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My Love For Rafi Sahab

This article is by Ms. Nalini Ramji.

I am writing to share with you my story of how my deep love for Mohammed Rafi has affected my life.

I was born in Canada and grew up in the US from the age of 4. It’s funny – during all those years, I never clicked with any of the local culture here. My mother was a Bharata Natyam dancer and I also used to learn Carnatic vocal music – I used to really enjoy the light peppy dance music – but still I don’t remember feeling a part of either culture.

In 1976, when I was 13, my father was posted to Delhi on a short assignment from his company in Los Angeles. My mother chose to stay in Mumbai where her mother still had a large flat, so that she could resume her dance lessons under her guru. So we moved from Hollywood to Bollywood… The assignment dragged on, and I started attending a local school. For the first time in my life, I made Indian friends. They were very accepting of this strange Indian girl from Disneyland, who didn’t know much about Indian culture. But they were already in the 9th standard, and there was no way that I could catch up with their levels of Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati. So, when they had their language classes, I left and studied French instead. I had never been exposed to Hindi until then, and somehow still managed to avoid it – not by intention – I just didn’t know any better.

After finals, my classmates used to go to see a Hindi movie. They always invited me, but I would decline since I didn’t understand the language. These people were really wonderful and insisted that I come, promising to translate the dialogue for me. So I went… The very first film I saw was Sholay – quite an introduction! I don’t remember which movie it was – I think it must have been Amar Akbar Anthony – in which I heard Rafi Sahab’s voice for the first time. I still remember thinking that whoever this singer is, he must look like Rishi Kapoor! I was really shocked when I found out that he was much older, and balding… I came home and told my mother that I had just heard an incredible singer – when I mentioned his name, she started reminiscing about the movies she’d grown up with, like Baiju Bawra. All of a sudden I had found a gold mine…

From then on, I was determined to learn Hindi. It wasn’t enough to go into a trance whenever I heard his voice – I had to know why he was crying or laughing! I got some books and spent my weekends and spare time learning how to read and write. I would listen to one of his songs on tape and try to find the words. Of course, through all this, I learned some rather odd Hindi to start with, and my friends teased me that I knew more about mohabbat than about kela! They soon gave me the moniker of Rafi-ki-diwani, and laughed over the fact that they were into European and American music groups while I had moved from the land of Michael Jackson to go crazy over an Indian! (Once I moved back to California, I put the license plate Rafi Nut on my car – the only way to fit Rafi-ki-diwani in 8 letters…)

I used to visit Rhythm House in Mumbai on a constant basis, to the point that one of the salesmen, by name of Akbar, got to know me quite well, and would pull out the latest LPs with Rafi Sahab’s songs when I came! Then I would sit in the listening booth and decide which LPs to purchase. When it came time to move back to the US, part of our luggage included 1000 LPs! After moving back, I made audiocassettes by extracting Rafi Sahab’s songs from those LPs. Each cassette had a different theme, such as Dilip Kumar – sad, etc. I made a total of about 75 such cassettes.

During that phase of my life, I felt that I became an Indian as well as an American.

In July 1979, a couple of months before we moved back to the US, my uncle, who happened to direct serious films, said to me, Well, if you’re that crazy about him, you should meet him! I was ecstatic. He arranged the meeting, and I went to Rafi Villa along with my mother and one of my dearest friends. We had to wait outside for a few minutes while he was finishing something, so his secretary offered us something to drink. I took some water and was just drinking it, when the secretary announced that we could come in. I jumped up, spilling the water on myself, and feeling rather embarrassed! We went in and sat in his living room. I still couldn’t speak Hindi, so I smiled at him a lot – who knows what he thought of this strange girl from America? – and my mother did all the talking. I will treasure that memory to this day. He was incredibly sweet and humble. Rafi Sahab’s voice was so soft. He just waved a hand and said Yeh sab meri award hain. My brothers were ill and unable to come and he asked Bachche sab beemar hain?. His secretary could speak English, so I would say a few words to the secretary, but mostly I just smiled. He also didn’t know what to say. Meeting him in person is very different from seeing him on stage, which I also had the chance to do later that year when he toured the US. But that day in his house – very tastefully decorated, simple and elegant – was very special. I don’t remember what he said, but I just remember being in his presence, and the incredible feeling of lightness and ease around him. He also invited us to one of his recordings, and I regret to this day that we never made it to that, as we were busy packing to return to the US.

After that, I started studying Urdu on my own, determined to go back and actually speak to him. But that didn’t happen. I was stunned when I heard about his sudden death, and went into a strange depression for over a week. All my life my medium of expression had been words – whether journaling or writing light poetry – and now I found that to be a cathartic means of healing. The following eulogy I wrote to him, helped me to come out of this grief and became one of my best poems ever.

Ode to Mohd Rafi

Pyar amar hai duniya men (love is immortal)
Pyar kabhi nahin marta hai (love never dies)
Maut badan ko aati hai (death comes to the body)
Ruh ka jalwa rahta hai (the soul lives on).

– Janam Janam Ka Saath Hai

Is dil se teri yaad bhulai nahin jati (from this heart your memory will never be forgotten)
Yeh pyar ki daulat hai lutai nahin jati (this treasure of love will never be stolen).

– Is Dil Se Teri Yaad

Since then, I have become reasonably fluent in Hindi, and my knowledge of Devanagari helped me quickly pick up some Sanskrit as I moved into a more spiritual phase of my life. Yet, my love for Rafi Sahab continues to grow stronger, and it will never die. My friends find it quite amusing and yet appropriate that my house is completely filled with pictures of Krishna except for an area of my living room with pictures of Rafi Sahab, which is designated as my Rafi shrine. I will always owe him an incredibly deep debt of gratitude for the doors that have opened in my life through my love for him.

– Nalini Ramji

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20 Blog Comments to “My Love For Rafi Sahab”

  1. Pramod Savur says:

    Classic write-up.I am Pramod Savur, member of the erstwhile Rafi Fan Club, B’bay. We had met at one or two meetings.

  2. Pramod Savur says:

    Hi Naliniji. I am Pramod Savur of Rafi Fab Club.From one Rafi nut to another.

  3. vinod mehru says:

    Dear Nalini ji,
    thanks for sharing your valuable moments u spent with rafi sahab , u mentioned that u heard rafi sahab at the age of 13, but dear i listen first time to rafi sahab when i was only two, now i am nearing 58, and me and my grand daughter aging 10 month old now we both sharing the same song, i trust u have listen the song chun chun karti aayee chidiya was released in the year 1957, pl check with your mom also,

    in entire world lots of unlimited people who are the fans of our dear rafi sahab .

    As binu ji also mentioned, that in spite of his leaving this world, but we always remembering him and he is still part of our lives.

    i am available on and you may catch me on face book also.

    with regards
    vinod mehru

  4. Binu Nair says:

    The rafi tide is for ever……..only rafi shows go 90% full these days in mumbai auditoriums.

    after 32 years of rafi saaheb ‘not’ being with us, the magic of his songs – never stop.

    this is a cause of worry for some singers you may know arun gandhi and and nalini ji.

    from the rafi foundation, mumbai

  5. Arun Gandhi says:

    i could be reached @ Invenpro @aol. com

  6. Arun Gandhi says:

    hello, Nalini :
    when i arrived in US in 1985 we had met at DasPraksh to express our
    fascination for Rafi . do you recall ?
    i just bumped into your article
    would look forward to continue where we left .

    Arun Gandhi

  7. Shahid says:

    Nalini Ramji,

    Having come up on your Article by accident, I went through it and when I read the last few lines about your Rafi Shrine, I broke down totally and I cried out so much that I could not utter a word. Even now, my hands are shaking, so please write to me on my E – mail if you think of Rafi as I cannot continue now because of shattered condition now.
    I need to talk to you so much about this VOICE so please for the sake of this VOICE, please contact me.
    My address:
    I request all those lovers of VOICE to please contact me. For me VOICE is RAFI !!!!!

  8. Suneel says:

    I am a great fan of Rafi sahab’s. Anyone fond of Hindi film music is bound to end up being his fan. He was not only a great singer but a very nice human being too.
    I have two black and white photographs of Rafi sahab personally signed by him which I wish to sell.
    If any fan of his is interested kindly let me know.
    I am based in Mumbai, India.

    My Email:

  9. muthu kumaran says:

    dear rafifans,today i was feeling very depressed and i felt like hearing my favorite song by MdRafi -the she i love is the beautiful..i searched and found it in!what a song and voice. this song i use to hear at the age of abt 14/15 ,that is abt 36/37years before. i used to be captivated by his voice.eventhough i was not understanding hindi those days, it was like hearing someone from heaven.later when i joined IAF and posted at Delhi, i had lot of cassettes to hear him. what a golden period!thank you friends for all your efforts.Nalini’s tribute is great. My salute to nalini.even her poem is wonderful.

  10. A S MURTY says:

    Naliniji what a piece of prose writing and straight from your heart. i chanced upon this article now, hidden as it was in the numerous pages of this great website and am simply dumbfounded with your devotion to rafi sahab. your transformation through the years of listening to rafi sahab’s songs is like reading a fairy tale. anyone who starts reading your article will not stop until it finishes. congratulations for such a lively write up. keep posting newer articles on your experiences on some of the songs for your journalistic traits add up so much to the subject matter.

  11. nalinji, your article has so much impressed me,of course it is nice one.i was crazy with rafi sab’s songs. so that at my child hood ie at the age of 12 .i went to calicut 65 km apart from my village to attend rafi sab’s music concert.this was done alone with out the permission of my dad. though my dad abuse me for this that much affected me because i was in the trill of attending rafi sab’s gana mela. in the music concert talath sab also attended. if my memmory is correct it was in the year1965

  12. Hershy says:

    Matti ke Putle ,itna na ker Guman by Rafi ji

    how do i get this song on Cd .Can anybody mail it to me

    Other song is Kankar Kanakr se main Poochuoon ,Shankr mera kahan hai sung by Geeta dutt
    some songs form Shabab old Movie

  13. Hershy says:

    Any body can reply me for the song i am searching on Cd sung by Rafi ji .I can hear on computer but i need one for car

  14. Girish Modi says:

    I have had similar experience with Rafi Saab. A year before he passed away Rafi Saab had made a concert tour of North America.

    I went to his New York Concert first, too k his photos on the stage from a close distance. While singing Safi Saab will give a pose to me which was unnoticed by audience.

    In those days we did not have digital cameras, so next day I took my three rolls of film to a lab and had them developed. I had some photographs enlarged. I made up an album of Rafi Saab’s photos.

    After a few days Rafi Saab’s concert was held in Philadelphia. I drove to Philadelphia. I presented my album to Rafi Saab on the back stage and spoke with him for about half hours. Mostly we spoke about his hit songs, some famous and some not famous.

    I particularly liked a song named “O Mati ke putle, itna na kar tou guman”, and sag first few lines in my own voice. Rafi Saab got very happy and complimented me.

    I had an album called “This is Mohammad Rafi”. It has a lot of non-filmi bhajans and ghazals. This is my most fabourite album. Would you believe Rafi Saab gave his autograph on this album and made it very precious. I asked him to write my name too, but he said he does not know English, so he did not write it.

    Next day Rafi Saab was living for London where his children were living. I went to the airport to say goodbye. At the airport Safi Saab fell sick in the Maharaja Louge of Air India. We all got worried. After half an hour he was ok and got ready to aboard the place. At that time I saw his right arm was not straight. He had removed his necktie and looked unwell. I too his photo at that moment.

    Next year I was saddened to hear about his death by heart attach and I cried

  15. JAGAT TARKAS says:

    Hello Nalini Ramji,

    I am Jagat Tarkas from Chennai. I have always been a great fan of Rafi. I liked your artical, esp. because a person not knowing Hindi well was mesmerised by his voice and ultimately became a fan. I used to sing most of Rafi’s songs. I am no more able to sing but I whistle almost all of his songs and also give stage performances of his songs. I would like to be a member if you are having any club. Are you in India now? If yes, I would love to present his songs on whistle for you specially.

    Your whistling Rafi Fan
    jagat Tarkas

  16. mukesh says:

    This message is for Ms. Nalini Ramji . I liked ur article very much. I am myself a great rafi fan & i would like to share & receive info about RAFI SAHAB .You can contact me through my id

  17. Nasir Ali says:

    Nalini Ramji’s love for Rafi Sahaab’s singing abilities reminds me of Radha and Meera’s devotion to Krishna. From the above article, truly, she is one of the greatest fans of the legend that is Rafi. My hats off to her, and my great respects for her. Just as when Krishna played the flute, the Gopis used to dash off to him… likewise I am sure the fans of Rafi Sahaab must have undergone his hypnotic spell on us all. In my youthful days, it was the song MERE MEHBOOB TUJHE MERI MUHABBAT KI QASAM that made me forego everything, including my job and I used to dash off to the source from where this song emanated, leaving everything behind. Yes, truly there was Jaadu in his voice.

  18. P.Narayanan says:

    Dear Nalini,
    Do you remember the motley crazy fans of Rafi Fan Club where we all met and tried to do our best in 1980?. Iam Narayanan who left Mumbai in 1983 during for career n job but never left out of passion and craze for the one n only ONE GOLDEN VOICE OF THE STARS RAFI SAHAB. Got thru this amazing website only recently n very much thrilled to read your touching article which has come from the bottom of your heart. We also feel the same for this captivating melodious voice of Rafi Sahab.
    Can you give me the contact numbr of devoted Rafi fans pl?
    P.Narayanan Bangalore mob numb 09886779557

  19. Bonifacius says:

    Great article. I am just sad I dont know how to reply properly, though, since I want to show my appreciation like many other.

  20. Safeer Ahmad says:

    When ever I find someone expressing his feelings about Rafi sahib I feel that he is a close companion of a world of my heart. I thank to Nalini Ramji for her love she has expressed about rafi sahib which I was not able to write. I can only say that without voice of Rafi sahib my life would have black and white but if there is colour it is only because of his incredible voice.

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