Tuesday, 5 March 2013

An Ode.........

With every passing year, we seem to be losing something from our past. I have always loved the idea of old fashioned romance. Young lovers stealing glances from across the street, writing love-letters in perfumed sheets, leaving red roses in books for their loved one to retrieve. Arranging stealthy meetings in parks. Pining for someone in the loneliness of their room. Serenading the lover with mushy poetry and songs. Somehow, in this age of social media and Internet romances, such notions have retreated to the realms of fantasy. 

I have an old audio tape of a recording of Jagjit Singh's concert in Singapore. I still keep it as a memento of the olden times. The old ghazals remind me of love in the age of innocence. Their sombre, haunting strains resonate with the desperation of unrequited love, the pain of separation, and the small delights that passion brings to the heart. They emanate the fragrance of spring when love is in the air. These days I have become cynical when I see relationships being reduced to power games and love being replaced by lust. Somehow these songs give me a sense of cheeriness in knowing that somewhere love exists unsullied by the corruptions of the world.

In the later half of 2011, Jagjit Singh passed away. A few months later he was followed by Mehdi Haasan. It was the end of Ghazal gayaki as we know it. In a way their deaths were symbolic of the joy of simple pleasures that we are losing. Ghazal gayaki enthralled generations of music lovers. Drifting a little apart from its classical moorings, its distinct sensibilities garnered immense appeal with the masses. But with the changing times it became less relevant and could not attract new listeners. In the 80's when digital music and electronica started to make inroads into the music industry,  Jagjit Singh offered it a fresh lease of life. He adapted the ghazal to suit the preferences of the new age listener. At the same time he never altered the soul of the composition. In the recording that I have,  he brought back the simplicity and honesty usually associated with ghazals, occasionally breaking in with a sher or a chutkula. To this day, I regret having missed an opportunity to attend one his concerts and see him perform in person.

These and more gems that will remain immortal in the hearts of anyone who has inhaled love through the breath of a ghazal.
  • Hoshwaalon Ko Khabar Kya: This was the first song of Jagjit, I ever heard. The resonating melody and mellifluous vocals make it an all-time great ghazal.
  • Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar: This song featured in Mahesh Bhatt's semi-autobiographical movie Aarth, which dealt with the complexities of relaationships. Against this backdrop, Jagjit Singh's compositions became a medium, through which the unspoken thoughts and feelings of the characters were conveyed in pivotal situations of the story. 
  • Gulshan Ki Faqat: As a poetic form, Ghazal came into contact with Sufism in the Middle ages. Consequently, it has found itself delving into the metaphysical and the themes have expanded to include philosophical interpretations. This ghazal tries to view love from such a perspective. Roughly translated, the first verse goes something like this : "Not just the flowers, but also the thorns lend the garden its allure,
    Sorrow too is necessary in our life, for sure."
  • Baat Niklegi To: A wonderful composition reminiscent of the olden times when love was considered taboo and young lovers lamented about their unforgiving generation.This song caught the imagination of music lovers across the country and was his first brush with commercial success. The Independent described it as "ground-breaking ... it became a transformative, before-and-after milestone in the history of Indian popular and ghazal music." 
  •  Shaam Se Aankh Me : The fire of passion gets somewhat dimmed with the passage of time. The song deals with the fleeting nature of love and the anguish it causes. The journey to rediscovering the love that is lost can be as magical as it can be agonising. Whenever I watch the video, I am inundated with such contrasting emotions.
  • Kaagaz Ki Kashti: It was one of Jagjit's many qualities, the choice of poetry for his songs. Here the poet speaks of longing for childhood. Setting afloat paper boats in the rain, making castles out of sand, listening to fairytales, taking turns on the tree swings, chasing butterflies- he presents a kaleidoscope of every child's experiences growing up.
  • Yaad Nahin Kya Kya Dekha: Moving from the usual grim mood of melody, it is almost as if a young Jagjit Singh on the throes of his adolescent love is crooning to his lover.
  • Tera Chehra: Jagjit Singh surprised even the most ardent of his fans by giving a complete new flavour to a ghazalPurists will definitely frown over the liberties taken with the musical arrangements but nevertheless it was a statement to show the way forward for ghazals.
  •  Hazaaron Khwayishen Aisi: Jagjit's compositions for the series on the life of Mirza Ghalib is regarded by many to be  his  magnum opus. It was only fitting that an artiste of his calibre give a tribute to one of the finest poets of Urdu.
  • Honton Se Chulon Tum: Strictly speaking, not a ghazal but nevertheless a timeless classic.  "Caress it with your lips, And just so make my song eternal ". It almost seemed like it was a plea to the world to keep alive the legacy of Ghazal gayaki.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Of Things Left Untold

In the past they wrote diaries. Now we blog. What compels us to write them in the first place? Obviously,there is this desire to put into words our ideas, beliefs and emotions at any instance of time. We want to preserve them for posterity. There is also the wish to reach out to others. The idea that someone, somewhere is reading our thoughts and maybe, feeling connected in a remote way, is enticing indeed.

When I started writing in this blog, I had hoped that it would be a prelude to something. I  had no idea what, but I had certainly hoped that the words that I wrote here would lend itself a meaning. That they would not be merely be like fireworks in the sky that shined for a moment and then fizzle out for the rest of eternity. Many a time, I have felt a surge of emotions within me and just felt the need to express them. But words would fail me.

Words are enigmatic. Put them together in a particular way and they   have far-reaching reverberations. But words can be tricky too. Sometimes you can try and try but they won't bend to your will. I marvel at those writers who have the gift of expression. Those who can conjure words to evoke myriad feelings in the hearts of the readers. Those that can find the power to describe their thoughts like a painter paints a picture. There is just no need to say more. You can feel those feelings. There is this wave of emotion that rises like a rising tide breaking over the banks of the reader's consciousness.

And here I am with words that sound shallow and empty. I am told that in order to convey an idea or feeling, one has to feel it strongly himself. Otherwise it will be like shooting arrows in the dark. When  I was in the middle of writing my first work of fiction, I was told that writing required a level of emotional maturity. I needed to experience the entire gamut of emotions first. Try to gain perspective before I could even expect anybody to connect with my writing. Maybe it is passion that drives any work of creativity.

I have more unpublished blog entries than I would like. I have left them so because they have left many things unsaid. They are not words I myself relate to. Meanwhile, there are several ideas running in my head. Some are sketches of a novel I have been trying to write since forever. Some are story lines for a series of short stories I'm trying to pen down. Some are shreds of memories. Some reflections of thoughts I had at a particular moment of time. All of them have potential. But I haven't found words for them yet. Till then I will continue to blog. And I will publish this entry. Maybe I have once again failed to capture what I set out to express. But this would serve as a reminder of all the things that I have left untold. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

God's Forsaken Children

Since 2009, at least 94 Tibetans have self-immolated, more than 40 have died in parts of China since 2011

You can see them in the markets of Shillong peddling their stuff- T-shirts, jackets, belts, curios  and what not. At Shillong's famous Glory's Plaza as you enter, you seem to have entered Shangrila . A weird smell wafts into your senses. You can see them casting melancholic glances, waiting for you to come to them rather than calling out to you imploring. Their manners are unobtrusive. Somehow you get this feeling that they are strangers who do not belong here.

You can see them in the monasteries at Tawang and Sikkim. Clothed in red robes, they walk about with a stately gait, their lips constantly moving in silent prayer. You feel a sense of calm just watching them. Us people of the world seem to be flitting about from place to place in search of something we don't even know exists whereas they seem to have found bliss and contentment.

You probably have a friend Tenzing. You probably didn't know that it is but their surname. He/ she talks about their homeland like a grandmothers fairy tale that begins with "in a land far far away". They speak of how their people escaped from there and spread far and wide in the world. They also speak with a longing to see the face of that earth once again.

You see them in the streets of Delhi carrying the red and yellow banner of their creed, chanting slogans of freedom demanding their right to return to the place from whence they came. You see the pain in their eyes hardened and covered by a veil of resoluteness. You see their peaceful protests being curbed in our country lest we upset the fragile relations with our neighbour.

You see their pictures the front page of our newspapers. You read to your horror about the self-immolations. In a world where others will not hesitate to kill thousands in the name of religion, this is the most extreme measure they will ever take to make their voice heard. You deplore the act and yet in your heart, you know that it is the only way they feel that the world will see their pain.  A hope that this act of sacrifice will make their captors see reason. You forget these scenes very quickly and go on living your sheltered existence while they live theirs. A life of a  refugee, a life of a nomad. They are God's very own children but you wonder if he has forsaken them.