This is the first time she has been hospitalised in 20 years, says Subhash K Jha.
IMAGE: Lata Mangeshkar with President Ram Nath Kovind and First Lady Savita Kovind when the Rashtrapati called on the legend at her Mumbai home. Photograph: Kind courtesy Lata Mangeshkar/Twitter
The Nightingale of India is well on the way to recovery.
She did give us all a scare when a chest infection landed her in hospital on Monday.
Just days before her hospitalisation I had spoken to her. As always, I could sense she was not well from the moment she said her first word on the phone, “Hello”.
“Didi, what’s wrong?” my voice rose to a shrill near-hysterical pitch.
“Calm down. I am fine,” she whispered in a rasping tone. “This is why I don’t tell you when I am unwell. You get so worked up that I end up regretting telling you about it. It’s a routine chest infection. Nothing major. I’ve fever. I feel a little weak, but nothing to worry about,” she had reassured me.
But I wasn’t pacified. I knew this time her ailment was more serious than her cold-and-cough and the upset stomach.
I didn’t press the point. I quickly reminded her that the last time we had spoken was on her birthday when my city, Patna, was submerged in flood waters.
In spite of the calamitous weather I had to seek her blessings on her birthday. How could I not? I feel every time I miss out taking her blessings I lose a precious chance to touch divinity.
So I reminded her that on her birthday this year I kept calling her until she came on the phone.
“I had to take your call on my birthday because if I did not, you would keep trying until I did. You never give up,” she teased me.
We both laughed. Her laughter was frail though. I felt uneasy about her health. And I was right.
This is the first time she has been hospitalised in 20 years. I froze when I got to know of her condition. Even more alarming was the conjecture in the media: ‘Lata Mangeshkar Critical’.
Where does all this misinformation come from? And why are alarmist headlines so popular?
Why is is it more exciting to say ‘Critical’ rather than ‘Stable and Recovering?’
Lataji and I had spoken about alarmist headlines when Mr Bachchan was hospitalised recently.
“Why are people so eager to hear alarming news reports on Bachchansaab? The nation wants him to be well and healthy always,” she said.
As for reports filtering out of hospital sources giving away health bulletins, a source quoted in a leading news agency report claimed Lataji was brought to hospital in a ‘critical condition’.
If this is not a violation and breach of an individual’s right to ail privately, then what is?
Lataji was neither ‘critical’ when she was admitted to hospital nor was she ever in a high-risk area of health scare.
She was admitted as a precautionary measure to ensure her condition remained stable.
As Lataji recovers, I remember telling her recently that I wished to come to Mumbai to meet her again.
“Aaiye. Zaroor aaiye. Aapko kaun roke sakta hai (Come, come certainly, who can stop you?)” she replied with that sense of mischief in her voice that belongs not to someone who is 90, but 9.
Keep laughing, Lataji. And don’t scare us again please.