A Little Fear Is Okay

on Thursday, October 27, 2011

Okay. So after thinking about it a lot, oscillating between a yes and a no for about the millionth time, I have decided to go ahead, and post this. It is a bit of forced experimentation into a language and a mode of writing which I am least comfortable with. But, trust your friends for shaking you out of your comfort zones into the untrodden territories at the attack of one 'Please' which is so confidently sent your way, that you cannot do anything but comply. So it happened with me. I was asked by my friend to draft a motivational piece of writing, for someone who needed some inspiration for a supremely important endeavour, I was more than happy to oblige till I was told that it had to be in Hindi/Urdu, and preferably a poem. I did wail and complain for a while, but this friend of mine, referred to as my Goddess in one of the earlier posts, is one person I cannot even dream of turning down. She never turns me down- answers me even when I want to know the meaning of terms as obscure of 'deficit financing', 'sensitivity training', 'economic terrorism', 'maglev' among others. For those who do not find these terms obscure, shrink your brain to the size of mine.

So, back to the point. I did, finally, write. In Hindi, perhaps using Urdu words, and trying to make the whole thing rhyme. In a little less than fifteen minutes. Well aware of how dangerous this might be for the reputation of my blog, I will risk posting the five verses I composed, here. Cheistha (my Goddess) liked it. Thats one of the reason for posting it here.

The second reason, I am myself a little scared in life, and can do with a little bit of motivation myself. Lets see, if I can motivate myself. Also, for all my fellow IAS aspirants, heart-felt good wishes for the Mains Exams which begin tomorrow. For those of you who are as scared as me, let the fear keep you humble, keep you focussed. Keep a part of it with you, just don't be overwhelmed by it. A combination of a little nervousness and a little more confidence is lethal. Works, always.

Without further ado, here is the poetry. Curse, don't laugh. First time :)

Rehne do dil mein darr,
Paaon zameen pe rakho,
Phir ik nazar uthao,
Aur arsh par hi rakho.

Har udne wale ke zehen mein
Girne ka darr lazmi hain
Tum alag ho, ki dar ke saath bhi,
Darr ke upar udte ho.

Hai wahaan ke tareeke aur,
Jahaan vishwaas bas chehre ka naqaab hai
Bharosa dil ka gehna hai
Tum dil hi mein sajaaye rakho

Yeh dil ka bharosai hai
Jo muskaan-e-bayaan ban jayega
Ek kaamyaabi ka kinara,
Had-e-nigaah mein rakho.

Main aawaaz hoon tumhare dil ki
Mujhe aawaaz do chahe jis waqt
Woh guzra waqt nahi hoon
Ki mujhe se mil bhi liye, aur yaad bhi na rakho

PS- I know the last verse sounds like Ghalib. It is not attempted plagiarism. I guess Its just the inevitability of romancing him for some years now. 

Diwali Homecoming

on Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shubh Deepavali
 So, here. The festive season begins with full gusto from tomorrow. A little prelude to this Great Indian Festive Season is provided by the Dussehra, Diwali sets the pace, and all the brightness, gaiety, and celebratory fervor finally culminates into the arrival of a brand new year, heralding with itself brand new hopes and aspirations. I especially wait for this time of the year- when the weather is perfect, the mood is happy and time is ripe to rekindle old associations. Visiting relatives, calling up friends and exchanging gifts- besides the pooja, these happen to be my favorite aspects of Deepawali. However, since the past few years, as I have been gaining consciousness, I have also witnessed a marked decline in what was supposed to be the very purpose of these festivals- togetherness.

The morning of my Chhoti Diwali began with a text, not from a kith-or-kin, but from my efficient mobile service provider. The information intended for my perusal was that the standard rates of smsing would apply on 25th and 26th October, and it being the auspicious festival of lights, the upper ceiling on number or sms per day would not apply. Wonderful. This meant that more messages than I expected would be coming my way. And this, is not a very welcome thought for me.

I am not much of a texting person. True, I send out a lot of texts, but they are the last ditch attempts at keeping in touch with people who are too busy to make/receive calls, and way to busy to find time for more personal interactions. We are so preoccupied in life with I don't know what that even festivals are not spared the brunt of our busy schedules and our new age techniques of keeping up. Diwali, Holi or Christmas- the way we share wishes and happiness is by sending texts. Corrections- not sending, but 'forwarding' texts, in bulk. This serves as the perfect death of any personal touch, any warmth which is intended to be conveyed. I on my part (and a few other people like me, who I hope do exist) only cursorily glance at these texts. What I do read with a smile are the names of people forwarding me those texts. Rudely enough, I do not always reply back. Cutely enough, I call as many of them as I can. Not everyone picks up- the poojas, the socializing, cracker bursting keeps them busy. Everyone I have not been able to reach out are finally texted- and I type and send texts, not forward them. Somehow, I can't bring myself to.

There was a time when cards labelled 'Season's Greetings' would be delivered by the postman on our door, and a corner in the house was reserved for displaying these greetings. They were tangible, not like the e-cards which have an expiry of 15 days from the date of sending. Each person was wished personally, either through a warm hug, or a chirpy greeting over the phone. Diwali wishes were not posted perfunctorily on one's status for the world to itself take notice of. It is all very sad, especially for people like me, for whom keeping up with the pace of the progressive deterioration in relationships is a daunting task. Our families mandatorily command our presence; and what is not mandatory is easily ignored.

When in tenth standard, there was this particular question in English literature which used to be important from the board exam point of view. "Festivals keep humanity afloat. Justify." This was supposed to be answered with reference to A Christmas Carol, the last chapter in our English text book. It might appear naive, me ruminating upon what I did write as a high scoring answer in an internal exam, but all the points I argued are seeming more valid today than ever. Festivals are really about coming together, taking out time to do those things which the usual drill of life forbids us from doing. And I do not allude towards mindless partying in the least. Deepawali, in particular, is a festival which celebrates the homecoming, the re-union of our greatest mythological hero, Rama with his kingdom- akin to his extended family. We would be blessed if we could preserve the original spirit of this festival; that of sharing; that of dispelling darkness, that of making special people know that they are remembered and cared for.

If not for my exams four days hence, I would've had a really busy day ahead. Beginning from my Nanaji, to my school and college friends, each one would have been called up, and inquired after. I will make a few special calls though. And wait for a few special people to call me up before I call them.

For all my blog readers, warmest Diwali greetings. Try and abstain from formal forwarding this season. Visit people, call up friends, get updates on their life. What better time than now to share those genuinely missed smiles. Be not crippled by the all-pervasive facebook. Nothing matches the happiness on the face of relatives you meet, nothing matches the ring of laughter you share with your friends over the phone. Take out time, light Diya's with your family, and this darkest night of Shravan, make sure you dispel all the darkness from you heart. Have a happy and prosperous Deepawali.

May they shower their choicest blessings on you

Hazaaron Khwahishein Aesi

on Monday, October 10, 2011

Almost like a personal loss...
Ghalib-e-khasta ke bagair, kaunse kaam band hain
Roiye zaar zaar kya, kijiye haaye haaye kyun.....

I did resolve to positively control my urge of wanting to record my responses on things which affect me on a day to day basis till my UPSC Mains exams concluded. For this, I had nearly cut myself off from the world, categorically from the things which I knew would affect me. All it took was a phone conversation with one of my friends informing me of the demise of Jagjit Singh to have this resolve momentarily forgotten. While I did stay aloof from the world, Jagjit Ji's voice kept reverberating in my room, and within the walls of my head, to help create the calmness which I desire to continuously remain committed towards my dream. That voice resonates still, but it sounds a tad hollow.

They say, melodies closest to us are the saddest in nature. It is something I firmly believe to be true. The saddest of my thoughts have found expression in verses of Ghalib, Zafar, Firaaq Gorakhpuri, Faakir, and Nida Fazli whose poetry had been conveyed to me via the enchanting voice of Jagjit Ji. This habit of addressing him as  'Jagjit Ji' I acquired in school, where, for me and my friend, Pari, Jagjit Ji had a hallowed status. I've spend many a music lessons in school humming away numerous ghazals and nazms of his'. In fact, this difference between a ghazal and a nazm was communicated to me by the maestro, Jagjit Ji himself in a TV programme. Most of the times, I felt intimately attached to the melodies rendered immortal in his voice for I found an inner feeling or a personal experience being whispered again in my ears in Jagjit Ji's magical voice. That is what his ghazals can do to you. They can lend an aura of romance, or be your confidante in mourning, in loss, in sadness.

I owe many memories to him. 

"Us mod se shuru karein, phir yeh zindagi,
Har sheh jahaan haseen thi, hum tum the ajnabee"
This was my first solo stage performance. I was about fourteen years old, attired in a pink suit, standing on stage and singing away this ghazal to glory. It fetched me the first ever "Best Singer Award", which I went on to win for the remaining four years of my cultural life in school.

"Tu apne dil ki jawaan dhadkano ko, gin ke bata,
Meri tarah tera dil, beqarar hai ki nahi,
Daba daba sa sahi, dil mein pyaar hai ki nahi"
Whenever asked instantly to sing, I  can think of nothing but this composition. It is a song I would sing for my beloved sometime.. It is a song I call my own.

"Teri khushbu mein base khat main jalata kaise..."
Each time I heard this song, I knew my heart sank. Jagjit Ji's voice carries an unmistakable tone of pain, which is effortlessly contagious for all the listeners, me being no exception.

"Dil hi toh hai, na sang-o-khisht, dard se bhar na aaye kyun,
Royenge hum hazaar baar, koi humein sataaye kyun"
I knew I had grown up when I understood the meaning of these lines enough to draft a blog on them. An iconic composition- it is perhaps the only thing we as audience remember of Mirza Ghalib, a show that once aired on Doordarshan.

"Duniya jise kehte hain, jaadoo ka khilauna hai,
Mil jaaye toh mitti hai, kho jaaye toh sona hai"
The meaning of equanimity I could never comprehend. But a lesson or two in life I definitely learnt the first time I heard this ghazal some 7 years back. It has since not been off my play list.

"Baat niklegi toh phir, door talak jaayegi..."
The surge or emotions I felt whenever I heard this one I can not even attempt to describe. This is one of those compositions I have always wanted to sing, but have refrained from doing so for not wanting to spoil its sacred perfection. Even now, I can cry with comfort while listening to this. Is it not bits of my own life this nazm describes?

And lastly
"Yeh daulat bhi lelo, yeh shauhrat bhi lelo, 
Bhale chheen lo, mujhse meri jawaani,
Magar mujhko lauta do bachpan ka saawan,
Woh kaagaz ki kashti, toh baarish ka paani"
A duet with his humsafar, Chitra Singh, this song is the most intrinsic and irreplaceable part of all farewells conducted at my school. While singing this one, I could see very clearly the teary beads, hitherto controlled, trickling down the cheeks of each batch as it prepared to crossover from school into the next stage of life. When it came to my turn of sitting back and soaking in the memories while listening to this song, I acted the perfect coward and left the gathering as this song was being performed. I did not just want to listen to it. Like every other year, I wanted to sing it. Away from the gathering, that is exactly what I did.

This is list expectedly endless. And it should be. Ghazals would not have been an ordinary music lover's delight had Jagjit Ji not played the catalytic role in popularizing it. For me, he even helped being a source of faith. Fancily terming myself an agnostic, I could never keep away from the spell of "Jai madhav madam murari" or "Sabse oonchi prem sagai" when Jagjit Ji's voice accessorized them. Today, I think of I know by heart most of the songs he lent his voice to. However, I hope to death I have not discovered his entire treasure trove of music. The elation I felt whenever I heard any of his classics for the first time, and played it over and over again to know each and every harkat with which he made the song beautiful, I want to experience again. 

No new ghazals are will lend me that coveted elation. No new ghazals are going to come our way.

"Hazaaron khwaahishein aesi, ki har khwahish pe dum nikle,
Bahut nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle."

The melody resonates. I wonder why it feels hollow.

Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh and Vivek Singh- Their son who died in a car accident at a a tender age.