Sunday, 26 June 2016

The legend of R D Burman

He was born in an atmosphere of music  with an illustrious father . His nickname related to music.  Had he been alive , he would have completed 77 years of age today . His death in 1994  at the age of 55  snatched him away  from our midst , almost unnoticed . He died unheralded .  But as time passed , the legend of R D Burman refused to die down. It just grew on  and snowballed into a much larger than life image for him as people realised how much ahead of his times he has been , during his life and how much contemporary his music remains , till now.  Generations of music lovers hum on his music and  a legion of singers , DJs , musicians and even music directors earn their living and in many instances , fame too , by reproducing his music. The remix versions of his songs are still big hits and sometimes more popular in dance-bars , clubs and discotheques across the country. The classical and lyrical compositions that he created are still the most repeated songs on the late night shows on FM channels .

Often we do not realise the true value of something as long as it remains with us and make the mistake of not recognising a genius during his lifetime . R D Burman falls in that category . Throughout his career he had to bear the stigma of being too much influenced by western music . But the classical based songs that he composed are the most remembered. He brought in different sounds in his music and broke the grammar of orchestration as such by his out of the box ideas and tunes. Change of scale and tenor  and then mixing them effortlessly in the song was his hallmark . So one could experience the shift from a humming tune to a high pitched tone  without any jarring experience . Till now very few modern music directors dare to use this style even with such a great advancement in sound quality and musical instruments.

It is not as if he was the master of all he surveyed. Because the period in which his body of work lied was perhaps the best era of Indian film music . He had to compete against great music directors  including his own father . But charting his own path , he created a new genre of music which got identified with him and maybe his personality too . A bit of madness, a bit of talent , a slice of restlessness , a dose of playfulness , a dollop of romanticism , a pool of sadness and a stream of joy . All tuned in the unforgettable compositions .

Like many talented and creative geniuses , RD Burman or Puncham  as many of his fans call him , by his nickname had a disturbed personal life . In spite of having everything right from his childhood , he spent his later years before death , alone and unsung .  Lurking behind his childlike and  enthusiastic personality was perhaps a deep shadow of unfulfilled dreams and expectations .   His best years were the two full decades of 60s and 70s  and by the mid 80s  the dynamics of the film and music industry  changed. Coupled with the onslaught of disco beats ,  electronic music and the explosion of tape recorders and video players , there was a  change of  audience preference too . RDB was shunned by many producers after a lukewarm response to many films and their music  , composed by him . Then a heart attack in 88 followed by an open heart surgery in 89  limited his flow of work .  He came back to provide music in a number of films and like the proverbial phoenix scored the beautiful music of 1942 – A love story  which brought back the charm of film music  for the listeners.

 Whenever one will think of  R D Burman , one will be filled with joyful nostalgia tinged with a sense of remorse . Because he is still so much relevant today .  

Let them leave

When all those words are spoken
and the time is up;
those who want to leave
will leave , anyway.
How can you stop them
from leaving you
and , moreover , why should you
stop them from leaving you ?
They must have their reasons
to leave and may be
their own path to travel.
So let them go,
set them free,
wish them well .
You never owned them
nor travelled their journey.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Unconscious originality

Unconscious originality
that emanates
from the single ray of light
strives for posterity .
Leaving no evidence
of a departure,
the thread of transition
lies abandoned
in a stream of dazzling radiance.
It’s more like
two assenting adults
on the verge of getting linked
in a continued agreement
emerging from
the twists and turns
as a consequence
of lustful articulation
of hidden desires .
Circumstantial impression
of a blunder
preceding a wanton foreplay
of a displaced entanglement
shuddering in bursts
of squirting fluid motion.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Ardh Satya - The Half truth

Ardh Satya - The Half truth

Before entering the labyrinth
I will not remember
who I was or what I am

after entering the labyrinth
I will not realise that
between me and the labyrinth
there was just a fatal proximity

after I exit the labyrinth
even though I am free
there will be no real change
in the formation of the labyrinth

Die or kill
get killed or assassinate
this will never get decided

the sleeping man who starts
walking on getting up from sleep
his world of dreams
he can never see again

In the light of the rays of decision
will everything be the same

impotency on one arm
manhood on the other
and just at the needle of the scales
lies the half truth

Translated from the Hindi poem Ardh Satya by Dilip Chitre .

चक्रव्यूह मे घुसने से पहले
कौन था मैं और कैसा था
यह मुझे याद ही ना रहेगा

चक्रव्यूह मे घुसने के बाद
मेरे और चक्रव्यूह के बीच
सिर्फ़ एक जानलेवा निकटता थी
इसका मुझे पता ही न चलेगा

चक्रव्यूह से निकलने के बाद
मैं मुक्त हो जाऊँ भले ही
फ़िर भी चक्रव्यूह की रचना मे
फर्क ही ना पड़ेगा

मरुँ या मारू
मारा जाऊं या जान से मार दूँ
इसका फ़ैसला कभी ना हो पायेगा

सोया हुआ आदमी जब
नींद से उठ कर चलना शुरू करता हैं
तब सपनों का संसार उसे
दुबारा दिख ही नही पायेगा

उस रौशनी में जो निर्णय की रौशनी हैं
सब कुछ समान होगा क्या?

एक पलडे में नपुंसकता
एक पलडे में पौरुष
और ठीक तराजू के कांटे पर
अर्ध सत्य

Thursday, 16 June 2016


The other day , while getting amused by the raging debate on the alleged use or , shall I say misuse of the word dear in addressing a female , my mind strayed back to the days when people had actually a hobby of writing letters . In this age of instant messaging and all pervasive social media , few of the present generation of young people (sigh , that makes me feel like a relic ) will appreciate that people actually used to connect with each other through letters . And letter writing was considered as a skill . And by that , I mean both the content and the presentation . Learned people were referred to as - Man of letters . I am not really aware if they actually meant if the person was adept in writing letters.

While people were appreciated for their use of vocabulary , composition, prose and poetry in the letters wrtten by them , handwriting too , was a very much extolled virtue . Perhaps that was the reason why some old letters are treated as examples of high level calligraphy . In addition , the low level of education in the society meant that people able to express the feelings and that too in an attractive handwriting were at a premium. This meant there was a gap and to fill this gap there was the proffession of letterwriting. Many people used to earn money and run their family solely on their skill of letter writing . The tribe , I think sadly , has vanished in this age of mobile phones .

If someone reads or watches the old stories and films , the importance of letters and letterwriters in those time will immediately be established . And this is not too much distant past that I am talking about. I think people used to write letters , even if irregularly, till fifteen years back . But firstly the emails and then the spread of mobile phones have killed personal letters. For the purpose of record and physical proof , letters are still used in official communications but that is also getting increasingly rendered as immaterial . I don't think we will be able to find the letter writers anymore in village or district town post offices under the shade of the big old trees. Remember Shyam Benegal's delightful comedy - Welcome to Sajjanpur which had its main character as a letterwriter in an obscure village .

So many plots of stories have been created and twists in the tales have emanated from the letters , in all its entirety . The date , the address , the sender , the intended recipient , the contents , the subject , the handwriting , the meaning , the courier , the ink , the sealing gum , the time taken to reach and what not ; everything has been the subject of examination by generations of writers , probably for the last two milleniums . And to think that all of it has been reduced to nought just in the space of two decades. In real life too all this facets were very important .

Letters took a very long time to reach through the postal channel . And sometimes it creates unnecessary tragedy or comedy depending on how the situation developed . Sometimes people used ingenious methods to speed up their communication . To cut the time , it was advisable to post the letters in the postbox kept in railway stations , which preceded the preference of head postoffices. I myself have carried out requests by many to post letters in Railway post boxes . Normally a letter posted at Tatanagar station would reach the addressee in Kolkata by three days . That was the general assumption. But in case of districts and villages , there was actually no time frame for despatch and delivery of letters by post offices.

Then there was the cases of letters reaching after inordinate delay . Marriage invitations, news of death , hall tickets of examinations and most tragically interview calls or job confirmations delayed by a number of days played havoc in many lives . But then , people were not too much taken up or shaken up with all these delays . It may seem strange now but a letter being delayed was not considered a catastrophe , at least in our country , out of the metroplolitan areas. The British Postal system , of course was always cited as an example by the elders whenever there was a discussion on the Indian Postal Service . Though much lamented by those elders , looking back I understand how difficult the job was due to the logistical challenges considering the geography , weather , terrain and transport systems of our country . By the way , the organised postal service in India started just after the Sepoy Mutiny or the first war of independence , as it is called . The British , along with the railways , courts , penal code and english education provided us with this great institution which has stood the test of time and now considered to be the most widely distributed postal system in the world.

Nowadays people are constantly in touch to such a point that loss of connectivity starts building up stress levels in them . Everyday everybody rings up their near and dear ones and get confirmation of their daily journeys from homes to schools , colleges , workplaces , markets , hospitals . I , along with my family members too do the same thing . If compared with the prevalent situation in earlier days , this may be considered as a huge value addition to daily life by many people . But is it really so . We have only increased our stress levels . People used to travel earlier too and the same problems, challenges and dangers were present then . I remember that when I used to leave home for a trip out of station , I used to touch my mother's feet as a goodbye gesture and she used to say - "Send a postcard after reaching " . The same thing was followed by and large at the places of all relatives . I used to send the post card , sometimes immediately on reaching and sometimes with a delay . But many a times , during short trips , I have found that the post card has reached my mother after my return or just a couple of days before it. Does that make my parents less loving or less responsible , I wonder sometimes , when my wife tries to get a live commentary over mobile phone on my son's whereabouts as he leaves home for some outstation journey or he gets delayed while returning home.

As I stated at the beginning , people had a hobby of writing letters . It will seem strange to teenagers today but there were many of us who had penfriends , much like our facebook friends . People whom we never saw or met but regularly communicated over letters . I had a very few pen friends myself but know some people who had numerous pen friends and used to devote considerable amount of their money , time and energy in communicating with them . A person I know used to write letters every night from 9 p.m. to his relatives and friends till he went to sleep i.e. the Jaihind announcement on Vividh Bharati at 11 p.m. He used to keep the transistor on and listen to Vividh Bharati or Radio Ceylon (Sri Lanka) programmes as he wrote his letters . With a neat cursive handwriting he used to write letters , mainly on Inland letter and sealed them with gum before going to sleep . Next day morning , they were posted by him , yes at the railway station letter box .

Sadly, those Inland letters are no more there , though I understand postcards are still available . Some people had this habit of utilising the whole of the space provided by the government to express their feelings . My mother was one of them . Whenever she wrote letters to relatives , mostly she remembered the important points after narrating the sundry information about weather , health of family members , my development as a child and then tried to squeeze the info in hieroglyphic symbols which could only be deciphered under a magnifying glass. But wonder of wonders , the relatives understood it completely and replied in the same style. A thumb rule which was followed by experienced people was to make it a point of sending important informations on a postcard. This was done with the simple logic behind it that even if it is delivered to the wrong addressee , they would understand the import and try to redirect it to the correct address and also because the information would at least reach someone .

No discussions on letters can be complete without the role of Loveletters in the life of people before 2000 A.D. These were considered to be the highest form of art by its practitioners and the lowest form of moral degradation by their concerned guardians . From simple stupid notes of I love you to literary masterpieces , loveletters came in all shape , sizes , weights , lengths, papers , languages , feelings and yes , in scents too . So much of words have been spent in describing them and the pride of place they have in the lives of many can just not be explained. Many of the readers must be still holding onto some old loveletters secured by lock and key in vaults and boxes with fond and painful memories . Some may be sleeping with the recipient of those letters every night on the same bed and wondering what made them commit the folly of writing loveletters to this person . Then there was this phenomenon of getting loveletters prepared by a third person because of creative or handwriting deficiencies. There are also crass jokes of the Patra mein putra hua variety. Whatever it is , loveletters represented the romantic side of persons and gave a vent to the creative genius of many a people . There was no google in those days and people had to keep a collection of shayarees and quotations handy to impress the lover. This gave rise to another preoccupation or hobby , of writing a diary or journal in young people. It will be very difficult to come out if I delve deeper into the subject of loveletters . So I will rather keep it pending for another post , some other time .

Talking of hobbies , another hobby which was derived from letterwriting was Philately or postage stamp collection . Many of the youngsters had this hobby , me included . Even my son started this hobby before being swamped by the onslaught of TV channels , computer games and then other contemporary hobbies. As mentioned earlier , the people who had penfriends were a great source of postage stamps. Many had off shore connections too and that helped a lot to collect foreign stamps. In SBI Foreign Department Kolkata , I found a veritable treasure house for philatelists in the inward despatch section as letters stamped from countries around the globe used to reach there and the messenger who sorted the letters there was patronised and lionised by many , including senior people .

All these things are now just memories . I have not written a personal letter to anybody after my father's death in 2004 . Telephone connection rendered letters unnecessary , for me as well as my relatives. The letter writing habit of people have just vanished, gradually . It is now a matter of sheer nostalgia . But I am reminded of an article shared by my youngest cousin on facebook recently . I don't exactly remember who wrote it or where it was published . But the gist of the article was about how the digital age has actually been responsible for not keeping track of many memories that would otherwise remain with us in a physical form . It pointed out that people nowadays click digital photographs by an exponential number of times than what they did with analog cameras . But the storage of these photographs are either on memory cards , CDs , mobiles or virtual albums which are generally kept in a disorganised manner and not readily available on requirement. Conversely , the analog photographs , though less in number have a physical presence with us and even touching them gives a real feeling of the memory . I think letters also fall under the same category . Unfortunately , I don't have too many letters in my collection . But one , which has my maternal grandfather's enquiry about me as a child and the other in which my mother has advised some simple precautions for my infant son are very dear to me just as a few old photographs .

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

তুমি ই পার

অনেক দিন পরে বাংলা তে কবিতা লেখার ইচ্ছা হলো

কেবল তুমি ই পার , আমাকে
শুকনো পাতার মত উডিযে দিতে
অথবা সবুজ বসন্তে ভরে দিতে
তোমার অনেক ক্ষমতা

তোমার উষ্ণতা প্রবেশ করে
আমার ভেতরে ভরাট করে তলে
সব অপূর্ণতা আমার
যত ফাঁক ফোঁকড় , শিকড় বাকড়

যত অজানা সুখ যা কেবল তুমি ই পার
দিতে আমাকে অবেলায়
দিনের আলোতে সকলের মাঝে
ভিজিয়ে দাও কোন বারি ধারায়

নশ্বর এ জীবন জানি
শেষ হতে হতে একদিন শেষ হয়ে যাবে
শুধু তুমি ই পার তাকে দিতে
এক নতুন প্রানের আহ্বান

Saturday, 11 June 2016


Your tears will be the last
to leave you
after the others do ,
one by one..
Flip the pages of the old album
as the last ditch effort
to find evidence of desire
that existed somewhere.
Go into the deep end
of the pool
with a heart full of guilt
and try to wash it off
in the clear blue waters..
There are stories that are
never narrated ,
because they are too ordinary;

till someone feels one day
that they need to be told.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Killed in encounter

Death came silently for me
from the dark long shadows
of an unearthly night .
With the smell of cordite
and the searing heat of molten lead
piercing into me.
From the distant mass of darkness,
gunfire and barking of dogs
were the last sounds
that I heard ,
just before I remembered
the face of my child
and the smell of my wife.
These deaths come unannounced
lurking in the shadows of nights
even as we seek them
as the meaning of our lives.
The grassy turf will now retain
the smell of my blood
mixed with the dew , till sunrise;
before they take away my corpse.
Dancing on the wings of fireflies
death came to me silently
on an unearthly night.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Simple truth of life

We all know  ,
because we have been taught so ;
that the Sun rises in the east
and sets in the west .
We believe this as a simple truth
which occur everyday .
Because the Sun will continue
to rise and set
even when we are no more there
to see the phenomenon.
Or even if we don’t want it to do so .
This is the way of life and how truth prevails .
In spite of the darkness
that covers us all after the Sun sets ,
we wait , for the Sun to rise again .

Sunday, 5 June 2016


Some of us who have had the privilege of enjoying a night safari in a forest may have noticed how the deers and some other animals seem to freeze and gets transfixed at a place as the spotlight falls on their eyes . Similarly , all of us , well at least most of us have experienced those moments in our life when, we feel helpless in the face of adversity and cannot reach a decision . Our reactions to the danger , so clear and present before our eyes becomes sluggish . It is as if we can see a big stone being hurled at us but we are unable to take any evasive action . A sense of overwhelming sensation grasps us and takes over our normal response to numb our thinking ability.
This can happen at many situations , big or small . From forgetting answers before the exam starts to waiting for the medical report . Even strong go getting persons can also be afflicted by intimidating anticipations which can immobilise them . And like all other matters , everybody has their own triggers for such panic attacks . Two persons going through the same discomfort or tragedy may not have the same reaction . Take for example , the passing away of a parent . For many , it may provide a sense of relief  ( yes it is , though it sounds harsh) . Or ,let’s say ,  marriage of a daughter . In spite of being an event to be enjoyed , many people get seriously depressed .

As part of human nature, we generally compare and try to judge people based on our reactions to different situations . We are also asked often to put ourselves in the shoes of others to feel the sense of empathy . But there is no straightjacket way of doing this . Our experiences of adversity and setbacks are essentially unique experiences . And the limits of courage , faith  or prayers that we think is necessary to overcome the situation is again a personal matter . We must remember this when we observe others in distress and comment on their inability to cope up with the problem with a decisive step. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Gujarat Files - Anantomy of a coverup

Finished reading GUJARAT FILES ANATOMY OF A COVERUP by @RanaAyyub.

Its a slim volume of about 150 pages and written with a fast narrative. I liked the book overall and should have finished it much earlier, actually.

Before I go into why I Iiked the effort, let me make some plainspeak. The writing style is based on a reporter's viewpoint. In purely lierary value it falls short of the expectations if compared with the compositions of Tarun Tejpal, MJ Akbar, Vir Sanghvi, Sankarshan Thakur , Tavleen Singh etc who definitely write much better prose in terms of reading pleasure . Also it is difficult to imagine that the contents of the book will make a radical impact on the present state of affairs . The statements made in the book can not be said to be evidence either for and against anybody , even if they may be fully true and backed by recordings. .

But whatever has been written in the book needed to be penned down and also needs to be read . The reconstruction of events through the eyes of the people who held responsibility , abdicated responsibility, betrayed trust and let the carnage happen makes a gripping account of how the administration wilts under political pressure. A major part of the narrative is made in the interview style with question and answers. That actually brings out the essence of the book in a stark and clear manner. At some point of times the reader can even identify with the reporter and feel the helplessness of the individual against the system . The deadly cocktail of power, politics, religion, caste served through the willing and unwilling perpetrators. None of them are uneducated , none of them are powerless , none of them can say that they don't understand the import of their culpability. Still they have been a part of the whole coverup . That is really tragic.

This book will not cause a revolution. It will not be the reason to overthrow a government . It may not also even be a starting point for any case to be lodged against anybody . But this will remain a document to refer to whenever there is a need to understand how helpless the society is , against the powerful people , the system , the administration and how easy it is to subvert the law and order in the pretext of maintaining it . How much of personal prejudices, likes, dislikes, political affiliations, religious beliefs , misplaced honour and lastly blind nationalist feelings permeate the administration . As it is the greed for fame, money , power and postings by the administrators are used by the politicians to bend them and manipulate the whole system That is nothing new . Probably we all know it. The book just makes it seem happening , right now , right there .

While evaluating the book , one must always keep in mind the risks undertaken by the writer and the dangers that she must have faced in masquerading as a filmmaker to get the interviews . A young , female Muslim journalist with a very distinct hair style transforming herself into a NRI filmamker with a Hindu name accompanied by a 19 year old male , foreign media-intern as her assistant . Wearing clothes which are wired with hidden microphones , watches with sensors . Very thrilling and adventurous , it may seem to be, now in retrospect . But doing all this with senior officers and other people in a state , where the Home Minister is murdered due to political fall out is no doubt dangerous.

But then , on the flip side , another thought which will constantly bother the reader , while reading this book is how ineffective is the intelligence system or how arrogantly complacent people shoot their mouths with a slight nudge . As if they know nothing can happen to them . Or may be that is the real power of bureaucracy which makes them feel so smug . Coming to the intelligence part , Rana Ayyub had already been in Gujarat as a reporter before deciding on using an alias . Her reports had already been published in Tehelka. But most took the name to be of a male . How funnier can it be ? If a 26 year old female journalist aided by a 19 year old foreign chap can get all these people to speak out without any coercion , then one can well imagine what is in store if such people face blackmail or lured with other temptations.

On the final count I think I can say this as a summary - Not an earth shattering account but surely shatters your conscience . The book and the writer deserves encouragement and support. I also pray that the writer continues to stay healthy and unharmed with a long life . I am serious about it . Because she has stirred a hornet's nest . The apparently calm reaction and the strategy to ignore her book without much ado is an ominous sign .