Indian American community reacts and pays tribute to Lata Mangeshkar’s passing

Ritu Jha-


Called the “nightingale of India” legendary singer and Bharat Ratna awardee Lata Mangeshkar, who passed away on Sunday, Feb 6 in Mumbai, has a huge fan following across the globe.

The cultural icons Mangeshkar, 92 died due to multi-organ failure after over 28 days of Covid-19 diagnosis announced Dr. Pratit Samdani, Mangeshkar’s doctor, at the Breach Candy Hospital.

The news flashed and so do the tribute from country leaders to the common man and when indica reached out to look who attended her concert in the US, she could hear people listening to her song, sharing her songs on WhatsApp paying tribute.

Starting at five, Lata Mangeshkar, under the tutelage of her father, Deenanath Mangeshkar, a Hindustani classical vocalist, later became the undisputed ‘melody queen’.

Spread over eight decades-long careers, right from patriotic to peppy, romantic to sorrowful, bhajans and more, her songs are a treasure trove to cherish. Performing at nine to losing her father at 13, the eldest among the four siblings, Lata took on the responsibility of the entire family.

Mangeshkar made several visits to the US from the mid-1970s till the late 1990s.

On holidays in the US, she loved playing the slot machines. “This may sound strange but when I used to visit America on holidays, I loved spending time in Las Vegas. It’s an exciting city. I really enjoyed playing the slot machines. I never played roulette or cards, but I used to spend the whole night at a slot machine. I was very lucky and won many times,” she admitted during one interview with a British broadcaster.

Mangeshkar performed at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, the Oakland Auditorium Area in San Francisco, Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York City and Detroit in 1976, where another legendry singer Mukesh9 Mukesh Chand Mathur) passed away after suffering a heart attack.

It was Mangeshkar’s first US concert and Mukesh’s second.

Vish Mishra, Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist, and a fan of Mangeshkar’s voice and songs said he knew was sick but was not expecting her demise as he read she is recovering. He said had met her in 2002 at the Delhi airport when he was visiting India with his family and exchanged a short chat. She was very polite.

But the first glance was in 1976, “I was 29 years old then,” said Vish Mishra over the phone, when Lataji announced about the early waiting crowd about Mukesh passing away.

“We waited and waited and (August, 27, 1976)), the day he was to perform at the Ford Auditorium in Detroit, Michigan along with Lataji and people were getting restless until the sad news arrived,” Mishra said. “She came to the stage and announced and it was chaos. We were in the lobby waiting for them to show up. She is still my most favorite singer and I just listened to song Mahal and “Aayega Aanewala” and my other favorite, “Mere watan ke logo was awesome.”

“That was a shock to us,” Mishra said and added the demise of Lataji is shocking and sad news. I still remember 1975 because we were new immigrants to the US, very few Indians, young and of course her fan, so thought to “We have to go to her concert.”

The next time was in 1998 when she performed at the Oakland Auditorium, “we went with four families,” Mishra said.

Vinita Gupta, a serial entrepreneur, another fan of Mangshkar sharing her thoughts called her a “Melodious voice, humble demeanor, and simplicity, are the words that come to my lips about Lata-ji.”

“Her simplicity captured my heart,” Gupta told indica over the phone, she was not sure of the year, but might be mid 70’s when she was young and just arrived in the US just like Mishra said. “We have seen her through our binoculars because we were so far away. It must (May 1975, Oakland Auditorium Arena) … I had just been in the country and Lata Mangeshkarji because you would not go to that event.”

Recalling her first impression said, “she(lata) was wearing a white saree. That time money was an issue and so back seat was what we could afford….so we couldn’t get the best front seat ticket.”

Another Mangeshkar fan who attended her concert was Lalit and Leela Mathur, Fremont, California-based shared the memorable event. when they attended Lata ji‘s probable first Concert in USA in 1975 in Chicago in the Opera House.

“This was a huge event, sold-out event, very tight security for a person of Indian origin in those days. Streets were blocked. She was taken away secretly before the program finished and someone else was singing the last songs,” said the couple.

For Dr. Thomas Abraham, GOPIO International Chairman, sharing his interaction said he had attended a concert in the late 1980s but “I personally met her on an Indian Appliance Store called Sam and Raj in Jackson Heights, New York in the 1990s. She had dropped into the store to buy something there.”

Gaurav Kumar, who ran a radio show from 2009 to 2011 in Simi Valley, San Francisco, Seattle told indica, he had interacted with Lataji few times while he was running the radio station.

“The sole purpose was to take bites and we were always cognizant of her time but it was Lata Ji who always would make the first few minutes to check on health, the progress of the radio station, and how was life,” Kumar said. “In all my interactions with her in those 3 years, she was one of the most humble, polite, well-spoken, and full of life human being.”

“We will miss you Didi,” Kumar said.

Subhash Garg, 76, San Jose, California based attended her concert, on Oct 9, 1998, in Oakland, California says, “I am a diehard fan of ‘Empress Lata’. I have several books about her and I attended her first public concert at Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi.”

“She overcame so many barriers, including egotistical music directors like SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishen and O P Nayyar. Her sheer brilliance as a singer and ability to match the emotion in the words perfectly easily overcame her shrill voice, which became the new standard of independent India,” Garg said and added, “Her noble persona and rare dedication to her art made her a ‘Devi’ in India.

“I hope some organization will create a museum of Hindi film music and name it after her,” Garg told indica.