Rest in peace Reshma: I wish Pakistan had treated you better

Published: November 4, 2013
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Folk singer Reshma mesmerised many with her raw and soulful voice. PHOTO: Muhammad Javaid

“Yeh Sachin Tendulkar kaun hai? Mein ne Imran Khan ka tou suna hai, magar mein cricket ke baray mein ziyada kuch nahi jaanti. Shayad yeh Sachin bhi koi mashhoor cricketer hoga?”

(Who is this ‘Sachin Tendulkar’? I have heard about Imran Khan but I don’t know much about cricket. Perhaps, this Sachin is also some famous cricketer?)

These priceless words were uttered by Reshma in an interview with a journalist in India. Of course the journalist forgave her for her ignorance when she spoke with such simplicity and innocence in her rustic Urdu.

Reshma and Atif Aslam at the Lux Style Awards in 2008. Photo: Faisal Farooqui

It was this small anecdote and several similar instances that revealed to the world how unbelievably simple Reshma was. It brought to light the 12-year-old gypsy child who was discovered singing at Shahbaaz Qalandar’s  shrine years ago, offering her respects to the mystics of Sindh the only way she knew how – through her folk music.

In spite of her later exposure to city-life, media, glamour and so forth, and even after earning so much fame and success, she remained a simple woman, whose rustic and unpretentious demeanour will be missed as much as her soulful music, for years to come.

According to folklore, gypsies move on before the grass grows around their tents. True to this legend, Reshma’s haunting voice would ring with a never-ending quest for unseen pastures and a longing for loved ones left behind. One didn’t even need any musical training to feel the sheer simplicity and the raw beauty in her singing.

Like many who grew up in the 80s, I came to know about Reshma only after her legendary song Lambi Judaai, in the Indian movie Hero. I still remember listening to that song on a cassette player with my father and rewinding the tape to play it again and again. Even at that young age, I knew that this wasn’t a typical Bollywood song. Her songs would touch chords deep inside you and would leave you feeling lonely, ecstatic, loved or reverent, depending on the emotions that she sang about.

Her voice was so unique that I could never visualise an actress lip-synching to it. Hence, most of her tunes were later re-hashed and sung by other renowned singers of India, including Lata Mangeshkar.

Another legend, Laxmikant Pyarelal loved Reshma’s voice quality so much that it took a lot of convincing for her to agree to sing one of Reshma’s songs in an Indian movie. Lambi Judai became a raging hit to say the least, and one can see aspiring singers singing it in music competitions and talent shows even to this day!

Sadly, all that is gone now and Reshma is no more.

The question is, have we as a nation, been fair in giving her due credit in life or not?

In my personal opinion, like majority of our legends, including Mehdi Hassan, Zubaida Khanum and Lehri, we did our best to make Reshma feel dead even while she was alive.

How did we do that, you ask?

Simply by forgetting them while they were still among us.

It was not too long ago that one of the channels showed a report about Reshma and her struggles to make ends meet, while fighting a losing battle against cancer. I was almost reduced to tears to see her barely able to speak properly; after all, this was someone whose very voice and tone modulation would mesmerise people.

In a broken voice, Reshma tried to explain how the existing government at the time (it was 2012 perhaps) had discontinued her monthly expense fund, which had been initiated by the previous government. To me, it just seemed like a show of power by the very politicians who had perhaps, invited her to sing at their events and parties – an invitation which she might have declined due to health reasons or lack of interest.

It sickens me to think that soon every news and entertainment channel will be arranging ‘A Tribute to Reshma’ with an emotionally engaging title like Lambi Judaai or Nahiyon Lagda Dil Mera. Moreover, I can bet anything that these events will be attended by the ‘who’s who’ of the entertainment industry.

Old and new singers alike will render their versions of Reshma’s songs, all the while secretly vying for praises for their own songs. I can almost hear some well-rehearsed speeches by actors, singers and so forth, who will pause in all the right places to maximise their speech’s impact on the audience.

Then, after this show of pride and accolade is over, we will all go back to our busy lives.

However, in spite of the pretentiousness of these tributes, I am certain about one thing – that wherever we are and whatever we are busy doing, we will truly miss her the minute we hear that soulful, haunting voice.

The legendary Reshma with Yusuf Salahuddin. Photo: Imran

Rest in Peace, Reshma. You were one of a kind, truly irreplaceable.

Samir Tariq

Samir Tariq

A Strategy and Business Transformation Manager for one of the leading banks in the Middle-East. He lives and works in Dubai. A literature lover and a writer by hobby he mostly writes fiction inspired by true life events.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    We are a nation who value deads onlyRecommend

  • 123xyz

    wish you people had shown the same respect to Malala also.
    or is it asking too much??Recommend

  • Qasim

    yeah; and we curse our artists who go to India to earn bread. :)Recommend

  • Ali

    Great Singer. Great voice. Great Person. Ungrateful nation.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    she was the prid of both sides of the subcontinent .Its an irrecoverable loss to both the countries.Recommend

  • Indian

    Do you value alive malala???Recommend

  • Amnah Khalid

    Inna lillahi wa inna elhhi rajhu, to the voice of her soil. The question asked should be why did she suffer who stole the copyright of her songs and how commericalization of music industry should be regulated in Pakistan to give due to genuine artist. By the way I wrote a note to the producer of her commercial songs on this esp when he does not acknowledged her on her death and also the upcoming voice of Pak Music Quraitualain Baloch.Recommend

  • Yousaf Haque

    The gypsy that she was,in Reshma we lost a voice where listening to her sing,gave the feeling of sort of a fettered freedomRecommend

  • jin

    correction, Grateful nation but Ungrateful Pakistan bashing commentators. Stop cursing Pakistan with every chance you people get man come on. Reshma got free treatment for cancer by Imran Khan whereas you have Pakistani singers like Alamgir who left Pakistan for Canada and then came back because of financial problems in paying his medicals but guess what, it was the nation Pakistan who helped him and made him financially stable again, got him to sing again, donated generously, and MA he’s residing happily in Karachi now and in much better health. So next time time you jump on the band wagon of Pakistan-bashing think of all the positives it has done for other legendary artists which you sadly never knew exist until now.Recommend

  • 007

    Why do we always have to be negative about ourselves as a nation? Self Esteem at individual as well as collective (national) level is the first step towards satisfaction. I don’t see any reason for letting ourselves down by saying we don’t treat our artists well. Let me something very crude; singers & actors are professional people just like the rest of us. They too must spend their earnings in a sensible manner, saving a few pennies for the rainy days. More than the government, it’s the individual’s responsibility to look after himself in a better way and save some of their earnings. Our people have a heart of gold and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Let’s not be negative about ourselves. The writer knows how to write, but it would have been appreciated more if he had focussed only on paying tribute to Reshma.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Why do we have to write obituaries in such a manner? Reshma was iconic and we did not treat her fairly because no one paid her the royalties she deserved. If a proper economy, every artistic work has a price. The use of it can only be on permission.Recommend

  • A Peshawary

    What a pessimist heading! Yes, Pakistan had treated her the best in the world; she was given the highest civilian award; People loved and admired her. She never complaint about the respect and treatment she got from her beloved country which she admitted all around the world while on tour. Nobody else except herself should judge the treatment she got from Pakistan.Recommend

  • 007

    Spot on! Totally agree.Recommend

  • twister286

    Yes she was a great artiste, and a great loss to Pakistan. But why exactly are they entitled to free money?

    Performers of her stature weren’t paupers…they earned a pretty penny in their heydays. Mick Jagger doesn’t get a free stipend just because he was a great singer back in his prime.Recommend

  • Tariq

    Indian :

    Though you put the question to someone else but as a fellow Pakistani. I take the liberty of replying.

    Yes. We value the cause of Malalah as much as we care about the plight of Nabila Rehman. You see, just like anywhere else we too have 2 camps and 2 schools of thought. Recommend

  • Indian

    No,my question was to that particular person..Sometimes his views resembles hardcore fundamentalist..Recommend

  • guru ktidh

    I believe Pak. Took care of this legend well. I read that Musharraf helped her a great deal. I am not sure any government, to what extent can take care of legends like Reshma. Maharashtra Govt cannot appoint an officer to take care of the needs of Lata Mangeshkar.Recommend

  • Samir tariq

    As a writer i can tell you that i wasnt trying to start a political debate here. My point was simple. We tend to forget our artistes and most of the times we remember them either after their death or when there is some report on channels depicting how miserable an ex-star is these days due to health or financial issues. More than the financial part whats heartbreaking is the way people start ignoring them in “pop culture” until it becomes “trendy or cool” to talk about them again…..these are personal observations not a judgement..so those who oppose it might also have very strong points against this…Recommend

  • Humza

    Well said- It’s become fashionable for some people to complain and point fingers for no reason. Reshma was a great singer who elevated the classic Punjabi folk song – after being discovered, she lead a full life, won accolades and earned well financially. That she squandered her money like many artists do too in Western countries is sad. Why do you want to point an accusing finger at an entire nation? It’s true that so many write ups just want to criticise society and the nation for not reason. Whenever an artist or celebrity dies penniless in the West due to bad financial decisions, do people there all curse the country?Recommend

  • -SHAGY-

    *sigh*
    well written and very true!Recommend

  • marz

    Seriously!!!! This is what u have to say after reading his blog… there is huge difference between Reshma and Malala. i dont know how people bring Malala in different Topics!!! Everything is not about Malala… Other great and legendary people also exist in world and in Pakistan..Recommend

  • marz

    why don’t you have her… i am eager to see how u guys will value her!!!Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    I agree that one should respect his legend and remember them forever. But Why the hell should government give monthly expenses to them? It is the responsibility of a man himself.Recommend

  • Guest

    @ Author: What can you expect from a society who still believes that music and singing are the works of devil.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Music and Singing is Harram in Shariah and Islam.Please see detailed Fatwa.
    http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=1786Recommend

  • Anti Pakistan

    Malala is not culture of subcontinent…thousands ladies ,million times important than Malala died in WWI and WWII,thousands are dying in Somailia,Palestine,Syria,Iraq and Libya,who are talking about them<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<,?
    Malala didn't fought for Pakistan or Islam……..her far away relative shooted her because he didn't wanted her to study(as in Swat,NWA,SWA its supposed shame to have education……….same shame as muslims don't want to sell their daughters in market………….same shame as USA feel when shaking hands with 3rd world………….To Hell with Malala and her family.Recommend

  • Plato

    atleast we are not rapping her.Recommend

  • AbuSufyan

    You are the STAR… you bashed him v well…lolRecommend

  • US CENTCOM

    She will be missed. But her music will live on forever.Recommend

  • SHIVI

    R.I.P RESHMA
    LEGENDS LIVE FOREVERRecommend

  • Satesh Kumar

    I wish Pakistan had treated her better…… and for those who have had moved to India for better treatment then we don’t treat them better..!!Recommend

  • forgiven

    Agree with you very much, I am saddened, and ashamed ; for the way we treated this Angelic Singer. She definitely deserved better. The Lord will take good care of her in the heavens- that’s very she belong.Recommend

  • forgiven

    Music and Singing is Harram, and terror, torcher, bombing of innocent people is wonderful. Islam is based on “Humanity”, which is the religion of all. Please learn to be kind, and tolerant of others, who don’t agree with extremism of any faith, and don’t follow those preachers, who teach nothing but misery and suffering of people.Recommend