Wednesday, January 10, 2007

O Ye of Litle Faith

He stood awe-struck, staring pop-eyed at The Thing. It blinked little green and red lights and mysterious little beeps, burps and disembodied human voices floated out of it. “Didi! Kee bhalo! Kee aschhi? Baba re!” My answering machine had just met Gopal. A little brown man with the blackest, widest, shiniest eyes of a little child and a huge grin whose hopeful intensity never faded no matter how half-hearted my greeting or how grudgingly narrow my door opened for him. Gopal, the little Bengali who had come to Bombay with nothing but bits of his beautiful Bengal in his luggage. With which he planned to lure the gold out of a city whose the pavements they said were lined with it. Having left behind one wife, one old mother and one little son in a little village near Calcutta. And having squashed himself with six other men into a tiny, hot, airless room of a Bombay chawl where he dreamed of bright-green paddy laughing crystal-cool raindrops all over him.
Gopal sold Bengal sarees. Which he wrapped in a huge, dirty-white cloth and carried door-to-door. Sarees that were gossamer, iridescent breaths of his Shonar Bengal. Vermillion of Ma Durga’s tongue splashed with the glittering black of her beautiful eyes. Fluffy-white rice laced with the hot, haldi curry of maccher jhol. Brinjal purple, studded with little gold specks of mustard. Jasmine-fair feet flashing the crimson seduction of alta. Burnt-pink misthi doi wrapped in the fragrant brown embrace of a little mud-pot. A swollen-gray Hoogly, pregnant with rain, dotted with delicate pink lotuses. Six yards of enchantment. Saree lengths of sorcery. And they never failed to bewitch me. In spite of my almost rude declarations of no, absolutely no intentions to buy, Gopal would grin his hopeful, little-boy grin, ask for a glass of water, pretending to drink it, slowly, surreptitiously unwrap the dirty-white cloth and let the magic out….
“Didi, dekhen! Bahut shoondor. Aap ko bahut suit karega!”
“Bhalo. Lekin nahin chaiye. Zari border? Office mein nahin chalega…..”
“Didi ab bhi service kaarta hai? Shaadi nahin karega?……….”
That’s when, sarees forgotten, we’d swap bits of our lives like two school kids sharing their lunch boxes……a bite of paratha from mine, a sliver of pickle from his. Life was a bitter-sweet, khata-meetha packed lunch. And Gopal never failed to humble me with his uncomplaining, unwavering faith in it. No matter that five years of pounding the mean streets and he wasn’t earning anymore than he did when he first came here. Or that his pathetic little client list never grew. Or that he was not any closer to going back to his little family. One day he’d make it, he told me. One day the worm would turn, didi. I couldn’t take it anymore. Go back, I told him. Be poor but in the free, happy air of your village. Eat a little less but with your wife and son. Go back. This place will swallow you up in one merciless gulp. Go back before it’s too late. And as I spoke, his eyes would glaze over and the grin would fade a little and sadden….. Then suddenly - snap! He’d be back. Full of hope. His eyes shining with dreams of the golden tomorrows which he was sure would come.
And before long, there’d be two more sarees in my cupboard and his grin would’ve changed from desperate hope to contented satisfaction. Then, he’d once more lovingly wrap the dirty-white cloth around his beautiful bits of Bengal and set off again to pound his sweetness into the mean streets. And long after he was gone, his shining black eyes and little-boy grin would linger in the air, gently mocking me and saying, “Oh ye of little faith………..”

Monday, January 08, 2007

The 10 most popular songs of Lata Mangeshkar

Of the thousands of songs that Lata mangeshkar ahs sung over the last 60 years, these are perhaps her 10 most popular songs....

1. Yeh zindagi ussi ki hai[ANARKALI 1953 C. Ramchandra/ Rajinder Kishen]
2. Pyar hua ikraar hua hai[SHRI 420 1955 Shankar-Jaikishen/Hasrat Jaipuri]
3. Ayega aanewala[MAHAL 1949 Khemchand Prakash/ J. Nakshab]
4. Aaja re pardesi [MADHUMATI 1958 Salil Chowdhury/ Shailendra]
5. Naina Barse [WOH KAUN THI 1964 Madan Mohan/ Raja Mehdi Ali Khan]
6. Inhi logon ne[PAKEEZAH 1971 Naushad/ ]
7. Man dole mera tan dole[NAGIN 1954 Hemant Kumar/Rajinder Kishen]
8. Aaj phir jeene ki tamana[GUIDE 1965 S.D. Burman/ Shailendra]
9. Bindiya chamkegi[DO RAASTE]
10. Tujhe dekha toh [Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge Jatin-Lalit/ Anand Bakshi]
11. Jiya jale jaan jale[DIL SE A.R. Rahman/ ]
12. Radh Na Bole[AZAAD 1955 C. Ramchndra/ Rajinder Kishen]
13. Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha[ANPADH 1962 Madan Mohan/ Raja Mehdi Ali Khan]
14. Sawan Ka Mahina [MILAN 1976 Laxmikant-Pyarelal/ Anand Bakshi ]
15. Kabhie Kabhi Mere Dil Mein[KABHI KABHIE 1976 Khayyam/ Sahir Ludhianvi]


Yusuf Khan, Devika Rani and the matter of a name

It was Devika Rani who gave the man who become one of Indian Cinena's greatest actors. She cast him in the film Jwar Bhata in 1944. His name was Yusuf Khan but Devika Rani wanted him to chnge his name and offered him 3 choices:-
Dilip Kumar
The rest is history

Thoughts of a Middle-Aged Romantic

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out 'till quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?”

Is there romance after 30?
You’re thinking - isn’t the answer obvious? I mean, there is a time and place for everything, isn’t there, and if you haven’t found love when both the waist and the age are still under 30, then when? All the same, the question still passes through the mind like a restless breeze through the trees. And one that has haunted mankind since the dawn of time. Ever since the Neanderthal man first felt his bald spot and watched his fat, frowsy wife grumpily slap the breakfast fried brontosaurus eggs in front of him. Ever since the Hindi phillums chocolate box heroes of our yesteryears were sucking their middle-aged bellies in to playing college kids long after they had celebrated their 40th birthday for the 5th time. And it’s the question that all those who cross over into the twilight zone of After-30 – and alas, we all will - sadly shake their heads, bite into their soggy bread pakora, sip their tepid tea and mutter to themselves…. “Is there romance after 30?”
Because, the thing is that just because the middle starts spreading, just because the only time love now figures in the conversation is when they’re talking about your love handles doesn’t mean that Ye Ole Dil stops yearning for a spot of pyaar-mohabbat. Just because you’ve seen the wifey in cold wax and colder cream, just because you’ve watched the patidev pluck his nose hairs and belch beer-‘n-biryani just before kissing you, doesn’t mean that your heart doesn’t crave for a dollop of moonlight and roses.
Wot I mean ter say, me munchkins, is that as far as romance goes, the dil never stops saying, “More!”
And if you don’t believe me, ask the Internet. Dunno about all you slaving away at those blogs and dunno about all you hunting the virtual waves for the mating habits of the Northern hairy-nosed wombat but if there’s a place where you go if you want to poke and prod at the underbelly of our innermost desires, it’s the Internet. So, perhaps you’ve noticed no self-respecting will be seen in public without a dating-mating section. That there are entire websites devoted to promising you that you’ll find true love – or at least your dream sado-masochist orgy mate – in just 5 quick clicks of your mouse. Yeah, yeah but that’s for the millions of garma-garam blooded, romance-crazed Under 30’s. Maybe but as we watch all the Hum Tums and Main Hoon Na’s and Dhoom’s and all those music videos stuffed to the gills with disgustingly luscious, sometimes barely clad NYT’s (Nubile Young Things) – I mean, even a 38- year old Shahrukh Khan is forced to play an army major who can pass off as a college brat - look a little closer at these websites. Which is what I did.
And found that the world is crawling with grizzled After-30’s geezers looking for….er, what are they looking for? Romance? Well, in a manner of speaking – going by some of the e-mail ids. For example what would you say a gent who calls himself boobsmaniac (aged 50 and in case you didn’t get it, his brief but searing bio-data is titled “big boobs lover”) is looking for? Then there was willmakeu2wet (aged 30), wet69 (aged 35), a hotparag and the gent to whom my heart went out to with the wistfully yearning sobriquet of whenwilligetmyhoney (aged 38).
So what, you scoff. One website doesn’t make a whole nation of Over-the-hill-30’s craving for romance. I mean, let’s face facts. The average marriageable age in India for a woman still hovers around 21, over 95 % of women are married by the time they’re 35 and divorce, though rising steadily like the nation’s blood pressure, is still down at healthy single digits. So by thirty – okay we’ll push that to 35 – you’re done with romance, found your soul mate, kindred spirit, for-better-or-for-worse half and have now moved on to other things. Bacchey-kacchey, Saturday night housie at the club, agonizing about hair tints, your cholesterol and what to do with those Wipro shares.
And romance? Ah, it’s there somewhere, fading like the upholstery on the drawing room sofa, often forgotten like that vegetable chopper that promised to mince anything from the onions for your do-pyaaza to your ma-in-law’s pinkie, a trifle moth eaten like your college year book and not even a very good a fit like your shaadi-ka-sherwani. But it’s there and we aren’t looking to redecorate, thank you.
I kinda guessed you’d say that. So I went to a few more “legit” websites, the kind boobsmaniac would shun, where intentions seemed more honourable and the handles a tad more respectable if a little less honest.
And the first indications were encouraging. The search thingie accommodated anyone from ages18 to 99 to search for anyone (man, or woman or both) from age 18-99. One website generously extended that to age 119 to cover all possibilities. So I searched for a man between 30 and 50. (As you can see, I’m not too picky but that’s one of the things that happens to you After 30. Pickiness plummets in direct proportion to the rate at which your craving for romance soars. By 50, you’ll settle for a 4-legged Martian with green skin and one eye, as long as he’s clean and can read the label on your bottle of medication for hot flushes.) I got 80 web pages of possibilities – er I mean men; most of them married and all with pics. So I narrowed it down to a man between 40 and 55…and still got 37 pages of men. Most of them married and all with pics.

So what, you scoff again. We already knew that the world is full of Over-The-Hill-of-Thirty married men looking to scratch that seven-year itch (thus labeled because it happens after 7 years and stays on for 7 years) one last time before everything droops and sags. True. But my point is. Are there enough women to match that demand? To find out, I swiftly transformed into a man looking for my Over-40 hot leg of baa-lambkin, my warm slice of sweetie-pie. (On the Net you can become anything - Elizabeth Hurley on a bad Arun Nayar day, the cigar on a good Bill Clinton day – anything). Alas, only 5 measly pages and …. I don’t want to be rude but let me put it like this. If the 37 pages of men are looking for matching Over-40 romance partners, they ain’t gonna find it on these 5 pages. Besides, most of these ladies wanted marriage and love. I know – we women always bay for the moon and that’s when the garden manure hits the ceiling….
So are we saying that after 30, women are done with romance? I think maybe not. It’s just that we ain’t tom-toming it from the rooftops. We may tightly scrape and pin our romantic yearnings into that super mum bun, we may smile brightly and stuff them firmly into the evening’s dum aloo, iron them away with the creases on hubby’s shirts but deep down inside somewhere, something still thrills at the thought of being tenderly treated like a rare hot house orchid. Look at the diamond ads, at the libraries still stuffed with Mills and Boon and you’ll know. Look at a film like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and you’ll know that for us women, being “happily” married to a good, decent man isn’t inoculation against romance. Look at Leela and Dil Chahata Hai and Freaky Chakra and you’ll know that even at the doddering old age of 40, we aren’t ready yet to hang up our foolishly hopeful, hopelessly romantic little hearts.
So, is there romance after 30?
Well, I guess all that we can say is that the question is a bit like, “Is there life after death?” And the answer is – who knows, dearies, who knows? But we’re hoping like hell there is….
“Aayega aane waala, aayega aayega aayega
Bhatki hui jawaani manzil ko dhoondti hai
Maajhi bagair nayya saahil ko dhoondti hai
Kya jaane dil ki kashti kab tak lage kinaare
Lekin yeh keh rahe hain dil ke mere ishaare
Aayega, aayeg, aayega…..”

picture source ;