Sunday, November 3, 2013






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ISLAMABAD: For many the legendary folksinger Reshma was ‘A Voice of Cuckoo’ or ‘A Queen of a Desert’ but for me she was one rare breed of artists par excellence who refused to leave her identity and patriotism despite having fame and money.

Always clad in a trade mark Rajhasthani gharara and colourful Chunri, Reshma became an instant hit in a realm of folk singing at the age of around 10 after she was spotted singing Sufiana kalam at the shrine of Hazrat Shahbaz Qalandar where a Radio producer Saleem Gillani (also close friend of my father) arranged her for make a recording of ‘Laal Meri’ at Radio Pakistan.

Born in Rajhasthan in a family of a Bajnara (Gypsy) in around 1947, she was migrated to Pakistani region after the partition took place- first in Sindh and later settled in Punjab province.   

Her fame, later, had crossed the border as she was able to perform live in India during the 1980s when India and Pakistan allowed exchange of artists. Subhash Ghai used her voice to great effect in the film ‘Hero’- which featured one of her most famous songs, ‘Lambi Judai’. At that point, Indian premiere Indira Gandhi being an avid fan of Reshman wished to meet this folksinger who had mesmerizing voice.  

In October 2002, Reshma performed at the Brunei Gallery in London to a packed hall of Pakistani expatriates. In 2004, she recorded ‘Ashkan Di Gali Vich Mukaam De Gaya’ which was used in the Bollywood film ‘Woh Tera Naam Tha’ and was also a hit record in India. In January 2006, she was one of the passengers on the inaugural Lahore-Amritsar bus- the first such service linking both parts of the Punjab since 1947. The bus had 26 passengers in total of which 15 were Pakistani officials.

Reshma was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1980s. Later her health deteriorated. President Pervez Musharraf to come to her aid, giving her one million Rupees to help pay off a bank loan, as well as putting her on a secured assistance of 10,000 rupees per month. He also helped her secure a plot of land for herself, but that did not go through due to the change in government.

The vegetarian legend singer was hospitalized in Lahore in Doctors Hospital on 6th April 2013. The caretaker government elected to pay all her medical expenses. Reshma fell into a coma in October 2013 and died on 3rd November 2013.

Having earned various accolades including ‘Sitara-e-Imtiaz’ by the government of Pakistan, Reshma sung a number of hit songs that later on hum by public at large. Few of her famous hit tracks include ‘Lambi Judai’, ‘Hai O Rabba nahion lagda dil mera’, ‘Akhian nu rehn de akhian de kol kol’, ‘Wei mein chori chori tere nal’, ‘Dama Dam Mastt Qalandar’, ‘Sun charkhe de’, etc.

This scribe has met the folk singing diva twice, first on July 28, 2009 and lastly on February 8, 2012 and found Reshma is deteriorating health. She was frail and exhausted but spoke highly about the love people gave her over the years and about the prosperity of Pakistan- who gave her the identity.

While having a dinner with Reshma at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) where the administration of PNCA invited her to give red carpet reception for her illustrious career in music, I asked her couple of quick questions but she was unable to answer because of her dwindling health. While dining, taking autographs and snaps, one of Reshma’s close relative asked me to pray for her health she might not be along you in future. I told him the whole nation and all over the world wherever Reshma’s voice is being heard - are praying for ‘Queen of Desert’ to recover soon.

Though illiterate academically, Reshma gave me autographs on the night writing her name in Urdu. I wanted to talk to her more but she was unable to … and asked me for a glass of water. The mild-spoken Reshma with the impression ‘Hai O Rabba Nahio Lagda Dil Mera’ sang her swansong on November 3, 2013. RIP Reshma!

Here are the links of two meetings with Reshman
Daily Times (July 28, 2009)
Pakistan Today (February8, 2012)

Mahtab Bashir is a journalist based in Islamabad. He can be accessed at