It is her birthday. But we don't have to wait for special occasions to celebrate the unblemished excellence of Lata Mangeshkar, who turned 78 Friday.
To have known her so closely, to have seen her at home in her simple environment bustling with the sound of family chores and the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, just makes me feel so sorry for the average Page 3 celebrity whose kitchens are as sterile as their hearts.
Not so long ago when Yash Chopra insisted on her voice in one of his recent films, the leading lady whispered in a cheery chuckle how she should call it a day.
Obviously this leading lady like a lot of our present day 'stars' are clueless about what Lata means to Hindi cinema and to us Indians who invariably open our eyes to her voice.
And then there's that unspoilt and untouched quality in her that makes her mythic aura endearingly rooted. I've seen how the man on the street reacts to her presence. I've seen fans gazing at her glassy-eyed from a distance not daring to come forward to express their awe and disbelief. I've seen the superstars strike her name off their guest list because her presence just takes away from every other activity at any venue.
As my friend Sanjay Leela Bhansali keeps saying, 'When she hits the highest note in 'Ajee roothkar ab kahan jayeejega' or 'Mere pee ko pawan kis gali le chali' or any of her vast repertoire of songs in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, she instantly connects the listener to god.'
I heard her for the first time at the age of six and then had the good fortune to actually meet her, sit with her and discuss routine matters with her.
If life sucks, just put on the voice of Lata Mangeshkar.
Listen to her happier songs like 'Bangle ke peeche'. It releases happy hormones in my body better than a bar of chocolate. If you are unwell, listen to her spiritual songs like 'Allah tero naam', you'll immediately feel better. As she grows older her aura as a woman who has made her presence felt in Hindi cinema for 50 years, just grows.