Mahatria shows the way to happiness

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference

Mahatria’s thoughts continue to enamour me for these comprise deep philosophy expressed in simple words. As I have explained in my earlier blogs, my old friend Nachiappan, who is on a life transformation journey under Mahatria’s influence, continues to enrich my life by sharing Mahatria’s thoughts daily. Today’s thought reads:

“When I resist, what is happening continues to happen, creating misery in me.

When I accept, what is happening continues to happen, leaving me blissful.”

And the above is indeed my experience as it has helped me soothe my frayed nerves so often. Not going too far back, Covid pandemic really caused panic and worry and it agitated me, creating misery in me. Then I thought that neither was I the cause of this pandemic nor could I do much about except for observing the normal precautions. Yet I suffered Covid and recovered out of it too! Once I accepted this worldwide phenomenon, I became at peace with me.

The current political situation in the country, be it ongoing farmers’ agitation or ensuing Bengal elections, caused restlessness and worry ! The very thought of election related violence in West Bengal or Khalistani proponents behind farmers agitation made me miserable. Then I thought, who wants Khalistan and whether a fistful of misguided protagonists can even touch the communal fabric of the country that is woven around the principles of brotherhood and freedom ! Muslims understand, Sikhs understand and Hindus understand – India is their motherland and their fate and well being is connected to the destiny of this country! Who are these handful of misdirected people to cause any anxiety ?

I am at peace now. It doesn’t mean inaction. I will continue to contribute to the oneness of India in my own humble way; but by accepting the happenings around me, I am blissful rather than miserable!

Pranam Mahatria for the path shown by you is helping millions like me to lead a better life!

Bollywood Music post the era of RD BURMAN

In 2001, we shifted to Mumbai and fixed up accommodation in a residential complex in four Bungalows, Andheri. Just behind the complex wall was a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. While the temple was relatively non descript by the usual standards of temples in our country, it had an almost iconic status as this was the place where in 1997 Music baron, owner of T series, Gulshan Kumar was gunned down by some contact killers. Gulshan Kumar ran for his life and his driver also tried to save his life, but Gulshan Kumar succumbed to his injury at young age of 41 years leaving behind his shocked family and a vast musical empire.

The reason for the above tragic incident suddenly coming to my mind is the last episode of Indian Idol telecasted last Saturday and Sunday in which participants sang songs originally rendered by Kumar Saanu, Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. These were the songs of 90s and the first decade of this century. And while there were songs composed by music directors popular during that period namely Jatin-Lalit, Anand-Milind, Anu Malik etc, more than 75% songs that were sung in these two episodes were composed by Nadeem Shravan, the music duo that ruled the roost post LP, RD, KA and Bappi era! The duo’s flourishing career came to an abrupt end when Nadeem Saifi of Nadeem Shravan duo fled the country to England to escape being charged with murder conspiracy of Gulshan Kumar.

The aforesaid tragic incident led to breaking up of Nadeem Shravan duo and this ended a musical journey of more than a decade that brought us soulful music of such blockbusters as Deewana , Aashiqui, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin, Raja Hindustani, Saajan, Sadak, Phool Aur Kaante – actually the list is quite long and formidable. The duo won 4 Filmfare best music directors awards, with three in a row in the years 1991, 1992 and 1993.

The duo can be credited for having brought the melody back into the Bollywood music that suffered badly in 80s and early 90s with maestros like RDB, LP and Bappi Lahiri going into oblivion. And they didn’t have a Kishore, Rafi or Mukesh at their disposal, with Lata and Asha also becoming more selective and less prolific. But the ditties they created mainly with Udit, Saanu and Alka in 90s and early part of this century were brought back to us along with old memories and unbridled joy thanks to the last episodes of Indian Idol.

I wish that artists could only focus on their activity instead of indulging in non artistic themes! This is the lesson as in spite of their glorious work, no body remembers or at least wishes to remember or mention the name of the duo.

Nothingness or emptiness

These are testing times for the mankind. Coronavirus has created situations that were simply unimaginable till the pandemic hit the world. Though the strain seems to have weakened and is not communicable the way it was when it first hit and also the chances of people recovering from it have improved manifold, its departure still seems some distance away.

While physical suffering due to coronavirus had been unprecedented- my wife got infected, followed by me and now my octogenarian mother; but mercifully all of us came out relatively unscathed. Of course, due to her age, my mother required hospitalisation, but I must confess that I was a lot worried about her because Corona has been particularly harsh on senior citizens. However, more than physical suffering, it has been mental agony that’s becoming increasingly more unbearable. February is the month when we go to South Africa to be with our daughter’s family, but this time neither there are flights nor SA as a destination is advisable for a new mutant of Covid seems to have originated from there. It’s been more than a year when we last met our two little grandkids and don’t know when shall we meet them next! My mother, who stays in Delhi, has not seen me for more than a year and I couldn’t be by her side when Corona struck her. And there are stories galore – my wife’s sister comes to India twice a year from Singapore but hasn’t been here for more than year and half and that includes not been able to join funeral of her brother, who succumbed to cancer during Corona period. And my uncle’s annual visit to India from US et al! And this is not unique to us. So many of our colleagues and acquaintances have their children abroad and Corona has separated all of them!

Offices have opened, so have clubs and restaurants. Last week after more than 1 year, we had guests at our place, which shows people have started visiting each other, at least locally. We do see people in shopping malls and bazaars. Maharashtra government is opening local trains for all from tomorrow. Above all vaccination has gathered pace. But the life is far from being normal. It once again brings us back to the theme of one of my recent blogs that had translated work from an Urdu article, which was titled – there’s everything yet nothing ! That strange feeling of nothingness or emptiness seems to be prevailing in spite all seemingly coming back to normal.

Life seems to be teaching this lesson

Not once but again and again

Man had conquered distances and overpowered nature

But now he’s facing the nature’s game !!!

Irony of modern life

Read a very thought provoking article published in an Urdu daily written by redoubtable Hassan Nisar. It’s title read “ Sab kucch hai or Kucch bhi nahin” loosely translatable as “ there’s everything yet nothing”. As I have maintained, capturing the spirit of any story or article originally published in another language while translating the piece into English is not at all easy, especially given my limited knowledge of the beautiful Urdu language; but as the country celebrated its 72nd Republic Day yesterday and there was unfortunate incidents of rioting in New Delhi yesterday, the relevance of the article assumes added importance. Of course, the article is long and I am translating only a part of it, but hopefully, it conveys the sense by capturing the spirit.

There’s everything yet nothing

Is it all a scam, a forgotten dream or a mystery? There is boat but no oars and oars but no boat; If both are there, there’s no river and if river is there it’s totally dry! Night is sleepless and even if one sleeps there are no dreams; dreams, if there, are inexplicable! Government is there but no rulers and if rulers are there, where is government? Patients are there but no physicians attending to them and if doctors are there, there are no patients; if both are there, where’s the medicine and even if medicine is there, it’s spurious! Eyes are sans vision, brain sans insight! Track is there but no train, train is without track and if both are there, where is the station? Heart has no empathy, eyes no shame, head no ideas and tongue is speechless! Market has no customers, customers have no money and money has no buying power! Path has no destination and if both are are there, no one is traversing that path! We live but where’s life and we die, but death eludes us! Child has no childhood and young are deprived of youth! Wires have no current, taps run dry! Governor is doing no governance, sugar has no sweetness ! Sun has no rays and moon is without moonlight, rain is sans showers and trees are no longer providing shade!

The article goes on to describe a few more haves having have nots and towards the end the author picks up folklore of Heer Ranjha, shirin Farhad and Sassi Punnu to conclusively bring out the irony of today!

I found the thought to be highly coaxing and provocative when on the face of it, we seemingly have everything yet in real sense are bereft of all due to our preoccupation with material assets and rat race to rise higher and possess more! We need to just look around feel the warmth of the sun and appreciate the beauty of moonlit night and leaves of tress shining in it!

Even entertainment channels can overwhelm

Today’s episode of Indian Idol is something to be relished and cherished for long long time to come – a collector’s episode indeed! Telecast on the eve of our country’s 71st Republic Day, the theme was nationalism or more pronouncedly patriotism and the mood was understandably sombre though proud.

And while the special audience comprising jawans of CRPF and other dignitaries lent an aura and grace to the occasion, the life of the programme certainly was new generation poet and lyricist par excellence Manoj Muntashir . His poetry at the start of the programme and then before each of the performances gave goosebumps and I, being a connoisseur and admirer of poetry would admit unabashedly that I haven’t heart such impacting, touching and patriotic poetry in long long time. His words made heart heavy, eyes moist and yet head held high with pride.

And what stories – whether it was Havaldar Ansur who got hit by four bullets in his leg in an anti-terrorist operation or bravado of Major Mohit Sharma who slaughtered four terrorists before attaining martyrdom, awarded Ashok chakra posthumously, Kler family that has served the nation for 300 years or the grandfather (Nana) of one of the contestants, who armed the fighter planes that sortied to destroy enemy destinations, it was amply clear that bravery of our brave hearts is no ordinary matter and what makes our country and our forces so special- it’s because we don’t attack but fight for truth and justice and that’s why our civilisation has seen it all and survived to see a new day and no evil force in the world dare doubt this strength of ours!

Almost all the singers sang from their heart and got emotionally overawed by the occasion. The host Aditya Narayan was expectedly understated and three judges – Neha, Vishal and Himesh were at their gracious best, but the programme belonged to our brave hearts, our great nation and of course, Manoj Muntashir !

Congratulations Sony Entertainment Television and the content director for creating such an impactful episode that wrenched the heart yet made it felt proud and I am sure this will be watched over YouTube and Sony requested to rerun it for long time to come!

It was truly overwhelming!

Narendra Chanchal – Maan’s most beloved son

Showman Raj Kapoor was a shattered man post debacle of his dream song Mera Naam Joker. He thought he had made a classic a masterpiece, but the box office thought otherwise.

Of course, he was too big and too engrossed a filmmaker to have shut shop and he decided to go back to his familiar terrain of making a love story, but with new theme, new actors, new team of lyricist, music directors and new singers. So, he made Bobby, a love story set on the theme of rich boy meets poor girl with an added twist of interfaith love, cast his younger son Rishi, barely out of his teens as hero with 15 years old Dimple as heroine, brought in the then happening lyricist Anand Bakshi and changed his long time trusted music duo of Shankar Jaikishan with Laxmikant Pyarelal. He also needed a fresh voice for his son Rishi and we heard mint fresh voice of Shailendra Singh, but the biggest hit song amongst the blockbusters such as main shayar to nahin, hum tum ik kamre main band hon, main mayke chali jaaoongi was Beshak mandir masjid todo sung by then relatively unknown Narendra Chanchal. Of course, we Delhiites knew Narendra Chanchal for he had already established himself as a highly popular crowd puller jagran singer – for the uninitiated, jagran is night long chanting of devotional songs in praise of sheranwali maan or Vaishnodevi, a manifestation of Mother Durga. And Narendra Chanchal was the undisputed king of the stage, such was Maan’s blessing on him!

I know all this because as some of my readers know, my mother in her hey days was a celebrated singer and amongst other events, there was a time when she was very active in singing in such jagrans. I distinctly remember she paying heartfelt tributes to Narendra Chanchal. She had the good fortune of sharing the stage with the great man on couple of occasions and she’d tell how Chanchal mesmerised the devotees, transporting them to a different planet where they could virtually realise the mother or have a sakshatkar of mother as would be more appropriate!

I made a mention of his Bollywood debut by that gem of a song that earned him coveted Filmfare award for the best playback singer. He intermittently flirted with Bollywood, but as I heard, he was unavailable to the music directors for he was always occupied with his first love – devotion to maan ! He visited Katra – abode of the divine Ma Vaishnodevi, every year on the last day of December to sing the paeans of Maan on the new year. His biography “ Midnight Singer” narrates his journey and as the name says, singing for whole night and that too night after night, especially during auspicious period of Navratri, is no mean job and Chanchal whose scale of singing was extremely high electrified the audience to keep them glued and soaked in devotion.

He was unwell for last 2-3 months but I am sure he has gone to her beloved mother whose paeans he sang all his life without getting distracted by anything else!

RIP Narendra Chanchal! For as and when devotees pray to their beloved mother, memories of Narendra Chanchal’s bhents ( as the devotional songs sung in mother’s honours are famously known as ) will remain alive in their hearts!

Winner takes it all

I just received a video post forwarded to me by my friend. This in fact is a clipping from Pakistani media appreciating India’s great victory yesterday at Gabba. In fact, the presenter is very generous in praising the fighting spirit and character of this young, relatively inexperienced Indian team. He picks out Mohammed Siraj, Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundaram for their great show and their contribution in defeating Australia at their home by winning the test as also series and retaining Gavaskar- Border trophy.

Siraj reminds me of another great fighter and spirited bowler Mohammad Shami. Lion hearted Shami gave that added edge to Indian fast bowling, which now has the likes of Bumrah, Ishant, Umesh and the new crop of pacers Shardul, Siraj, Navdeep Saini and Natarajan. I do not recall any other instance of Indian team having so much depth in its pace bowling department and in fact, spoilt for choices.

I remember those days when the fast bowlers, mainly all rounders, who could bat a bit – Abid Ali, Madan Lal, Mohinder Amarnath, Ghavri etc were expected to bowl a couple of overs to make the ball slightly more easy to grip for spinners, who would come after 5-6 overs and formed the main attack. It was Kapil Dev, the first genuine fast bowler, who changed the game and who inspired a generation of fast bowlers like Chetan Sharma, Javagal Srinath, Prasad, Munaf etc. And look at the choice today, with so many other pacers sitting on the sidelines awaiting their chance.

The performance like one in Australia that swung from humiliation to full glory has two important lessons. First that we should be more consistent and second we should keep top 30-35 players in state of readiness by regularly rotating them so that seniors don’t burn out and juniors are not rusted.

Congratulations once again to Team India. It has certainly brought laurels to the country and zing back into Test cricket!

It’s 2-1 in favour of India

I was not even a teenager when India was all out for 42 in their second innings of second test match of the series at the historic ground of Lords in the year 1974. As aforesaid, I was very young but several times more passionate about the game of cricket than I am today. The nation was shocked at the humiliating performance by its national team and I distinctly remember the deep distress I felt and that I skipped a meal that day!

Fast forward it to 2020-21 India’s tour of Australia and dismal performance by Kohli’s heroes in the first test by being out at a paltry score of 36 and I won’t say that I didn’t feel bad, but the feeling was nowhere close to that passion of 1974! And today at enigmatic Gabba, a youthful and bruised India’s historic victory by scoring rather difficult 326 for victory in the 4th innings has healed whatever shallow wound I had when they scored 36 a few weeks ago! And we have new heroes – Pujara is new Dravid, Rahane new VVS and Rishabh new Dhoni. And what to say about new stars Siraj , Washington and Natarajan! It also shows the depth and width of Indian cricket, where almost a B team convincingly defeated all star Australian outfit!

Incidentally, the above victory also reminds me of another glorious victory by Indian team against a mighty West Indies consisting of Lloyd, Viv Richards, Greenidge, Kalicharan at Port of Spain in 1976 by chasing 403, first time any team scoring victory by chafing 400+ runs! And against pace battery of West Indies, many players were battered and bruised like what happened at Gabba this time!

Congratulations Ajinkya Rahane and his brave hearts for gratifying the hearts of Indians!

Three cheers for Covid vaccine

Vaccination drive has started all over the world, including in India. We should all be proud to be a nation where vaccination has commenced along with the major counties of the world, most prominently US. And we should salute those who have done this proud to us – Serum Institute that’s manufacturing covishield under licence from University of Oxford and Astra Zeneca at its Pune facility and covaxin by Bharat Biotech at its Hyderabad facility. These two companies have given India a head start over those countries that are looking up to manufacturing countries for their share. India has a large population of its own and covering the entire population with vaccination is not going to be an easy job, but simultaneously India will have to do philanthropy to fulfil the requirements of other countries, especially the friendly ones. This we all saw when at the personal request of President Trump, India diverted its home supply of hydroxychloroquine to US, a gesture that earned India a worldwide goodwill.

It’s most unfortunate that this proud moment for the country is not being celebrated and instead this issue is getting quagmired in needless political controversy! As a nation, we seemed to have forgotten all the good things! We are critical of aarogya Setu, do not feel confident about India’s own vaccine, are unhappy with the way government is tackling the economic aftermath of Covid 19 etc. But the worst is that we do not even celebrate valour of Indian forces – whether it’s surgical strike or our brave heart’s befitting response to Chinese aggression!

We as a nation seem to be hitting the new low as far as divergence of views is concerned – we don’t agree on farm bills, on article 370, on love jihad, on Ram mandir, but more worryingly on the acts of bravery of our armed forces. Let’s not fall prey to this political gimmick but remain united as a nation. Let’s worry about our farmers but celebrate the country’s vaccination drive.

Where’s my morning staple- my newspaper?

Enthused by the reaction to my previous blog on the newspapers being another casualty of Covid 19, I am encouraged to write another blog on newspapers.

Many readers reacted by naming the daily they either read in their childhood or youth or adored. One reader told me about Tribune, Chandigarh, a newspaper once edited by highly respectable Prem Bhatia. In fact, there was a time when not only the newspaper, but the editors at the helm of these popular dailies acquired almost cult status. Redoubtable Khushwant Singh, after Illustrated Weekly, came to edit Hindustan Times and elevated its popularity to unprecedented heights. His weekly column, “ With malice towards one and all” appearing in the Saturday editions lent the required chutzpah to otherwise drab and serious national dailies. My grandfather loved Girilal Jain, who steered Times of India for many years. He used to especially borrow copy of Statesman from his neighbour to read editorials by S Nihal Singh. And who can forget columnists and cartoonists? If R K Laxman remained incomparable, Sudhir Dar, Mario Miranda and Abu Abraham were equally formidable.

In Mumbai, TOI has remained numero uno all along and HT was a late entrant. Indian Express ( before family division) was a formidable competitor. In Delhi, HT led the number game, though TOI, through its innovative strategy, almost overthrew HT from the top slot. But once Delhi did have respected newspapers like Indian Express and Statesman that had their dedicated set of readers. I also loved Patriot that had two three pages dedicated to Bollywood. There was also National Herald and later Pioneer. Kolkata had duopoly of Statesman and Telegraph though TOI, a late entrant disrupted the market. HT also entered Kolkata market to further wean away the share from the older publications. Chennai had its Hindu, which later started Gurgaon edition through satellite, though Deccan Herald and Indian Express were formidable too.

Mumbai, probably due to train culture , also had a number of mid morning tabloids – Afternoon Courier and Despatch, Mid Day ( still there) and Evening News ( it had a Delhi edition too! ) and then there were publications like Blitz that were most respected.

And here I am not at all talking of vernacular dailies that were loved ( and a few are still lapped up by readers) and I would place Ananda Bazaar Patrika ahead of all others for its literary bent! Probably vernacular dailies deserve a separate blog on them.

Today except an economist par excellence, Swaminathan Anklesria Aiyer, who heads ET, I don’t think anyone remembers the editors of eminent dailies.

It’s part of the change. Who ever thought print media will lose battle to electronic media? Who waits for the morning newspaper to break a news? All the news appear so stale having been acquainted with the fact hours ago thanks to internet alerts! Except for a habituated and connoisseurs of language and activities such as crossword, sudoku. Word jumble, kakuro and cartoon strips ( Blondie and Archie are my favourites) like me, who I presume are handful, newspapers seem to be close to their demise! Or may be I am at a stage of my life when nostalgia of the past is more overwhelming than the future happenings!