I vividly remember having first walked up to Mehdi Hassan saab at a radio station when I was 20 years old. He was at the peak of his career at that time.
The aura about him was magical; he was not called the King of Ghazals for no reason. Apne kaam ke shehenshah they woh … it is very rarely that God creates a legend as great as him.
Woh aise fankaar they ki jab mehfil lagaate they toh jahaan roshan ho jaata tha (He was of such a decree that whenever he held a mehfil, he would light up the whole world).
You wouldn’t expect it from someone so successful, but he was very happy to meet me when I went to him that day.
Unhone mujhe pyaar kiya, gaate hue bhi suna (He gave me love, even heard me singing). A staunch believer of hard work, he told me, “Aise hi mehnat karte rehna. Bahut achha karoge (keep working hard just like you do, and you will always do well).”
He met me like an elder brother, warm and welcoming, and his simplicity won my heart. He was extremely compassionate, and never spoke ill about anyone. Maybe it was the music in his soul …. oopar waale ne unke gale mein aisa ras deeya tha … music was everything to him, and his goodness was an extension of it.
Films in our country were not considered films till they had Hassan Saab’s voice. Lata Mangeshkar had also called him ‘the voice of God’.
He had struggled before making it big, and he rightly deserved all the success he got. He had received so many awards, and every time he won an honour, I felt very proud. He was my inspiration, and still is.
He may have been ill for more than 12 years, but when I last met him, he was as cheerful and lively as he used to be when he was younger.
We laughed and chatted. Bahut hans khel ke baat ki (He was playful and upbeat). I always asked his children about his health.
It is difficult for me to say more because I get emotional everytime I think about what we shared... all I want to say is that it is a very big loss, but he is somebody who will live on even after his death.
And his blessings will remain with me.
(As told to Neha Sharma)