Saturday, 10 December 2011


तुम जो मिल गये हो , तो ये लगता है
के जहां मिल गया.
Film: Haste Jakhm ( 1973)
Lyrics : Kaifi Azmi
Music : Madan Mohan
Sang by : Mohd. Rafi & Lata Mangeshkar

Its well nigh impossible that any fan of Rafisaab’s hasn’t listened to this song many , many times over and hasn’t  found himself perplexed over who deserves the lions share of credit for the magic this song creates every time  . Is it the much celebrated singers who are the immortal doyens of their field ? The lyricist who, even at the ever present risk of sounding clichéd and stereotyped, has managed to capture the essence of that most common and popular word “Love”, Or, the Composer who has not only outdone himself by getting out of his forte which really is ‘Ghazal’ and carving out a masterpiece that is a collage, a rainbow of different genres of music ?. Then to round it all off, the way it is picturized leaves you with an experience which is  like a rollercoaster ride that is completely devoid of the  spinning head and the churning insides that are normally associated with it. Quite on the contrary, it sooths you. It drenches you in the incomparable Mumbai rains and makes you feel snug and warm all at once.

While the percussions and the whirlwind orchestration of  40 violins are worthy of  any RD song,  the basic tune holds true to the mellifluous style of Madan Mohan. The way the western and the Indian styles switch back and forth, they feed off each other, then blend into each other and yet maintain their individuality . The tune plays hide and seek in between these two, and yet acts as the thread that keeps all the “Queens Necklace” together as the quintessential Mumbai Taxi roams the Marine Drive , getting pounded by the winds and rains. The flute dances as well as it sings as it addresses both the Western and Indian styles that are interwoven throughout the song. And on this backdrop, Rafisaab caresses the words the way only he could with his voice that is a combination of masculinity and vulnerability .   

Then comes Lataji’s voice, sans any background score, and  plays the showstopper. It comes forth as if floating on a cloud. It haunts, permeates and  pervades the whole song in the matter of a minute and fades away just as inconspicuously as it had arrived. This one minute leaps out at your senses with a whole new dimension, gets you in a trancelike mood and then vanishes, leaving you wanting more. And that’s the moment the 40 piece orchestra chooses to take you on yet another mindbender just in case you had forgotten it was a rollercoaster ride you were on.              

No two stranzas, nor the interludes  are identical , and hence not in keeping with the familiar style of ‘Signature-Stranza-Signature’ which was almost a ritualistically popular way of composing in the 60’s and 70’s. Take a bow Mr. Madan Mohan, for taking the road less traveled and making the journey almost unbearably beautiful for all of us.      

70’s was the period when my generation had just started out, exploring sounds, sights, collecting experiences and generally speaking , “ getting a life” . A big part of our making were the Hindi films and their songs. When you are born and brought up in Mumbai, even a day without filmsongs is impossible to imagine. One is never without music no matter where he is and irrespective of what time of the day or night it is. This song is just one of those countless ones that I have heard countless number of times since those days and have enjoyed them every single time without really bothering to understand what made them work.

So, what made me sit up, pay attention and enjoy this song one more time ? 
Mr. Jorawar Kesariya did . I met him on a train from Andheri to Virar.

Jorawar, a 40+ Rajasthani ,makes his living by singing old Hindi songs in trains,  accompanied by a self-played strings-instrument called ‘Koka’. Blessed with a darned good voice, he sings well enough to go a few rounds in one of those musical reality shows on TV. I was impressed with his demeanor and the dignity with which went about his job. Enjoying his own music seemed to be his priority and if his public enjoyed it enough to reward him with small change, or occasionally a bigger note, it was just a welcome bonus. As the train was nearing Virar, he broke into this song and had me hooked enough to hang about till the compartment was almost empty. He understood the limitations of his Koka well enough to bring in some well thought-out improvisations wherever an orchestra was supposed to fill in. He finished his song, completely oblivious to the near empty compartment, came out of his reverie and accepted my humble offering with an expression that blended grace and gratitude. I complimented him on his performance and thanked him for playing that song which has always been a favorite.

That’s when I hit pay dirt and he started talking enthusiastically about the song. He was so well informed about Hindi film music and its musical dignitaries, he had me zapped with his comparisons between some of them and their styles. He also took me on an impromptu tour of this favorite song of mine and showed me the highlights and the subtle nuances exhibited by both the singers and the composer. I felt as if I had listened to that song for the first time in my life, such was his understanding and  knowledge of music, not to mention his passion for it. I thanked him profusely and we parted.  I will never know the feeling that he is chosen to feel with his gift, and he will never know how, in just a days work, he had enriched my life .

The first thing I did when I reached home that day was to find a video of that song, put on my headset and tried to watch it from Jorawars eyes and hear it through his ears. The experience was worth every journey I have made in Mumbai trains all my life. Want to watch it ? Here you go…..

How do you like to travel, fellow traveler ?  What’s your style ? Being a free explorer without a map,  or , being a meticulously well-prepared traveler who understands the importance of a guided tour ? Sometimes ‘different strokes for different folks’ is just a clichéd way of sitting on the fence when you can’t quite decide what is it that you really want. Sometimes your machismo might just prompt you to choose being the explorer when your pragmatism might have made a better choice at the given time. And , vise versa might just be as true in a different situation. I used to take some unfounded pride in the fact that I always wanted to explore things on my own and enjoyed it wherever the next trail took me. But this musical encounter with Jorawar opened me up to the fact that  there is a lot to be said for a guided tour too.

Thanks Jorawar , for the lesson : Allow your spirit to break free and enjoy the adventure when  exploring the unknown,  but ,  also put your trust in a guide who lends his vision and his wisdom to you in order to ensure that no highlights are missed by you.   

Saturday, 5 November 2011


Growing in the Middle

“Baba, tell me once and for all, am I a grown up girl , or not , or what ?”

Mukta, my 11 year old wants to know . While its perfectly natural to be curious and inquisitive at her age, this seemingly innocent  question comes at me with a look on her face that is not so innocent. Her little mind has figured out  enough to know that this could be a check-mate move for her. She completely knows that any  firm answer  from me puts her in a winning position. Either way , it gives her a free license to do things she is either not allowed to do, or, not to do the ones she is told to . I know this calls for some diplomatic, sitting-on-the-fence answer that both gets me off the hook  and gets her out of a dilemma that is far real than she suspects at the moment.  I tell her she is as much of a grown up person as she is supposed to be at 11, just as I am at 46, and that the growing up never stops, and one way of  doing a good job of it is not to repeat the same mistakes as you go along.

Just like any diplomatic answer , this one too works well enough for her to nod her head a couple of times, and retreat with a look that makes  it plain she isn’t  convinced at all.  

I know  most of the people would say my answer to her was correct and exactly what they would have come up with themselves. They would also insist that diplomacy had nothing to do with it and that is exactly the way one is supposed to live. Scriptures would be quoted, passages from ancient holy books, quotes from sages and philosophers  would be produced in support of the argument. But the reason I  myself am not sold on my answer , is that all these arguments would be right, and just, in their own place. Its my mind that has always rebelled against anything that comes with a tag of ‘supposed to’.    It shuts out anyone  who tells me that I should or shouldn’t act in a particular manner in any given situation, no matter how right they may sound. I honestly don’t put too much stock in this thing called ‘growing up’. I think the roots of this mindset go back to the  70s , my formative, impressionable years.  The time when the social scene was all about being ‘in’ with the anti-everything movement. The economic scene at home too was such that even electricity was beyond our means right up to my 6th std.  The schoolbooks every year were hand-me-downs from my elder sisters. The outcome of this conditioning  was a mind that was not exactly bitter, but not one very keen to follow any prescribed set of rules either. Of course I had my own definitions of good and bad that were not too alien from the rest of the world , but I loved breaking the rules even if to arrive at the same destination as the rest of my fellow-travelers. I also follow all the rules and regulations of my chosen profession as often  as is prudent. I mean, lets face it, a maverick accountant has only as much of a chance at survival as a kamikaze pilot might have. 

Now, mind you, this is nothing more than  a passage of introspection that might just help me get an insight on why am I the way I am. Getting any deeper is strictly loony tunes time , because the mystery that is human brain is actually intimidating to even contemplate. It’s the most complex thing there is, and the toughest task it can undertake is to understand itself. So, lets just go exploring into this thing called “growing up”

Here are a couple of instances that underline the fact for me that no matter what you do , life has a funny way of doing its own thing in return, the result of which may earn you anything between a kick in the family jewels  and a peck on the cheek.  Call it the luck of the draw if you like and see if you can decide if I acted like a grown up in either of these two incidents.

It was 1989. I had just resigned from a job I had held for 5 years , because my employers  wanted me to think about my work even when I was traveling in a bus, watching a movie,  or having a hard-earned beer on a hot June Sunday afternoon. That made me ask  myself why don’t I go freelancing and do all this for myself, if at all I had  to do it. And I resigned without any concrete future plans. In other words, I took the plunge feet first and then started thinking about buying a swimming manual.  On one  hot June afternoon  I  picked up some tax forms from Tax-print  and was walking towards Churchgate station. You might know the Mocambo Café , near GPO on the left sidewalk of P.M. Road that serves beer among other things. Those were the good old days when a chilled beer was yours for only 26 bucks. Job or no job,  that price-tag was right up my alley. You have to take my word for it that it was not the beer brands advertised in bold letters on the blackboard placed on the side-walk that drew my attention to it, but the words right at the bottom of it that said   “Accountant required”. I thought here was an opportunity as good as any to kill two birds in one shot. I  might just be able to sell the management the idea of  hiring a professional accountant on assignment basis rather than appointing a full time one, and also be able to quench my thirst that had gone up several notches at the site of my favorite watering hole. I walked inside, and was quite proud of myself for heading    straight to that little cubicle they used for office, and not to a table under a fan. I gave my newly printed visiting card to the owner, a middle aged Parsee bawa and laid out  a spiel on how wonderful an arrangement it would be for them if they hired me in a professional capacity. The bawa asked me a few questions, offered me a glass of water and generally looked impressed enough with my experience, not to mention my awe-inspiring personality . He gave me one of his own cards and asked me to call and drop in again. So far so good, I said and hurried to a table , telling myself the deal was almost in the bag and a celebratory beer was very much in order. Cups, lips and slips happened only in fiction and movies, right ?

After one refreshing cold one, as I was settling down, convinced there was a God up in the heaven and everything was alright with the world, I  heard a commotion from the table behind me. A quartet of musicians that looked straight out of a college band had been having a few since I had walked in  . An argument seemed to be brewing up directly in proportion to the quantity  of the good brew that was going down their hatches.              I quietly worked on my pitcher, idly wondering what could the argument be about. Was it purely a musical issue of F minor being the more appropriate scale for a particular song  than G minor ? Or was it something even more basic and obvious like which one of them got the first go at a particularly cute groupie ? Well, whatever it was, by the time I was through my second one, it had ceased to be an argument and had turned into a nice fracas. Mind you, even with a couple of cold ones inside me I knew enough to ignore it and mind my own business, which at the moment should have been the third one. But when I saw the fracas turn rather quickly into a free-for-all, I decided the third one would be a waste of time and money. I got up to settle my bill  but then I saw the brawl unfold with a 3 against 1 ratio.  The good ol’ Samaritan in me jumped to the fore and right into it even before I knew it.

I will spare you the gory details , although  I suspect some of you are actually salivating at the prospect. In a nutshell, there was a lot of give and take among the participants, the minor details like who was on which side long since forgotten, and at the end of it all , yours truly had ended up getting a lot more than he gave . The Parsee bawa , with a bit of help from the waiters succeeded in tearing all of us from each other. And after a spell of temporary insanity lasting about 10 minutes, sanity prevailed. The bawa , once again with a bit of help from the waiters, helped all of us on our way out after the bills were settled to his satisfaction. He then singled me out for some special attention , threw my card back at me and yelled “ Don’t bother to call, son ! I am not planning to sit by the phone”. Needless to say that put paid to my chances of garnering my first ever client as a freelancer.

But now, as a man to another, tell me , beer or no beer, client or no client, wouldn’t   you jump to rectify the 3 to 1 ratio in a brawl ? I know I would, every single time, and that’s where I think my answer to Mukta was a diplomatic one.

Now , lets jump over a few years to 1993. I had just walked out of a clients office at Wadala, and was on my way to another near the Five Gardens , Matunga. It was an afternoon too , but a pleasant ,December one. It’s the only month in Mumbai when we Mumbaikars bring out our long sleeves,  pullovers, scarves , caps and other such stuff to convince ourselves that Mumbai too just like any other city has its winters. If you think I am just making a case for myself about not feeling thirsty and finding a place that serves the cold ones, I cant stop you , can I ? But the fact remains that I talk more about my beer than I actually consume it. But why am I explaining this ? As the old adage goes, never explain, your friends don’t need it and your enemies will never believe it.

So, I was walking , formally dressed under a jacket , briefcase in hand.  A cricket game on TV  that evening that I did not want to miss was more on my mind, than the client I was on my way to. Well, wasn’t that exactly the reason I had resigned from employment and had decided to go solo ? My time was my own to think about cricket or the price of a condom on Mars for that matter, right ? As I passed the first of the five little gardens and was about to take a left turn from the second one, I stopped. I had to , for the opportunity was too great , the time just right, and urge too irresistible. I glanced furtively to both the sides, over my shoulder and told myself its now or never. I rested my briefcase on the nearest bench, rolled up my sleeves, took another couple of sideways glances and with a carefully muffled “Yippeee” jumped on the vacant swings . I swung back and forth , high and low, fast and slow to my hearts content for at least 15 minutes. Now take it from the one who knows, that the high those 15 minutes gave me can out-swing at least 2 cold ones any day. Just don’t ask how I figured that ratio out ok ? It’s a skill that needs to be acquired over a period of good times.

I got off the swings, unrolled my sleeves back, picked up my briefcase and stepped into the building next to the garden, with the cool confidence of an extremely seasoned accountant that I was. Of course I was 15 minutes late, but honestly, the city was going to the dogs with its traffic getting worse by the day, right ? Right , said my client and we went about our business for the next hour or so. After a cup of tea, it was time for me to leave . As I was about to put my shoes back on, the doorbell rang and my client answered it. Back he came with a beautiful lady of about 38-39, exuding  sartorial elegance with her impeccably tailored business suit. My client introduced us. She was his neighbor, a high ranking official with Air France. After the perfunctory pleasantries, as I was about to take my leave, what she said made me want to dig a hole and bury myself then and there. My client threw me a look with raised eyebrows when she said “ Didn’t  I see you out of my window about an hour ago, enjoying yourself on the swings in the garden ?”

It was one of those situations when your tongue weighs a ton, you grin like a retard , shake your head in a manner that says neither yes nor no, and generally want out and quick. She seemed to understand my plight, took pity on me and came to my rescue.        “ I liked it the way you did what you did, simply because you wanted to do it. I have wanted to do it myself but haven’t had the courage so far” She said. She followed it up with sharing a few more of her experiences when she hadn’t been able to summon that courage too. And then , as both my client and myself were warming up to her candid and completely informal monologue , she asked me if I would be kind enough to take care of her accounts and tax matters please. Still tongue-tied , I nodded eagerly as my client smiled at me benevolently as if he himself was single-handedly responsible for my getting a new client out of the blue. The lady and I exchanged cards and since then have shared a warm  friendship, not to mention a healthy professional relationship.  

Again now, as a man to another, tell me , December or June, garden or side-walk, swings or slides ,  wouldn’t you jump at the chance to revisit your childhood no matter what   your age is ? I know I would, every single time, and that’s where I think my answer to Mukta was a diplomatic one.

Its said that middle age is the age when a man stops growing at both the ends and starts growing in the middle. I wouldn’t dwell too much on that, lest this talk once again turn into beer-talk. This is the way I look at it. Middle age is the time we can best enjoy by juxtaposing the past and the future as the two ends and the present as the middle. Since we have absolutely no control over our past, and very limited control over our future, why not put more life into the middle  that is here and now ? Screw the rules, regulations, manners, netiquettes, protocol and all such limiting words. Just say yes  whenever life presents you with an opportunity to sing, dance, play, and laugh . So long as we are here, growing up is mandatory. The only choice we have is whether to grow happier or grumpier. Lets just make the right choice, and then, beer or no beer, we can proudly shout out loud from the rooftops “ Yes ! I am growing in the middle ! Who needs the abdominal six-packs when the other kind can be had with a lot of fun thrown in to boot ?  

By the way, Mocambo of today has really jazzed itself up with some spanking new decor, air-conditioning and a cellar that is second to none among the places in its class. Please don’t take my word for it, just give me a call , and lets make it a three hour lunch date on a hot afternoon……. Lets grow in the middle…..

Saturday, 8 October 2011


जिंदगी  के  सफर  में गुज़र  जाते  हैं  जो  मकाम 
वो  फिर  नहीं  आते , वो  फिर  नहीं  आते 
फूल  खिलते  हैं , लोग  मिलते  हैं 
फूल  खिलते  हैं लोग  मिलते  हैं  मगर 
पतझड़  में  जो  फूल  मुरझा  जाते  हैं 
वो  बहारों  के  आने  से  खिलते  नहीं 
कुछ  लोग  इक  रोज़  जो  बिछड़  जाते  हैं 
वो  हजारों  के  आने  से  मिलते  नहीं 
उम्र  भर  चाहे  कोई  पुकारा  करे  उनका  नाम 
वो  फिर   नहीं  आते , वो  फिर  नहीं  आते 
ज़िन्दगी  के  सफ़र  में ...
आँख  धोखा  है , क्या  भरोसा  है 
आँख  धोखा  है , क्या  भरोसा   है  सुनो 
दोस्तों  शक  दोस्ती  का  दुश्मन  है 
अपने  दिल  में  इसे  घर  बनाने    दो 
कल  तड़पना  पड़े  याद  में  जिनकी 
रोक  लो  रूठ  कर  उनको  जाने    दो 
बाद  में  प्यार  के  चाहे  भेजो  हजारों  सलाम 
वो  फिर  नहीं  आते , वो  फिर  नहीं  आते 
ज़िन्दगी  के  सफ़र  में ...
सुबह  आती  है , रात जाती  है  
सुबह  आती  है , रात  जाती  है  यूँही 
वक़्त  चलता  ही  रहता  है  रुकता  नहीं 
एक  पल  में  ये  आगे  निकल  जाता  है 
आदमी  ठीक  से  देख  पाता  नहीं 
और  पर्दे  पे  मंज़र  बदल  जाता  है 
एक  बार  चले  जाते  हैं  जो  दिन-रात  सुबह ओ शाम 
वो  फिर  नहीं  आते , वो  फिर  नहीं  आते 
ज़िन्दगी  के  सफ़र  में ..

Ever wondered how a song that you heard in the morning stays with you for the rest of the day ?  Happens to a lot of people, just like me.

You get up on a Monday morning, sleepy eyed. ( That’s the way most of the world wakes up on a Monday morning , lets not bother about who cares to admit it). You go through the motions with your morning rituals mechanically, with your to-do list scrolling silently in your mind. And as you are taking the first sip of your morning cuppa , going over the headlines in the paper, either your neighbor or your dad switches something on, maybe a radio, a TV or the music system. A song starts its day almost unnoticed by the world around it , except perhaps by the person who played it.  You don’t exactly stop to listen to it , I mean who the hell has the time to listen to a song on a Monday morning ? But it still finds its way into your mind through the haze of your steaming coffee and the maze of that ticker-tape and the headlines. And then, it just decides to stay there , for the rest of the day. You find yourself humming it without even knowing it as you bathe, dress for work, even when you drive. More often than not, it’s one of the ones you have always liked, but not necessarily. It could even be a song you have not heard often enough to get to know it well enough but did find something about it that spoke to your depths. Its either the tune, the lyrics, the voice, or just a beautifully composed  piece of the orchestra. No matter what it is, it stays with you as inconspicuously as your shadow.

Personal experience tells me , because it has happened far too often to be a co-incidence, that the song generally matches your mood of the day. Or does it dictate your mood for the day ? I am not entirely sure either way, but if one is to believe in the law of attraction, I would rather lean towards the strong possibility of our mind attracting that song into our day, than the other way round. 

One such song kept me company for a whole day a few months ago.  It was neither played at my home nor by any of my neighbors. All I heard was the prelude of it as  somebody drove by my bedroom window playing it just loud enough. And I am completely convinced that the reason it chose me on the day, was defined by the mood that I had  sub-consciously been in since the evening before.

It was a song from “ Aap ki Kasam” , an oldie but a goodie from the 70s. Written by Anand Bakshi , composed by the genius of the one and only RD, and sang by the great Kishorkumar , whose voice blended in perfection with the masculinity and sensitivity this song demanded . The song speaks of the sands of time that  rotate in the same hourglass, yet are never the same, once passed. It speaks about  the very fiber of any relationship that is at once strong and vulnerable depending upon the amount of trust it contains or the lack of it. But most of all its about how some of the most beautiful , and the strongest relationships can go beyond salvage because of one careless word or a gesture. One tends to take relationships so much for granted, one loses attention from their own ego that is always at work in the background and deviously too. That leaves the relationship vulnerable to even the gentlest of winds. And when the deed, intentional or otherwise,  is done, the damage is so complete, that lifetimes go by just to clear the wreckage. The bruised ego invariably gets stronger and sabotages every thought of asking for or granting forgiveness at its very inception, and chooses to suffer even when deliverance is possible.

It was that sort of a morning for me , hence just a prelude of this song ,drifting through my window for just a couple of seconds, was enough for my primed mind  to latch on to. And needless to say it kept me company for the rest of that day. What it also ensured was that no effort was needed to do what I did that evening in order to make my peace with a certain relationship I was a fool to jeopardize in the first place.

The  poetry of this song is so perceptive , so compelling, I just had to give in to the urge of not so much as translating it,  but exploring the same feelings in a different language. I just followed the thread as the twine-ball rolled and here is how the cookie crumbled for me…

The milestones you left behind in the  journey called life, never come back.
They just never, ever come back.   

Flowers bloom, people meet, but …
The buds that withered away in the fall, No spring can make them blossom again
Once close, estranged now, and nothing can bring the beloved back again.
You beckon, you call their name, but they never come back
They just never, ever come back.

What you saw was maybe just an illusion, for doubt is the foe to friendships dear
Don’t let it ever to find roots in your hearts, lest it drive away the loves so near
Don’t let them go heartbroken, whose memories are sure to make you toss n turn
You plead, you beg, but alas, its too late, for they never come back
They just never, ever come back.

Dawn breaks, Night falls, the sands of time keep trickling away
Has it ever stopped for anybody, time just goes on and on anyway
Before you could even comprehend ,  the next slide is up on the horizon
The morns, the noons, the eves n the nights once gone, never come back
They just never, ever come back.

The milestones you left behind in the journey called life, never come back.
They just never, ever come back.  

Of course there is  no need to underline the message that this song carries. The poet doesn’t bother with subtleties and makes it loud and clear what our priorities should be when it comes to relationships. He asks us to live everyday as if it’s the last day of our lives. Being granted forgiveness may not be in our powers but asking for it surely is, and conversely,  being asked for forgiveness is not our prerogative but granting it without being asked just as surely is.

Buddha, the apostle of peace sums it up nicely when he says “ While asking for forgiveness never belittled anybody, granting it unasked is sure to elevate you to a higher plane”        

I know it needs no rocket science to deduce that my effort is haphazard at best , but  its just an attempt at being able to enjoy a piece of great poetry in more ways than one. It probably started out more like trying out your favorite jeans with a differently styled top, but the effort was aimed at making it not  too unlike enjoying a beautiful flower with your eyes as well as your olfactory glands, and thus, in more ways than one.

                                                ======= x ========

Friday, 9 September 2011

संधिप्रकाश – TWILIGHT

आयुष्याची आता झाली उजवण
येतो तो तो क्षण अमृताचा

जे जे भेटे ते ते , दर्पणीचे बिंब
तुझे प्रतिबिंब , लाडेगोडे

सुखोत्सवे असा , जीव अनावर
पिंजऱ्याचे दार, उघडावे

संधीप्रकाशात, अजून जो सोने
तो माझी लोचने मिटो यावी

असावीस पास, जसा स्वप्नभास
जीवी कासावीस , झाल्याविना

तेव्हा सखे आण, तुळशीचे पान
तुझ्या घरी वाण नाही त्याची

तूच ओढलेले , त्यासवे दे पाणी
थोर ना त्याहुनी तीर्थ दुजे

वाळल्या ओठा दे, निरोपाचे फूल
भूलीतली भूल, शेवटली

संधीप्रकाशात , अजून जो सोने
तो माझी लोचने , मिटो यावी
                       - बा. भ. बोरकर

काही क्षण ,किंवा काही दिवस आपल्या मनावर असे कोरले जातात की एखाद्या आवडत्या सिनेमासारखे  कितीही वेळा रिवाइंड केले तरी तोच अनुभव देऊन जातात. त्या क्षणांचे सगळे डीटेल्स,  रंग, रूप, गंध, ध्वनी इत्यादी सगळ्या अनुभूतींसकट आपल्या मनाच्या हार्ड डिस्कवर कायमचे रेकॉर्ड होऊन जातात. उदाहरणच द्यायचं झालं तर .... सायकल शिकता शिकता पहिल्यांदा जमून गेलेला तोल , शोले पहिल्यांदा पाहिलेला दिवस, पहिली भेट, पहिला स्पर्श,  पितृत्वाचा / मातृत्वाचा पहिला अनुभव, बर्फाने झाकून गेलेल्या शिखराचं  पहिलं  दर्शन , पहिल्यांदा ऐकलेली मेहदी हसनची गजल इ.इ.

असाच काहीसा अनुभव आला होता जेव्हा बोरकरांची " संधिप्रकाश " ही कविता पहिल्यांदा सलील कुलकर्णीच्या आवाजात ऐकली होती . बांद्रा-कुर्ला कॉम्प्लेक्सच्या इन्कमटॅक्स ऑफिसमधून बाहेर पडलो आणि रिक्षात बसलो . कानाला इयरफोन लावलेला होता आणि सलील सुरु झाला. काहीतरी उदास, तरीही उत्सवाचा आभास देणारं, काहीतरी घट्ट बांधून ठेवणारं, तरीही चिरंतन मुक्तीची झलक दाखवणारं असं कानावर पडत होतं आणि हृदयात उतरत होतं . पुन्हा पुन्हा ऐकत, भारलेल्या अवस्थेत घरी कधी पोचलो कळलंच नव्हतं. बोरकरांचे शब्द, सलीलची चाल आणि त्याचाच आवाज हे कॉम्बिनेशन असं काही अंगावर आलं होतं की पुढचे काही दिवस जो भेटेल त्याला ते ऐकवत होतो.  "अखेरचे येतील माझ्या हेच शब्द ओठी ,लाख चुका असतील केल्या, केली पण प्रीती" हे गाणं आणि "एकवार पंखावरूनी फिरो तुझा हात , शेवटचे घरटे माझे तुझ्या अंगणात" हे दुसरं गाणं आपल्यापैकी बहुतेक सगळ्यांनीच ऐकलं असेल आणि चटका बसलेले माझ्यासारखे अनेकजण ही गाणी ऐकून अंतर्मुखही झाले असतील. पण " संधिप्रकाश " म्हणजे या दोन्ही गाण्यांच्या आशयाची  अत्यंत हळवी पण तितकिच  स्पष्ट निरवानिरव आहे .  मरावं तर असं , असं वाटायला लावणाऱ्या काही गाण्यांपैकी माझी आवडती दोन आहेत . एक म्हणजे रफीचं " कर चले  हम फिदा जानोतन साथियो, अब तुम्हारे हवाले वतन साथियो" आणि दुसरं संधिप्रकाश .

संधिप्रकाश ऐकणार ? ऐकाच .

एखाद्या अतीव उत्कट क्षणाचा अनुभव आपल्यासारखाच सगळ्यांच्या वाट्याला यावा , किंवा कमीत कमी आपला आनंद जास्तीत जास्त लोकांबरोबर शेअर करता यावा असं मला नेहेमीच वाटत आलय. अर्थातच स्वार्थापोटी आलेला हा विचार आहे कारण जितक्या लोकांबरोबर शेअर करू तितक्या पटीत आपला आनंद वाढतो हे जगजाहीर आहे. याच विचारातून बोरकरांच्या या कवितेचा इंग्रजीत अनुवाद करण्याची इच्छा निर्माण झाली. किट्स आणि शेलेची पोएट्री  , गालिब आणि मजाजची शायरी यांच्या तोडीस तोड साहित्य माझ्या मायमराठीतही आहे. त्याचा मझा अमराठी रसिकांनाही मिळावा हाच  या मागचा हेतू. बोरकरांच्या मूळ कवितेशी या भाषांतराची तुलना म्हणजे चित्रातला आंबा चाटून त्याच्या चवीचा अंदाज बांधण्यासारखं आहे याची मला चांगली कल्पना आहे पण निदान  " खंडहर देखनेसे पता तो चलेगा के ईमारत कितनी बुलंद, कितनी खूबसूरत हुवा करती थी"  

 Life has almost come a full circle.
Blessed bliss is every moment hereafter.

 Everything , now, is a reflection of myself.
And thus, of you too, for how can I tell myself apart from you ?

 The soul, so drunk on happiness, now seeks to flee.
Its time, to throw the doors wide open.

 Let me go into that kind , silent night.
With the last memory of the golden twilight.

 Be by my side, as beautifully real as a dream.
But without the agony of a broken dream.

 A final plea to your altar , to bless my final hour.
You too will surely put in a prayer or two, won’t you ?
 Just a drop of water please, from the pail freshly pulled by you.
For its nothing less than nectar, or the holy water too.

 Perhaps one last kiss on the parched lips .
Before this magical spell ends, my feeble hold slips .

Let me go into that kind , silent night.
With the last memory of the golden twilight.

                            ====== x ======

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Who am I ? I am He !

Who am I ? I am He.

I was trying to call my cooking gas supplier this morning. It had been over 3 weeks since I ordered a cylinder and needless to say I was more than a little hot under the collar when I connected after several attempts and was given the same answer in the same toneless, bored voice that said “ after 3 / 4 days”. When I threatened with dire consequences if it was not delivered immediately, the call was transferred to somebody higher up in the hierarchy. I guess I was just a little too hasty to conclude I was finally getting somewhere, because that ‘somebody’ brought me crashing down to earth with his first question, “ Who are you ?” . The fact that I was one of his paying customers apparently didn’t count for him. What he seemed to want to ensure was that I wasn’t some high ranking police officer, or a bureaucrat , or an MLA, a Corporator   or some such VIP he wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. After a few questions regarding my occupation, my socio-politico-financial  status , he seemed to be satisfied enough to repeat the same “3 / 4 days” and hung up on me as unceremoniously as he would shoo away a wino at his door.

Then I decided to play my ace in the hole, called him right back and told him I was Anna Hazare, and that in the next hour he was to expect a morcha of nothing less than 200 such disgruntled Annas at his office. This time it was my turn to hang up on him, and I did it with the confidence of a seasoned con-artist. Needless to say the ruse worked in less than the promised hour and the familiar clangs of a gas cylinder sounded in my corridor.       

My purpose was served, and I was about to congratulate myself over a cup of tea, but a thought still rankled. And it got me thinking real hard about his first question “ Who are you ?” What exactly did he mean by that question ? Did he mean “ who” or, “ what” ? What difference did it make to him , and why ? So long I was assured of my gas  refill , should it matter to me who or what I was to him ? Of course it shouldn’t. Its  only after this  conclusion that my mind went on a tangent to pop that age-old question that is  potent enough either to  drive a man crazy or to make a sage out of him.  Who am I ?

I am not sure who it was , John Lennon or Elvis Presley or some sporting legend , who once ran into an admirer when getting  out  of a departmental store. The fan looked at him, did a double take and said “ Hey, do you know who you are ?” On the face of it, it was as innocuous a question as any , even just a touch funny on the part of that fan, but in reality such a profound one that the superstar felt disillusioned of all his fame, popularity and charisma. That question stopped the him in his tracks and stayed with him for the rest of his life. 

While I would have to be a narcissist of the first waters to think of myself worthy of ever being a sage , I am thick-skinned enough not to go crazy if I don’t find the answer. Being a music or sports icon too is just as out of my league. The Beatles come fairly close to describing me with their ‘nowhere man’. But even the most non-descript , faceless man has a conscience that might pop this question to him one day when he is looking in the mirror.

Now, let me see….I am a human being, a male, a hindu, an Indian, a Maharashtrian , a commerce graduate, a tax consultant, a son, a father, a brother, a husband, a friend, an adversary , and so on and so forth….  I am all of these but surely that’s not all there is to me.  There have been times when all these identities have felt nothing more than just roles to play, even disguises to be worn when these personalities  clashed with each other.  At the end of each clash I have found no comfort with any of these garbs and have felt the need of something more to help me feel grounded and oriented.

Countless people since time immemorial have come and gone, some after grappling with the question, some blissfully oblivious of it. The ancient scriptures had to have been a result of some meticulous research and impeccable groundwork in order to have come up with the theory of “ Ko hum ? So hum” ( Who am I ? I am He ) . Because, if we accept and believe in the one supreme, divine power as the creator of this universe, irrespective of what name you give it , its only logical to presume that creation was meant  to be the basic theme for every action of ours, for every thought of ours.     

Of course its not for everybody to be a creator in the same league as the greats in any field such as science, commerce, art, spirituality etc, but understanding the difference between good and evil and making a difference in the right direction while you are here , is something everyone of us can do. This is exactly what Anna Hazare is doing and God help anybody  who dare ask him “Who are you?” Such is the power of the man. The man , who has known firsthand, both the power of the gun as well as the power of truth.

Mind you, even after all this brain-storming I am not any closer to the answer to this question as I was when I started. People have spent lifetimes in its pursuit, so I know I haven’t a hope in hell of finding it in just one and a half pages of doodling. But I am convinced I would be on the right track in my quest , so long as I make a positive difference , in my own little way, to the quality of my life and that of my fellow humans. I should then have no qualms about identifying myself with the name that my parents gave me.

After all, Anna Hazare too, is not as much a name as it is a way of life, a thought of The Creator.

                                                ======= X ========

Saturday, 13 August 2011



“Sow the seeds of good deeds as you travel . God feeds you with the fruits they bear on your journey back home.” 

Sounds just like one of the lines the teacher made it your daily chore to write on the blackboard, right ?  You did it  to impress upon the rest of the class that you were the chosen one, the teachers pet. Or, just to get your hands on the box full of chalks , Or you either bribed the ones with good handwriting or bullied them into doing it for you. In a nutshell it was just something you had to do whether you wanted to or not. Inculcating good values, building a good character were things as silly and unheard of then as a window seat on a 8.45 Churchgate fast on a Monday morning from Borivli is today. I know, it’s a far-fetched  comparison but show me a man who says he scored just such a seat on just such a train on just such a day, solely because of his good values and spotless character, and you are welcome to join me in my “ Liar, Liar, Pants on fire” jig.

It was on just such a day, and on just such a train that I was reminded of my opening line.  
Mind you , I am not much of a do-gooder, cross my heart and hope to die. More good has been done to me than my having done any. This little incident too is one of many such where I was at the receiving end of a good deed.

When the crowd positions itself to catch this above-mentioned train, the commuters bridge is the best perch to watch the spectacle from. It’s a scene straight out of Braveheart or some such period war movie. Usually the train is almost full of people taking a backward detour from Malad and Kandivli en route to Churchgate. The crowd throws the first salvo even as the train gets halfway into the station. Survival of the fittest is the law of every jungle and this human jungle is no exception. The fittest and the strongest are on the both the sides here, i.e. the inside as well as the outside of the train. In the wild frenzy that would put any ring of WWF to shame,  lasting about 12 seconds, within which the commuters wanting to get off at Borivli make their escape and those wanting to get on the train charge in like stampeding bulls . The ones who get off successfully go through the seemingly automated motions of patting  their hair back in place, patting  their pockets to make sure their wallets and cellphones are safe, and off they go to their next adventure of the day. The lucky ones who got on the train wrestle and jostle their way to the fourth seat which really is  half a seat. Mission accomplished, they now firmly entrench themselves as “insiders” and get ready to fight and push back the “outsiders” who are still trying to get in. Amidst a lot of war-cries, expletives and even some fisticuffs , a few losers try to get their way out of the compartment. These are either the weaker ones,  or just new to the ways of this city. They either have to beg and plead their way out before the train starts or be prepared to get off wherever they can, whenever they can.

Blessed are those who are not required to run against time to punch a silly card even if they have to get punched silly along the way. Thanks to all my stars, saints  and guardian angels I am in a profession where I don’t need to be a part of this everyday battle. I pretty much decide my own working hours and travel only when the peak hour is long past over, if at all. But no matter how powerful , comfortable and snug a lion is in his own den, even he can’t avoid forever,  a showdown with a pack of hyenas inspired by their own survival instincts. Likewise, to accommodate a client , I too am required every once in a long while to make a foray into Borivli station at the ungodly hour of 8.45 am. Last Monday was one such day I had an incometax case hearing scheduled at Churchgate. I had been feeling a bit under the weather and feverish the night before but an adjournment was impossible. I reached the platform without any major mishaps, with even the bridges and staircases choc-a-block with people in a hurry . So much so that you would think every train was the last train to Churchgate and that there was no tomorrow.

I gathered enough courage to get in a crouching position not too unlike a goalkeeper as he gets ready to leap either way facing a penalty. Arms outstretched, muscles taut, knees bent just so I could coil up and spring at the first reachable door, as the train slowly made its way into the station. All this preparation would have been most impressive, even effective had I been the only party present on the platform. The reality was far from it as nothing less than a million people took similar stances all around me, their  sole collective target being the train coming closer and closer. I chose exactly this moment to lose my nerve and chicken out. All of a sudden there was a certain coolness about the feet with the realization that I was not as young as I once was and not nearly as fit either. Panic stricken, I started to back off without a shred of  concern about standing up an incometax commissioner waiting for me. I was about 4 seconds too late to realize that it was too late to back off. The decision to catch that train or not was taken out of my hands by the marauding public and before I could say abracadabra I found myself inside the compartment. The onrushing crowd flung me about like a rag doll. Twisting, turning and generally being brutally manhandled by the rampaging  multitude I felt the term “being pushed around” was about to get a whole new meaning. For those few seconds it felt like being in a stone-crusher, getting spin-dried in a washing machine and being fed to a shredder all at once. As my life flashed before my eyes, I was pretty sure I was either going to be torn to pieces , or suffocation was going to claim me. Whichever way it went, I knew it was hear, in this sardine-pack that I was going to breath my last.

But in what seemed like an eternity but actually in a few seconds that I found myself pushed into the sitting area which too  was already overflowing but where you could be   stationery as against being in the eye of a hurricane near the doors. Clothes as crumpled as my spirit, hair as fashionably in disarray as no punk rocker  can boast of , ribs hurting so bad it was an effort to just breath, I found myself panting like a dog on a hot afternoon. Catching the breath was the only first aid I could give myself in the given circumstances. A window seat would  be just  what the doctor would have insisted upon but of course it was neither  a month of Sundays nor could I see any pigs flying outside the window. Head still spinning, reeling like a drunk I desperately looked around for a fourth seat. A saree clad lady got up from the nearest fourth seat and I was immediately convinced that God had to be a female. Because if He were to be a male, his species had all but mauled me to death just seconds ago.

As I was about to eagerly but gratefully grab the fourth seat , she said “ Kyon sir , kaise ho ? Pehchana kya mere ko ?” and the sound of her voice stopped me in my tracks, for it was a male voice  . But of course it was one of our infamous Mumbai eunuchs.  

I looked at her as I sat down , happy to take all of my 65 kgs off my feet and feeling all of my 45 years. Underneath all that garish , caked on make-up was a face time hadn’t been too kind to but familiar all the same. 

“ Prabha ? Kaisi ho ? I asked.
“ Achhi hoon Sir. Aap theek ho na ?   Paani piyoge ?

She told me she had spotted me as I was getting worked over by the crowd, had enough sense to understand that I was completely and hopelessly out of my element and needed a bit of help. She pulled out a small  water-bottle and offered it to me, assuring me she had just picked it up from the canteen and was unopened, lest I was worried about hygiene.

The people around us were watching this scene with expressions that varied from amused to wary , from sly to indifferent. I took the bottle after some hesitation and cursed myself quietly for examining the seal before opening it. A couple of swigs made me feel as fine as only water can make you feel when you really need it. I thanked her but she just shrugged it off saying its only human to help another human, and I was , after all,  a friend. I know that although  being a friend to a eunuch is not the worst crime in the world, its also not anything you shout from the rooftops either. But having just had a helping hand stretched out at me , at the time when I needed it the most, my petty-mindedness and silly vanity made me want to crawl under the seat.  I mean here was someone who was almost an outcast, someone right at the bottom of the rungs of our   society, who had helped me as naturally as any human being would another, and , here I was, an educated , cultured man of the world who was worried about what people might think of our connection. The fact that I had done nothing noteworthy for Prabha  to have conferred her friendship on me made me feel even more small. Quite on the contrary, it was another  act of compassion on Prabha’s part that had started our acquaintance 6 years ago.

It was an exceptionally hot June . Monsoon was on its way and was due any day. I had left for work in the morning without an umbrella as if to tease the rain-gods into opening up and pouring down. Coming back home,  I took an auto from Borivli to Dahisar Checknaka, from where I had to take another auto because of city limits. Just when I was about to reach the checknaka it started drizzling and by the time it was time to switch  the autos, it had grown into a fairly healthy downpour. As a rule I love getting drenched in the first rains every year but that day I was caught with my newly bought leather shoes and belt and didn’t want to ruin them if I could help it. I paid the auto-man and requested him to let me hang about in his auto for a while in the hope that the rain would subside and I would salvage both my precious hide and the shining leather. After 10 minutes , with no sign of a let up from the skies, I started looking out for anybody with an umbrella. The idea was to pinch a shelter for a distance of about 60 yards and hop in the first auto I saw. Another 5 minutes and even my auto-man started getting restless wanting to cash in with so many rain-struck people willing  to be taken for a ride.
Then I saw her and identified her immediately for the eunuch that she was . But she was the only one around with an umbrella , and with the rain still working away steadily, she was my only hope to help me stay dry . I beckoned her and asked her if she would be kind enough to escort me under her umbrella to the connecting auto. She gave me a wide smile, nodded in that pseudo-feminine manner that only eunuchs can and said yes, she would be happy to be of help. No big deal , its only human to help other humans , she said and escorted me to the connecting auto. I hopped in, thanked her, asked her name and offered her a tenner as a token of my appreciation of her kindness. She politely declined it and said she was happy to be of help and in fact felt honored to be considered worthy of helping out a gentleman in need.

We parted. She , feeling a glow of having shown kindness to a stranger, and I the gentleman, feeling humbled at finding benevolence from an unlikely  source.

We met quite often after that at the same spot where she would do her business. We would  exchange pleasantries and sometimes a little baksheesh from me in exchange of her ritual of patting my head and gesticulating a routine of warding off evil eye.

My style of work gradually changed with time and I started working more and more from home. Prabha obviously faded away into the past and from my memory too.

This is where the flashback ends. We are in the train again. Prabha gets off at Goregaon with a cheery wave to me and a couple of resounding claps for the crowd to make way for her. I am already thinking about my crumpled clothes and the impending hearing with the Commissioner.  

I had told you upfront I am not much of a do-gooder , at least not a very conscious one in any case. So, you can say I just got plain lucky with Prabha on both the occasions and ended up reaping fruits of the seeds I did not really sow. I hope Prabha keeps well enough not to ever require any help from me .But just in case she does , I also hope I have in me whatever it takes to do a service to her in a manner as unassuming as hers was on both the occasions.

Lets go back to my opening line now, shall we ? To me it still sounds like just one of the lines the teacher made it your daily chore to write on the blackboard .

By the way, how about discussing the gender of God ?