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The singer, the song

She has a voice of silk, a will of steel, eyes that dance and a heart of gold. RANA SIDDIQUI meets Reshma, the singing sensation that belongs to the entire Indus valley.


ALLAHRAKHI, ALLAH mafi, Allah shafi... No, one is not counting God's various attributes on the beads of a sacred `tasbih' nor addressing someone. These are titles bestowed on cooking utensils like `handiya' and big plates called `parat' by one who added a unique dimension to music through her sonorous voice well defined in "Lambi Judai", "Damadum Mast Kalandar", "Sanjha Chulha Jalya" and more: This is Reshma, you guessed it right. In her kitchen housed at her Rachra Peer, Lahore residence, she will not let anyone touch these favourite utensils. For her, they are like members of the family, which otherwise consists of her two sons, Sunny and Latif, their wives and children - all musicians. A vegetarian by choice, she loves saag, missi roti, bajri and makki and never lets any one cook non-vegetarian food in her cooking pots. That is one aspect of her personality.

And there is another: Her subtle sense of humour that is sure to bring a smile to one's face. Tell her that she has lost weight and she promptly replies, "To kya? Main isse silim, smarat bhi to ho gayi" (So what? I have grown slim and smart because of this), but explains, "Doctors have advised me to curtail oily and spicy food." On the dais, she makes famed industrialist Vijayapat Singhania droop his head in shyness when she proclaims, "He is a hero and I am the heroine," in her trademark, innocent, rustic style. "My voice is like a bulldozer, if you still love it, I am obliged," is another nugget from this naοve personality. She may overdo it, and spoil the decorum of a press conference for she still hasn't learnt the so-called etiquette desired there, but finally wins all hearts with her motherly attitude and a media-savvy approach. "Look out, you are attaching it, see that I don't get a shock!" is what she orders a TV representative who fixes a mike to her kurta for an interview.

Still agile, Reshma has lost none of the euphonic voice quality. Proof of this can be heard in the song "Ishq Te Gali Wich" in the Singhania produced film "Woh Tera Naam Tha", directed by Kuku Kohli.

"I have no training in classical music, I do not know even the `r' of any raga. So when I sing and miss any technical aspect, please forgive me," is what this daughter of Haji Mamad Mushtaq, a trader of camels from Malashi, Rajasthan keeps on repeating. "We were banjaras, who would go to Pakistan to sell camels from Bikaner and buy horses and cows from there several decades ago," she recalls. They would camp anywhere, sing folk songs and move ahead. Folk songs that many people have heard in Lata Mangeshkar's voice, such as "Yara Sili Sili", "Kesaria", "Mera Piya Ghar Aaya", "Akhiyon Ko Rahene De", were first sung by Reshma, informs Naveen, her adopted son who lives in India, himself a post graduate in classical music.


It all started when a television and radio producer heard her singing Sufiyana Kalam at Shahbaaz Kalandar's shrine in Pakistan and invited her to come to Karachi and sing for Pakistan radio. She started with "Laal Meri" and the rest, as they say is history.

Reshma may have sung in a Hindi film after more than two decades, but she is a regular visitor to her native country. Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jaipur invites her each year on January 13, his birthday, when she stays at the Umed Sing palace.

"For me, there is no difference between India and Pakistan, they are like my two eyes," says the singer who now plans to come out with an album of Sufi songs with Times Music. As for her stage shows, she has curtailed them, for, "It has become more Westernised."

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