Friday, December 26, 2008



In Parts 1 and 2 we elaborated the philanthropic side of Mohammed Rafi Sahaab, the Man with a Golden Voice as well as a Golden Heart, the Legendary and ever-popular playback singer of India, in so far as his charitable giving of financial help and assistance was concerned.

But, then, philanthropy has many other dimensions as well. One of them is the moral dimension. Despite being in a film industry in the 20th Century, it appears that Rafi Sahaab waged a constant jihad against self-interest, ego, sloth, temptation and evil that conquers any ordinary human being. But Rafi Sahaab was no ordinary human being. He far exceeded the moral standards of the Bollywood film industry in comparison with which he clearly emerges as a saint. Yes, if one has to name a saint in Bollywood, then Rafi Sahaab’s is the only one name. No, I’m not referring to his impeccably regular habits of “Namaaz” (prayers to God) as well as the 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., “Riyaz” (exercising and perfecting the melodies of music by singing in seclusion). It was as if Rafi Sahaab knew that he was fulfilling some sort of primeval covenant with his Creator who had gifted him with that golden voice with which it was his duty to bring a sense of fulfilment not only to himself but also to those who heard him and who, on hearing him, went into raptures. If these were the fifteenth or the sixteenth centuries, Rafi Sahaab surely would have been a wandering minstrel or faqeer, composing his own lyrics and music and singing them in towns and villages, in wilderness and deserts singing of Universal God. Or perhaps he would have been a real Baiju Bawra competing with Tansen in the court of Emperor Akbar. He was truly a “Karm-Yogi”, a dedicated playback singer, who gave his best to the film music irrespective of the fact whether he was paid or not for his labour and without jeopardising the interest of the producers or the music directors. He never demeaned or embarrassed the recipients of his charitable deeds.

How well Rafi Sahaab gave without embarrassing the recipients can be measured from his system of distribution of the Zakaat amount. For the uninitiated, Zakaat is a sort of compulsory Islamic tithe of 2.5% of one’s wealth, to be systematically given each year for the benefit of the poor who may include relatives as well as strangers. Zakaat applies to surplus cash, gold, silver and commercial items but does not include the amount that may be additionally given out of kindness and generosity for the benefit of the needy. According to the reports, Rafi Sahaab used to distribute the Zakaat amount during the month of Ramadan each year. This amount was divided and distributed by means of the many packets that had a dedicated number, given to the recipients, marked on the packets. At any given time during the day the recipients would go to Rafi Sahaab’s bungalow and pick up their packets after providing their dedicated number to the distributor who generally happened to be the Secretary of Rafi Sahaab. This system ensured that there was no pomp or show in the least on part of Rafi Sahaab while having the Zakaat amount distributed. There were no hassles involved too.

Rafi Sahaab's self-effacement here can be highlighted by a living illustration which provides a contrary case of pomp and show. In Mumbai’s Bandra vicinity itself, (exact location is suppressed) there is this house of some wealthy person. When the time comes for distribution of the Zakaat amount we find the young and the old, women and children jostling against each other to lay their hands on the amount being distributed. Sometimes we find a queue where the poor and the needy just sit in anticipation of the alms and charity all day long to the curiosity of the passers-by. Now compare this with the system of Rafi Sahaab and we realize how vanity and pride never touched him even when he provided a sizeable amount of his earnings every year to the needy people who never even got to see their benefactor while collecting their packets.

It is a pity that sometimes many sterling facts of life of an individual are suppressed either out of discretion or some other reasons. One fact that is being constantly overlooked or glossed over or even ignored in the case of Rafi Sahaab is that during the Ramadan of the fateful year, 1980, he learnt much to his anguish and pain that the Zakaat packets had not been distributed in time. The Holy Month was almost ending. He took that omission so very much to his heart, that it seriously affected his health. Even at that point of time he did not miss his appointments with the music directors. And as is universally known, in that state he recorded his life’s last film song, TU KAHIN AAS PASS HAI DOST, for a movie called Aas Pass under the baton of Laxmikant-Pyarelal who never realized that they were recording the last song of this great soul. Rafi Sahaab felt tired but the clock of life was still ticking. He had one more commitment to honour the next day. Some people were coming all the way from Calcutta (Kolkata) to record his Bengali song for their Kali Pooja Album. Even in his worst health, he had no heart to turn them away. How could he? For he believed that those who came to Rafi’s residence should not go away empty- handed. He sat for the rehearsal from 9:30 a.m., not telling his near and dear ones how he was fighting for life. It was only three hours later that he revealed his true state of health. But the damage had been done. He had suffered a massive heart-attack. The end came soon.

What suddenly dawns on us is that apart from being a saint, Rafi Sahaab was also a martyr. Has any one heard of a case where a person jeapardises his health for the sheer reason that the charity amounts were not distributed in a timely manner? Or of a person who just to honour one’s professional commitments, would continue to endure the excruciating pain of an impending heart-attack for three hours at length ? But that was the sterling character of Rafi Sahaab who was a philanthropist par excellence as well as a saint and a martyr. Is it any wonder, therefore, that when Rafi Sahaab died in the holy month of Ramadan the entire locality of Bandra and the known and the unknown faces of the Bollywood fraternity as well as thousands of outsiders formed the huge procession that followed his bier to the grave, braving torrential rains? Even after 28 years of his sad demise, nearly a thousand people from all over the country, including his fans, the film and the TV personalities, gathered at his grave in the burial grounds of the Juhu Mosque to pay homage to their departed icon, the Great Indian Legendary Playback Singer, Mohammed Rafi Sahaab.



1 comment:

  1. Please, can you combine all three parts and post it as a one post or add in each part, the links to the other two parts. Please if you can..