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Kishore Kumar memorial is in ruins

By Rohit Ghosh, IANS

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Kishore KumarIn Memphis, fans of Elvis Presley gather in droves around his home and grave -- how different from the dilapidated state of the memorial to India's own Kishore Kumar who still has millions humming and swaying to his songs.

It has been 13 years since he passed away, but while Kishore Kumar lives on in his many songs and millions of admirers, the Madhya Pradesh government is unable to maintain or restore a simple memorial in his hometown Khandwa.

One of India's most celebrated singers, Kishore Kumar still rules the airwaves with his vibrant voice and spawns a dozen imitators every day. In contrast, the memorial marking the spot where he was cremated in Khandwa is overgrown with weeds and decaying.

In the 13 years since Oct 13, 1987, when the legendary singer and filmmaker died in Mumbai and was cremated in Khandwa, his memorial built by the local civic authorities has literally fallen apart.

Wild grass and shrubs have grown through cracks in the memorial and several of its tiles have chipped off.

And this is despite the efforts of the people of Khandwa, who collected Rs.100,000 by contributing a rupee each in an effort coordinated by Bollywood poet-lyricist Vitthal Bhai Patel.

Patel's efforts have earned the wrath of Khandwa Mayor Tarachand Agarwal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"What Patel is doing is an insult to Khandwa and its people. Can't we restore the memorial?" asked Agarwal indignantly.

"What he is doing reeks of dirty politics. First he will restore the memorial and then get involved in the local politics of Khandwa," Agarwal told IANS.

Kishore KumarIn retaliation, he has decided not to allow the use of even a single rupee collected by Patel for the restoration of the memorial.

In negating the people's efforts, the ruling BJP seems to have taken on the initiative of restoring the memorial to one of India's most famous showbiz personalities who made hit films like "Chalti ka Naam Gaadi" and recorded immortal songs like "Zindagi Ka Safar", not to forget the inimitable yodelling in "Jhumroo".

The experience with successive state governments has not been encouraging. Governments have announced that they would renovate the memorial and develop it as a tourist spot, but nothing concrete was done.

Patel took on the initiative two months ago, but has been halted in his tracks. Agarwal's decision has left Patel fuming. "I am from Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh and do not wish to enter the politics of Khandwa."

He asked: "What has the mayor as well as his municipal corporation done for the memorial? Before doubting my intentions, the mayor must say why the memorial is in such a bad shape."

Undeterred, Patel said he would start the renovation within a month. The people of the area were with him, he asserted.

"The municipal corporation was in slumber in all these years. And when some person has taken up the task, it is creating hurdles. We will see that Patel is able to complete the task," said Manish Jain, a resident of Khandwa.

Kishore Kumar's mellifluous voice has weathered the storms of time better than his memorial.

Maybe, in the years to come his many admirers will finally have a proper place to pay homage to him -- much like Elvis fans in Memphis or Jim Morrison devotees in Paris.


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