Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year and Doordarshan

Idler – ‘Don’t you think we should do something different this New Year’s Eve, sweetie?’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Please....for God’s sake. Today is December 31 and I don’t want to hear anything weird or funny.’

Idler – ‘We have been attending similar New Year parties year after year. Resort, club, pub or hotel – they all seem the same to me. Aren’t you bored? I want something unique this year.’

Mrs. Idler –‘Drink and start clowning around. That will be unique.’

Idler – ‘I am serious.’

Mrs. Idler –‘What’s your problem?’

Idler – ‘We go to a party, have drinks, get lost in the crowd, return home and sleep. Every year it is the same. I find it monotonous. I am bored’

Mrs. Idler – ‘What do you suggest? I am warning you – nothing out of the world or silly.’

Idler – ‘I want to celebrate in some quiet and cosy place, away from the crowd.’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Where will you find such a place?’

Idler – ‘Many of my friends will celebrate in their home. They are fed up with resorts and clubs. I feel times are changing.’

Mrs. Idler – ‘You think we should miss New Year’s party?’

Idler – ‘We can celebrate at home. We can light a bonfire. The house will become cosy.’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Stay back, drink, eat and sleep. That’s your idea of unique celebration?’

Idler – ‘Well.....we can..... watch TV. Doordarshan; to be precise.’

Mrs Idler – ‘Doordarshan? I had warned you.........’

Idler – ‘We eagerly waited for the New Year programmes of Doordarshan in the eighties. I recently saw the promo of this year’s programme. It featured Usha Uthup, Amit Kumar and some other singers I could not identify....’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Will you stop being nostalgic?’

Idler – ‘I grew up with Doordarshan. Aren’t you nostalgic about it?’

Mrs. Idler – ‘I am not as old as you are. I did not grow up in the eighties.’

Idler – ‘Why don’t you ask your father if he too is nostalgic about Doordarshan?

Mrs Idler – ‘Stop grumbling.’

Idler – ‘I was surprised to know Doordarshan still shows special programmes on New Year’s Eve. I want to see what type of programmes they show these days.’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Why are you talking about Doordarshan?’

Idler – ‘No particular reason, I was.....’

Mrs. Idler – ‘So you want to stay back and watch Doordarshan?’

Idler – ‘The special programmes in those would be a complete package of music, song and dance. And yes, humour would be the highlight. Do you remember the poker-faced humorist Sharma and his chaar laina?

Mrs. Idler – ‘I have never heard about him.’

Idler – ‘Surendra Sharma appeared on Doordarshan in a New Year’s programme and became a national celebrity overnight. That was the might of Doordarshan in those days.’

Mrs. Idler – ‘So have you made up your mind?’

Idler – ‘And then Jaspal Bhatti started appearing on New Year’s programmes. Can anybody today match his satire?’

Mrs. Idler – ‘If you like humour so much why can’t you stand the comedy shows being shown now.’

Idler – ‘Not only humour. It was Doordarshan that introduced Osibisa to the people of India through the New Year’s programme in 1982. You were not even born then.’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Will you stop idling away your time?’

Idler – ‘Those days were easy. On December 31 night, we would settle in front of the TV by 10 o’ clock. We would cover ourselves with shawls and blankets. It would be very cold outside but our room would be warm’

Mrs. Idler –‘Anything else?’

Idler –‘Sometimes, our neighbours who did not have TV would also join us. Our house would become more cosy and lively. We would wish one another at midnight......’

Mrs. Idler – ‘Stop this nonsense. You can watch Doordarshan. I will attend the party.’

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Nostalgic with Ooh la la, ooh la la........

My father, if I happened to be around,would always switch channels whenever the song ‘Ooh la la, ooh la la’ came as promo for ‘The Dirty Picture.’ I am not sure whether he is a prude or did not want to watch the promo in my presence.

I started liking the song as I heard it repeatedly on television and radio. Initially I thought that the male singer was trying to imitate Bappi Lahiri. Later I realised Bappi Lahiri was the singer.

I have downloaded the song. Earlier I played it when my father was not at home. Now I play the song in high volume even when my father is around.

I recently read somewhere that people have a fascination for things which they see or hear while growing up. Very true. Perhaps this is the reason why I have started liking the song and play it even in my father’s presence.

Bappi Lahiri became the most sought-after music composer in themid-eighties – the decade in which I grew up.

Two actors reached the peak of their careers in the early eighties – Jeetendra with the success of Himmatwala and Mithun Chakraborty with Disco Dancer becoming a hit. Bappi Lahiri was the music composer of both movies.
As Jeetendra and Mithun Chakraborty became the top actors of Hindi cinema, Bappi Lahiri became the most sought-after music composer. The other prominent music composers like RD Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal had to take a back seat.
I remember the radio programme Chitralok of the mid-eighties. In promo after promo, Ameen Sayani in his typical voice would say ‘Bappee Lahiree kaa jhil..milaa... sangeet’ or ‘aur... is film ke sangeetkaar hain.... Bappee Lahiree.’

‘The Dirty Picture’ is set in the eighties. I am yet to see the movie. As far as the song ‘Ooh la la, ooh la la...’ is concerned, it has rightly captured the mood of the music of the eighties.
When you start liking the voice of the singer or the tune of a song; the lyrics or its meaning hardly matter; even if they are bawdy. For me, the song Ooh la la, ooh la la_ _ _ became a journey to my childhood.

On hearing Bappi Lahiri singing the first line of the second stanza of the song – ‘Gira ke apna pallu baar baar......’ and the violin in the background, I travelled back in time. I wish music composers Vishal-Shekhar had used real violins instead of the synthesiser.

Initially, I thought Bappi Lahiri has composed the tune. The song had the combined effect of the songs of Sharaabi, Disco Dancer and Dance Dance. Vishal-Shekhar have done a great job.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Evergreen 'The Guide' or the evergreen guide?

The year was 1987. I was in class eighth.

One afternoon I returned home from school and quickly changed my dress and had lunch. I took Rs 2.25 from my mother and along with a friend rushed to Majum, a cinema in the neighbourhood.

We intended to see the matinee show of a movie. We reached the cinema at 2 p.m. The show was to begin at 3 p.m.

There was a big crowd at the cinema. My friend and I joined the long queue in front of the ticket window.

‘The queue is long. The show will begin after an hour. We will get the tickets,’ I told my friend.

The person standing in front of me overheard my words, turned back and said, ‘The queue is for the tickets of the evening show; not for the matinee show.’

‘What? Tickets for the evening show?’ I cried in shock. ‘What about the tickets for the matinee show?’ I asked.

‘All sold,’ said the man.

My friend and I looked at each other. We did not have any option but to return home. We were students of class eighth; could not while away hours in a cinema; our parents were strict and strongly believed in corporal punishment. Dejected, we returned home.

We again tried on the following day but failed.

I was scared on the third day to seek permission from my mother. Somehow I gathered courage and pleaded with her to allow me to try for the last time. She relented.

I sprinted to the cinema in the afternoon and found the queue for tickets on the third day also long.

I joined the queue. I was exhausted by the time I reached the ticket window. I was squashed up in the queue, my hair had got dishevelled and dress crumpled. Still, I felt like a victor when I pushed my way through the crowd around the ticket window, holding high the tickets in my fist.

I finally watched the movie. The movie was Johnny Mera Naam.

Johnny Mera Naam ran for four weeks at Majum. All the shows ran full house. Many complained that they could not get the tickets and watch the movie.

Johnny Mera Naam was released in 1970. It ran full house shows even in 1987.

The world of Hindi movies saw many changes in the 17 years from 1970 to 1987.

The period saw the emergence of Rajesh Khanna as the superstar in the late sixties with the release of Aradhana.

By mid-seventies, Rajesh Khanna’s unchallenged stardom and popularity started falling with the rise of Amitabh Bachchan.

Amitabh Bachchan was the superstar of the early eighties as well. The decade also witnessed other stars reaching the peak of their career – Jeetendra with Himmatwala and Mithun Chakraborty with Pyar Jhukta Nahin, Disco Dancer and Dance Dance.

One thing remained intact in the 17 years - Dev Anand’s charm and charisma.

Today, no actor can imagine his or her movie will run full house shows 17 years after being released. No doubt, Dev Anand was known as an evergreen actor. But was Dev Anand evergreen or his movies?

Two years later, in 1989, another movie of Dev Anand, Sachche Ka Bol Bala was released. My brother, then 19, was eager to see the movie. Not for Dev Anand but for Jackie Shroff. He had become a great fan of Jackie Shroff.

My brother did not undergo the difficulties that I faced for getting the tickets for Johnny Mera Naam. He easily got the tickets for the ‘first day, first show’ of Sachche ka Bol Bala.

My brother was dejected when he returned home after watching the movie. ‘Jackie Shroff was hardly visible in the movie; the movie revolved around Dev Anand,’ he said. Dev Anand was also the director of Sachche Ka Bol Bala.

My brother was once a fan of Dev Anand. But he liked the young Dev Anand in his movies of the sixties and seventies and not the old Dev Anand in his movies of the eighties and nineties.

Being an idler, I have ample time to watch movies on television at home. I am waiting for the time when movie channels will repeatedly on television show Johnny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief and The Guide.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Are we living in Utopia?

‘You will remain a bumpkin,’ my elder brother told me.

He did not stop there. ‘The whole world is active on Facebook, except you,’ he said.

What he said was true. I have a Facebook account but am never active on it.

My brother is active on Facebook. He has over 1,000 friends on Facebook. I have only 26.

I was not in a mood to argue with my brother.

I was not an idler four or five years ago and did not have time spare when everybody was busy creating an account on Facebook. Today, I have time but I feel I am too old to be active on Facebook. I do not understand the essence of the site. I may have lagged behind but I do not have any regrets.

I believe in real socialising. My face lights up seeing a neighbour, an old classmate or an old friend in an unexpected place or time. I can chat with him or her for hours. I am yet to chat online with a friend or classmate settled thousands of miles away in Australia or Canada.

Also, I know many people who were once addicted to Facebook. Some are now bored. Some had to visit a psychiatrist and were advised not to log on to the website again.

Many of my friends are not active on Facebook but are successful in their profession and spend time talking to family members on returning home from office.

I log on to Facebook but only to peek into the lives of the women whom years back I knew as girls and who were dying to befriend me (Sorry - it was the other way round).

Logging on to Facebook, I feel that we are living in a utopian society. Your friends have only praises for you. No backbiting or bitching.

Recently, a friend uploaded a picture in which she is standing next to her grandmother (or maybe great grandmother).

The grandmother (or maybe great grandmother) looks like a resurrected mummy. Her Facebook friends are bewitched with the beauty of the grandmother (or maybe great grandmother) and have commented: ‘She looks so beautiful’ and, ‘Her smile's so enchanting.’

Another friend posted his son’s photographs. Looking at the son, you would have concluded that he can climb trees or poles with ease, likes fruits and if he ever visited your place, would leave it messy.

But the comments were – ‘So sweet!’ and ‘Looks like an angel.’

A close friend uploaded her photographs and was expecting me to comment. My comment would have been – ‘My God! When did you get the role of a witch in the latest Harry Potter movie?’ But I did not post a comment.

The posted comments, as usual, were full of praise – ‘Nice pics. Luking gr8’ and, ‘Y don’t u become a model?’

My friends have often asked me to post my photographs on Facebook. I will post my photographs. Before that I intend to join a gym so that I have muscles and a flat stomach like Sylvester Stallone.

But even if I share my photographs today I know what the first comment will be. It will be– ‘Luking damn sexy. Not changed a bit even in the last 15 yrs.’

P.S. A recent post of my brother on his Facebook account was: "The best way to have your friends get in touch with you is to get famous. For losers, there's always Facebook."

Have I foreseen my future?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Diwali Musings

Some incidents of our lives always remain fresh.

We smile, chuckle or guffaw thinking about the incidents even after decades.

This Diwali I will again think of some incidents related to the festival. Some incidents will make me laugh and some reflective.

For me, the funniest Diwali incident that took place around 30 years back is related to Uncle Kapoor. He was in his thirties when I saw him for the first time. His appearance was a cross between Amitabh Bachchan and a hippie.

Uncle Kapoor was tall and lanky like Amitabh Bachchan. He always wore a red shirt and black flared trousers. He would never tuck his shirt. Like a hippie, Uncle Kapoor had long hair up to his shoulders and a black, flowing beard.

Uncle Kapoor set up a kiosk in a corner of the playground in front of our house. He started with comics, kites and marbles. He later added bread, eggs and butter to his stocks in the shop. He also started selling pencils, pens, nibs, ink (we wrote with fountain pens in school), and notebooks.

Uncle Kapoor would also sell firecrackers during Diwali. Children would look at his firecrackers lustfully thinking he would be the happiest man on the earth bursting all his unsold fireworks on Diwali night. Uncle Kapoor would shoo away the children who would watch his stock of firecrackers but not buy.

Two types of firecrackers are popular during Diwali – one that produces a loud noise and another that produces light. The ones that produce a bang are colloquially called bombs.

One Diwali night, Uncle Kapoor decided to burst a bomb that was too big in size compared to other bombs. A group of children stood a some distance, watching his every action. He lighted the fuse, ran up to a safe distance and turned around to see the bomb exploding.

The flare lasted for a couple of seconds and then died out. He looked at the bomb. It seemed to have become useless. But Uncle Kapoor was not a person who could think of losing a bomb; even if it meant putting his body or ‘sensitive parts’ to risk.

After some time, he went towards the bomb. He crouched when he was close. He could not dare to pick the bomb. He kicked the bomb and it rolled on the ground.

The bomb did not explode and Uncle Kapoor became braver. He extended his hand, slowly lifted the bomb and held it at a safe distance. Nothing happened. He stood up and looked at the bomb. He saw the ash of the fuse on the bomb. He tried to dust the ash away with his hand. The ash got stuck to the bomb. He blew at the bomb to clean the ash little knowing that the part of the fuse inside the bomb was still glowing.

Uncle Kapoor’s blow acted as a catalyst. The bomb went off on his face. Uncle Kapoor stood motionless like a statue, unable to see or hear anything for at least two minutes.


My father returned from a tour of West Germany just before Diwali in1985. He had brought back a lot of unspent Deutsche Marks and we became ‘moneyed’ for some days.

‘I am not going to listen to any of the excuses you gave last year while buying firecrackers. I want a lot of firecrackers this year,’ I told my father a couple of days before Diwali.

My father agreed.

We went to a firecracker stall and bought at least a dozen pieces of every firecracker available in the shop. The shopkeeper handed gave a bill of Rs. 83.

My brother and I kept on bursting firecrackers throughout the Diwali night but still our stock did not exhaust. My brother was too tired on the following night. I burst the remaining firecrackers and still much was left to last for another two days.

I developed an aversion for firecrackers.

Last year I went to a firecracker stall, picked up a fountain and asked the shopkeeper, ‘What’s the price?’

‘Rs 85, sir,’ replied the shopkeeper.

‘Rs. 85 for how many fountains- half - a-dozen or a dozen fountains? Not very costly, eh,’ I remarked.

‘Rs 85 apiece, sir,’ said the shopkeeper.

Times, no doubt, have changed.


A confectionary store that turned into firecracker stall before Diwali was our favourite place for buying firecrackers. My father found the confectionary store owner amiable and honest (I had doubts about the second quality of the confectionary store owner.).

I stopped accompanying my father for buying firecrackers as I grew up and did the Diwali shopping alone.

As children we would buy firecrackers at least a couple of days before Diwali. To remove dampness from the firecrackers, we would spread them out in the sun on the following days.

But with age, bursting firecrackers became a formality.

One Diwali evening I went to the confectionary store turned firecracker stall and found the amiable and honest man a little tipsy. Perhaps he had done a good business throughout the day, was tired and taken some rum in the evening.

I selected the firecrackers and he gave me a bill of Rs 310. I gave him Rs 500 note and was not able to count the money he returned due to the crowds there.

Back home I found that he had deducted only Rs 210 for the firecrackers. I decided to return the extra money on the following day. But for me, the following day never came.

Around three years back, by chance, the confectionary store owner’s beautiful niece became a good friend of mine. Three years is a long time but still we are – ‘just friends’. I dearly wish that the relationship should at least now move ahead.

I told the friend how I had unintentionally cheated her uncle. Light-heartedly, she replied, ‘You duped my uncle of Rs 100. Now return double the amount.’

I wanted to tell her that I can return 100 or even 1000 times the amount if that made her happy and she would consider advancing the relationship between us. But I was not able to say anything and still remain single.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A peep into Gadhafi's life and Libya

Last night a Hindi news channel was showing a short footage repeatedly. The anchor was also repetitive. She kept on saying – ‘You can see the bare body. You can see the body smeared with blood. You can_ _ _ _ _’ I switched to another channel.

In the second channel the anchor it seemed was more interesting in repeating that Gadhafi ensured through medical tests that he had inducted only virgin girls as his bodyguards.

Colonel Gadhafi was finally killed by the rebels of the National Transitional Council (NTC) on October 20, 2011.

Fed up with the news channels that were not showing or saying anything worthwhile, I switched the TV off and pulled out a book from the bookshelf. I went through the contents page. The names of the chapters were – Villains, Dictators, Icons, Bombings, Absurdities and Pleasures. The contents page also did not help me as I was in a hurry. I went to the index page and looked at the entries under the letter g. I stopped at Gadhafi, Colonel - 179-85. I opened page 179 and started reading.

The title of the book was - A Mad World, My Masters; the author - John Simpson, a British journalist. I had bought the book nine years back and had twice read it cover to cover. But yesterday night, I was interested in reading only about Gadhafi. Simpson had written about Gadhafi in a chapter titled Dictators.

Reading about Gadhafi in a chapter named Villains or Icons or Bombings or Absurdities or Pleasures would not have surprised me.

According to the book, Simpson had interviewed Gadhafi twice. The journalist narrates his second encounter with the dictator in the book.

Simpson does not exactly say when he interviewed Gadhafi for the second time. The book says sanctions had been imposed on Libya due to the Lockerbie Bombing and the country had been declared a no-fly zone in the nineties. Hence the interview must have taken place in that decade.

Simpson and his cameraman, Bob Prabhu (most probably an Indian or a Sri Lankan) had to sail to Libya instead of flying.

They were taken to a military base in the deserts on the outskirts of the state capital for the interview on the next day after reaching Tripoli.

Simpson meets Gadhafi in a tent. The interview is recorded by Prabhu. There is no mention of Gadhafi’s women bodyguards in the book. Simpson is happy when the interview is over. He thinks he has a scoop.

Both return to the hotel after meeting the dictator. As Simpson is writing about the about the interview in his hotel room in the evening, he is interrupted by Prabhu.

The cameraman says there is something funny about the interview.

Simpson is alarmed. He thinks that the tapes have been damaged.

‘Nothing like that,’ Bob assures Simpson. ‘Gadhafi was making a noise, that’s all.’

‘Whatever are you on about? What kind of noises?’

‘Kind of personal ones,’ says Prabhu and looks the other way.

‘What, stomach rumblings?’

‘No; worse than that.’

‘What, farting?’ Simpson screams.He is not able to believe.

Simpson was sitting close to Gadhafi during the interview and did not hear any noise.

But Prabhu insists that Simpson should watch the recoding. Simpson does so and is finally convinced.

Simpson writes in the book – The personal microphone which Bob Prabhu had pinned on Gadhafi had picked it up very clearly. The wind passage lasted for about 10 minutes of our half-an hour interview. Gadhafi would rise up a little in his seat, the thunder would roll for 15 or 20 seconds at a time and then he would sink back into his seat with a pleased expression on his face.

Simpson says that he ran the interview in truncated form in two different programmes of the BBC but the wind breaking was audible in both versions.

Simpson wrote about the interview in the Sunday Telegraph. It had the sentence – During part of our interview, Col. Gadhafi broke wind audibly and at length. The article was headlined – Warm Wind of Compromise Blows from Gadhafi.

The book has three black and white photographs of Gadhafi taken during the interview. He is in a Hawaiian shirt, a straw hat and dark glasses.

Gadhafi is looking towards his right, with his mouth slightly open in the first photograph. The caption says – contemplative....

In the second one, he is looking up, his mouth open again. The caption – declaiming.

The third photograph – he is looking down and his mouth is closed and twisted. The caption – ....discreetly breaking wind.

But Simpson was not the only one through whom I had a peep into the lives of Libyans.

Around 10 years back I stayed in a government transit hostel in New Delhi for a couple of days.

The hostel was for Indian diplomats who were to take fresh assignments. On the second day of my stay, the wife of an Indian diplomat dropped in to have a chat with my host.

I became interested when I heard she had recently returned from Libya. The woman’s husband had worked in the Indian embassy in Tripoli and was to take a fresh assignment in India.

I asked her about Libya.‘You feel as if someone is constantly watching you. You feel suffocated,' said the woman, a housewife.

At that time the woman's son was 20 and daughter 16.

‘Even the foreigners are not spared. Being Indians, we knew nobody could harm us. But still we felt uneasy and took precautions,’ said the woman.

‘Saying even a word against the government meant disappearing . Many locals of Tripoli, whom I closely knew disappeared forever,’ she said.

‘Roads in Tripoli would become deserted by 7 p.m. We returned home at any cost before sunset,’ said the woman.

My spine had started chilling. Perhaps reading my expressions, the woman changed the topic and said, ‘Vegetables are much cheaper and fresher in Delhi than in Tripoli.’

Thursday, 13 October 2011

In Kishore Kumar's Khandwa

‘Hardly a day passes when I do not hear Kishore Kumar’s name or an anecdote about him. Either a local person recalls something about Kishore Kumar or a train passenger enquires about him,’ said a tea-vendor at the railway station of Khandwa.

I got the opportunity to visit Khandwa when I took a new job in Bhopal. Khandwa is on the Bhopal-Mumbai rail-route. It takes six hours by train to reach Khandwa from Bhopal.
On October 12, 2003 – eve of Kishore Kumar’s death anniversary, I boarded a train in the night for Khandwa. I reached the Khandwa early in the morning.

I went to a tea stall on the railway platform.

‘Is Khandwa your home?’ I asked the tea vendor. He nodded.
‘Have you ever seen Kishore Kumar?’

‘He died when I was three or four years old.’

‘Do people still remember him here?’

The tea vendor chuckled and said, ‘How can Kishore Kumar die? Move out of the station and you will hear people discussing about him.’

I asked him the directions for going to Kishore Kumar’s house. ‘It is very close to the station. Just walk straight out of the station and ask anyone. It will take five minutes,’ said the vendor.

A wide road from the station leads into the city. Shops line both sides of the road. I asked at the first shop. But before the shopkeeper could reply, a middle-aged man who had overheard me said, ‘Go straight 100 metres or so and you will find Dada’s house on the right.’

Gauri-Kunj said a sign on the small gate of the house and it was not hard for me to understand the reason. Kishore Kumar’s mother’s name was Gauri Ganguly and his father’s name was Kunji Lal Ganguly.

The house looked dilapidated. It seemed that the house had not been whitewashed for years. The walls were blackish and plaster had fallen off at many places.

When I knocked at the gate an old, dark and skinny man appeared from the gallery by the side of the house. I introduced myself to him and told him I wished to see the house.

‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘the house was burgled a couple of times and since then the house remains locked and the keys are with Arjun who lives in Mumbai.’

I asked the man about Arjun. ‘Arjun is Kishore Kumar’s nephew; Anoop Kumar’s son,’ said the man whose name was Sita Ram. He said he was 73-years-old.

Sita Ram was employed in Kishore Kumar’s household as a servant in the early eighties. But with passage of time, relatives of Kishore Kumar either died or left for Mumbai or other places and the house has remained unoccupied for the last several years. Sita Ram had become the caretaker of the house.

‘So you were here when Kishore Kumar was alive? You must have seen him’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ said Sita Ram and his eyes sparkled. I requested him to tell me about Kishore Kumar’s visits to Khandwa.

‘Kishore Kumar did not visit Khandwa frequently. But whenever he came, he was accompanied by his wife Leena Chandrawarkar and sons Amit and Sumit. There would be merriment in the house round-the-clock. Every person of the household would be in high spirits and a jovial mood. Kishore Kumar would ask us to cook many delicacies and sweets,’ said Sita Ram.
‘Can I see the house closely?’ I asked.

Sita Ram led me and I tried to peep into the rooms through some gaps on the windows panes but inside it was very dark and nothing visible.

I looked at the house from all possible angles. I was ecstatic as I was at the place where Kishore Kumar had grown up.

I thanked Sita Ram and left for the other destination on my itinerary -Kishore Kumar’s memorial.

I hired an auto-rickshaw and asked the driver to take me to the memorial. It is on the outskirts of Khandwa and I reached there in 10 minutes. The memorial stands at the place where Kishore Kumar was cremated.

Like Kishore Kumar’s house, his memorial also looked decaying. The memorial is a rectangular block made of stones and cement. It stands of a barren tract of land without any canopy or shade and epitaph. Grass was growing through the cracks that had developed over the memorial.
‘Is the memorial also decaying like his house?’ I told Vinay Singh, the auto-rickshaw driver.
‘People talk of renovating the memorial but nothing fruitful is done,’ said Vinay.
I asked him about Kishore Kumar’s cremation.

‘Kishore Kumar had willed that his body should be cremated in Khandwa. So it was brought to Khandwa from Mumbai after his death. It was kept in his ancestral house to enable people to pay their last respects. Thousands of people took part in the funeral procession. Khandwa is a small place and it became jam-packed,’ said Vinay.

‘It seems unimaginable-it took eight hours for the funeral procession to reach from the ancestral house to cremation site -a distance of hardly five kms,’ he said. ‘People not only from Khandwa but even from places like Indore and Mumbai attended the funeral,” he said.

My pilgrimage was over. I stopped at a tea-stall opposite Kishore Kumar’s house on my way back to the station.

FM radio had not yet reached Khandwa in 2003. Vividh Bharti was still ruling the waves there. The radio station was playing only Kishore Kumar’s song as a tribute on his death anniversary.
I tried to think how his fan; living close to his house would feel hearing his name and voice on the radio every day.

Kishore Kumar died October 13, 1987. His house and memorial may be in a dilapidated state but his songs remain fresh.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Will rose by any other name smell as sweet?

“Names, like other things, nowadays are being synthesized,” commented my friend. We were discussing the way people are christening their children at present. I felt he was right up to a great extent.

When I was in school, at least three Sunils would have left their seats if the teacher had shouted in the class, ‘Sunil, stand up and get out.” At least two Amits would have stood up if the teacher had said,“Amit, take your notebook.” Things were more or less the same when in the evening I played cricket with the boys who lived in my neighbourhood. If I had shouted, “Anil take the catch,” at least three Anils, irrespective of their fielding positions would have rushed towards the ball.

It was similar with the girls as well. One Sunita, one Anita and one Mamta studied with me when I was in class ninth. One Sunita, one Anita and one Mamta were in the class tenth in the same year.

Recently, I went to a public school to collect the names of students of a couple of classes for a research project. I was surprised to find not even one boy had the name Anil, Sunil, Amit or Vijay. No girl was Sunita, Anita or Mamta. The names I am mentioning are or should I say were, very common in north India.

The name Vijay was common even in the Hindi movies of the seventies and eighties. Amitabh Bachchan was Vijay in most of his movies. The name Vijay perhaps exuded or meant righteousness, bravery and love. In case Amitabh Bachchan was not Vijay, he was either Amit or Ravi.

In the public school I visited, the boys instead had names Aryan, Aarav, Prince, Rayan, Shubham and Kartik (I think there is at least one Kartik in every class in every public school, at least in north India). On the other hand, the girls were Pakhi, Khushi, Hariyali, Pari and Suhana or Suhani.

A few months back a classmate of mine settled in Australia became the father of a boy. He broke the news to the other classmates on Facebook. He was flooded with congratulatory messages. He posted the pictures of the baby a couple of days later. Everybody again commented how sweet the baby was. Most of my classmates were eager to suggest a name for the baby. They suggested but could not go beyond Prince, Soham and Aryan. My friend settled for Soham. (I wonder whether those who had suggested Soham are aware of its meaning. Though one word, Soham is a Sanskrit hymn mean ‘I am that I am’. The word is chanted mentally while meditating).

So was Shakespeare right in saying - "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Do names change or become more fashionable or less fashionable with age and time? Will the names like Anil, Sunil, Vijay, Sunita and Anita will become defunct one day? Getting back to the friend who had suggested that names nowadays are being synthesised - he has decided to name his week-old daughter Gungun.