Death of Lata Mangeshkar: towards the end, video calls with the 8-year-old doctor

They would talk about life, songs, studios, recordings, families – even his “payal (anklet) collection”. Over the past two years, she’s grown so close to one that she’s been chatting with her eight-year-old daughter via video call.

For the doctors and nurses at Breach Candy, the death of Lata Mangeshkar in the hospital was personal. “Today my baby girl is grieving,” said Dr Pratit Samdani, an internal medicine specialist and consultant at the hospital.

Samdani first met Mangeshkar in 2019 when she was rushed to hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties and placed on life support for some time before being released.

“We have developed a loving relationship. Due to Covid restrictions she refrained from visiting hospitals and was seeing me weekly via video call for over an hour or so. During these calls, she often shared memories of various incidents while recording songs in the studio, performing on stage, and working with other singers. She was so humble and often asked about my family’s well-being through messages during the pandemic,” Samdani said.

“She also developed a special bond with my eight-year-old daughter. She often video-chatted with her during the consultation. Lata Didi wanted to meet my daughter but because of the pandemic it couldn’t happen. But they met practically several times by video call. My daughter loved Lata didi so much that she sent her handwritten letters,” he said.

This time too, Samdani hoped to be able to send his 92-year-old patient home in good health. But age and frail health were not on his side.

Mangeshkar was admitted to hospital on January 9 after being detected with Covid, and placed in the Intensive
Care unit (ICU). And although she recovered slightly in the past week, her condition deteriorated and she was put on a ventilator. At 8:12 a.m. Sunday, she breathed her last.

According to Breach Candy alumni, the singing legend had been visiting the hospital for more than three decades.

Caregivers at the facility say they “have grown old with her and share a bond”. Many of them were emotionally devastated when the doctors announced that she was no more. Several in the nurses’ room burst into tears.

“We provide treatment to several celebrities, but we strictly limit our personal communication with them. But Lata Didi always struck up a conversation. She was never shy about giving autographs to staff members,” said a nurse who had cared for Mangeshkar for more than 25 years.

“She used to listen to songs, especially ghazals, when she had to be admitted for health issues. She loved ‘payals’ and often told us about her collection of ‘payals’,” said the nurse who declined to speak officially citing hospital standards for staff.

“But this time she looked more fragile and frail. Due to Covid, there were strict restrictions on staff visiting her in intensive care. Healthcare workers would peek through the glass of the ICU door to catch a glimpse of him,” the nurse said.

Doctors involved in Mangeshkar’s treatment remember her as a “down-to-earth” person.

Last year, when Dr Gautam Bhansali, a consultant physician at Bombay Hospital, visited her at her apartment block on Peddar Road, the singer ‘expressed concern about the effect of Covid on livelihoods poor”. “She also expressed her desire to help those in need. She had a nightingale voice and a heart of gold,” Dr Bhansali said.

At Breach Candy, the nurse summed up, “For all of us, Lata Didi was not just a patient but a member of the family.”

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