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When Rafi Saab had a one-man audience, a special day for me

By Achal Rangaswamy

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi

This was perhaps one of those dreams…..

I sat , thinking to myself – “Lagta nahin hai dil mera ujade dayar mein”.  I was missing my idol, my God, the great soul whose voice had taken total possession of me from the evening that I slipped on the rain drenched patch of road outside a theatre in Chennai, as I came out after watching a tall and handsome young man call out “Khoya Khoya chaand”.

It had been perhaps quite a few years that Rafi Saab had left us all to go and entertain a large audience somewhere else up there. But I was missing him badly. Even as I just murmured the first lines of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s  mournful soliloquy, Rafi Saab appeared out of nowhere. He was immaculately dressed, as he had always been. And the same benign smile captivated me. Every time he would sing facing the microphone his voice would boom. But when he spoke, and many people have testified to this – he had a soft and almost apologetic voice that barely rose above certain decibels. I could barely conceal my happiness and count my blessings as the great man came and sat down next to me. He continued to smile but said nothing, almost as if to say, “not only my voice, my very presence shall comfort you”. I looked up at his face beatific face.

Just as I was about to ask him something, his face crinkled into a bigger smile, his eyes expressive as ever, and he sang softly- “meri awaaz suno, pyaar ka raaz suno”. I was ecstatic. This was one song that we all remember as Jawaharlal Nehru’s song for all Indians mourning his passing away. “thaa judaa sabsey mere ishq ka andaaz suno”, Rafi Saab ended the song with these lines and I couldn’t have agreed more. He was so different, so divine. So utterly human, yet godly.

Emboldened by this offering of his in the form of his own song I picked up some courage to ask him- where have you been? We all miss you so badly. No day passes without your song being played on the radio or on the office computer or the car music system. But we still miss you. And he smiled again, the same charming and disarming smile. Gently shaking his head, he said- “tumne pukara aur hum chaley aaye, dil hathaali par le aaye re”.

I realized now that this was going to be a very interesting albeit different kind of Antakshari. Rafi Saab was going to talk to me through his songs. Or maybe, he expects me too to talk to him the same way. So I put forth this question- “zindagi kya hai?”. Promptly and without batting an eyelid he sang “Zindagi hai kya sun meri jaan, pyaar bhara dil meethi zubaan”. I immediately remembered the ice cream vendor from the film Maya. Played by my other hero, Dev Saab, the ice cream vendor passes around ice cream to all the kids, including one who has no money to pay for it. Rafi Saab came through as the same ice cream vendor, dishing out sweet songs for us, even if we had nothing to give back to him for those great desserts except in the form of rapt attention. Love, sweet words for all, and a happy countenance to remember him with.

I was now enjoying this tete-a-tete and I asked him- you smile all the time, don’t you feel sad at any time? And Rafi Saab softly sang-“ rahi manwa dukh ki chinta kyon sataati hai dukh toh apna saathi hai.” But then he also gently explained “gham ki andheri raat mein dil ko na beqaraar kar, subah zaroor aayegi subah ka intezaar kar”.

This was so reassuring, I sank deeper into my cushion where I was sitting. I found that my idol too had made himself very comfortable and was enjoying talking to me through his songs. What amazed me even more was the fact that he seemed to be in no hurry to get up and go, and he just didn’t seem to having the airs that we associate with most celebrities.

Rafi Saab do you like children? I asked.  Now this question pleased him no end, and he got up and almost danced as he sang “ hum bhi agar bachhe hote naam hamara hota dabloo shabloo khaane ko miltey laddoo……” Hmmm…so my hero was fond of children. Of course he had so many himself, I recalled. And each of his children have always talked so fondly about him.

People go around killing each other and hurting each other in the name of religion, I told him. For a fleeting second his face took a different expression. He appeared pensive, but putting his hand on my shoulder (the first electric touch of a great man, nay, God on my shoulder) he sang “tu Hindu banega na Musalmaan banega, insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega”.  This song he went on to song longer and repeated the lines for my benefit –“maalik ne har insaan ko insaan banaya, humne usey Hindu ya Musalmaan banaya, kudrat ne toh bakshi this hamein ek hi dharti, humne kahin Bhaarat kahin Iraan banaya”. So truly said Sir, I told him. And he smiled back, his eyes becoming smaller with that smile.

So what should people do to become good human beings, I couldn’t help asking him. His answer was so simple- “kahaan jaa raha hai tu ae jaaney waley, andhera hai man ka diya toh jalaa le”.  He added –“behakna hai mumkin, bhatakney ka dar hai”. This was his life’s method too, perhaps. Precision, discipline, a life of simplicity with no vices, no grudges and no ill-will.

Having spent so much time with him already, I decided to ask some bolder questions. You have sung so many romantic songs. How romantic are you, actually? And just like in that interview on Doordarshan ages back, he laughed softly, saying “arrey yeh kaisa sawaal kar diya aapney…!”

But soon enough he crooned “Main pyaar ka raahi hoon” and proceeded to add one more favourite of mine-“kisina kisi se kabhi na kabhi kahin na kahin dil lagaana padega”. The twinkle in his eye clearly showed a man who was born to love. Love all people around him. His family, his friends, people who worked for him and with him. My friend Bashir Shaikh always talks about an incident where after a recording, while the other singer walked out of the studio, Rafi Saab stayed back to check the welfare of various musicians who had played the instruments for him.

Suddenly, perhaps because I must have looked like a young child to him he sang “pyaar ki raah dikha duniya ko, rokey joh nafrat ki aandhi.”.  He paused for a second and then continued “tum mein hi koi gautam hoga, tum mein hi koi hoga Gandhi”. Patriotism was always a hallmark of his songs, I reminisced. I remembered having grown up listening to him sing for Shammi Kapoor- “Ganga meri maa ka naam, baap ka naam Himalay, ab tum khud hi faisla kar lo, main kis soobeh walah”.

Rafi Saab, everybody talks about your competition with Kishore da. What was it actually? I was trembling as I asked him this question. I was perhaps stepping into hot water and uncertain territories.  He leaned back, looked up and said “ baney chaahey dushman zamaana hamaara, salaamat rahey dostana hamaara”. And for ample measure he sang another one with gusto- “ehsaan mere dil pe tumhaara hai doston, yeh dil tumhaarey pyaar ka maara hai doston”.

Rafi Saab, why haven’t they still conferred the Bharat Ratna on you? You deserve it more than so many of the others….! He simply sang “jo mil gaya usi ko muqaddar samajh liya, jo kho gaya main usko bhulaata chala gaya”.

By now I was basking in the warmth of the presence of this saintly messenger whose five decades of disciplined labour had earned him the love of all and sundry, even though there may have been a few unjust and unkind detractors. And just as I was beginning to feel comfortably ensconced in his company, he shook his head gently, put his hand again on my shoulder and asked for leave. What a great man, what a great soul !  He is such a big person, but he beseeches me to take leave of me. And like every human who is never satisfied, I (for the first time, and that too in his presence) sang-“ abhi na jaao chhodkar ke dil abhi bhara nahin”.  He laughed that soft laugh of his, patted me on my head and said “aaj kal mein dhal gaya, din hua tamaam, tu bhi so ja so gayee rang bhari sham”.

The halo around him shone, I can bet on it. That benign smile appeared again. That warm and affectionate touch of his remained with me, but he slowly faded away, even as he softly sang his last song for me- “tum mujhe yun bhula na paaogey, jab kabhi bhi sunogey geet mere, sang sang tum bhi gungunaaogey”.

I couldn’t help murmur “nafrat ki duniya ko chhodkey pyaar ki duniya mein, khush rehna mere yaar”.

Rafi Saab has been coming in my dreams now for the last two years with amazing regularity. And that is exactly why I started writing in these pages here. Maybe he wants me to keep a record of all the songs he has sung for me. Maybe he wants me to remember each one of them so that when I go up there (if at all I have done something good in life to merit being in the same place as he is) he may playfully taunt me and urge me to sing as I struggle the way I always do when I sing.

I can clearly imagine him playfully scolding me saying…..”Sa pe ruk gaya? Ab aagey badh……”

lekin ek masoom sa dil bhi, in saarey hungaamon mein chhup chhup ke roney ka bahaana dhoondega….dil ka soona saaz taraana dhoondhega.”

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40 Blog Comments to “When Rafi Saab had a one-man audience, a special day for me”

  1. H.A.K. Walijah says:

    Achal Ji

    What a beautiful article you have written, fantastic and superb.

    I wish veterans like you should write more and more on Rafi Sahab.

    Best regards

    H.A.K. Walijah

  2. achal rangaswamy says:

    bhagchandani saab

    thank you very much sir. very kind of you.

    warm regards

  3. achal rangaswamy says:


    thanks a ton. i may take some time to match in your words your style of writing. but i shall keep trying…..

    very kind of you to write such generous words

    rafi saab had this great ability to bring out the best in all of us

    warm regards

  4. achal rangaswamy says:

    binu ji

    thank you so much. i shall do my best to attend. you have always been calling me and i have not found time for this…..the fault is entirely mine.

    thanks and warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  5. achal rangaswamy says:

    nawathe saab

    thank you so much sir!! very kind of you.

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  6. achal rangaswamy says:

    dear manoj kumar bhanshali ji

    thank you so much for your kind words. through this forum let us explore the existence of a Rafi fan club in Kolkata. Binu Nair ji should be able to help in this.

    Perhaps haldar saab or Sanyal saab could also help

  7. Anil Cherian says:

    Very sad news… Shammi Kapoor saab passed away this morning at 5.15. Rafi-Shammi combo was one of a kind in HFM.

  8. Binu Nair says:

    Achal Saheb : I am renewing my invitation to you to join us by attending our two musicals on aug 21 and on sept 25.

    both the mohd rafi musicals are on a sunday and easily u culd take the night express train to your city Monday early morning and report fresh for work.

    rsvp : 9833 250 701.

    the rafi foundation, mumbai

  9. s nawathe says:

    Dear Achal ji,

    what a writeup sirji,just superb..,Your writeup has a power to make ACHAL things to CHAL …
    Hats off to you….One of the best writeups on Rafi sahab,,,


  10. manoj kumar bhanshali says:

    Dear Achal ji,
    Great, simply great. What an idea sirjee.The thought of meeting rafisahab in person is a very great achievement of one’s life, may it be in dreams only.But what a great way of expressing your love and attachment to the great soul.I was very young when he left for heavenly abode and never got to see him in any concerts even. I live in Calcutta and am unable to find any fan-club where we can meet and exchange our love for rafisahab.It would be great if you could let me know of any such club/foundation in Calcutta.My email i.d is

  11. Suneil says:

    Sorry Ali Sir You Are In Wrong Entry.

  12. Hussein Sheikh says:

    Rafi Saheb cannot be erased from our heart… he’s still with us…

  13. Ali says:

    Happy birthday to kishore da,

  14. J.K. Bhagchandani says:

    Achal Rangaswamy ji,

    What a wonderful piece you have written. Please accept my compliments and congratulations for this.

    Yes, Rafi saab through his songs is there for all our moods, for every occasion. People who never met him still feel him around them. With the passage of time, it popularity is increasing. The tributes programmes have increased on news channels, FMs etc.

    Long Live Mohammed Rafi.

    -J.K. Bhagchandani

  15. A S MURTY says:

    Achalbhai, you are back with such a big big bang. No doubt, this article could not have been penned by anyone else. How can one describe a dream in such eloquent fashion ? Every line, every sentence has a telling effect on the readers. Your infatuation to Rafi Sahab is well known, but your calibre in writing too is just beyond the likes of me. Simply terrific way of presenting your tribute to Rafi Sahab. You have gladdened us all. Keep writing, keep sharing.

  16. achal rangaswamy says:


    thanks so much for your kind words.
    ocean of humility and kindness do very nicely fit Rafi Saab’s persona !!!

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  17. achal rangaswamy says:

    binu ji

    what can one say about people who have no idea of the contribution made by Rafi Saab to the world of HFM. and to humanity too.

    i have the same feelings towards Times of India Baroda who carry only Hollywood news…and many other publications and channels that are insensitive to so many things……

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

    p.s. it was nice talking to you on the phone this morning. your love and respect for our idol came through clearly when you spoke…

  18. achal rangaswamy says:

    saifybhai and abidbhai

    thank you very much. our love and respect for Rafi Saab makes us imaginative and creative. He was a tower of love and faith.


    achal rangaswamy

  19. achal rangaswamy says:

    my good friends Jay and Nagesh

    thank you so much. you have both always given me generous support in terms of appreciating what i write in these columns and elsewhere. Rafi Saab has been very kind to us by bringing all of us together.

    and like both of you, i too just love the idea of main zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya.

    gham aur khushi main fark na mahsoos ho jahaan…main dil ko us mukaam pe laata chala gaya….

    thanks a lot my friends

    achal rangaswamy

  20. achal rangaswamy says:

    naeema ji

    thank you so much for your kind words. i have always followed those people who have worked hard for unity and brotherhood and peace. and yes, i am thankful to both my parents for instilling in me a love for music, in fact good music, and even if i cant sing a straight line, appreciating good music has always been taught to me.

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  21. Nagesh Sidhanti says:

    Dear Achalbhai,

    Wonderful way to present the versatility of rafi sab, in an imaginative tribute.
    Loved the concept of ‘one man audience’ and the run-through of songs.

    Amply evident is the impact rafi sab’s music has on you and your life. fikr ko
    dhuvve main udaata chala gaya…..

    Salutations !

  22. Binu Nair says:

    Achal Saheb: I too woke up ‘after’ seeing a dream. Its a fact that true Pavitra “souls” never will die. Mohd rafi keep visiting his bakhts and there are many examples to quote…….

    this July 31st….many news channels and language news papers carried mohd rafi articles.

    but, the english press did’nt. the times of india carried a picture of michael jackson three weeks back with some tiny tots marking the 2nd death anversry of the singer. what the times of india want these tiny tots to inculcate from m.j.’s colourful life, i am still comprehending.

    dna newspaper kept its silence along with mumbai mirror.

    hindustan times did the unbelievable. its bengali correspondent carried a story and a picture of kishore kumar and her love for kk on the 31st death anvrsry of mohd rafi.

    i was frustrated so much that i have cancelled my subscription with hindustan times – for ever.

    i salute u for the true account about our singing god : tansen mohd rafi saaheb.

  23. Naren Phanse says:

    What an apt tribute to the all time great singer! As great a singer he was, his heart was an ocean of humility and kindness. That manifested in the poignance and soulful expression. Thank you Achal, for such a wonderful eulogy.

  24. abid khalil says:

    ??????????????????????????? what should i comment simply no words.this is REBORN of Great MOHAMMAD RAFI.

  25. Saifee Mithaiwala says:

    I may say you’re a dreamer.but you’re not the only one i hope someday we all of us join in this beautiful imaginative dream…


  26. P. Haldar says:

    Mr. Rangaswamy,

    Enjoyed reading your conversation with the greatest singer of all time. Dear fellow Rafians, for the last few days, the FM channels in Kolkata have been paying tribute to him. Even one of the Bengali TV channels was playing his songs non-stop. No other singer enjoys the love and affection of fans that he does; that is the best award that we, his diehard fans, can give him.

    P. Haldar

  27. Jay Iyer says:

    My dear friend Achal……. What a superb bit of imaginative writing. Only a person with true love for Rafi can be this creative. Rafi was not only a great singer but a inspiration for so many like u with so much talent. Go on giving us more.


  28. achal rangaswamy says:

    my dear friends and fellow Rafi Saab Fans

    i thank you from the core of my heart for your kind words and compliments.
    Rafi Saab has brought us all together into this forum and into this special bond that exists between us.

    your valued feedback is accepted with utmost humility and grace.

    thanks a lot vasudha, santosh, sairavi and ashokbhai.

    col sayyed saab, your valued criticism is well taken and i fully agree with you.

    rameshbhai, as usual, you are generous and very very kind in your compliments.

    doctor khwaja aliuddin saab, aadaaab, bahut shukriya aur ramadan mubarak to you too.

    devrajji, thank you so much for your generous feedback. i value it immensely.


    achal rangaswamy

  29. M V Devraj says:

    Dear Rangaji, what a wonderful literary and creative composition! Very well done Sir,and I enjoyed reading it immensely.At the end of it, just could not stop humming “huye hum jinke liye barbaad
    wo humko chaahe karein na yaad
    jeevan bhar, jeevan bhar unki yaad mein
    hum gaaye jaayenge, ham gaaye jaayenge’.
    Best wishes.
    M V Devraj

  30. Naeema says:

    Rangaswamy saaheb,

    Indeed you are following his example, spreading love and understanding among the human beings. May you pen reach more hearts to convert them to love and serve ,than to hate and destroy.

    You must have been raised by special parents. May God bless you and your family with love and Peace.

  31. Ali says:

    Great sir

  32. khalid says:

    Rahi sahab aaj bhi sirf ek hi baat yaad aati hai

    tumsa nahi dekha

    tum jaisa farishta insaan is music industry mein dusra na hua hai na hai aur na hoga.

    Rafi sahab we love u.

  33. VENKAT KRISHNAN .S says:

    Dear Achal Rangaswamy, I visit this website and other related websites every year this day like a devotee entering a temple. Brimming with devotion , forgetting all worldly worries, feeling cocooned and secure as in my mother’s womb….knowing that boundless knowledge and unconditional universal love awaits me !

    My heart beat with yours in every word that I read and I reassured myself that so long as we all live and breathe the songs sung by Rafi Saab and spread the humane feelings that they engender, there is always hope for great peace and prosperity in this World ! And there cannot be any Qayamat that we cannot survive!

    And if ever there was a prayer at the end of the world… it would only be a prayer to see the vision of this great soul… as you do in your dreams… “Khuda Kare Ke Qayamat Ho, Aur Tu Aaye…..”

  34. Khaja Aliuddin, MD says:

    Rangasawamy Sahab, Adab Araz hai,
    Bahut khoob, nice article from the bottom of your heart.
    ” Aawaz ki ek shama hawaaon me jaga kar
    Khammosh rafi hogaye dil apna dikha kar”
    Ramadan Mubarak to all Rafians,

    Long live rafi Sahab,
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  35. Rafi Saab, why haven’t they still conferred the Bharat Ratna on you? You deserve it more than so many of the others….! He simply sang “jo mil gaya usi ko muqaddar samajh liya, jo kho gaya main usko bhulaata chala gaya”.

    rangajee – merrey pyaarey gurujee – aaj aapney iss website ko mein pravesh kar articles padhney waalong ko bathaa diyaa – key kyong aap gurujee kelaaney key hakdaar hain.

    waah, mai man hee mann sochtaa thaa kee main ek bahut badaa rafi bhakt hoon.

    aapko unhoney chandh ghadiyaan ” maano apbnaa betaa hee banaa liyaa – baar baar apnaa haath aapkey sarpar pherthey huey bahee pyaar sey pesh aayey – aap vaskai dhanyaa hogayey.

    kaash hamaaree aisee khushnaseebee hogee.

    the intensity, warmth, love and belonging with which you have written your one to one teta – tete with the avataar – i was further pulled into a stage wherein – rafisahab got beatified – divine as he was – started shining on the horizon like ” god “.

    i do not have the vocab to truly appreciate your writing skills – but –

    i hereby honour you with – my naval salute – which we normally save it for 15th august and 26th jan.

    gurujee – i profusely thank you for yet another ” lesson ” on the true art of creative imaginative writing and also the most intricate way of carrying your readers on your shoulders – as the story is being heard.

    subtle nuances of writing are a part of your blood stream – sirjee please keep teaching me in this way – and one day – i feel – i would have learnt a teenee weenee bit from you.

    in total awe, inspiration and musical warmth

    ramesh narain kurpad

    your shishyaa

  36. SalRafi says:

    Great write up. Most of the time it gave me a lump in my throat. Imagination I would have cherished to have. Thank you for giving me a feel of closeness to the greatest on his 31st death anniversary. Long live Rafi Saab. You touched our hearts many ways than anyone else I know.

  37. Lt Col Javed Sayyed(Veteran) says:

    Smooth flowing, well laced writeup. Beautiful imagination-very lovable. Congrats & pl keep the momentum forever. only thing out of place- the section imagining of rivalry with kk. where is the rivalry? where is the competition? KK himself has said that if he could sing a song in a few ways-Rafi sahab could sing it in a hundred ways!!! lets stop this comparision, talks of competition etc & bask in the divine glory called Rafi sahab! lets pray for his soul on his death anniversay-though he is always with us at all times!!!

  38. Ashok Parekh says:

    hats off to you achalji for this absolutely fantastic write up. it was double pleasure to listen to rafisaab’s songs uninterruptedly on radio today on his death anniversary (though a sad day for all of us rafissab fans) and at the same time to read your wonderful dream reporting.

  39. santosh says:

    Great Great Great ,No words to admire ur writing achal sir.Great.My eyes swelled up with tears.Right from the heart .great nothing more to say.Just great

  40. dr.Vasudha says:

    Hi Achal
    Just as I started going green with envy the sudden jolt brought me back to reality.Heaved a sigh of relief as I learnt that you were dreaming.!
    Very well written ,a novel approach ,an out of the box imagination and a fulfilling experience dost.Thats like Achalsirjee I must say.Keep it up

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