84-year grandma a lockdown star with soulful singing of Punjabi folk song
When Mumbai-based actor Mansi Multani recorded a favourite song of her maternal grandmother and posted it on her Timeline on the Facebook she had not anticipated that it would become the quarantine hit.
The folk song, ‘Pauna ni mein laal ghaghra’ (I want to wear a red skirt), was sung melodiously and went straight to the hearts of the people leading it to be shared copiously on social media and appearing in WhatsApp with the silver-haired beauty, charming one and all with her joie-de-vivre.
A guessing game started on the singer’s identity and someone decided that this was the 93-year-old yesteryear film star Kamini Kaushal singing and thus the post circulated till rebuttals started coming from many music buffs, including Sunaini, grand-daughter of famous Punjabi singer late Surinder Kaur, who said: “The song is beautifully sung but she is not Kamini Kaushal auntie!”
Certainly not, she is Romila Arora who had migrated with her family and parents from Lahore to Delhi at the time of The Partition in 1947. Looking back she says, “I was very fond of singing and would copy all the songs I heard. In Delhi, I would participate in the children’s singing programmes of All India Radio.” Her grand-daughter Mansi adds, “She could not pursue her music and after completing studies, she worked in the Punjab National Bank to augment the family income of the migrant family as she was the eldest of six siblings.” Mansi adds that her grandma had been her inspiration and it was this particular song which had become the grand finale for a prominent play ‘Piya Behrupia’, Atul Kumar’s musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ which was part of the London Cultural Olympics in 2012.
Romila, who moved from Kolkata after her husband’s death, chose to live at a senior citizens’ complex in Bhiwadi to be independent as well as close to her children in Delhi. “I am very happy to be in Bhiwadi as I did not want to live in Delhi and they take good care of us here.” Mansi, who shares a special bond with her, says, “I decided to record some of her songs to preserve the magic of her singing and I had no idea what a warm response she would get from the people!” Romila in turn adds, “Mansi is taking forward my love of music and it gives me joy to hear her sing so well.”
An endearing shot before the singing is when grandma chides Mansi that it is important for her to arrange her ‘dupatta’ because the senior woman wants to look ‘nice’.