In 1969, vocalist K.S. Vasantha Lakshmi got a chance to sing at the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on the occasion of the birth centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.
She became the first Indian woman to have performed at the cathedral and wanted a documentary evidence of it.
Recently, she received a copy of the recording from BBC.
BBC’s Information and Archive Preservation Services recently dispatched the DVD of the event that was held 40 years ago to her.
“In 2009, some friends advised me to contact BBC's Glasgow office for the video recording of the event,” she said.
She had sung at the cathedral in the presence of dignitaries like Lord Mountbatten and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
She wrote to BBC in June 2009.
“I did not receive anything till September. I wrote to them again and found that the BBC had dispatched the DVD but it was lost due to a postal strike there,” she said. “They sent me another copy that I received in October.”
The music company EMI too had cut an audio record of the event, which included her performance.
“The EMI record was sent to me in 1970. I did not know how to get the video recording of the event in which I became the first Indian woman to sing at the St. Paul’s Cathedral,” she said. “I desperately wanted to document the work.”
Vasantha Laksmi now runs a gurukul in Gurgaon.
Vasantha Lakshmi's wish was granted, but not entirely.
“The DVD carried the entire event but my songs. The BBC told me that somehow my songs were deleted and they don’t exist in their library anymore,” she said.
The DVD does carry her group appearances. “My wait for the recording of the event for 40 years has not gone waste,” she said.
The recording shows her singing carols in a group.
But her solo bhajans — some of the favourites of Mahatma Gandhi — such as Raghupati Ragahav Raja Ram, Vaishnav Janato and Hari Tum Haro Jan ki Peer sung at the event are missing.