For some years the poverty of famous singer Mubarak Begum has been in news and her plight has been bothering many music lovers and they have been forced to think what this country and its government and state governments have been doing with artists who have enriched the life of millions of people. – a group of music lovers on facebook,, recently remembered Mubarak Begum and devoted a full day to her songs and matter of her poor financial status again came to focus and took the task to go and meet Mubarak Begum. And he not only fulfilled his self made resolution but started a movement also to help the great singer in her old age. Following is the account of his journey.
As per my promise to friends, members of , I undertook the venture to visit Mubarak Begum.
Had only the address of SBI Bank. Went there, the Dy. Manager Shabnam Khan confirmed that the her account is there in the bank and it is in operation, but refused to divulge any details, even after explaining the motive of my visit. She directed me to the Chief Manager- Mr. Latkar, who too refused to give her number or address. However he gave the name of the Society- Sultanabad Society on Behram Baug Road.
I started my journey. Now Behram Baug is a huge area as big as Dadar or Churchgate dominated by the Muslim Community .Every time I asked for the Society- I was told further up. The hot sun was sapping all my fluids and the remark just further up goaded me to walk instead of taking a Rickshaw.
Again Sultanabad is an area- almost a ghetto-ed dwelling comprising of more than 50 buildings with different names. The irony was that none even knew who Mubarak Begum was, forget where she lived .After about 20 minutes of inquiry, met a watchman, who in an utterly callous manner remarked= ‘Wo budhhi gaanewali’ and directed me to a decrepit building No 22. It was again in a separate compound= ‘Chirag’ building. Here I was guided to flat No. C-111 , on first floor. I rang the door-bell.
I asked for Mubarak Begum– when the door was opened. She was lying on the bed. I touched her feet when she sat up.
I told her what immense pleasure her songs had given us and reminded about ‘Bemurrawat bewafa‘ from Sushila. She immediately said ‘ Wo ‘C Arjun‘ ka Music tha, which confirmed to me that she was lucid and had an alert mind. Then we discussed a few other songs and she recollected all of them. Gradually I told her about the Geet-Sangeet group and how we celebrated her birthday yesterday. She replied that she herself does not remember when she was born- neither the date nor the year. But she recollected singing her first song in 1949 for’ Aaiye‘- mohe aane lagi annggdai’ .
After some more time reminiscing about her singing career- I delicately asked her about her monetary position [ though from the appearance of the flat- I had gathered it was not good] . I asked her how would she liked to be paid to which she said’ Nagad hi de do- bank jaane ki zaroorat nahi. I said that was not possible , as all people lived in different places and countries. Then she said I could tell people to send it to the bank directly. She needs money as it appears that she is the only earning member. She has an elderly daughter [who looks sickly] , a son who left as soon as I entered and a daughter-in-law who served me a glass of water. Did not see any children in the house- but they may have gone to school.
Most importantly- she is still ready to sing- if we arrange a program- a small gathering- even a few songs without any accompanying music- which just goes to show her desperation for money. she gave me her card and asked me to arrange some programs for her.
This is the story. As they say the ball is in your/music lovers’ court.
Pic. Courtesy : Shri Bhagu Mordani