourself. I made one for her. She had her two-three medicines and I asked her, ‘How does it feel to be a Bharat Ratna?’ She said, ‘Now that you ask me... bahut accha lagta hai’ (it feels very good),” Dungarpur had said. (IANS)