Tale of Two Songs

Or not … well, this isn’t exactly about two different songs, though one might almost think that. This is about a song sung by different generations, for different generations.

Heres what the black and white era brought, with the legendary Noor Jehan singing the song, in a sing which is very reminiscent of the era of movies immortalised by the likes of Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, or Saira Banu. A song which definitely young men a generation (or maybe two) old would have swayed to.

For those who can’t follow the lyrics, here they are.

And heres the same song, perhaps 6 decades apart from the original, sung by the gorgeous Meesha Shafi, for an audience from an altogether different generation.

This is the reason I feel Coke Studio (and Nescafe Basement) are very good ideas … they present tradition in a package appealing to youngsters (even to older people like me!), and so, keeping the tradition alive.

Cricketing History

Now this video should be a mandatory part of any cricketer’s education … and if you either have dreams of having been a batsman, or aspirations to be one, then this is a must-watch.

All six of them effortless. Sheer poetry.

Krishna Leela

This is a sign of laziness that one thinks of writing about something quite amazing, and then takes a few weeks to get round to doing it. Especially when it is an amazing performance of the Krishna Leela, the story of the life of Lord Krishna.

As children, there are certain things we hold in very high esteem. Could be a restaurant, a particular shop which we went to with our parents, and which we thought, as children, to be something so amazing that we look forward to the day when we go back to those things as grown ups. I am sure all of us would have something which fits this description. Then life takes you away from those places or things, and after a gap of a few decades, you happen to have the chance to revisit those grand places that you so admired as a child. Usually, though, they dont quite seem to be the same, grand places that were painted in your mind’s eye. But this is an amazing exception.

I remember, as a child, watching the Krishna Leela … the story of the life of Lord Krishna. This was performed by the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, and the performances used to happen around the time of Krishna Janmashthami at the Pearey Lal Bhawan, right next to Shankar’s Doll’s Museum. I also remember having been to performances of the Ram Leela, the story of Lord Rama, which used to happen at the place where the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Terminal stands today. And i remember these performances being grand, and quite a treat to watch, as a child.

Recently I got a chance to watch the same Krishna Leela after more than two decades, and nothing of what i have written seemed to hold true. The performance was every bit as grand and fascinating as it was, and enhanced by the use of technology which is available to us today.

In this performance, the story of Lord Krishna is played out in the form of a dance-drama. There are no dialogues, except only at specific points of the performance, to make specific points, and the entire story is told in the form of a play which is enacted in the form of dance. A number of dance forms, from across India, including Kathakali, Odissi, Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Chhau performed by the players to enact different roles in the life of Lord Krishna. And each of these blend into each other quite nicely, so that you dont get the feel of a patchwork of dance forms which might happen when such disparate dance forms are brought together. Rather, you find the story being compellingly told through the brilliant harmony of the different dance forms, and the way they blend with each other, and the usage of the appropriate dance form to portray particular characters in the life of Lord Krishna.

Here are some images:

Lord Krisna with Radha

Lord Krisna with Radha

The Divine Leela

The Divine Leela


Krishna with Arjuna

Krishna with Arjuna

As you can see, no words are necessary. The art of the dance is used to the fullest to powerfully tell a compelling story. And these pictures are not from the performance (photography isnt allowed inside the auditorium), but as you might have guessed, these are photographs of the posters of the performance.

The same Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra also delivers equally powerful performances of the Rama Leela, so if you are in Delhi during the month of October, leading up to Deepawali, do make it a point to explore the wonderful story of Lord Rama, told beautifully.

Yatra of Kashi – 1

The city is Eternal … Kashi, Banaras, Varanasi … any name you know it by, the city, and her magic remain eternal. For, unlike other cities, where different names denote different aspects of the character of the city, with Banaras, its just the Eternal City. Having been at Banaras for four years, there is a soft corner i have for the city. And its not just because i have been there. Banaras is, after all, the city which is topmost in the mind of Hindus the world over. In weddings in the southern part of the country, in fact, the groom is supposed to go for a Kashi Yatra, taking Sanyaas rather than marrying the girl (if only men were so intelligent as to carry it out), and the father-in-law-to-be and the brother-in-law-to-be need to persuade the groom to give up his designs (evil folks there) and marry their daughter or sister (double-evil folks), as Chetan Bhagat has explained in his book, 2 States. But when i talk about Kashi Yatra, i have a totally different meaning in mind. One with mushaayraas, fashion shows, theatre, JAM, rock music … the festival at IT-BHU. A couple of weeks back, i got the chance to go back for KY after more than 15 years. And what an experience it was. Not just being there, but the whole process from conceptualizing it, to the planning, jamming, and the show. And actually, it was the journey which made it so amazing … much more than the climax.

By now you must be wondering what i am writing about. For those not in the know, i was a drummer when at college. This year, some of the most amazing musicians i have seen or played with got together to play at the old college … of course, as we later figured out, it was also about giving the kids a decent rock education. But thats beside the point.

So, what am i talking about? A number of things. Which is why it would take more than one post to write about the entire journey. Because the journey begins at a point which is the dream of social computing evangelists. Now, those of you from IT-BHU, or music buffs would not be too pleased with that reference, but thats the way it was. Let me explain. How did the idea of an alumni band, with guys from across batches, playing at the college fest germinate? Simple … on facebook. How? Let me tell.

A few months ago … and alcohol does do wonders at times … having a discussion with the Old Monk … i came up with a wierd idea … something i never did when i was at college, and something i wouldnt be able to do now, given the girth … cycling from Lanka to Vishwakarma Hostel. I dont know the distance, but its much more than my waistline, or my cholesterol-ridden heart, or the bicycle, for that matter, can handle. But thats not the point. I and Shamik Raj Mendiratta got discussing about this idea. From here, me and Nitin Bhatt came up with the idea of jamming at KP (King’s Pavillion, for the uninitiated, is the home of rock in BHU, with some of the best amateur rock bands having played here). This was jamming for old times sake, to bring back memories (more about this later, but for the moment, i am just telling the story). From here, over the next week or so (again thanks to Old Monk) came the idea of playing at KY.

At this point, the entire idea remained there. It came a little forward with Jaya Sharma telling me that KY was happening in January, 2010, and me posting on the IT-BHU group telling guys about the KY dates, and asking guys what they think about the idea of playing at KP. These were tentative thoughts at this stage, which i was putting there, simply because i wasnt sure of where they would lead, if at all they would lead anywhere. This was in November 2009, and this is where Amit Pande took up the entire management of things. Pande was amazing. He took up the entire management of the journey to KY, starting from talking to people across cities across India (when Amit is in Singapore), getting people together on the same page. Pande got everyone of the musicians (across batches … oftentimes guys we didnt even know about) on the same page on facebook. He got in touch with folks, just out of sheer enthu to explore the idea, rather than to recruit guys for the show, and explored a number of possibilities from which emerged a shape which was seen at KY. This included connecting with guys, discussing their ideas about what we could do, and so on. Once this somewhat got organized, Pande took to the organization of things in a way i havent seen before. For example, this was the first time i had a conference call to discuss which songs we need to play at the college fest. Well, in a nutshell, from this point on, it was all about Pande’s managerial skills, managing the logistics of people (most important), getting ideas together from people (creating the group on facebook where everyone of the musicians connected), and getting their opinions about music, along with working out schedules, finding out who would be available when for jamming, and then working out everything from there on … Hats off, Pande.

This much for this … more to come!

Memories Of Guavas …

I think Guavas are my favourite fruit. Huh? Ok, this is what any writer faces. Go straight into the narrative and the audience has no idea where the author is coming, or how they are coming, too. Go too slow, and you have a set of yawning readers. While i wouldnt want you yawning (except under a hangover, in which case too, i think a guava would be just right), a little bit of background may be required.

Travelling from Dehradun to Delhi, one would go to Haridwar. While a dip wasn’t really happening, given that there was very little water, as they were cleaning the Ghats, the guavas on the fruit-vendor’s cart seemed most inviting, and hence this. As a child i have found the guava to be one of my favourite fruits, along with the musk-melon … Kharbooza. Not just about any, but the kharboozas which used to come from Baghpat … Large, succulent, sweet … Sinful. Regrettably those aren’t to be found in the market during summers. Which is why i am thankful that the large, ripe (yellow in colour, not green), soft, sweet guavas are still available aplenty.

Now to the background …

As a child, i remember walks with my grandfather, to the fruit bazaar. Fruits, you see, were the invariable dessert of choice. Pity i didn’t inherit this, though i am discovering this trait post the blood-test, which had doomsayers predicting dire consequences from diabetes. I remember the way Dadaji used to look for fruit which was a little ruptured (kharboozas get ruptured as they ripen, which means that ruptured fruit is sweeter and more succulent, more often than not). Another way of finding, of course, is sniffing. A well-trained nose is almost an infallible way to find whether fruit would be sweet. Glad to believe i have inherited the nose.

Dadaji in his trademark shorts (this was the 80s, but Dadaji always rocked), t-shirt, and shoes, me holding his hand, or riding sitting on the cross-bar of the bicycle. Exhilarating! But getting back to the guavas, i dont think too highly of them. Huh? Somehow, Amrood sounds far more delicious. Of course, amrood used to coincide with gobhi-shalgam ka achaar, and the absence of ghia, tori, tinde, much to my relief. But thats not the reason i love the amrood.

Granted, i love amrood as a fruit. But more so because of memories. Memories of cold winter mornings sitting on the terrace, on the manji, amrood and mathematics. Now, i can imagine you trying to picture me part of a looney bin, but mathematics was actually my favourite subject, much to the detriment of my performance in other subjects. Preparing for IIT-JEE, the amrood was one of my companions. Especially because it was it was at times stolen (for no particular reason), and at times, was shared with Dadaji. This also gave me pictures of children in other, seemingly diverse parts of the country being hounded by their parents to study subjects which they found unsavoury, while being comforted by their grandparents with amrood. Now this might sound a little silly, but growing up in the 80s, one wasnt too aware of the way things are in other parts of the country, and i am not talking about general knowledge. So, somehow, we used to believe that boys from the southern, western, or eastern parts of the country (i am not going to talk about stereotypes … They have been long discarded, so maybe on another occasion, when i am writing something comical) were all good, hardworking, conscientious students, and that it was only boys from Delhi, Punjab, or Haryana who were the lafangas. After all, haven’t we all heard the refrain …

Padhoge, likhoge hoge kharaab,

kheloge, koodoge banoge nawab!

Experience hasnt really shaken this idea. But the primary reason is still Dadaji.

Memories … Dilli Or Dehli

I was seeing this program on travel & living channel … This program is called Feast India. I don’t know what its supposed to be about … Feast gives the impression its about food. But I guess the program is about the feast that is India … A feast for the senses, body, mind, and soul. From the Aazaan at the Jama Masjid … Or, if you have lived in Darya Ganj, the Ghataa Masjid, or the Zinat-Ul Masjid … To the Langar at Gurudwara Sis Ganj, the Jawan Gurdwara at Darya Ganj (from where my Grandmother would get a cup-ful of Kaadhaa every morning, only small portions for the rest of the family, the rest for me …), or at any Gurudwara anywhere you might go … Feast again for the senses, definitely for the body, and the soul.

What am I writing about? Nothing in particular. Quite a few things in general. Having born and grown up in Darya Ganj, I have experienced, and continue to experience, the magic of Dilli … Or Dehli, if you may. From the fruit juice shops of nayaa Darya Ganj, to the small shop, with some of the best Mutton on offer. From Bedmiyaan (Pooris stuffed with ground Daal … Which is also called Pitthi) at Jain’s next to Ansari Road, to the Seekh Kababs sold on carts in the neighbourhood of Jama Masjid, to the Mutton Korma and Nargisi Koftas at Karim’s, or the Rabdi Faloodaa at Akashdeep, to the Giani’s Fruit Cream, and of course … Pindi de Chholle Bhatoore … You can be assured of a feast.

So much for the feast for the palate. Now, to the senses. From the bylanes of Chandni Chowk, Khari Baoli, Chawri Bazaar, to the chaos and magic of Meena Bazaar (wikipedia doesnt have an article for Meena Bazar … at least, not the original one). That’s an expression I quite liked … Chaos and Magic. Describes Dilli to the T. So, chaos and magic it is. Or, is the chaos part of the magic? Or does the magic spring from chaos? I don’t know, and maybe, beyond a point, I would just call this semantics. What I do know … I am Hindu, but I do miss, at times, the wafting of the strains of the Aazaan across rooftops, carried forth by the breeze, accompanied by those beautiful kites.

My Patch Of Sky …

They say the night sky is not the same in all directions … but, the day sky can be said to be. Standing yesterday, in the courtyard in our ancestral house, i couldnt agree. This patch of sky was different … it was mine, one that i had gazed at for years, and years altogether. This patch of sky had seen me toddle, had seen me grow, had seen my joy at the simple pleasures of life, and had seen my tantrums of teenage. This patch of sky had seen it all. This patch saw me going to school … it saw me have those crushes, and coming out of them. It saw me graduate to college, turning into a man. This patch of sky has seen it all.

Right under this patch of sky, is the courtyard of cricket … the little courtyard where cricket was played as children. And yesterday, we played again. When my son, me, and my father decided on a game of cricket … And, one thing i can say … that is, its not half as much fun playing cricket when theres no scene of any windowpanes being broken. Or, the possibility of hitting a six (read, hitting the ball on a terrace, from where its quite impossible to retrieve it). In fact, hitting it on the neighbour’s terrace was out, and breaking a windowpane was a 6. Interesting rules, indeed …

Right next to this is the corridor, leading to the attic of memories. This is the attic where i used to spend quite a bit of time. The room where i used to settle down to study, where i used to think about those crushes … where we used to play all sorts of games, from Ludo (actually, starting from Snakes and Ladders), to Chess, and Carrom … this is the room which i have inhabited for more than a decade. And, there is a part of me in this room. A part of me which probably hasnt grown up. And, a part of me, which the room beckons. For, this room, which is an attic, sits in an important place, in the attic of memories.

Then, there was the trip to the book bazaar … something which is the envy of all who know about it. This is a veritable goldmine of books … and, you get them cheap here. OK, so they are used books, but hey … that doesnt matter. From 17th Century Irish Divorce Law, to Midwifery, to pulp fiction nobody has ever heard of … this bazaar packs something incredible. Though, of course, a trip to the bazaar cannot be without a little detour (around 10 metres) to Pindi … The shop that makes the best Chholle Bhature in the world. I am sure they dont make them as good in Rawalpindi, too!