I felt like as if a close companion of many years had passed away leaving a hole in my being
My joy of Diwali was greatly dimmed when I heard the news of Reshma passing away on the morning of November 3, 2013. Over the years I had become so hooked to the magic of her deep voice and easy style of singing, I felt like as if a close companion of many years had passed away leaving a hole in my being.
I first heard Reshma’s voice from Radio Lahore when I was a university student in India, around 18 or 19 years old. I was mesmerized by the magic of her voice when I chanced to hear her one afternoon. Her voice had an electric effect. I would wait for her songs from Radio Lahore. Those days I knew nothing about her. Information about artists in Pakistan was non existent or very scant in India. But her voice captivated many of us in spite of the artificial barriers.
I came to study in the US, fortunately I met Najam, a fellow student from Rahimyar Khan in Pakistan. We became roommates. He was a good vocalist and a great fan of Reshma. He had many of her cassette tapes and every time he returned from Pakistan after a holiday he would bring me tapes of her songs. He also told me about Reshma’s life, including many stories about her, about her background, and how she had been discovered while she was very young.
Over the years I would ask all my Pakistani friends to bring me tapes of Reshma’s songs. Some even brought me very rare recordings of Reshma’s earlier days. These became my treasure.
A few years ago I heard that she was suffering from cancer and was unable to sing. I inquired from friends in Lahore and they informed me that the Pakistan government was looking after her treatment. We all prayed for her wellbeing.
One day I saw her interview on a Pakistani television channel where she sang again. I was delighted; her deep, haunting voice was back. In this interview she said that for her, singing was ibadat, worship, and that is why she only sings those songs that edify the creator and his creations. She looked frail but her voice was still mesmerising.
While her body has joined the elements from which it came, her magical voice will echo in the hearts and ears of millions around the world for all the times to come.
Jaspal Singh is a Vedic and Punjab scholar, based in Cambridge, MA. Email: [email protected]