Legendary bhajan singer Juthika Roy, who was a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, passed away in Kolkata on Wednesday night. She was 93.
Admitted to Ramkrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan in the first week of January with age-related ailments, Roy was fighting for her life away from the spotlight when Kolkata's attention was riveted on yesteryear actor Suchitra Sen's health condition.
Around three weeks after Sen's death, Roy, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972, breathed her last in the south Kolkata hospital.
"She could not recover from the complications, and died last night," Roy's daughter-in-law, Arati, told HT on Thursday.
Even though the present generation seems ignorant about Roy, the singer was a colossus between the 1930s and the 1950s.
Gandhi would listen to her bhajans every day before his prayers. She was then known as the 'Adhunik Meera' after Meera Bai.
When Nehru was on his way from Teen Murti Bhavan to Red Fort in Delhi to hoist the flag of an independent India on August 15, 1947, Roy's bhajans were being broadcast live on All India Radio (AIR).
As she finished singing and was about to leave the station, AIR officials told Roy, then 27, Prime Minister Nehru wanted her to continue till he unfurled the flag.
Even Indira Gandhi liked her songs and took her to the Mahatma's ancestral home at Porbandar in Gujarat.
Roy's first performance for the AIR came when she was seven. Kazi Nazrul Islam was her first mentor and the poet-music composer played a key role in getting her first album released at the age of 13. Later, Kamal Dasgupta became her mentor and she soon rose to fame.
In 1946, the singer had a memorable day. Gandhiji asked her to perform just before his speech in Kolkata during the troubled days of communal tension preceding the partition of Bengal.
While no representative of the state government visited Roy during her stay at the hospital, chief minister Mamata Banerjee paid a visit to the ward on Wednesday night after learning about her death.