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Lata Mangeshkar attended school only for a day, learnt the Marathi alphabet from house help

Here's why Lata Mangeshkar angrily went back home on her first day of school, never to return again.

lata, asha 1200Lata Mangeshkar learnt Marathi alphabets from her house help who taught the singer to read and write the basics. (Photo: Express Archive)

On her first day of school, Lata Mangeshkar took younger sister Asha, then aged about 10 months, with her and when her teacher objected to it, she angrily went back home never to return again. She learnt the Marathi alphabet from her house help, who taught the singer to read and write the basics.

“I must have been about three or four when I asked our servant, Vitthal, who was a teenager at the time, to teach me the Marathi alphabet and how to read and write the basics. I studied Marathi at home,” she told filmmaker-author Nasreen Munni Kabir, who later adapted these conversations as a book titled Lata Mangeshkar… In Her Own Voice.


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A post shared by Lata Mangeshkar (@lata_mangeshkar)

Mangeshkar, however, had attended some nursery classes before. “The teacher used to write ‘Shri Ganeshji’ on the blackboard, and I used to copy it perfectly. I got 10 out of 10.”

At that time, her cousin Vasanti was studying in the third standard at Murlidhar School, a Marathi-medium school just opposite to their house in Sangli, a city in Maharashtra. She would tag along with her cousin and whenever Vasanti had a music lesson, Mangeshkar used to attentively listen to the teacher singing.

“One day, the teacher, pointing at me, asked my cousin: ‘Who is she?’ I jumped up saying: ‘I am Master Deenanath’s daughter!’ She said: ‘He is such a great singer. Can you sing?’ I told her I could sing many raags, and rattled off their names: Malkauns, Hindol, etc. She led me straight off to the staff room where all the teachers were sitting and asked me to sing. So, I sang a classical song based on Hindol. I was four or five,” the book, published by Niyogi, mentioned.

So on the day Mangeshkar was to join the same school, Asha Bhosle was about 10 months old.

“I took her in my arms and off I went. When I entered the class, I sat down with Asha in my lap. The teacher said firmly: ‘Babies aren’t allowed here.’ I was very angry and got up. I took Asha home and never went back,” Mangeshkar recalled.


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A post shared by Asha Bhosle (@asha.bhosle)

She learnt Hindi from her cousin Indira and later from a person in Bombay named Lekhraj Sharma.

She then went on to learn Urdu, Bengali and a little bit of Punjabi. She tried learning Tamil too and could also understand Sanskrit.

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On how she would learn a song, Mangeshkar told Kabir: “I first write the lyrics in Hindi, in Devnagari – even if the words are in Urdu or any other language. The music director sings the song to me so I hear the tune as I read the words. I make notes on my page of lyrics, indicating at what point I might stress a particular word. Then I memorise the tune and sing it.”

First published on: 06-02-2022 at 05:51:34 pm
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