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.

Stories …

As i am writing this, i am watching an animated movie … Alice in Wonderland, with my son. Not qute sure who between the two of us is enjoying it more though. And this got me thinking. When we were children, folks at home were distressed about the prevalence of comics which were distracting us from reading books, just as now we fret over how TV has taken over the lives of children and is distracting them from some good reading.

Well, fact is, earlier, folks had books, and they read them. Then books got distilled into comics, and we, as children, read them (though not only as children … Quite a few of us read them even now), and learnt quite a bit from them. I remember some really happy times reading Amar Chitra Katha, which introduced us children to the rich beauty of mythology and of history. And today, i feel, movies, especially animated ones, are quite an effective introduction to history, mythology, and heritage. After all, animation adds to the rich beauty of the stories, and makes the stories enjoyable to an audience of children. Till then, a very happy unbirthday to you …

Sleep of Peace

He just wanted to sleep the eternal sleep of peace. Sleep, of tranquility, never to be shattered by anything, relevant or obscure. Never to be disturbed by anything, no matter how pressing. A sleep filled with dreams all beautiful. Or, shall there not be any dreams? Or, a sleep never disturbed, and never ever to be disturbed by even the hint of a nightmare.

There was, however, a thought gnawing away at his vitals. And, the thought disturbed him no end. Would this indeed be the peace of sleep that had been promised. That sleep from which he was rudely awakened sometime in his existence. That bawling, that screaming, those hands, those claws, reaching out, as though trying to scratch away every trace of flesh from his body. Or worse. Every last trace of his being. How was he, a mere mortal that he was, expected to escape the clutches of those deadly claws. After all, hadnt far greater men than he had their clothese torn, if not their innards torn out from inside them by  those very claws, forever hunting? As he lived in the jungle, the tiger loose, may decide any moment now, to pounce upon its prey. Wonder whats taking him so long. Was he doomed to waiting silently for his nemesis. Or, was he to run, run from those claws of the hungry tiger. Run for his life, his very existence?

But, he didn’t want to run. For, would the tiger not bring along with him, at least the promise of that sleep. Or, at least the pain that would make him cry out loud. For deliverance. But, shall there be deliverance? Are our desires always satisfied? Even if they are about deliverance. Or, are we condemned to nursing them for all times to come?

Those tigers roaming the jungles, untamed, feeding away at him. He is told they came with him. Why the package deal? Would they depart with him? Shall he carry them forever as a load around his neck? Denying him the sleep that he had been promised, as his just reward, to come when darkness stands by the door, while light refuses to let go. When night finally enters his being, firmyl in control. And, that is the moment that he relishes. This is the moment he looks forward to, he desires.

Why is the moment of reckoning elusive? Why does it play with him so? Come what may, he must wait. Await the night, await that beautiful sleep of eternity that night promises to bring with her. Surely, at that moment, he would have left those claws, and their tigers far far behind, cheated them of what was never theirs to claim rightfully in the first place. Surely, that is She.

She, the darkness of the night. Walking in on tip-toe. You will not be able to hear her coming, and if you are not paying attention, she has this habit of stealing up on you, especially when you thought she had abandoned you. But, it was She who had promised her to you, and how could She go back on her word.

However, he doesn’t quite think so. How can he believe that she has been promised, when he cannot find her? Is his patience, his longing, going to be tested to the hilt? As he sits in his room, looking out at that ball of fire going down upon him, going down upon the day, he hears the faint whisper of the breeze playing into his ears. Do those whispers bring the gosspi of the bazaar to him, or is this a lullaby the breeze sings to him?

He strains to keep his eyes open. But, they are stubborn. They want to close. They want to sleep. As does he. So, why does he strain to keep them open? The thought surprises him. He is getting what is due to him, something he always desired, and yet he hesitates. Hesitates like the bride making her way, on the wings of dreams, to her beloved. She wants to go to him, and yet she hesitates.

Is he the bride to the night? Is he the soul that has been promised to the night, or is he the master. As he looks at the breeze, singing those whispers to him, the question becomes one of gargantuan proportions to his mind, till it is pounding at his brain. It cannot cast this aside. The answer to this decides whether he has to walk, and if so, how far. And, whether he has to hesitate, and if so, how much. But, in the final analysis, does it matter?

He doesn’t think so. How does it matter whether he meets his beloved, or whether she meets hers. She has been promised to him, so she shall come to him. That beautiful princess, astride the wings of the of the dying moments of the day. He welcomes her with open arms. But whats this? Is it her turn to tease him? No. She walks in, a song on her lips, a smile in her eyes. Where has he heard this song before? Wasn’t this the lullaby the breeze was singing for him? Was was it just her voice that was carrying to him, over the jungles, by the breeze, the messenger? Never mind. He shall never know. Not that he cares.

The song sounds so sweet, the melody as if originating in another world. Wonder of wonders, the smile sounds the same as the song. Or, is this song that Universal song? He does know that he has heard this song even before the breeze whispered it into his ears. But, where? He probably doesn’t care. After all, why should he? His beloved embraced him in her arms. Why, then, should he have a care in the world?

The promised sleep is finally here. A sleep so deep he doesn’t even know whether he is dreaming of anything or not. All he knows is that is aching bones have found the rest they were looking for. Of course, its still dark out there, and he is still not ready to wake up. He has, after all, earned it.

But whats this? Can it be dawn so soon? Was there ever supposed to be a dawn to this night? A dawn to wake him up from his slumber? Was he not promised eternal sleep? But, where is that light coming from? Who is this he sees? It is his very beloved. And it looks like she wants him to wake up. When did she turn into light?

The light brings with it the same smile, the same song. This song is certainly not a lullaby. And yet, the song is definitely the same. How can this be? These are the opposites of the sensuous world. The lullaby wakes him up. And then, he sees.

The light is the sleep. They are SHE.

A Boy

This is the story of a little boy. A boy like other little boys. He lived in a little house, with his family, and with love. A little boy, content with his toys, his mother’s lap, and playing with his father. Where was the need for anything more? And then, one day it happened. They were going on a vacation. He was going to visit his grandmother for the summer vacation. Two hours in a plane. And two months of holidays.  Oh, sheer pleasure. The flight was a routine flight. Early in the morning, but for a change he wasn’t complaining about having to wake up. In the flight, he really enjoyed himself. They gave him sweets, and loads of attention.

There was then a moment. A moment when one looks outside oneself. One such moment was when he saw the horizon looking to the west, the sky stooping to kiss the sea. And then he looked to the east. The rising sun, playing the perfect accompaniment. He was thoroughly enchanted by the sight. It brought to him, visions of worlds. Of worlds he had seen, maybe in a distant past, maybe in dreams, maybe for real. Worlds, nevertheless that he longed to see. To explore, the experience. Oh, how he wished he could fly. He would fly with the gulls, fly away, see all the worlds that the good Lord had created.

Maybe these were simply fantasies of a little boy. Or maybe, they weren’t?

Dum Pukht

I had written this a few years ago, found this among some stories that i have written. You may read this as a story, or simply a description of a place i been to, that is up to you, dear reader.

Khaanaa Aabaad, Daulat Zyaadaa.

The evening was magical. Dinner at the Dum Pukht. The ambience decidedly reminiscent of the Nawabs. Low lighting. Songs, sung to the accompaniment of the Haarmonium and the Tablaa, the variety that appeals to old fuddy duddies like me, at any rate. Did the gentleman who was singing recognize me from my earlier visits, or was he just being courteous? Not exactly chandeliers, though the lighting did add to the magic of the ambience. Bas, yoon samajhiye, shamaa ki qasar reh gayee. Even an electric one would have been nice.

I decided to venture for the Diwaan, the low seating arrangement. Definetely a pleasant change from the dining table. And, quite comfortable, too. Though, I hope they do something about the cushions which have this annoying habit of falling on you while you are eating. I would recommend taking off your shoes when being seated. Though its not mandatory, I like to believe that’s an essential ingredient of dining on the Diwaan. Otherwise, you are not doing justice to the ambience. They could, in my opinion, do away with the candles, and introduce a lamp in their stead. Would definitely add to the aura. The menu helpfully informs you that the technique of Dum was perfected in the royal kitchens of Hyderabad, Awadh, Delhi, Kashmir, Bhopal, and Rampur. They sure had it good, didn’t they?

I decided to play it safe on the opening night. And, you definitely cannot go wrong with the Dum Pukht Biryani. Its described in the menu as Basmati simmered with mutton stock (though I wonder whether they do it from dawn to dusk), and finished in a sealed Handi with saffron and cardamom (though I would prefer to be the one to finish this Biryani), served with its traditional accompaniment, the Burrani – the Raita that sings in garlic. Definitely not what your friendly neighbourhood dietician would recommend, for its loaded with Ghee, for good measure. But, I suppose if I was in the mood to listen to the dietician, I wouldn’t be sitting here, ordering this in the first place, would I? The Ghee, the cardamom, and the saffron surely do play their magic with the rice, and the mutton is just so. And, the raitaa, with the red chilli, and the garlic is the perfect accompaniment. The rice is coloured the colour of saffron, and the ghee gives it that texture. The raitaa gives it the flavour, and the meat is tender. Worth every morsel.

Day two, and I decided to skip rice for the day, and go for the breads. Being too lazy to go to the restaurant, I ordered from the restaurant in the room itself. However, the selection they provide from the restaurant in the room does not constitute variety by any stretch of the imagination. Mugh Aloo Khourma, a quintessential Hyderabadi chicken and potato Curry flavoured with rich Indian spices, was quite good as far as Chicken Curries go. Vastly different from the Chicken Curry that’s availabe in the northern part of the country, but definitely worth a go. The Parathdar Paratha, an exotic Ajwain flavoured multi-layered bread baked in the Clay Tandoor was more like a run of the mill paratha, and as for the Ajwain, well, I will take their word for it.

Whoever said Mughlai food is the sole preserve of those who deem the human race to be at the top of the food chain? Day three, and as I decided to go vegetarian, the Phulwari Kofta, vegetable dumplings finished in a gravy of special Dum Pukht spices, answered the question. Delectable gravy, and the Kokftas were quite good, too. To go along, I ordered Wara Pudina (though you can get the Sada variety too), which is wafer thin unleavened whole wheat bread, baked on a domed griddle. Somewhat like a Roomali Roti, but thicker.

Flights of Fancy

Sometimes some things remind us of somethings. Things evoke images which sometimes we find pleasant sometimes not. I am writing about one such image.

Man has always been fascinated with the idea of flying. Till around a century ago the only flights man could take were of fancy though thats very different now. Do you remember as a child hearing the drone of an airplane and looking up seeing the plane gliding through the clouds and being fascinated by it? Most of us would. But then you grew up and today are a frequent flyer. Did the magic persist?

Somehow seeing the airplane from the ground and being in the airplane are very different from each other. When i look at the airplane especially at night lights twinkling i want to be on it. The real thing doesnt quite match up. Somehow i feel the people in the airplane must be relaxing and must be happy to be on the flight. This tells me that the source of happiness is within us, not outside. We know that, but at times its difficult to realize.

But thats not just the image which comes to mind. There is also wonder at where the airplane is taking these people, and why are they going there. Are they going there to chase or achieve a dream, or to meet loved ones? A new life, maybe? A new world, at times? I guess part of this comes from curiosity, but in part it also comes from a desire to seek a new world. Maybe a world which none have found before, a world which can probably be described, in Tagore’s words as:

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Whereas when you are flying you probably know its not a new world, its not a new life, it you, your life, you, your world. But if the airplane cant take me there, so what! Maybe i can take me there.

Rock On!

This is something which would probably have come a year ago had it not been for the apprehension that by putting the thoughts into words i would be taking something away from the connection which i and quite a few like me made with the movie. But as we are looking forward to meeting (i am talking about a group of musicians from college), jamming, playing a gig at the old places where we used to play when we were back at college, there is this urge to write about the connect i made with the movie. To begin with, why i say quite a few like me made a connect with the movie. After the movie came, i found more and more people going back to their passions from their younger days (with a few or more of gray the word younger has connotations which you must have gray to understand). What this meant was that a lot of musicians from college were trying to get back in touch with the music which they probably hadnt heard for a decade or maybe more, like me. Whatever be the reason, point is the movie inspired a lot of people to look at the things which they cherished as young people and see how they can live those passions again.

You probably know the story again. If you dont click here. Its a story about a bunch of guys who used to play together but who broke up and then got back together after a long hiatus and make some awesome music and how the passion for music has driven the lives of some of them. Thats a bit of a simplification but since a lot has been written about the movie you could google and get a lot more. What i am writing about here are the things i thought about while watching the movie.

One is what i say is peculiar to musicians. Being a drummer i was listening to the drums. Nice drumming and except for a solo and some quite nice drumming in one or two songs overall the drumming was average, which is why it was actually nice to practice with those songs especially when you havent held the sticks for more than a decade. But that aside the movie is done quite well. Why i say that is because the chords the musicians play on stage seem to match the chords which you are hearing onj the sounds and the things the drummer is doing with the sticks and the drums matches the sound of the drums in the song. The point which really got me nostalgic was the point where they are waiting for their chance on the stage at the competition. This is something any musician would have gone through. The tension is high even if you have practised the songs very well. This is because you dont know who will goof up at which point in the song and hence it is almost impossible to predict how others on the band would need to make up to cover up for the good up which happened. This means that the entire performance is a mass of unknowns which leads to so much of tension before the performance especially when everyone is playing cover versions which is what we used to play because when we were in college original music wasnt much and cover versions were much the rage and very popular with the audience.

What i couldnt relate to was the glamorous look of the band guys. This is because as musicians we were more interested in the music than the look and most of the guys in college were the regular guy-next-door kind of folks and one wouldnt be able to find out that they were musicians just looking at them. Not that it mattered because even if we were glamorous, no one looks at the drummer (which, by the way is the one thing i disagree with the movie on) so it doesnt really matter does it? Overall a very nice movie to watch, and if you are a musician and have played a lot of Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floys, and so on, you would love th movie and like the music, if not for any other reason then for the connect the music can build to the time when you would have made it.

About Driving …

Sunday morning … plenty to write about feminine automotive sensibilities … brought to mind something i had written earlier …

If you have driven in Kolkata, or Mumbai, you would know how much of a nightmare it can be. Well, Gurgaon is well on its way to becoming a world city, and hence … Can Gurgaon be far behind? Just today … there was a lady, driving a SUV … no, i have no problems with that. Never … wouldnt even think about it. Just that she was driving while having an Apple, and trying to call up someone on her mobile. Now, this surely is a juggling act highly difficult to emulate, and i would hope not many folks try to do that, either. At least, not the eating … its always much more wonderful eating in peace, dont you think? Now, this is not to say that this is the preserve of women, but being the MCP that i am (ya, ya, i heard you say this earlier …), i just had to write this! No, no … i dont hate women. In fact, much the opposite … tongue in cheek … its just their driving skills i am worried about.

Like today, for instance. I was trying to be a good boy … here was a girl, driving a green Santro (a la Jatayu? … from Feluda, remember … yes, he has moved from Ambassador to Santro). As the usual rule, i give them side of way. Like a nice guy, i stopped the car on the side of the road, so as to let her pass. And, whats the next thing that happens? She is seen hurling abuses at me … cigarette smoke bellowing, along with those words! No, i didnt hear it, thanks to my windows being rolled up, and Junoon playing in the car.

Moral of the story? Dont give right of way! Thats what everybody seems to be doing, anyway. Actually, this is not such a big deal. The issue, i feel, is the way we are becoming more and more narrow-minded. Take this post, for instance. An incident like this probably wouldnt have got me writing about it, but i guess i am also part of the larger human society, and hence, prone the same level of intolerance as the rest of us. Whether it is religion, or region, or for that matter, any parameter which divides man from man … today, more than ever before, probably, it is successful in dividing man from man. Tempers are growing shorter as the bank-balances of people are becoming longer. Today, there is far more affluence than there has ever been, and yet, there is also far more anger. There is far more frustration.

Having said this, i feel this is part of a cycle of human existence. From a state where tolerance levels were high, people were content with what they had, and happiness measures were higher, society seems to be moving to a state of high intolerance. The good news is, this cannot persist. The cycle must move, so i believe, which means, this intolerance must make way for a world order of greater trust, love, happiness, and tolerance.

Well … now that i have raved on and on, heres the other side of the story …

On the subject of Gurgaon … i think Gurgaon is growing up, and quick. The other day, i was out buying Beer (yes, this was before my Diet, for the record …). Two girls came in (i would call them girls, given the grey hair in my goatee, and the fact that they looked much, much younger) … They asked for strong Beer. Now, thats cool … Girls can drink anything they want to … What i would like to write about here is that the shopkeeper didnt bat an eyelid. The usual glances, head to toe, sizing them up … they were just not there! And, this, to my mind, is a sign of a city where the boys are finally growing up!