The day Pancham refused hospital clothing

For millions of people across the Continents, including those with just a fleeting interest in music, Rahul Dev Burman was a composer with a high scale of creativity, melody and entertainment value.

Hundreds of his songs are still played or performed by various artistes at stage shows, weddings, birthday parties and other private functions.

While his music remains immortal, a few remembered his 73rd birthday (on June 27), marked only by close members of his family and friends.

Dr Mukesh Hariawala, a Cardiac Surgeon and Healthcare Economist based at the Harvard Medical School Affiliated Hospitals in Boston, US was among the few who marked the legend’s birthday with a note to us.

“Pancham, as R D Burman was called with affection, was one of a kind. He was a musical genius who gave hundreds of hits, made movies sell and raised the profile of singers, actors, producers and directors, above all of which, he was a genuine friend to many. I remember the day as I prepared to perform a surgery on him at the Princess Grace Hospital in London many years ago,” he said, writing to Indian Newslink from Boston.

He refused to wear hospital clothing, saying that he preferred his favourite silk kurta and pyjama. He was fond of whisky, but Dr Hariawala asked for abstinence for at least six weeks after the surgery.

Musical gift

“He gifted me a box of CDs containing his compositions soon after the surgery. I told him that they would be of no use since I did not have a CD player (not popular then) but the next day, he presented me with a famous brand. While his wife Asha Bhosle was by his bedside all the time, the extent to which he enjoyed the respect of people was evident by the constant flow of celebrities from India,” Dr Hariawala said.

He had earlier performed a bypass surgery on India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh (who was then at the World Bank) at the Harley Street Clinic in London.

“When I mentioned this casually to Pancham, he asked ‘Who is Manmohan Singh?’ He had no pretence. Dr Singh was at that time known only to a few bureaucrats and bankers. He said he did not have fans but friends.”

Dr Hariawala said that after recovery, Pancham resumed his musical career and gave one of his best songs that Bollywood had ever experienced. Picturised on Anil Kapoor and Manisha Koirala for ‘1942: A Love Story,’ the song, ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Tho Aisa Laga,’ became a runaway hit.

Dr Hariawala moved to the US shortly thereafter but cherishes the memory of his friend and patient.

Unfulfilled desires

He has two regrets that are too late to mend – watching a recording of his song and doing a cameo role in a Hindi film.

“Neither of these invitations from Pancham could materialise,” he said.

About Rahul Dev Burman

The great maestro (June 27, 1939 – January 4, 1994) was a seminal music director of the Indian film industry. Also known as ‘Pancham’ he was the only son of the noted composer Sachin Dev Burman.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, RD Burman composed songs for 331 movies. He was active as a composer and as a vocalist for a few compositions. His major work partners were Asha Bhosle (his wife) and Kishore Kumar. He served as an influence to the next generation of Indian music directors, and his songs continue to be popular in India even after his death.

He popularised many actors, among the most famous of who was Rajesh Khanna, who passed away in Mumbai on July 18, 2012

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