“Bicchhra kuch iss tarha se, ke rutt hi badal gyi, ek shaks saare shehar ko veeran kar gya…”
The Urdu couplet veritably reflects the grief and sorrow in the hearts of music aficionados — both naïve and connoisseurs — of India and Pakistan, following the demise of invincible folk and Sufi singer, Reshma, in Lahore on November 3.
Though settled in Pakistan, her voice enraptured art lovers world over. She has immortalised many songs such as Lambi Judai, Dama Dam Mast Qalander and Nahin Lagda Dil Mera, to name a few.
From a khanabadosh (nomadic) community, Reshma was born in India at Malasi village, Rajasthan, and migrated to Pakistan in 1947, where her music potential was spotted after she sang Laal Meri for Pakistan Radio. Personalities from the region, who had a close association with the legend, share their sorrow on her demise:
‘An epitome of humility, uprightness and simplicity’ is how Kewal Dhillon, business tycoon and politician, remembers Reshma. “She had established a bond of affection with us since the 1980s and had visited us many times with her family. She performed for us at our residence four times during her visits to India,” he recalls.
Author and politician, Harnek Singh Gharuan, says, “My meetings with Reshma turned into family reunions. I visited her on various occasions in Lahore during my visits there; it was heart wrenching to see her in poor health during her last days. In 1996, she performed at Mohali with Shaukat Ali, Gurmit Bawa and others at a programme organised by us. She effortlessly managed to enthrall an audience of 50,000 fans.”
Singing maestros Hasnain Akbar and his Ustad, Khadim Warsi, also expressed grief over Reshma’s demise and observed that she had made irreplaceable contribution to folk and Sufi music.
Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans expresses grief by saying, “We had shared the stage many a times in India, Pakistan and other countries. When I was honoured with the title of Raj Gayak, she was with me. She was a unique, unparalleled phenomenon.”
Similar views were expressed by noted musicologist and artiste, Kamal Tewari: “There is a certain divinity in her voice, which touches the soul and the mind. She could transcend the audience to a level of ecstasy and spirituality,” says Tewari, who used to host concerts for Haryana Cultural Affairs, where Reshma would perform often.
“We had the most intimate family relations with Reshma,” says art promoter SK Punia, who has organised 63 concerts for Reshma and her family. Before Partition, Punia and Reshma lived in neighbouring villages of Malasi and Sujangarh. “Her daughter, Sazia, is taking her illustrious legacy further. Her husband, Kan Mohamad, sons Mohd Latif and Shawan and daughter participate in our family functions even now. We will miss her simplicity and golden voice,” adds Punia.