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When two melody queens from India and Pakistan met at zero line

Lata Mangeshkar met Mallika-e-Tarannum Noor Jehan at Attari-Wagah Joint Checkpost in 1951

When two melody queens from India and Pakistan met at zero line


Tribune News Service

Neeraj Bagga

Amritsar, February 6

The passing away of Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar rekindled memories of a few senior citizens in the city, who still remember her poignant meeting with Pakistan’s Mallika-e-Tarannum Noor Jehan at the zero line of Attari-Wagah Joint Checkpost in 1951, four years after the Partition.

Naresh Johar, a senior citizen, while quoting this incident, recalled how it was the talk of the town. It so happened that while travelling through the city for some recording, Lata expressed her desire to meet Noor Jehan, who resided in Lahore, about 50 km from the holy city. Following this, calls were arranged between the two and both singers decided to meet at the zero line.

Johar said noted composer C Ramchandra, who was also accompanying Lata, documented this momentous occasion in his biography stating: “Noor Jehan came running and the two embraced each other like long-lost friends. Both were weeping. We who were witness to this divine meeting were overwhelmed and could not stop the tears. Even soldiers on both sides of the border were weeping. After some time, they sat chatting. We had food. They had brought sweets from Lahore and us from India. Noor Jehan’s husband was also there. I shall never forget this scene in my life. A great testimony to the fact that music can break any barrier. After a few hours, we returned with wet eyes but with a divine and unique experience indeed.”

India’s melody queen sung in 36 languages, including Punjabi, and rendered several gurbani shabads in her mellifluous voice. ‘Lata Sings Gurbani’ is a Punjabi album composed by Singh Bandhu, released in 1970. ‘Shabad Gurbani: Lata and Asha’ is another album that released in 2015.

Arvinder Singh Chamak, a city-based art historian, said Lata Mangeshkar sung several shabads of the gurbani. Most of the shabads she rendered were banis of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh. She sang the divine shabad of ‘Mitter Pyare Nu’ in Punjabi movie ‘Nanak Naam Jahaz’, which was a super hit movie of its time.

Chamak recalled that Lata ji had chosen him to hand over her harmonium to famous Pakistani singer Abida Parveen. “This was probably an incident of 2016. After three months, I had the opportunity to hand it over to Abida ji in Islamabad.” He still remembers the parting words of Abida that it was the harmonium over which Lata had practiced for three decades.

...it became the Talk of the town

Noted composer C Ramchandra, who was also accompanying Lata to Amritsar, documented this momentous occasion in his biography stating: “Noor Jehan (in pic right) came running and the two embraced each other like long-lost friends. Both were weeping. We who were witness to this divine meeting were overwhelmed and could not stop the tears. Even soldiers on both sides of the border were weeping. After some time, they sat chatting. We had food. They had brought sweets from Lahore and us from India. Noor Jehan’s husband was also there. I shall never forget this scene in my life. A great testimony to the fact that music can break any barrier. After a few hours, we returned with wet eyes but with a divine and unique experience indeed.”

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