What a tragic change!

India has large population and its towns and cities are very densely populated. As a consequence, even local transportation in these towns and cities is crowded. When a pandemic as infectious as Corona first struck India, controlling it was always going to be a challenge for the aforesaid reasons. However, the Nation responded with utmost obedience, though many sections of the society, especially the migrant labourers, suffered a lot. People stayed indoors, maintained social distancing to the extent possible ( avoided social gatherings and parties) and dutifully wore mask. Though India had large number of cases, but the rate per million was lower than several advanced nations and deaths were fewer indeed. Doctors seemed to have come to grips with virus, Covid treatment facilities were created and India was amongst the few nations to be working on two vaccines – one fully indigenous and the other under licence from Astra Zeneca. The entire world lauded India’s handling of the pandemic. In fact many countries, including US, sought India’s support for drugs ( Hydroxyl chloroquine) and medical personnel.

And then we as a nation decided to celebrate our victory over Corona, albeit a bit prematurely. While the lockdown was lifted in phases, people threw caution to winds as if there was no tomorrow ! They flocked to malls, restaurants and started partying hard! But I think it started with Holi celebrations. The way it was celebrated in its traditional strongholds of Mathura, Vrindavan and Varanasi demonstrated as if people were deprived of playing this festival of colours for ages. Holi was still one day, but the way crowded election rallies happened in 4 states and 1 UT, the same proved to be the final nail in the coffin! Thousands of people thronged to election rallies and Corona protocol went for a toss! This was not all ! Kumbh snan clearly proved that in spite of fatalistic essence of Corona, religion in our country was still paramount!

And look at the outcome of all the above! It’s a crisis unprecedented! India is suddenly making new records of daily infections ( already touching 4 L per day) and deaths ( 3500+ each day). Medical facilities have crumbled, essential drugs vanished from the market, oxygen is in severe short supply and crematoriums and burial grounds are out of capacity leading to queuing up of dead bodies for funeral !

Once a country at the top of Corona, India today looks a hapless victim with international community rushing essential drugs, oxygen plants and other materials! The vaccine maker is unable to vaccinate its population and looking at importing vaccines to fulfil demand. Suddenly a country extending help to the world has become a recipient of the world’s aid and sympathy.

I have no clue as to how this pandemic will be controlled and when it will end? More important concern is that how many families will lose their nears and dears by that time!

Let’s look skywards for salvation!

Life and death

Popular characters from Charles Schulz cartoon strip, Peanuts, Charlie Brown tells his companion, Snoopy, the cute dog, “ Some day we will all die, Snoopy.” In response, Snoopy says, “ True. But on all the other days, we will not.”

Narayan Dhabadkar, an 85 year old senior citizen undergoing Covid treatment in a Nagpur Hospital couldn’t see plight of a lady begging hospital authorities for a bed for her husband who was in a critical state. Mr Dhabadkar got up from his bed and requested hospital authorities to allot his bed to the lady’s husband. When the doctors reminded him of his own critical position, he said, “ At 85 years, I have lived my life. This lady’s husband is much younger and needs to live.” The senior citizen expired at his residence three days later, but in his death he taught all of us the lesson of life.

Snoopy’s statement in Peanuts and the news item on the senior citizen have really changed my perspective of life. We all have to die one day, but on all the other days, we should learn to live life and savour each moment that we breathe. Mr Dhabadkar has taught us about the worth of our lives, where the quality and purpose of existence matter rather than the length.

Covid wave 2 has depressed us. Lives are falling like 9 pins. Lives that can be saved are not being saved for lack of oxygen, hospital beds and life saving drugs. Death seems to be so close – it’s either knocking at our doors or that on the doors if our nears and dears. Under the circumstances, Snoopy’s take on life and Mr Dhabadkar’s courage are great learning to be imbibed.

One plus one is not two but eleven

Shankar Jaikishan or SJ as they were called were the first duo to set up a partnership and together composed hit music for Hindi movies, dominating the scene for more than two decades. Jaikishan died inn1971. Shankar continued to do work under SJ’s name and gave some hit music in movies like Sanyasi and Beimaan. But the lost glory was never regained.

Kalyanji Anandji were the next music director Jodi to hit big time. Real brothers, they had the penchant for creating popular music and duo also ruled the charts for more than two decades but the elder brother Kalyanji expired in 2000. Of course they had reduced their work and passed the baton to the next generation, Viju Shah, but death of Kalyanji was the end of musical journey for the duo.

The next pair to hit big time and surpass the senior duos in the volume and popularity of work was Laxmikant Pyarelal ( LP). They were soloists who played in SJ’s and KA’s orchestra, but later on formed team to churn out hit album after hit. Laxmikant’s demise in 1998 was the end of this pair’s work life.

Nadeem Shravan ruled the roost in 1990s and Nadeem, embroiled in Gulshan Kumar’s murder conspiracy, fled to London and that marked the end of the professional work by the duo.

There’s an interesting book by Raju Bhartan in which he has listed out songs composed by Shankar and those by Jaikishan. The duo were two distinct entities yet one. They never claimed superiority over one another or put their individualistic stamp on particular songs, though the world at large always tried to ascertain this fact. In case of KA, such stories are not heard though for LP, I think it’s an open fact that Laxmikant composed tunes while Pyarelal arranged the music.

The gist of the message that this blog wants to convey is that in any pair, it’s the teamwork and that one partner completes the team with another and not compete. The relationship is complementary in which the partners cover up each other and complement each other’s strength rather than outwitting or outsmarting other. In most of the Indian households, man is the earning member and woman is homemaker and they complete the union and not fall into useless discussion of superiority of any of the partners.

It’s incidental that Laxmikant, Kalyanji and Jaikishan expired ( Nadeem fled) and the surviving partners called it a day. The result wouldn’t have been different if different set had survived.

This applies to any team – from two to any number – from music duos to husband wife to cricket team to office team!

Lesson for youngsters

Forget millennials, I consider even the generation immediately succeeding my generation, which are those born in early 70s and thereafter to be truly blessed. I will quote a few facts in support of my statement.

(1) My paternal grandfather was born in 1890s and he witnessed both the world wars and even worst the partition of this country.

(2) My father,born in 1928, just about remembered the effect of Second World War but had vivid memories of partition of India as he was dislocated from Lahore and had to start afresh in Delhi. This always bothered him.

(3) My elder brother, born in 1956, has vague memories of 1962 China war but clearly remembers 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan.

(4) I , born in 1962 , have very faint memories of 1965 war ( only thing I remember is blackouts when we had to switch off all lights and had to do a drill of hiding under the table) , but slightly more clear idea of Bangladesh war.

Of course all those alive in 70s would also remember state of emergency declared in 1975 which was another difficult period for the country. Operation blue star and riots post demolition of Babri Masjid were other significant happenings and the last significant event of the last century was Kargil war in 1999.

Therefore, I first mentioned millennials though even immediate generation after my generation should also consider itself lucky as though aforesaid tragedies of 80s and 90s were major and serious, but they were not global in that sense.

In fact, this generation has not faced what my generation faced – very poor local transport, severe power cuts and water shortage, waiting period for everything – from scooter to car to colour TV, shortage of essentials and queues at ration shops, very poor communication ( telephone line at residence sometimes required booking as long as 3 years) and very low economic prosperity ( property ownership was mainly inherited, cars were unthinkable and symbolic of ultra rich and foreign travel – are you joking – my father never owned a passport) !

Internet, telecom, automobile, banking sector, consumer revolutions have changed the game to such an extent that it would require a separate blog on how I phone and BMW are no longer symbols of affluence and travel to any place other than Singapore or Dubai at least is a strict passé!

But amongst all this economic prosperity and other developments at break neck pace came Corona virus that has levelled the playing field for younger generation and millennials to what our previous generation was witness to ! It is declared to be worst happening since the world war 2, much worse than Bengal famine , Pak China wars or plague attack!

It’s time to sit back and learn what we refused to learn from our elders in our mad race to acquire material wealth!

Second wave

I was happy to have received first dose of vaccine. Number of cases were falling with each passing day. Frequency of going to office was expected to be increased from 2 days in a week to 3 days. We had started planning our much pending visit to Johannesburg in May /June. And then all of a sudden the second wave of Covid struck from nowhere. Unfortunately, it made the commercial capital of the country its first victim again and daily infections started going up from 2000 to 8000 and panic was set in. Worse, this wave seemed to be more contagious, spreading more rapidly and what used to take 7 to 10 days to affect the lung happened in 2-3 days. Mortality rate started mounting.

As I write this blog, Maharashtra government has already promulgated lockdown. Delhi government is having weekend curfew and several other, hitherto “safe” states- UP, HP, Odisha, WB – are staring at pandemic !

I think it was alright till Holi though enthusiasm of the people in the traditional strongholds of Mathura and Vrindavan seemed a little misplaced. Elections in 4 states and UT of Puducherry were fought as if there was no next day and someone had to meet his or her Waterloo in these elections itself. Leaders exhorted people openly who responded with same gusto albeit without wearing masks or maintaining social distancing ! And Shahi sanan at Kumbh and onset of Ramadan and Hindu new year festivities have only compounded the misery.

Scenes of migrant labourers returning to their natives and commercial establishments downing their shutters are heart rending. Economy had barely started recovering and job scenarios had just started improving when this second wave came to be a spoilsport.

If the entire business establishments have turned to virtual, can’t electioneering be virtual in these pandemic times? In the name of faith, can people expose the entire humanity to the risk of pandemic? Hospitals are overflowing with patients and there is serious shortage of beds and ventilators at some centres. Remedesivir is in short supply and being sold in black market in certain places.

Corona warriors are tired and getting infected themselves. Health infrastructure is creaking. It’s a very grim scenario and unless we all become Corona warriors- strictly observe Corona protocols, avoid going out without purpose, help affected folks and contribute generously – this battle will hurt very deeply. Celebrations and elections will come and go but to savour them we need to exist!

Happiness across the country

Gudi Padwa celebrates the crowning of Lord Ram after his return to Ayodhya along with Sita and Lakshman after completing exile of 14 years. The Gudi (flag) denotes Lord Ram’s victory over demon king Ravana. The Gudi is hoisted high, as a symbol of victory.

Ugadi, the Telugu New Year, is on April 13. Ugadi or Yugadi is observed with great enthusiasm by people in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. Ugadi means ‘the beginning of a new age’.

Vishu 2021 Date in India: Vishu is an important festival celebrated in the state of Kerala, and by Keralites around the country and the world. It marks the first day of the Malayalam calendar and, therefore, is celebrated with a lot of festive excitement by Malayalis.

Bihu, also called Rongali Bihu and Bohag Bihu, is Assam’s harvest festival which marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. This year, it begins on April 14 and ends on April 20, 2021. It is celebrated with great joy

Cheti Chand is a major and important festival for Sindhi community in India and Pakistan. The festival marks the birth of Ishtadeva Uderolal, popularly known as Lord Jhulelal, the patron saint of the Sindhis. Hence it is also known as Jhulelal Jayanti as well. Sindhi community observes Cheti Chand on the Pratipada Tithi (first day) of Chaitra, Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of the Moon). Sindhi New Year begins with this festival.

Puthandu or Tamil New Year is being celebrated on 14 April. The festival is observed on the first day of the Tamil month ‘Chithirai’ and marks the start of the Tamil calendar.

Pana Sankranti, also known as Maha Vishuba Sankranti, is the traditional new year day festival of Odias in Odisha, India. The festival occurs in the solar Odia calendar on the first day of the traditional solar month of Meṣa, hence equivalent lunar month Baisakha.

Chaitra Navratri is a nine-day long festival where devotees observe a fast and offer their prayers. The festival marks the beginning of the spring season and ends with Ram Navami or the birthday of Lord Rama.

One of the most lively and vibrant festivals of India, Baisakhi coincides with the Chaitra Navratri – a very auspicious time for Hindus in the country.

Poila Baishakh or Bangla Noboborsho is the first day of Bengali Calendar. It is celebrated on 14 April as a national holiday in Bangladesh, and on 14 or 15 April in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Barak Valley region of Assam by people of Bengali heritage, irrespective of their religious faith.

This year, Ramadan begins on April 14, a Wednesday, and ends on May 12, which is a Wednesday. This annual observance is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam. It lasts between one sighting of the crescent moon and the next. It is said that Ramadan is the commemoration of Prophet

April 13 and 14 bring together our country like nothing else. There can’t be a better example of our oneness – our unity in diversity!

Happy …. what should I say …. gudi padwa, Ugadi, Bihu, Vishu, Baisakhi or Ramadan!

When you look at me

I faintly remember having met Hindi poet and litterateur Ramanand Doshi at a private ceremony way back in very early 70s; the fact remains that the great man expired in 1972 at a young age of 51. He recited his poetry and one of his lyrical poems, reproduced below in original, was composed into a lilting melody by my mother’s singing guru and was often sung by my mother, a professional singer. Little did I understand the literary and artistic beauty of the work, but the opening lines of the poem have stayed with me through my youth and an early old age that I am currently into.

The reason for this blog was my accidental encounter while searching this classic piece into a blog about this poem by a fellow blogger, Shri Krishna Sharma, for whom I have lot of respect and who encourages my work a great deal, who wrote a beautiful blog but refrained from translating the poem, a risk I am taking now.

मन होता है पारा
ऐसे देखा नहीं करो !

जाने क्या कर डाला तुमने, उलट-पुलट मौसम
कभी घाव ज़्यादा दुखता है और कभी मरहम
जहाँ-जहाँ ज़्यादा दुखता है
छूकर वहीं दुबारा
ऐसे देखा नहीं करो !
मन होता है पारा !
ऐसे देखा नहीं करो !

कौन बचाकर आँख सुबह की नींद उघार गया
बूढ़े सूरज पर पीछे से सीटी मार गया
हम पर शक पहले से है
तुम करके और इशारा
ऐसे देखा नहीं करो !
मन होता है पारा !

होना-जाना क्या है, जैसा कल था, वैसा कल
मेरे सन्नाटे में बस ख़ामोशी की हलचल
अँधियारे की नेमप्लेट पर
लिख-लिखकर उजियारा
ऐसे देखा नहीं करो !
मन होता है पारा !
ऐसे देखा नहीं करो!

My heart misses a beat

When you look at me

I am so bewitched that seasons don’t matter

Your absence affects me as much as your presence

And you reignite my pain

When you look at me

Early morning sleep is no longer the deepest

Sun is yet not risen but you play a trick

I had doubt but now I am sure – it all happens

When you look at me

Will my tomorrow be different from yesterday

The quietude of my life will hear a whisper

Will darkness of my life pave way to happiness

All such emotions get evoked

When you look at me

It’s no mean job translating a classic and I am no master of languages, Hindi and English, to do justice to this poetic masterpiece. I neither risked transliteration nor made too much efforts trying for rhyming end, but I have tried to capture the essence of the poem with sensitivity it merited. Paara in Hindi is mercury, which is a highly unstable element. So instead of translating paara into mercury, I have tried to capture instability of heart with “ missing of beat”.

I hope readers, including Shri Sharma like my effort.

Metro of Retro

This is a poem written by me especially for a FB group that loves this great city called Mumbai. The effort has been liked very much by the members of this group so I am posting it here at my blog site for perusal by those following my blog. It reads as under:

Metro of Retro

When I first came to Mumbai city
I was mesmerised by its pristine beauty

It was, as they say, love at first sight
View of Arabian Sea from Marine Drive was a sheer delight

Cabbies and auto drivers wore proper dress
They went by the meter and caused no duress

Traffic was systematic and moved in lane
Travelling on roads was a pleasure and not a pain

Fort area was lined up by iconic buildings and had its own charm
There was sea of humanity everywhere but it meant no harm

Shoe house, aquarium and garden that was hanging
Made Mumbai city unique in its offering

And of course the chance of sighting a Bollywood star live
Was the ultimate desire that kept one’s hopes alive

Now that I live here and encounter challenges
I know that city is undergoing necessary changes

Tomorrow’s Mumbai will have coastal roads and world class metro
However, hearts of Mumbaikars will always beat for Mumbai of retro!

Hope my readers too like my effort.

Elections- then and now

First general elections that I have faint memories of were 1971 Loksabha elections that are best remembered for landslide victory for a breakaway congress led by Indira. I was very young- may be in class 2nd or 3rd but the festivities associated with elections caught my fancy as a child. There were meetings in which parties would generously distribute flags and metal batches bearing party symbol. Collecting these party batches as memorabilia was a favourite pastime of children. Of course, Bollywood has always been a national obsession and I didn’t remain untouched by it and the thought of seeing film stars in person generated unprecedented euphoria. I distinctly remember a meeting addressed by then very young and super handsome Dilip Kumar. Crowds had simply gone berserk to catch a glimpse of their favourite thespian. And there were other speakers of excellent oratorical skills. Most prominent of them was youthful Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who subsequently led the destiny of this nation with great distinction, whose oratory would keep audiences spellbound for hours. He interspersed his speech with anecdotes laden with rustic humour.

And then I followed consecutive elections, each strengthening the democratic fabric of this great country. Elections were highlighted by serious issues, great leaders, good orators, celebrities and the right earnestness they deserved but there was seldom bitterness, violence and rowdiness. Leaders were gracious enough to accept the verdict with humility and assured the elected Government of all the cooperation in driving the national agenda for next 5 years. There was no acrimony, enmity or aversion.

The provocation for this blog came from the current round of elections being held in 4 states where the acrimony, bitterness and aversion seem to have touched all time high. Let’s restore the grace and associated festivity of elections – objective of all parties and leaders ultimately is to take India ahead of all other countries. If objective is same and is so noble why then this acrimony?

Aamchi Mumbai

The posts in one of the FBGroups that I am a member of are mostly soaked in nostalgia. Nostalgia about the people, places and events of yore. Names have changed, old joints have closed down, iconic theatres are no longer there, double deckers are on their way out and this list is endless.

The moot point is that is this change exclusive to Mumbai? The answer is no and I can vouch for at least one another city – New Delhi. Connaught Place and Connaught Circus became Rajiv and Indira Chowks respectively, iconic Madras Hotel shut down and like Mumbai all iconic theatres have either closed down or converted into Multiplexes,

While nostalgia is a natural feeling and it stems out of our past experiences with these places and events, I think the overarching principle is that change is the only constant. Some changes will be sign of progress – world class metro network, mono rail, coastal road, new International Airport – a few will drown us in further nostalgia – closure of restaurants where we enjoyed our meals and time spent, theatres where we looked for corner seats in our youth or renaming of the places that will simply refuse to hook on to our tongues!

Let’s hope, whatever changes, it happens for better and aamchi Mumbai relives the grandeur of iconic old Bombay! ​