His is not the story of a typical star.
Mehdi Hassan, the undisputed king of ghazal – who left one too many applauses unheard and many a tributes unacknowledged in his lifetime – passed away at the age of 85 at 12:15 pm on Wednesday after suffering from multiple problems, including massive bleeding from the stomach, and lung and chest infections at the Agha Khan hospital in Karachi.
Years ago, when he was a little boy, something inside changed him when he saw a tear rolling down his father’s cheek. He walked up to his father in utter confusion and enquired about the reason for his sadness.
“We’ll have to stop singing and switch professions,” replied his father with a heavy heart.
It was then that Mehdi Hassan’s family had to leave their profession of classical singing and move to Pakistan after partition.
For a moment, he could not believe what he heard. But his father’s words resonated in his ears and more so drove him to do something else for a living. For the next three years he worked as a carpenter, fixed oil engines and drove tractors to earn an honest living.
Little did the world know that the young untapped talent would flock back to his true love of singing and establish himself as the undisputed king of ghazal.
Born on July 18, 1927 in a village called Luna in Rajasthan, India, Hassan’s first break into the music industry came with an opportunity to sing for Radio Pakistan — and since then he left millions of souls around the globe spellbound.
His funeral prayers were delayed to await the arrival of two of his sons from the United States and will be organised after Friday prayers on June 15.
While the family members first appealed to the Sindh governor and the president to allow the singer to be buried on the premises of the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam, they later changed their decision keeping in mind proximity and convenience.
He will now be buried at Mehdi Hassan Park, located in the North Nazimabad neighbourhood, revealed Aslam Dehlvi, a close friend and General Secretary of Mehdi Hasan Foundation.
The world reacts
Indian legend Lata Mangeshkar, while talking to Express News, said that it was unfortunate that such a wonderful person had to suffer so much.
“A voice like his may never be heard again. “He had come to India and we had met. Everyone started crying when they saw him,” she said.
Mangeshkar said Mehdi Hassan had inspired many to sing. She said she had all records Hassan had released and liked every single ghazal of his. “I believe this was God’s will.”
Actor Nadeem Baig said that Hassan’s demise was a big loss. “I had been humming one of Hassan’s tunes in the morning today and minutes later I found out that he had passed away,” said the actor. Nadeem added that he was ‘blessed’ to have had the opportunity to act in his songs.
Indian poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, while speaking to an Indian news channel, heaped praise on the ghazal maestro. He said Hassan’s voice was a source of solace and peace.
“He is not a legend, neither is he a legacy. In fact, he is an era on his own that ends with him,” said Ghazal singer Salman Alvi.
Having sung countless poets from Ghalib to Faiz, Hassan gave us some of the most timeless ghazals, including “Gulon Mae rung bharain” and “Ranjish hi sahi” — tunes that will live forever.
Author Kamila Shamsie tweeted on micro-blogging website Twitter: “PIA announced Mehdi Hassan’s death during a flight to the UK, played ‘Aa phir say mujhay chor kay’ & passengers started crying.”
In 2001, after suffering a massive stroke along with hypertension, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Hassan had been admitted for the first time at the Aga Khan Hospital, according to a press release by the hospital.
“For the last 11 years, several medical teams were involved in the care of the legendary singer. Over the years, he had multiple strokes, and lung and urinary infections. He was admitted at least eight times in 2011, and five times in 2012,” said Dr Aziz Sonawala, Hassan’s primary physician and consultant neurologist. He is survived by eight sons, five daughters and a widow.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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