Kolkata, Oct 24: Singing legend Manna Dey's demise Thursday triggered an outpouring of grief in West Bengal, with cultural personalities and commoners alike recalling his ever-popular numbers that cover "every emotional aspect" of man's life.
Saluting the genius, veteran singers became nostalgic as they recounted the encouragement and inspiration they got from him.
Classical vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, at a loss for words, remembered his 38-year close relationship with Dey.
"He will never die. He will live in the hearts of the people through his songs. During my formative years, my trump cards at small cultural soirees were his evergreen songs," said Chakrabarty.
"I was so junior to him, but when I first met him, he expressed his respect for my songs, such was his humility. He told me, 'I will be the first person to kill you if you don't become India's number one singer'. He told me to keep to classical music."
"Later, he wanted to take the lifetime achievement award from me. And I remember I had gone to the release of his autobiography 'Jiboner Jalsaghare' programme by skipping a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan, as he wanted me to release the book," recalled Chakrabarty.
"He has songs for every emotional aspect of man's life. He is a real Bharat Ratna".
Aged singer Banasree Sengupta said: "He told me that an artist should lead a good life. Once he saw me eating at a dinner, and later told me not to consume so much at one go, as that may affect my voice. His said singers should eat in small amounts a number of times in the day."
Haimanti Shukla, in tears, said Dey was like his father. "Whatever I am today is because of him. He always used to point out whenever I made a mistake. It is a big personal loss."
It was a sad dawn for Kolkata as the denizens woke up to the news of Dey's passing away in Bangalore. The topic of discussions at most street corners and bus stops centred on Dey, as the old and the young alike hummed his evergreen numbers.
Local television channels and FM radio stations cancelled all other programmes and started airing Dey's songs as they paid rich tributes to the legend that he was.
Dey's versatility and lifelong devotion to music were also the talking points.
Music director Shantanu Moitra said Dey's level of dedication was something the younger generations should emulate.
"He had a great voice. But it is a lesson for wannabe how he honed his talent with classical training and because of that he successfully rendered some difficult songs, which some of his great contemporaries did not dare to sing."
Anup Ghoshal, who sang the evergreen numbers in Satyajit Ray's "Goopy Bagha" films, said Dey was an institution in himself.
"He was a complete artist. The twists in classical songs used to come alive in his voice. He took Bengali music to a new level. The lesson that young music talents should take from him is unless you love music, you can never become a real artist."
Singer Shreya Ghoshal said: "I am greatly inspired by his versatility. He was one of the strongest pillars of the music industry. The way he sang pure classical music emotionally without diluting their classical value a bit, taught me a lot."
Actor Ranjit Mullick, who has lipped a number of songs of Dey in films, spoke of the singer's sense of perfection.
"In one of my films, 'Sayamsiddha', Mannada came to know that he was singing for a character who was physically disabled and mentally retarded. So, in that song 'Kichimichi', he sang with a distorted pronunciation to be in sync with the character. It is difficult to imagine a singer of his class taking so much pains for a single song," said Mullick.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)