Why Did Geetoshree Sandhya Mukherjee Decline The “Shree” Award?

Sandhya Mukherjee

Some, who do not know who the Legend Sandhya Mukherjee is, are wondering why she turned down the lowest of the Padma Awards, (“Shree”).

A few Bhakts have gone to the extent of condemning her for declining the award.

An erstwhile lifetime DD Sports Presenter, has, condemnably, termed it a fashion.

For those of us, like myself, who happen to know what a great legendary singer she is, the question to be asked is, “Why the Padma Shree was awarded to such a legendary singer, Geetoshree Sandhya Mukherjee, of Patiala Gharana, a disciple of one of the greatest ever musicians, Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan, despite having turned the offer down, when it was first made orally?”

For the ignorant, let me put down a piece of educational information. When Lata Mangeshkar was 13 and Sandhya Mukherjee was just 11, they took part in an all India singing competition, where Sandhya was declared to be the best.

After a long training under the Ustad, Sandhya, in addition to singing in classical concerts, at the age of 17, started her Hindi playback singing carier in 1948. In 1951, she sang the famously popular duet, “कौन मेरा चित चोर” with Lata.

In the mean time, she also started singing Bengali play back. Just as Hemant Kumar was the singing voice of the Bengali super star, Uttam Kumar, Sandhya was the voice of the then female super star Suchitra Sen. If Nargis and Raj Kapoor were the on screen rage जोडी़ in Hindi films, Sandhya and Hemant Kumar were the behind the screen rage जोडी़ of Bengali films. They, together, sang many a memorable duets.

Geetoshree Sandhya Mukherjee has been the Nightingale of Bengal and India, (In Hindustani classical), for the last nearly eight decades.

Has any of the ignorants, heard Sandhya’s Bengali song, “তূমী যে আমার এ জীবনে তাঈ ….”. It is sure to leave a lump in their throat and make the lightest of hearts, heavy with Love. Try it out, even if one does not know a word of Bangla.

And yet ….

One is honoured with the top award of Bharat Ratna, and the other saddled with an insulting, bottom of the rung, “Padma Shree”.

No wonder the coots were roundly thrashed in Bengal. These boors will never know, leave alone understand, Bengali art, culture, polity and mindset, which has produced many greats.

It is the fervour of this culture of Bengal that made a supposedly peace loving ভদ্রলোক (Gentlemen), repeatedly riseup against tyrany of the West, be it of foreign or of the Indian Subcontinent.

It was only our beloved Indira who fully understood the Culture of Bengal, because of the years she spent at Shantiniketan. It was this understanding that made India to intervene against the tyranical quest of the West and retrieve their Culture for the Bengali and restore their pride, honour and dignity by carving out Bangladesh.

It is the polity generated by this art and culture that has bound a predominently Muslim Country into a Secular Nation, against all odds, that too, not due to the lead of a Fascist Ranga-Billa duo, but by a Bengali sari wearing lone lady.

No Bengali is going to forget in a thousand years, this backhanded slap on the face of Bengal from the duo of Ranga-Billa, in the form of a “Shree” award.

In so far as Dr Buddhadev Bhattacharya is cocerned, he was not even asked, if the CPM stalwart, an ex CM of Bengal, wanted to line up with youngsters on the first rung.

Samuel Dhar is an Army Engineer officer, who took premature retirement 28 years ago to practise as an engineering consultant, specialising in use of polymers in constructions. He has authored scores of Articles and book on philosophy, theology and Nationalism.

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