R.I.P. Roohi Bano

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By Ravinder Kaul

Those of us who began watching television in the ‘Black & White’ era in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab on its arrival in the early 1970s, the choice was between local TV Channels like Srinagar and Jalandhar Kendras of Doordarshan and Lahore station of Pakistan Television.

Although we had just fought a war with Pakistan, the atmosphere and public discourse was mercifully bereft of any jingoism and nobody was made to feel guilty if he/she appreciated a particular PTV programme or artiste. In this atmosphere came Roohi Bano, Uzma Gillani, Tariq Aziz and many others who were equally appreciated and applauded for their histrionic abilities in India as they were in Pakistan. Roohi Bano in particular was quite popular for her nuanced and flawless performances.

Roohi Bano passed away in a hospital in Turkey yesterday where she was undergoing treatment for kidney failure. Her life outside the limelight had been very painful and distressing with two broken marriages and financial troubles. She was suffering from dementia and schizophrenia and her son was murdered in the prime of his youth some years ago.

For people of J&K there’s an additional reason to mourn her demise. She was daughter of Ustad Alla Rakha, the legendary Tabla player, who belonged to village Bhagwal in Hiranagar Tehsil of Kathua District and half-sister of Ustad Zakir Hussain. Hence in that sense she was a daughter of the soil.

Rest in Peace Roohi Bano. May your tormented soul finally get peace which you richly deserved, but were denied, in your lifetime….

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