Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mein tenu samjhawaan ki : Rahat's magic

I've lived in many places in India so far - childhood and beyond. There are songs that, when you hear, remind you of a certain place or period.

I was in Punjab until recently, moved to Nagpur. I loved Punjab. It has almost everything that you would want out of it. A few weeks before I moved, I heard the song "Main tenu samjhaawan ki..." sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (and a cameo by Farah Anwar). It is a Punjabi song, from a Indo-Pakistani movie, Virsa. I heard it only by chance, because a remake of this was coming up in a Bollywood movie.

It is a sad song, where Rahat lends his voice to spell out the pain of broken love. And, he does a stunning job with this task. Rahat has impeccable control over the tones, and a beautiful, echoing voice that sends ripples of the sweet tones to your ears. The story of this stranger's sadness is presented sung in such a lovely manner, you want to sympathize with him, comfort him, bring the girl back... My eyes lose focus when I'm listening to this. It is touching. I made sure this is the first song I listen to on my way to work or back. This is one sad song you would enjoy. Rahat is the magician.

My favourite part of the song? Farrah Anwar's cameo. That part of the song is like two big synchronous waves of eternal beauty flowing across a serene sea of beautiful music, flushing your face with freshness carried from distance. She has a stunning voice, you will notice.

We all miss what we loved so much but got separated. There is no closure. I miss Punjab. For n number of reasons. And this song fits in so well for someone who misses something(s) out there.

Here is a video link to the song :

Lyrics/translation :

Friday, November 14, 2014


Woken up by others, the warm sun if a holiday, sounds of birds if vacation, reminder of school if weekday.
Outgrew the clothes we wore in just weeks.
Invented games out of anything available - sticks, leaves, stones.
Every person was a story teller.
Every story told a moral.
There were rules to keep you straight. Memories were born out of the broken rules.
Schools were fun when we were young. Homework spoiled it.
Rarely did homework at home. It was done at school, if at all, before leaving for home or after reaching school the next day.
Tests were routine. But exams were fun, because they came with the lure of a vacation.
Vulnerable to myths and blackmails. Ate carrots because I liked Bugs Bunny, spinach because I wouldn't be allowed to watch Popeye if I don't, and lady's finger because I had to do well in math.
99 was my favourite math score. My classmates were envious, my parents thought I let them down. "99 is not centum."
Biology and chemistry can eat you inside out. Gave up art along with biology. End of high school meant end of tiff with Chemistry. Or so I thought.
Cricket was the only sport. Sachin this. Sachin that. Ganguly this. Kumble that. Always imitated them bowlers, never held a ball in my hand.
We wanted the world, nothing was enough. We shared it all, nothing was good had alone.
We could sing all the songs. We still hold the ones from our childhood as our favourites.
Candies and ice-creams were wonderful, but all our favourite dishes are branded "Amma's".
We aspired to be doctors, engineers, pilots, sportsperson. The collection of trinklets showed that.
We were open dreamers. We found happiness wherever we went. We were looked upon as the candle of happiness. We got all the goodies spoonfed. We had the time of our lives.

And then, we grew up. We let childhood slip right in front of our own eyes, and we are never going to get back. Why did we want to grow, why did we let it go?

I don't remember the name of the poem I read, it was when I was in school, the poem was in my English text book. It said - we are grown ups, and while we cannot afford to be childish, we can be child-like.

Wish you a happy children's day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Narumugaye. Losing myself to find peace.

I love melodies, or rather - I prefer melodies. Though not even semi-fluent in Carnatic, I find it soothingly beautiful. There is something magical about being able to produce something beautiful out of laid rules. Music teaches discipline. The line that separates a rendition from cacophony is singing to the notes, or playing to the tunes - adhering to which a well written set of notes results in a wonderful string of tones. Every song has its voice. Voices lend feeling to the song.

There are many songs in which I lose myself, lose track of time, and lots of time, eventually. But, there is loads of peace, and happiness in it. Sometimes, a puddle of energy. Some songs have excellent lyrics, some are so awesome on the music front alone you don't care what the lyrics sound like. Some songs introduce you to voices that you never heard before, and you would want to hear nobody else. These are the songs you play over and over, but never get tired of.

One such song is Narumugaiye, from the Tamil movie Iruvar.

It is a Carnatic styled romantic song eased into the movie (in the movie). I am no good when it comes to Tamil literature, I can barely string words together while reading; and have a tough time interpreting the purest form of the language. But, even for someone half as literate it sounded so soulful. I read the lyrics to slow the song down, and it makes more sense. I decipher the lyrics and see the simplistic beauty in it.

The song basically describes two lovebirds wondering how they fell in love, and probably list out all the reasons why too. It is the rendition meted out there by the singers that plays the trick. And the back ground music, of course. You can easily be listening to this track and imagine yourself by the shores of a lake in the forest, meeting your loved one there. Not a lot can be left to imagination when the singers carve out the duo out there for you.

The shrills, the control, the pitch, the tone, the raga, the lyrics, they all combine to give a soothing effect. It is no grand song, it is not going to set a stage on fire. It is what you need to go to when you want to do some soul searching. A romantic weather, mild rainshowers, early morning wintry sunshine, late evening breeze etc go well with this in the background. In any case, Narumugaye makes you forget all that is around you.

The song was written by Vairamuthu and sung by Unnikrishnan and Bombay Jayashree, and soundtracks courtesy A.R. Rahman. That's a great combination in there already!

Listen to the song here.
Here is a webpage that has the lyrics and translation for the song, and the video (also beautiful).
The movie includes many more wonderful songs that takes us a few years back. Aayirathil Naan Oruvan, Hello Mister Edhirkatchi are two to name.

Do let me know of similar songs, in any language.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Punjab

I’m not a traveller by nature, but I am just privileged to have lived in so many places in during my childhood, days in college and now in my young career. This time, it was Punjab – to work in Rajpura (in District Patiala), to live in Zirakpur (bordering Chandigarh).

In so many ways was this different, in so many ways it felt homely. Either way, it was lovely. This was the first time I was posted full time at a work-site. It meant I would not be going to an office to chat up a computer. It meant I would have to spend days, nights, twilights, midnights, dawns, and everything in-between as and when required – at the power plant that was just bringing itself to life. It was what I signed up for, and I was so damn glad I was there. I have had little tastes of this before, but this was now mine for the taking.

The good thing about arriving in Punjab on December 30th evening is two-fold. One, you already have a pretty good idea about the worst winter chill and can find happiness in the fact that things will only get better from here. You know, until the temperatures and your happiness both drop a bit in January. Two, there is a NYE party waiting for you. You see, I have this little knack for arriving at places just in time for a party (except that one time I turned up in Mumbai and India lost the Test match). I was wearing my thickest winter jacket, and carrying the heaviest travel bags to arrive at the cute little railway station in Chandigarh. A taxi driver approached and asked if I was working in the Army.

Winters are beautiful. You won’t hear “summers are beautiful” in India. India is not England. You get baking hot sunshine free with candies here. Winters are beautiful here. The long journey to work meant I would be ogling at the mustard fields, with their blooming yellow flowers atop the green plants partly curtailed by the fog. The density of the fog is directly proportional to the length of time you let out a “WHOOOOOAAAAA!” when the bus hits the highway and into the fog. As days went by, I conserved my energy spent in WHOOOOAAAAAing and judicially used them in sleeping all the way to work.

Summers had long, long days. Night shifts were spent keeping track of day-light. Nightfall occurred as late as 8.00 pm and the day dawned as early as 4.15 am. There are tiny hills near our place, and watching the sun rise from beyond them was a spectacle. Soon after, we get into our rooms and make the air conditioner work like a slave. (The one in my room was a protestor, it never really worked hard. Or worked at all.) The monsoon are prettier, there are a few clouds to go with the hills.

Just after sunrise, capture from my balcony.
The only two things prettier than the monsoon were the city of Chandigarh, and the women of Punjab. Chandigarh means City Beautiful. It was planned to be beautiful, and that plan worked out well. I should mention that it used to be a bit more green and better maintained, but nevertheless, beautiful even now. There are many gardens in and around the city. There are parks in every corner. There is a pretty Sukhna Lake, where I go to watch ducks. If you don’t feed the ducks, they will make you feel ashamed. Imagine 50 people watching you as 25 ducks disappointedly walk away, quacking in disgust. On a scale of zero to Congress losing the election, how embarrassed will you feel?

Women in Punjab, the Punjab, are among the prettiest in the world. The noses larger than anywhere else in India, bridged to varying degrees; and magical eyes that can kill if they tried. Their hair long as a horse tail, tied in plait, all so similar to the ones in TN – the two states are similar on that front. I found this girl in Neeru Bajwa. (shut up, it is her. I know.) The girls in Chandigarh, though, carry a pound of make-up on their face. And wear the darkest lip-sticks. I still maintain, and have been vehemently opposed on this view, that Barodian women are prettier – they don't need the make up to look beautiful.
Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat!

Where do all the pretty women and their handsome other halves go to? Apart from the gardens and the lakes, there are a few malls. The Elante Mall is grand, a magnet of shoppers. It rarely disappoints. It made me a shopper, something that I never thought I had the capability for. I prefer to visit the old, slightly traditional, Sector 17 (best said “Sector Sattara”) market more. It is a luxuriously spacious area lined with shops, stores, restaurants, tuition classes, theatre, book-stores and a large open area for all kinds of fun. It is where you see the normal people, not sporting a fake accent to impress others, not here for a movie at the Cineplex, not here for the food court. It is where the kids come with their parents to kill some hours in the evening, under the tree, taking a bite of ice-cream and chasing the soap bubble. It is calm, soothing, silently humming normalcy. Normalcy, with all the branded stores, mind you. And Sec 17 market is excellently placed, too. The bus terminus is just across the road. And beyond that is Sec 22, and 21 along which you can walk all day in circles and not feel even a bit bored. I’ve spent some walks there, sometimes alone, and that is one little thing I’d miss doing.

One BIG thing that I would miss would be, duh, Punjabi cuisine. Paratha. Dal. Paneer. Dhaba. Tandoor. Butter. Butter. Butter. I honestly thought I would be able to get rid of my paunch when I get posted at site, the physical work ought to burn off the fat. But I didn’t factor in the Punjab. And not for once was that stated as a complaint. Laced with Dhabas all along the highway from work to home, it was a pleasant dilemma to decide on what to eat where when we returned late from work. And by late, I mean 2.00 am, 3.00 am or even later. Dhabas are open all night, more and more delicious as the night grows old. I loved Punjab’s favourite vegetable –paneer. Be it paneer tikka or paneer butter masala, or the hybrid paneer tikka butter masala, you don’t have to think twice about ordering them. I’ve tasted nothing like them before, nothing since. I shamelessly collected upto 25 menu cards of restaurants in my locality and kept most of them happy. I did receive a reminder from one restaurant that my orders to them had gone dried up.

This was slightly past midnight, a favourite routine of ours.
Have you tried honey chilly cauliflower yet? No? Why?

I could write a book on this, but I realised I am not there yet. I’ll keep it to a little blogpost. I will end this with a bit about the Punjabi people. Kishore Biyani, the chief of Future India Group (Big Bazaar, Pantaloons, Central etc.), wrote in his autobiography It Happened in India that the Punjabis have very good spenders, extremely happy, but not particularly loyal to a particular store. I tell you what, I found the Punjabis extremely loyal. I learnt the Punjabi script on my own, by reading off bill boards and matching them with the Hindi or English script above. This sprang up such a joy among the Punjabis, the smiles on their faces was child like. It made me happy that such trivial things could spread joys. They rarely take pressure on themselves. “Koi gaal nai, ho jayega.” (No problem, it’ll be done.) Once you connect with them, you are one of them. I’m a Punjabi now, they will attest. They will greet you with Sat Sri Akal, and feed you with a giant glass of chilled rose water or lassi and send you off with “Fir milna, hame yaad rakhna.

How can I ever forget you?