Friday, August 15, 2008


...for a recording of this ghazal sung by who-ever (I don't know who sang it though I thought it was Begum Akhtar)

Bas Ik Jhijhak Hai Yahii Haal-e-Dil Sunaane Me.n
--Kaifi Azmi

Bas Ik Jhijhak Hai Yahii Haal-e-Dil Sunaane Me.n

bas ik jhijhak hai yahii haal-e-dil sunaane me.n
ki teraa zikr bhii aayegaa is fasaane me.n

baras pa.Dii thii jo ruKh se naqaab uThaane me.n
vo chaa.Ndanii hai abhii tak mere Gariib-Khaane me.n

isii me.n ishq kii qismat badal bhii sakatii thii
jo vaqt biit gayaa mujh ko aazamaane me.n

ye kah ke TuuT pa.Daa shaaKh-e-gul se aaKhirii phuul
ab aur der hai kitnii bahaar aane main

The only person I ever heard singing this was my dad, who'd sing it beautifully. He was of the generation that had never studied Hindi in school. He couldn't even write his own name in Hindi (his name was Ravi, but he'd write it and say - see - and it would be Ram - someone had obviously taught it to him as a joke). He'd studied Urdu so his relationship with Urdu poetry was one of both ease and pleasure. When he was in hospital I used to try to make him teach me. I know that I wasn't quite getting it for a while because he'd keep correcting me. Some times I would get it right though. It is just one of those tunes that seem simple but it as a lot of nooks and crannies. So in essence I've been trying to re-remember it and I think I've gotten it back mostly. But if I'm not singing it right, my dad's not around to correct me any more. So it somehow seems to matter a lot that I should be able to sing it right.

So any afficionados or friends of aficionados, please let me know if and where I might get it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

the b-side of this whole rock music thing

Sunday releases me from my newspaper dilemmas - I get 6 papers and spend the mornings voluptuously drowning in their various registers. Today's Times Life! quoted Riddhima Kapoor sister of Ranbir, saying "Ranbir has a wide social circle compromising both sexes." Now I see why the boy is a gay icon. 

Also I read one of those survey type interviews with the heroines of Bachna Ae Haseenon, where they were asked to complete lines like - I am turned on by a man if he.... /I get bored by men who... etc.

In a bad habit I have had since I could read These Are a Few of My Favourite Things in Stardust, I imagined myself as a famous and sexy person being asked these sorts of pertinent questions. This would qualify as the most serious thing I did today unless you count eating last night's left over olive hummus and drinking a glass of rose as a noontime snack. I agreed with Minissha Lamba that what I like about men is that, well, they are men, my most heartfelt response was to I am bored by men who....think Pink Floyd is the eternal best thing in music - and nothing else is worth it.

Frankly nothing irritates me more. But there's an entire edifice supporting this provincial superiority.

I always associate this sort of music with something conservative - because it's the favourite of boys who go to IIT - because of which I call it IIT music - or IIM and BITS, Pilani - and the favourite of people who sit around talking fondly of college which seems to have been a Cliff Richards movie for them, bachpan ke din bhi kya din the, type of thing as if there was no angst, no doubt, no hatred of the cool gang.... oh wait! That's because they were the cool gang! Or what passes for cool when you're young which is a sort of alpha conformism, an all-rounder existence of no radical or even rather uncoventional choices, primed to believe every cliche the advertising world will seduce you with and to credulously use the trend-phrases coined by Sunday colour supplements (today's discovery being "alpha female" - what used to be called superwoman as a comment on how difficult it is for any human woman to manage work and home and all else - but alpha female sounds like you can become one just by gymming often enough and religiously following the cleanse, moisturise, tone routine, no?). 

Anyway - for me that sort of musical monomania simply means a rigid nostalgia, a cultural varnashram system whereby you will only be exposed to certain types of music (and in the case of my generation this would be the previous generation's music). Thereby you will be the prime consumer of this music in some theme night or theme bar or whatever. Because you won't change tastes, acquire new ones, lose old ones - or indulge in nostalgia only very occasionally. I'm sorry to say that my Bengali friends do this the most.

Soon after thinking all these irritated thoughts I read an interview with Farhan Akhtar wrt the new film Rock On! - with no irony there - (I already don't want to see it - what sort of embarrassingly credulous, passe title is that?- but I will have to because of knowing people who worked on it). In this he says - the best music ever is - Pink Floyd. Sigh. Well not like any idols are keeling over in my mind or anyting, but STILL!

And it is with these thoughts that i came to read this article - and though I haven't read the book obviously, I already felt like I may not agree with it so totally, but still some bits, um, rocked? - no, they echoed some half articulated thoughts I had. For instance:

"Since at least the appearance of the first issue of Rolling Stone in 1967, it has been a common assumption that popular music, particularly rock and roll, is about social change....

...The great fallacy at the center of this thesis is that the cultural explosion that occurred when rock began carried such a heady charge because it was about overturning societal norms. In fact, the music was reinforcing orthodoxies that are as old as mankind. Put simply, most rock and pop songs, from Chuck Berry through the Beatles and including the latest single from Coldplay or Justin Timberlake, are about love. Not polygamous, destructive, selfish love, but about love for another person, monogamous love, spiritual love that transcends the laws of nature -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "She Loves You," "My Love." Pop songs are about heavenly love and the attempt to attain such love on earth.

There are, of course, exceptions. There are rock songs that are about rebellion and revolution, but they rarely become popular. "

You can say Pink Floyd are not all about love and all that. You may be right but you won't get no satisfaction from me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

the times they are a-changing back

So a historic decision has been made in the Vohra-Andheri (E) household.

Some years ago, fed up of the page3fication of the TOI I decided to move to the Indian Express. It wasn't easy because all my life newspaper matlab TOI just like orange boleto Gold Spot. But if the Parle factory could change its goldspots to bisleri surely I could change my paper? In truth, I went back and forth - to the Express, then back to the TOI until I finally made the transition in 2003.

I stuck with the Indian Express for the next few years, even though it got thinner and flimsier and less and less satisfying. So what if the main paper was iffy - at least Newsline was good I'd tell myself. IE was the default choice of the progressives.

Then in 2005 the Hindustan Times which I used to read and like in Delhi, came to Bombay and without thinking I switched, relieved that I had a way not to give in to the insistent promotions of DNA and Mumbai Mirror.  And I was quite happy with it for a while - it was a meaty paper with lots of interesting, provocative columnists and enough about environment, film, art, archaelogy etc. I didn't even succumb when Meenal, the editor at Mumbai Mirror said to me -'you don't get the mirror? Ok,I won't say anything.' although I felt a bit guilty given I write for them. Well, three years on, it's not quite so rosy. The papers gotten thinner than Kareena Kapoor. The columns are a bit centrist and shrill. They don't even really have an editorial of any gravitas. The supplement is depressing. They have tonnes of mistakes of language and of fact - recently in some article on porn the Milos Forman movie was referred to as Larry Flynt vs. Larry Flynt - when the real title is The People vs. Larry Flynt (as a google search would have confirmed). And even the initial campiness of Under Honey's Hat has gotten very ho hum and not fun.

So today, standing at the door, paying the newspaper bill, complaining - aap Tehelka itni der se kyon dete ho etc. - I slipped in the words I never thought I'd say - kal se roz ka paper Times of India.

I get the Times on Sundays and I've noticed that it's really improved. I see it at other people's houses and I do feel its changed in the opposite direction to itself. And one can just not read the Bombay Times.

Now there's been no change in the ownership, the basic philosophy etc. of the management so what's changed I wonder? I tell myself political growth lies in not being rigid but in responding to the reality as you see it.

We'll see what happens - tomorrow being the first day of my changing times.