The Legend

Sangeeta Gupta
(Daughter, Eldest Child - Married to Rajiv Gupta, of Jaipur)

I was asked to write something on my father, and even though he is in my thoughts and heart most of the time, I am reliving the past vividly as I jot down my memories.

So much has been written about him over the last thirty years - in his professional capacity - about his achievements and his work. He is alive in his songs, and we hear these everyday - so to us and many of his admirers, he is still alive and around us.

I am letting my mind wander in the past and trying to relive my life with my father, a person many may not know. Of course, we lost him when we were young and impressionable. We take our own, especially our parents, for granted. No one wants to believe that they will not be there to guide us through our lives. I never realized who I had as a father. Of course, we knew that he was special and well known in his profession, but the adulation that has been showered on him since he died has been tremendous and unbelievable. Of course, we are now older and appreciate and understand his value even more today.

He was a self-made and self-respecting person. Despite having a rich and famous father, he never used that connection to further his profession in any way. He never used or approached his friends, who were big names in the industry, for work. If they wanted him and his talent, they knew where to find him.

Even though he was known to be strict and "kadak", he was a very soft-hearted person, always ready to help anyone with a problem - financial or otherwise.

One incident which made me respect him a lot was his disappointment at Dada Sachin Dev Burman not winning the Filmfare Award for the Best Music for the masterpiece - Guide. He completely forgot that he too had been nominated for Woh Kaun Thi and had failed to get the Award for it. Those were the days when most of the composers, singers and lyricists were good friends and appreciated as well as never failed to compliment each other on their good work. Each one wanted to put his best foot forward and wanted the other to listen to his compositions as he knew each one would be fair in his praise.

He was very fond of sports, whether it was playing cricket, badminton, snooker, billiards, swimming or watching all types of matches - especially cricket. We went to a lot of wrestling and boxing matches with him as he was invited as chief guest very often. It was awesome meeting Dara Singh and other famous champions. He was very proud of his well-maintained physique, especially his muscles, which he loved showing us when we were kids. Sunday mornings were spent swimming at the NSCI Club followed by a wonderful breakfast on the lawns of the club.

Going to the races was another passion he had. He would never miss any racing event if he could manage it. He would buy the "Cole" which had all the horses listed with details and study it very seriously a day before so that he was ready with his bets. My mother on the other hand would bet by the colour combinations of the dress the jockeys would wear. What a contrast! We were allowed to go occasionally when there were events where children above a certain age were allowed and experienced the excitement of the event.

As with racing, he was equally fond of playing cards, whether it was teen patti or rummy. In fact, his music sittings were mostly fun. He, lyricist Rajinder Krishan, comedian Om Prakash and many others would get together there and have their sessions. These would also go on along with his tabla player, Mahadev Indorkar, his assistant, Ghanshyam Sukhwal and Mr. Suri while they waited for the singers or producers to arrive for the sittings. Diwali time was also full of card sessions.

He was an excellent cook, loved to go to the market to buy all that he needed for the special dishes he wished to make. Even when my mother had her ladies lunches, he would cook the main non-vegetarian dishes for the parties. Almost everyday was a treat. I can smell the aroma of the food cooked by him, even today, such is the vivid memory. Even during holidays to hill stations, he would take permission from the management of the hotel we were staying at and they would allow him to cook on their premises. Lots of other guests and people around would be welcome to join in the festivities and picnic.

He was very passionate about his cars - the Studebaker Champion two-door American car, or the Emgee which he had in 1956. I remember sitting in the car and accidentally shifting the gear and banging it into the wall. I was too small to remember whether I got spanked for it or not. He would wash and clean the cars as and when he got time for them and refused to hire any driver to drive them. As he was about his cars, he was possessive about the house. Whenever the family went out for a holiday, he would scrub the floors himself and always take the chandeliers down and clean each glass piece separately. We always got a sparkling house when we returned from the trip.

He had not formally learnt music, but wanted to hear all that he could possibly do. Most classical musicians who were his friends and even those visiting from Pakistan and other countries were invited home, where he would cook for them, and they would sing and play and listen to each other late into the night. Of course, we, as children, were not allowed to venture in as we had school the next day. However, without their knowledge, my brothers and me would sit outside the closed room and listen till as long as we could keep awake.

Memories could go on and on. It is unfortunate we lost him so soon and we could not experience having him and my mother (whom we lost shortly after he passed away) in our lives when we needed them most. One could not appreciate his value, not only as a father, but also as an artist of such great esteem and caliber - a legend as he is called.