Transformation

I am delighted to inform that a friend and an ardent follower of my blogs has painstakingly compiled my first 100 blogs and published the same as a hardback book. This transforms me from being an amateur blogger into a published author, even if it’s only one copy published that too available with the author. The book has been gifted to me to felicitate me on my superannuation as I retire from my current employment in 31st of May after completing 60 years.

No other gift would have gladdened my heart as much as this conversion of my digital blogs into a hardback. The presenter has requested anonymity so I am just gratefully accepting this and sharing it with my readers and friends.

Democratic temperament

One of the recurrent themes of my blogs on current affairs going on around us is the need for logical, cogent and facts based discussion, preferably on the floor of parliament rather than rancour against and venom spitting on each other on channels and social media. And this is my complaint against the respected periodicals also as to their inability to rationally argue for or against, as per the merits of the case, any issue that’s of public interest. That’s how a matured democracy matures further and strengthens. Instead, politicians and political commentators of all hues and colours shout at the top of their lungs, throwing innocent and naive public into the throes of deep confusion.

As my readers are well aware that I regularly follow Urdu press, more so Pakistani press, and sometimes one does come across certain stuff that touches a chord of your heart, as it mirrors the reality in our homeland too. Read a couplet by redoubtable Anwar Shaoor ( he writes a couplet daily in Jang like Laxman used to publish a cartoon daily in TOI) in today’s paper that reads:

हो दलीलें अगर किसी के पास

क्या ज़रूरत कुछ और करने की

वह सियासत ही क्या जो हो मोहताज

धौंस, धमकी, दबाव, धरने की!

The above can be translated as:

If issues are debated with logic and reasoning

Where is the question of other things ?

Politics will not then not be a slave to

Protests, pressures, threats and sit ins !

Happy birthday Mahatria

I got everything I desired,

A loving wife, an obedient child and a job I liked;

Yet there was something amiss,

An inexplicable strange emptiness in life.

I ran from pillar to post,

To find an answer to this strange bug;

I went to god men for a miracle,

But it was all humbug.

I meditated and prayed to God,

I chanted slokas in search of peace;

It gave only momentary relief,

But I continued to feel ill at ease.

Then a friend shared his experience,

Who had been through similar travail;

Till he met a Guru, a spiritual guide

Who put him on the right trail.

That’s how and when I got exposed to Mahatria,

And started following his thoughts and teaching

All very simple and straight

Yet with an effect that’s far reaching.

If his teachings and messages have such profundity even from such distance,

Such is his persona, such is his dignity

I envy those who meet him and have his Sakshatkar,

They are indeed blessed to an infinity!

His birthday is like Guru Purnima,

For his disciples and admirers alike;

Happy birthday the Great Mahatria,

Please continue to spread peace and light!

First day

It was 4th of December 1994 that I left my Jaipur home, my wife and very young daughter to catch train to Mumbai to embark on a new journey. The journey was to report to UTI Bank’s Central Office at Cuffe Parade, Mumbai the next day that’s on 5th December.

The train was a very prized possession for Jaipuwalas as before its start, there was no direct train between Jaipur and Mumbai and to go to Mumbai, one had to change either at Sawai Madhopur or Delhi. This super fast train was indeed a game changer.

The train reached Mumbai Central sharp at the destined hour of 8.30 AM and I had freshened myself by shaving and having a short bath inside the train itself. I got down, deposited my luggage in the cloakroom and took a cab to Cuffe Parade. The princely sum of Rs46 that I paid for this journey is still fresh in mind. I reported at the office, which was a big change from the well appointed, well set central office of my previous employer. There were few peoples and the work was going on as the office was still not ready. However, I got going to whatever I was supposed to do on Day 1 of my joining.

As the evening fell, I was offered a ride from office to our guest bourse at BKC in a pooled vehicle. I requested the team to drive via Mumbai Central so that I could collect my luggage from the cloakroom.

From sleepy Jaipur to hyper active Mumbai, from an office in Jaipur to an office in high end Maker Towers in upmarket Cuffe Parade, from complacent public sector to highly ambitious private sector, I had embarked on a journey that was to become a roller coaster ride of around 28 years that took me to Kolkata, New Delhi before finally bringing me to Mumbai in 2001 for good is an interesting story that I may tell one of these days through blogs or a book. But as I prepare to retire in few days on 31/5/2022 that would be my last day in Axis, I got pulled towards the memories of my first day!

Rafi and his ever increasing population

Mohammed Rafi was undoubtedly one of the finest male playback singers that country had ever heard and though it’s been more than four decades that he died a premature death, his popularity, if anything, seems to be increasing. His fan club continues to add newer members, many of whom are millennials, who are becoming his diehard fans, in spite of being fed on an overdose of what’s popularly called as fusion music.

More surprisingly, when he died, he was not exactly at the peak of his career. He ruled the decades of 50s and 60s, but by the time 60s were paving way for 70s, a new phenomenon called Kishore Kumar had stormed the playback industry, sweeping away all the veterans – Rafi, Manna Dey, Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor. Combining with the then newly crowned superstar, Rajesh Khanna, there was a monopolisation of playback scene that was hitherto unseen. There are stories of how even great Rafi had started wondering whether he needed to change his style to match Kishore’s.

However, you could not keep a good thing down and even at the peak of Kishore era, there were few songs that only great Rafi could sing and this was endorsed by none other than the reigning champion Kishore himself. By the time the decade was reaching it’s end, Rafi had almost reclaimed his unmatched status in the industry.

However, the great man died at the age of 56 plunging the nation into deep sorrow. While his death led to an eruption of clones imitating him – Shabbir, Munna Aziz etc, the original man was simply irreplaceable. What is a matter of far greater pleasant surprise is that as aforesaid, more than 4 decades after his death, the man’s popularity and idol worship has only gone up. I have seen so many vlogs, talk shows, fan clubs and even a temple dedicated to the great man, all flourishing in last few years, much after Rafi’s death.

In his lifetime, he was simplicity personified, a deeply religious man with his feet firmly on the ground. He was extremely humble and generous to an extent that his finances had to be dealt with by his wife’s brother as the great man himself was shortchanged easily. A simple plea of lack of resource would make him sing without any fee for that particular producer or music director.

The idea for this blog came to me from an article that I came across that celebrated several great achievers who were not felicitated enough during their lifetime. They either died of heart break or with deep grudge of not having received their due. I think it’s more important to create a body of quality work than to crave for immediate or at least delayed recognition within one’s lifetime. Mohammed Rafi’s life is an example of divine performance and understated personality that’s being celebrated more and more with the passage of time!

Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare – these lines amply testify the man that Rafi was – truly great but highly satisfied who treated his work as worship without any craving for any reward.

Main hoon Don

A WhatsApp post tells me that it was this day 44 years ago on 12th May 1978 to be precise, Amitabh starrer blockbuster Don was released. Directed by a relatively unknown and probably a first timer Chandra Barot, Don went on to becoming a milestone movie in the annals of Hindi filmdom.

Though Amitabh, who was at the zenith of his popularity and superstardom, was the mainstay of this out and out masala potboiler playing a memorable double role, he was ably supported by other team members – the supporting star cast comprising Zeenat, Pran, Iftekhar, Helen, lyricist Anjan whose command over bhojpuri/ poorvi led to some beautiful lyrics such as khaike pan Banaras wala, ih hai Mumbai Nagariya amongst others composed to popular foot tapping tunes by Kalyanji Anandji duo and of course Chandra Barot, who converted a regular masala fare into an iconic movie.

It’s also in the records that making of Don ran into series of problems and it was Chandra’s perseverance that the movie could finally reach the cinemas. But once released, it went on to earning undiluted adoration of the viewers, setting the cash register ringing. And it’s success was all round from acting to lyrics to music that was evident from the awards it won.

It’s also a fact that before singing all time great number khaike pan Banaras wala, Kishore Kumar actually asked for a Pan, put it in his mouth and then sang the song to produce a natural effect. There is lots of other trivia associated with the making of this cult movie.

Such was its longevity that Farhan Akhtar decided to recreate the magic of the original Don by remaking it with the raging superstar Shahrukh Khan and almost ended up creating the similar impact as original. Udit Narayan and Sunidhi Chauhan went on to singing the iconic original songs khaike pan and yeh Mera Dil.

While box office registers have started ringing again after a prolonged spell of pandemic, what Bollywood needs is a real blockbuster like Don to bring its business firmly back on the track.

Mumbai and Music

I have an ear for music right since my childhood thanks to my mother, who was a singer of some repute. There was musical atmosphere at our home in Delhi and musicians of various hues used to visit off and on. I, as a child, had one grand desire – to listen to Bollywood icons – Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Asha, Mukesh – performing live on the stage and this one thought used to attract me to this Mayanagari called Mumbai. Unfortunately, Mukesh died quite early in my adolescence and when I was still in my teens, Rafi bade adieu. Kishore was still there when I was about to turn professional and hoped to catch up on his live performance, if posted in Mumbai. Unfortunately, Kishore also died in 1987, while my first visit to Mumbai, albeit fleeting , happened in 1993. Of course, though a short visit, I made it a point to go to Pedder Road to see Prabhu Kunj, the abode of Lata , albeit from outside.

I finally shifted to Mumbai in 2001 by which time, Asha and especially Lata were already in retirement mode. Of course, the advantage of being in Mumbai was indeed availed of by me and I did get to witness live performances by quite a few icons – Salim Sulaiman, Bappi Lahiri, A R Rahman and above all my this generation favourite Sonu Nigam. But this is what makes Mumbai a magical place for the lovers of music, art and films. When you see Shankar Jaikishan Chowk, Laxmikant Chowk, Mohd Rafi Chowk, RD Burman Chowk and even N Dutta Lane, you can virtually hear the strains of music.

The idea of this article clicked to me when I read the news that Santoor maestro, Padam Vibhushan, all time great Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma expired at his Pali Hill residence. This is another loss to the musical scene of Mumbai after deaths of Lata , Bappi , Pt Jasraj ( I think he was in Pune) and now Pt Sharma in rather quick succession. May their legacy continue and May local administration continue to honour these greats by naming streets and chowks after them.

My name is Bond – James Bond

I laid my hands on the compendium of James Bond novels penned by Ian Fleming and started reading them one by one. Side by side I also decided to watch the movies on OTT based on the books that I read. It’s been a rather enjoyable experience and it’s very evident that James Bond movies, a few filmed as early as mid 60s and 70s, were well ahead of times as far as technology was concerned. And much before we had super heroes in Hollywood and he-men in Bollywood, we had James Bond, an evergreen action hero, a one man army who was virtually invincible.

Most amazingly, it seems that except the title and the very basic premise, the films are vastly different from the books these are based on. As I read somewhere, due to the time lag between the book and the movie, the plot of the movies was given twists and turns to make them more contemporary.

Four movies seen by me based on four books had 3 different artists playing Bond – Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig. Apart from these three, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, David Niven and Pierce Brosnan also played Bond at various points of time, though as per the popular verdict, Sean Connery, the first Bond remains the ultimate soul and heart of this famous fictional character.

Another fascinating feature of James Bond franchise is the theme song that would run along with the opening credits. Popular welsh singing Diva, Shirley Bassey sang three of the famous title songs for Goldfinger, Diamonds are forever and Moonraker. Now at the ripe age old of 86, Shirley Bassey performed live at BAFTA award night commemorating 60 years of James Bond franchise, the first movie Dr No having hit the screens in 1962. It’s amazing that how this super dame maintains the same high pitch in her voice and chutzpah in her performance, at an age when most of the people would find even walking and standing challenging.

There’s lot of other trivia around James Bond. How few of the recent films are actually not based on books authored by Ian Fleming but other ghost writers, how M, Bond’s boss got transformed from a gentleman to lady ( redoubtable Judi Dench making this character unforgettable) and how instances of a particular book have been used in different movies not based on that book etc.

But it’s been a remarkable franchise that has sustained viewers and readers interest even after 7 decades ( first book was written in 1954 while the movie came in 1962). Ian Fleming, the actors reprising the role of James Bond, Albert Broccoli, who bought the rights from Ian Fleming and of course the fictional character of James Bond are all etched in the golden annals of Hollywood.

Unconditional gratitude

I continue to receive thoughts expressed by the great Mahatria, courtesy my former colleague and friend, an ardent follower of the holy guru. What makes Mahatria a tad different from other gurus is the practicality of his teaching. All his teaching relates to our day to day life, relationships, conduct etc.

Today’s thought made a deep impression on my mind. It reads:

What your parents
‘do or do not do’
should never alter your gratitude for them.

I have come across several persons holding a childhood grudge – better opportunities provided to a sibling, higher study abroad not funded, no property inherited, deprivation from childhood pleasures due to strict attitude or insufficient means and the list is endless. I myself intended to go for higher studies and desired to make a career in academics, but had to abandon my studies for a job as my father was retiring soon and in middle class families, parents aimed at fulfilling familial responsibilities before stoppage of regular income.

However, Mahatria’s thought took me back to my childhood days reminding me of the sacrifices made by both my parents in bringing their children up. How they cut their own expenses and virtually lived on shoestring budget to fulfil our requirements to the best of their ability came in front of my eyes in a flash! And they never let their children experience the constraints that they underwent.

It’s foolish of children to accuse their parents of discriminating between siblings or holding any other form of grudge against them. Parents always live for their children and what they do or do not do can be attributed to their circumstances, but definitely not intent. Our gratitude towards our parents should be unconditional without any caveats. We seek peace and happiness and run to religious abodes but the same eludes us if we ignore our parents or are begrudged with them.

I bow my head before Mahatria for in our day to day struggle and rigmarole, we sometimes forget simple wisdom.

Six decades of existence

Born in early 60s, I have very faint and obscured memories of early childhood. I very vaguely remember the war of 1965, when we used to have blackouts and were expected to hide under the table should there be bombardment. I also remember being unwilling to go to my first school and my shift to Central School, where I had to repeat class 1.

70s were growing up years. I remember shortage of supplies and eventual imposition of emergency. The elections of 1977 and euphoria around Janta party are very well etched in my memory. In fact, that was my initiation into politics as we used to animatedly discuss the likelihood of Congress’s a debacle, a new thing for this nation. The decade also marked the end of my schooling.

80s marked my evolution from being a student to a professional, a child to an adult and a dependent into independent. It was action packed decade highlighted by success in becoming Probationary officer in State Bank, my marriage and fatherhood.

90s saw my transition from public sector to private sector and hard work to achieve my aspirations. It was a decade of mixed feelings – disappointment, disenchantment, regret interspersed with happy phases.

And then there was start of the new century. The first decade of the 21st century was perhaps the best, highlighted by professional excellence, career progression, asset acquisition, financial gains and was in a way sort of the peak phase.

In a sense the second decade of the new century was continuation of the journey of the previous decade, with more material gains, marriage of my daughter, birth of my grandsons and attempt to make future more secured.

And now the third decade of the century is the one during which I complete my six decades of existence. I retire professionally after superannuating next month. It’s an important milestone of this journey called life!

Next decade will mark the next inning and I don’t want to slow down but to continue with the same zeal as the previous decades.

I don’t think that there’s anything unique or exclusive about my journey so far and the aspirations that I hold for the next innings. I think it’s same for the most of us, but the need is to come out of the rut and try and leave some imprint on this world. Let’s see how it spans out.