Rest in peace the king of melodies – Khayyam

Mohammed Zahur Hashmi, more popularly known by his adopted name “Khayyam” expired on Monday night leaving behind his grieving wife Jagjeet Kaur and millions of admirers of his soulful music. His work, spanning over a career of almost 70 years, may not be quantitatively very large, but if a composer is to be assessed on the number of classic songs in the entire repertory, Khayyam’s name will appear numero uno!

The recognition and glory didn’t come to him easily. He had to almost wait to reach his midlife before Kabhi Kabhie happened to him! A love saga spanning generations, Khayyam scored a masterpiece by composing all time classics like the title song and my personal favourite, ” main pal do pal ka shayar hoon” for one generation and ever popular and foot tapping ” chahe chale chhurian” and “tere chehre se nazar nahin hatti” for the next generation and he had the nation swooning to his numbers. Seldom in the history of Indian cinema music of a film has been celebrated the way Kabhi Kabhie’s music was , another instance coming to my mind being Pakeezah. Incidentally, if the folklore is to be believed, Khayyam and Jagjeet had facilitated a truce between Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari that led to release of Pakeezah some 10-12 years after start of its production. How Pakeezah won the hearts of cinegoers is a well documented fact and the movie remains an all time favourite classic movie of Bollywood !

Post Kabhi Kabhie came the finest phase for Khayyam when he was at his prolific and mellifluous best composing ditties for blockbuster movies such as Trishul, Noorie, Sawaal, Bazaar, Khandaan, Dard, Thodi Si Bewafai, Razia Sultan etc. The beauty lied in the fact that all these were original compositions based on our rich legacy of traditional folk and ragas and not imitation of previously recorded music. However, a specific mention must be made of “Umrao Jaan”, story of a Lucknow courtesan that gave an altogether different meaning to popular genre of ghazals. Whether it was Dil Cheez Kya hai or justju jiski thi or in aankhon ki masti ke, these compositions by Khayyam rendered soulfully by Asha have acquired cult status. No wonder both Khayyam and Asha won National film award for their respective contribution.

As the Bollywood music changed its mood again to fast beat westernised influence, a fiercely independent minded composer like Khayyam found himself to be misfit in a scenario requiring him to compromise his music! His later years were spent mostly composing music for stray private album or tv serials. In 2012, he faced a personal tragedy when their only son Pradeep died of a heart attack at a very young age. Inspired by their son’s helpful nature, a trust called “Khayyam Jagjeet Kaur Charitable Trust” was set up to help artists and technicians in need.

Someone just sent me a beautiful number sung by Lata from the movie Shankar Hussain ” Aap Yun Faaslon se”. This movie also featured an all time Rafi classic ” Kahin ek masoom nazuk si ladki” and one cannot but wonder how many heart touching, melodious and yet original compositions this non-assuming, simple but disciplined maverick could create in his lifetime. He could have done more work, earned more money and won more laurels, but he worked where he found personal happiness and satisfaction and not mere outward recognition.

It was a life well lived Khayyam Sahab! You may rest in peace in your grave, but your music will continue to spread happiness and peace to your millions of fans!

Happy Parsi New Year

Parsis or Zoroastrians, as they are called, are a very small and fast dwindling community. However, in spite of their small number, the history of the community is replete with the heroics of its followers. Whether it’s freedom fighter Dadabhai Nauroji, father of industrialisation in India Jamsetji Tata, father of aviation in India JRD Tata or father of atomic energy Homi Sethna, the community can certainly be accused of producing high quality individuals if not in high quantity! It’s certainly the influence of this community on the social fabric that Navroze becomes almost a community celebration rather than a religion specific festival.

Indian Parsis go by the Shahnameh legend that attributes the foundation of Nowruz to the mythical Iranian King Jamshid, who saves mankind from a winter destined to kill every living creature. To defeat the killer winter, Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat, shining like the Sun. The world’s creatures gathered and scattered jewels around him and proclaimed that this was the New Day (Now Ruz). This was the first day of Farvardin, which is the first month of the Iranian calendar. the celebration of the New Year! Among other ideas, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion that emphasizes broad concepts such as the corresponding work of good and evil in the world, and the connection of humans to nature. Zoroastrian practices were dominant for much of the history of ancient Iran. In Zoroastrianism, according to history, it seems that Navroje with deep doctrinal significance, was founded by Zoroaster himself.

It marks a new beginning and is celebrated with much fervour. People clean and decorate their homes, dress up in traditional attires, and visit fire temples to pray for prosperity and seek forgiveness for their sins. Food forms a big part of the day, and the community comes together to celebrate over sumptuous dishes. Traditional Parsi delicacies like dhansak, meethi sev dahi, prawns, farcha, machchi no patio, berry pulao, lagan nu custard are prepared as part of the festivities. In every home, the haftseen table is decorated with seven items – since seven is considered a lucky number. Each item begins with the letter sin (s) in Persian, and each item is a symbol of spring and renewal, including:

Seeb (apple), representing beauty

Seer (garlic), representing good health

Serkeh (vinegar), representing patience

Sonbol (hyacinth), representing spring

Samanu (sweet pudding), representing fertility

Sabzeh (sprouts), representing rebirth

Sekeh (coins), representing prosperity

Mumbai has Parsi foot prints all over from the presence of Bombay House, the corporate house of Tatas, to dedicated townships/community living of Parsis ( Parsi colony, Behram Baug, Cusrow baug etc) to Parsi cuisine restaurants to Parsi educational institutions (Maneckji Cooper) to fire temples to iconic buildings, hospitals and landmarks that bedeck the city.

Navroze is not only Parsi festival, it’s essence captures the ethos of Parsi community celebrating their culture, contribution, cuisine and the very survival. Happy Navroze.

Proprietor and partners or captain and team members?

My friend and colleague Balwinder Singh has authored a very stimulating article in LinkedIn titled “Proprietor and partners of progress – a view in corporate world”. He has very deftly used the connotation of proprietor for the corporate CEO responsible for running the show and that of partners for the workforce.

In the past, we were quite used to hearing the words “Lala’s company” for companies/ businesses run by promoters themselves doubling up as the CEO. Here as the promoter had his own money invested in the venture, he preferred centralisation of decision making, with others merely executing the strategy. Although, the companies promoted by such promoters were at times very large with multiple units and products, they still remained Lala companies.

However, as times changed and things became more competitive, these family run companies felt the need to professionalise. While retaining the financial control, several next generation family members felt the need to bring in professionals in key positions, including CEO, CFO and CCO. As these professionals desired to run the company in their own way, free hand was given to them.

The above mentioned professionals such as Pawan Goenka of M&M, Salil Parekh of Infosys, CP Gurnani of Tech Mahindra, Abid Neemuchwala of WIPRO or for that matter N Chandrasekaran of TATA are all powerful non-promoters who call shots in their respective organisations, but still cannot be called Proprietors in the sense used in Balwinder’s article. Even for that matter institutionally and widely held companies that have very strong professionals CEOs , cannot claim that these are like proprietors for a very strong oversight on them by their own boards and regulator.

Payouts to CEOs, especially in terms of the multiple of mean salary within the organisation, has been a matter debated since long, but ultimately in a free market, everything gets rightly priced by the dynamic market forces.

This blog is not a contrarian view of Balwinder’s brilliant article; it just tries to play devil’s advocate to explore other aspect of why even the most powerful professional CEOs may still fall short of being a ” Proprietor” in the sense used by my friend or in the parlance of “Lala companies” mostly of yore!

What companies probably need is a leader who is visionary, strategist, go getter, aggressive, hands on, progressive, ambition, expansionist, large hearted and compassionate ! At what price such a CEO comes then becomes immaterial and workforce feels inspired to give its best under such a leader!

Dharmayudh

I had come across this post a few days ago and this attracted my attention once more when someone sent it again to me yesterday. It reads:

It beautifully captures the essence of the impact of modern technology on our lives. The post assumed an added significance for me as I added the following line to it:

When cancer was just a sun sign and not a life threatening ailment. This immediately touched the chords of the heart of my family that’s undergoing trauma as my brother-in-law is currently undergoing treatment for metastatic lymphoma.

However, the post is not being written to share personal agony with the readers but to highlight how the technology is converting real tigers into paper tigers or more appropriately “Twitter tigers”. While India and Pakistan are currently undergoing a renewed round of animosity following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35(a) by India and the borders are very tense with the two forces regularly exchanging fires and causing casualties on each other’s camps, on Twitter it’s a full fledged war! Doctored video posts, extremely vulgar language, discourtesy to each other’s heroes and icons – it’s all happening on Twitter. It seems that war is a game that children play and nuclear warfare should be used to obliterate the enemy. It was all along said that the war mongering between India and Pakistan was more of a political matter and that the citizenry of the two countries had much of the love for each other- including each other’s arts and artists! But whosoever said that technology has brought the mankind closer couldn’t have been more wrong if the current mood on the Twitter is an indication! It’s causing an unbridgeable chasm between the people of two neighbours. Whether political debates on tv news channels or conversations on social media, especially Twitter, it seems the days of constructive, reasoned, logical and intelligent interactions are permanently over and while armies may not fight today or tomorrow, war on tv and Twitter is already a full fledged battle!

India, being a super power and believer in the philosophy of Dharmayudh, fighting only the war based on principles, need not take cognisance of this frustration filled reaction of a few rabid fanatics. Let us continue to spread the message of peace and love that comes so naturally to us being the land of Rama, Krishna, Mahavir, Buddha, Sufi saints and Mother Teresa. If war is imposed on us, we have enough might to win any Dharmayudh.

Independence Day greetings from Israel

Israel, the state of Israel’s official Twitter handle has wished India on its 73rd Independence Day in 4 languages- English, Hindi, Kannada and Marathi. It has gladdened the hearts of Indians.

Israel is a unique country in more than one sense. The only Jewish state in the world, it’s surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip. It perpetually lives on the edge due to prolonged territorial dispute with Arab world. While the state was created out of delineation of Palestine with the consent of the Arab world, they refused to recognise its existence. Israel in turn forcibly occupied Palestinian Territories of Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights. The survival of the state of Israel in the midst of hostile Arab states is the stuff folklores are made of ! Of course, sustained and open support by US and Camp David agreement with Egypt brokered by US helped Israel no end to channelise its resources towards development. Today, it’s a superpower, very superior in technology, exporter of modern ammunition and has a very very strong military intelligence.

It has enjoyed good relations with India all along and openly supported India’s stand on various issues. In contrast, due to its own good relations with Arab world, India has been rather careful and discreet. But there’s no doubt that active cooperation between the two superpowers is absolutely critical to peace and stability, with several unstable nations surrounding both the countries.

Long live Indo-Israel friendship!

Success or failure- Trying is important

Girte hain sheh-sawaar hi maidaan-e-jang mein

woh tifl kya gire ga jo ghutnon ke bal chale

The above popular piece of Urdu poetry can be aptly summed up as, ” only those who try fail; weaklings can only crawl.” The above piece came to my mind while thinking about Modi 2.0 Government. It picked up pace in the very first few days of assuming power by presenting a budget (not too market friendly but aimed at inclusiveness), passing the bill making triple talaq illegal and above all abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 (a).

India being a democratic free state, there are views in favour of and against these acts by Government – budget, triple talaq and 370/35(a). However, you may love Modi 2.0 or hate, you cannot accuse it of inaction. The man at the helm has shown exemplary courage and grit in taking these tough decisions that previous governments kept in abeyance. He may fail in some and win a few, but you cannot blame him for not doing anything!

Let me tell his detractors- Modi offers the best hope for solving all long standing disputes – territorial issues with Pakistan and China, water dispute between states and Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute. He has the will, courage and above all the support of millions of common Indian citizens, who do not measure their well being on Sensex or automobile industry recession but on actions by the Government that have the potential of addressing long term structural changes.

In contrast, the major opposition party has managed to elect interim President by bringing back Sonia, making noise against the good deeds by Government that did not resonate anywhere else and set a new record by abstinence of its senior leaders at Independence Day function.

My request to Modi 2.0 is to act firmly against the anti social elements- mob lynchers, child molesters, hate mongers, economic offenders and other law breakers in general. Since taking over PM has made all the right noises – inclusiveness, population control, equality etc. Let’s hope he builds New India with development, growth, tolerance and environment as the main agendas ; a country bereft of age old problems !

Independence Day, Rakshabandhan and Kashmir

This Independence Day is unique as it coincides with Rakshabandhan, festival of love, affection, sacrifice and reaffirmation of faith in relationships. The day also becomes extra special as we celebrate inclusion of Kashmir into mainstream India, requiring spreading of love and affection to Kashmiris on becoming inseparable part of Indian federalism.

The story of Independence is rather straightforward to be summed up as freedom from 200 years of oppressive British rule albeit with partition of the country into India and Pakistan, with Kashmir’s accession happening subsequently albeit that too with partition between Kashmir and POK. This story of accession of Kashmir has been discussed in one of my earlier blogs. However, the story of Rakshabandhan, the festival of relationships and affection marked by tying thread of love, Rakhi, by sisters on the wrists of their brothers, is more complex as written in lores. According to the most ancient lore, Uttara Parva of the Bhavishya Purana, Lord Krishna describes to Yudhishthira the ritual of having a raksha (protection) tied to his right wrist by the royal priest (the rajpurohit) on the purnima (full moon day) of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Shravana). In the crucial passage, Lord Krishna says, Parth (Yudhishthira): When the sky is covered with clouds, and the earth dark with new, tender, grass, in that very Shravana month’s full moon day, at the time of sunrise, according to remembered convention, a Brahmin should take a bath with perfectly pure water. That very day, in the early afternoon (between noon and 3 PM) it is commended that a small parcel (bundle or packet) be prepared from a new cotton or silk cloth and adorned with whole grains of rice or barley, small mustard seeds, and red ocher powder, and made exceedingly wondrous, be placed in a suitable dish or receptacle. … the purohit should bind this packet on the king’s wrist with the words,’I am binding raksha (protection) to you with the same true words with which I bound Mahabali King of the Asuras. Always stay firm in resolve.’

However, apart from the above there are several other folklores behind this festival of affection and respect between brothers and sisters. And today when this festival falls on the Independence Day, what better gesture can a grateful nation display other than tying Rakhi, the thread of love and affection on the wrists of its soldiers, the protectors of this nation, who are facing the enemy and the disguised enemy day in day out. The stories of their martyrdom for the sake of our country and citizens give us goose bumps. Whatever we have been able to do today – Balakot, Abhinandan’s return, abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 (a), strong independent stand on Kashmir aftermath the aforesaid act of abrogation are all due to the might and courage of our protectors! May on this Independence Day, when free India turns 72, our protectors accept our gratitude in the form of Rakhi and may this country of saints, sufis and great personalities always holds its head high, with an unfurled tricolour flying higher than any other flag in this world!

Happy Independence Day and Rakshabandhan.