Prelude?

I decided to get on to this blogspot stuff (don’t ask me the nitty-gritties) as one news story of mine (mera number akhir mein aya) made more news than I’d ever imagined!

On March 25, 2006, the newspaper i work in, DNA (Daily News & Analysis-latter half is often missing) published-along with some other newspapers- that the Mahrashtra govt had once again given a green signal to the Peddar road flyover.

RECAP – Yeah i didn’t much care for government’s decision, coz we-as in Bombayites-had seen it five years ago how the govt declared we needed a flyover at Peddar road in order to curb traffic & promptly left it in limbo. immediately after the announcement, India’s Nightingale, Bharat Ratna, as in Lata Mangeshkar-urf-Lata ‘didi’ screamed stop press! She was upset, the traffic noise & air pollution was causing her pain and she would lose her voice if the darn flyover came across her flat!

Well, meanwhile we had a flyover across Mohd Ali Road, as in the lovely JJ flyover was built with scores of cars flying on it. Sadly the faint voices of majority Muslims were silenced with city’s need for flyover & development. There were political parties that also brought in religion and nationalism as an argument against the Muslims. Muslims silenced their fears and opted for hope of a better & smoother future. That was only partially true, except that now when u fly across the bridge at JJ, one can say ‘salam walekum’ to all the residents & ask what’s cooking in their homes!

A similar story or more nearer is the example of residents staying across the Sion flyover. Most can jump into their houses if they attempted…new feat, say wot?

But here we had a lady whose voice is most precious to us, no doubt, but that’s a separate issue. She threatened she would lose her voice due to a flyover. So our state govt had got into action…which is? Just sit back and let the events unfold. Somewhere along BJP had made to believe that the Democratic Front govt would not get re-elected in 2004. But they did..so once again the same CM, Vilasrao Deshmukh and the newly appointed state public works minister gave a green signal to this impending project. Meanwhile, Lata’s sister Asha threatened to settle down in Dubai. She told this to Times of India & then she did a U-turn and coolly denied it.

Phew! Now cut to the present- On March 25, I was asked by my editor to get the reaction of Lata Mangeshkar “come what may, I don’t care by evening i want it.” He asked me to pick my note book & rush to her residence at Prabhu Kunj. My heart just sank & making a face I turned away. I was NO cub reporter that I was being asked to go to Mangeshkar’s house…then i just called the one & only Indu who i just bank on for anything to do with films… If i’m blunt..Indu’s icing on the cake! She was like..”u know me na neeta, I’m not in sync with Lata types…” (I just luv her) but she suggested I go to her boss’s cabin & take the screen world book which have all the names & nos of film personalities.

Now begins my true story…At 4:17:48 pm, I called on 2351…landline of the Mangeshkars..the younger sister Usha answered. After I introduced myself she just rattled off like a Dombivili fast local…she merely voiced her angst & ire at the minister who had taunted the ‘BIG people.’ She was interrupted twice by her ‘didi.’ I finally overheard her saying “stop this banter i will only talk to the person.” She said “namaskar !” & for a full second i was voiceless…tongue-tied & struggled to speak..she immediately said “me Lata Mangeshkar boltey,” in her girlish voice. (can’t blame the men to melt).

Till that moment i was expecting things like “sorry I can’t talk,” “why have you called us to bother us,” etc, etc. I was even prepared for ‘didi’ to change her voice, (as she’s known to change her voice & say “lata didi is not at home”)….I NEVER imagined that the nightingale/singing queen would talk to me directly!

Regaining my composure i re-introduced myself. After a small pause she chatted & told me how life would become painful with the flyover. I asked her if i could I publish this & attribute to her (quote) & she said “You must write. All people need to come forward and take stand on this, no one individual can do anything. I will talk to the chief minister but we will have to bring a stay order on this flyover & we will need to consult our lawyer first.”

She even asked me if i had spoken to her lawyer Mohan Jaykar (yaya same…husband of Smita Jaykar). I told her that he was on some case in the Supreme Court & he wasn’t answering my phone, but i had smsd him. Ms Mangeshkar then asked me to pass on her message to her lawyer. I asked her if she wanted Mohan’s number, and she promptly said, “Me kashala karu tyana phone, tyana sanga mala phhone karayala.” (Why should i call, ask him to call me). This call with Lata didi lasted for 5.13 minutes. After which i spoke to Veena Singhal (president of Peddar Rd Residents’ Assn) & Milind Deora for their reactions.

On March 26, DNA carried Lata Mangeshkar’s news on the front page. But wait, Subhash K Jha, the most trusted lieutenant of the Bollywood world also had a scoop…Lata didi told him she would leave Mumbai city & go if the flyover came up. Meanwhile i smsd mr Jaykar & informed “that Lataji wanted him to speak to her.” Next four days were a roller coaster ride for Mr Jha & Yours truly. People insinuated things about me. Accused me of fabricating the quotes & story…but i liked the true Bombay spirit shown by listeners. People said, “Didi we will help you pack your bags.”

Sorry…this letting out one’s ire has NOTHING to do with her singing, talent & god given talent. NO one has doubted all of it. I’m distressed that of the lack of bond that the person showed as regards to the city that made her successful & gave her everything. Sad that many elite people in this city are selfish & don’t wish to give back anything to Bombay. Hello, weren’t these the very people who will criticise the likes of Medha Patkar??? Accused her of stalling projects & rest of the elite are quiet on Lata?

As the reactions began coming in regarding Lata Mangeshkar’s news, madam suddenly got an attack of amnesia, so typical Bollywood…she put ‘Henna’ to shame! She just sent out faxes from her true friend, politician’s office…outright denying she spoke to any media person! Outrageous… yes considering that it was none other than the Bharat ratna who has lied…she has stature, respect, was on a pedestal in all the eyes of all Indians….but why after four days deny something that did happen?

i’m a journalist. I had a few questions…why did She not fax, instead of using Raj Thackeray’s off? A billionairess doesn’t have a fax machine? Is she being supported by the politican in this issue that concerns thousands of Mumbaikars?? No one wrote about this but the letter has been stored by many of my colleagues…

I’m paid as a journo to report truthfully & i’m committed to it. I have a job & i’m clear i will report correctly rather than publish half truths for the sake of keeping good relations with anyone. i retrieved my call list from the computer & got a print out. Our sweet tele operator, Raju…He saved my reputation! And my notes…well, my dirty old habit of writing down while the person talks has helped me tremendously. I spoke to few lawyers who said hand-written notes are admitted & even sent to handwriting expert. As a rule i save my notes for at least 7 years.

My bosses didn’t bat an eyelid, altho the reporter was already rolling her big fat eyes at me saying she was just alerting me that ‘didi’ was going on record to deny her conversation with me…hahahaha..what should i say?? Her politician friend’s close aides asked me why i had published an article depicting her wrongly, how could Lata didi lie?

Excuse me? What does it take for some big personality to lie? I strongly believe that it takes a lot to speak the truth! I asked, “Why? Isn’t Lata a liar? She is if she feigns ignorance of speaking to me even after giving me an interview.” Its a matter of my reputation, credibility & reportage. Her denial simply means she has labelised & maligned me for reporting truly…oh the next thing i know is I’ve insulted a Bharat ratna…didi…how could i bitch about her? How have i spoken such ill of such a great personality…Some gossip that was spread -i’m happy.

I want to kick ass…one needs guts & courage to stand up for what one believes in & sadly NOT all humans have it. We have time & again seen how renowned & highly talented people have screwed their reputation publicly..whether it is owning up to an alleged murder of an ordinary citizen/an affair, financial/professional problems or simply sticking to what one has said. A social/environmental/political issue is not everybody’s cup of tea. More so the issue here is to do with Mumbai city’s project.

Can development can be stalled for one person? Do we forget the project-affected people in our poor rural areas that are left homeless & without any rehabilitation? And here we Bombayites suffer day-in-&-day-out waiting for minutes to get a clear road from Lotus cinema onwards down Haji Ali uptil Kemp’s Corner. All because there is no flyover…Peddar road is where the rich people live- including the one who objected…

The story did create waves in the city…i got many a friend & peer calling me up & congratulating me…some colleagues bitched & sniggered, my bosses were proud of me…but really speaking the interview with Lata was something that just happened by fluke. It was sheer timing of the news…just that ‘didi’ & her fans, devout ones especially should realise that this is my job & profession. I love news & can smell it ahead….