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Kishoreda unremembered in hometown

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Khandwa (UNI): 'Naam gum jayega... chehra yeh badal jayega... meri aawaz hi pehchaan hai... gar yaad rahe'. Ironically, the words penned by Gulzar seem to be aptly revealing the sheer neglect of immortal playback singer Abhas Kumar Ganguly alias Kishore Kumar at his birthplace Khandwa. A silence prevails here on the eve of the 77th birth anniversary of Kishore da who had tremendous affection for Khandwa a town that seems to be ravaged by a guilt complex as it has not been able to do much for preserving the melody king's memories even almost two decades after his demise. It would be ridiculous to state that Kishore da needs a memorial or function to highlight his fame. However, the fans -- for whom this town is nothing short of a pilgrimage centre -- are tormented by the fact that no honest attempt has been made here to earmark a place for singing an ode to his greatness.

Has eminent poet Javed Akhtar forgotten his promise of donating Rs 1 lakh for renovating Kishore da's sepulcher? ''At a local function on August 4, 2005, Mr Akhtar made the announcement but the amount is awaited,'' says Khandwa Municipal Commissioner S N Jharia. Last year, Akhtar was bestowed the Kishore Kumar Samman by the Madhya Pradesh government's culture department. Earlier recipients of the award, which carries a cash component of Rs 1 lakh and a citation, include Amitabh Bachchan, Gulzar, B R Chopra and Naseeruddin Shah. This year's recipient is renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal.

'Gauri Kunj', the ancestral house of the Ganguly family, where 'Dadamoni' Ashok Kumar and comedian Anup Kumar also spent their childhood, once played host to Swami Vivekananda who conveyed the eternal philosophy of the spiritual East to the materialistic West. The brother trio were seen together in the runaway black-and-white hit 'Chalti ka naam gaadi'. Unfortunately, Kishore da's dream of providing a platform to local talents remained unfulfilled. He had visualised a Gauri Kunj Sabhagrah, a modern auditorium in the memory of his parents Gauri Devi and Kunjilal. Now, that very house -- standing on the main road and just a few steps from the railway station -- is in ruin. The large photographs of his parents, which the melody king had preserved with care, are things of the past.

''What can I do if the owner is not paying any attention to this house,'' laments Sitaram, who has been Gauri Kunj's watchman for three decades. When family assets were divided, the house went to Anup whose son visited it very few times over a decade. Sitaram reminiscences that whenever Kishore da came to Gauri Kunj, he would order milk and 'jalebi' from Lalaji's shop and chat with his pals the livelong day.

The singer's childhood friend Ramneek Bhai Mehta says, ''He had decided to spend his old age here but unfortunately that remained just a wish.'' On October 14, 1987, Kishore da's remains were brought here from Mumbai and placed in the same room where he was born. A sepulchre is awaiting completion at the cremation ground where the last rites were performed. ''The most touching aspect of Kishore's character was his affection for Khandwa,'' says Mehta and even Kishore da used to say, ''Doodh malai khayenge, Khandwa mein bas jayenge.''

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