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Umesh Makhija – a Rafi Devotee

This article was originally posted on Times of India newspaper.
Source: Rafi Group – Baar Baar Rafi

Umesh Makhija, 48,Lingerie trader, Ahmedabad

When Umesh Makhija’s customers open the women’s lingerie he manufactures at his Ahmedabad unit, the box’s printed inlays greet them with: Ae phoolon ki rani, bahaaron ki mallika, tera muskurana gazab ho gaya.

Anyone who has associated with Makhija knows they will have to accept the Mohammad Rafi hangover. Even Rafi’s family endorses his passion. When they stayed over at his home during his daughter’s wedding this January, they were overwhelmed by how Rafi was stamped on every facet of Makhija’s life, and home.

In 2000, 13 years after he got married, Makhija moved out of his joint family home into a 3-BHK house (Rafi Darshan). The breakaway ambitions were fueled not by a nagging wife, but Rafi. He could now dedicate an entire room to house a ‘temple’ whose walls are splashed with the singer’s photos, the bedsheets and pillow cases teem with the lyrics of his unforgettable numbers. “Before I sleep, I walk in and sing a song to Rafi,” he says with a straight face. His mornings kick off with a Rafi Aarti performed by wife Poonam and daughter-in-law Jiya at the temple.

Makhija’s mobile numbers end with digits signifying Rafi’s birth (24 12 24) and death (31 7 80) dates, and the i10 that he drives carries the same numberplate as Rafi’s black fiat — 1067.

Being a ‘devotee’ means he must make time for Rafi fans visiting the temple for two hours every Sunday, and hosting a party for around 500 on the legend’s birth and death anniversaries each year. Rafi’s songs play on a loop, many attempt at karaoke, and bowls of kheer, Rafi’s favourite sweet, make the rounds all evening.

Makhija is a regular at every ‘Rafi night’, where his voice-alikes try recreating some of his magic. “Poonam always carries an extra handkerchief. I invariably break down,” he smiles, adding that she hasn’t been spared either. The singer drops into her dreams often.

There are scores of fans who claim to have a music collection more elaborate than mine. But like one of them said, ‘Gaane toh hum sabke paas hain, yaar, par Rafi sahab tumhaare paas hain’.”

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One Comment to “Umesh Makhija – a Rafi Devotee”

  1. Mohammad Basheer says:

    A true Devotee seems to be maniac, but not. He did’t forget other responsibilities of his life.

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