THE STRAINS OF THE MELODY

Roshan The strains of the melodious song “ Hum intezaar karenge” superbly rendered by Asha Bhosle greeted my ears as I entered composer Roshans home which I visited for an interview on behalf of the film weekly “Screen” in the year 1968. This song composed from “Bahu Begum” was being played in his drawing room. At the entrance of the home itself who should be there to welcome me but Roshan himself with his charming wife, both of whom presented a pleasant picture. The informal manner in which our meeting started held promise of an interesting interview. Already feeling at home, I began the conversation by congratulating him for his fascinating song for the recently released film “Bahu Begum’” which also had another song “Duniya kare sawaal to hum kya jawaab dein”. It took me not long to observe he was a rather shy person. To make him more comfortable I asked him to play his song too. His wife readily obliged with a smile. I simply adored this composer whose creations in any genre whether it be filmy dhuns, bhajan ghazal or qawaalis had a melody which was difficult to match. A classical touch pervaded some of the songs which made for a pleasant fare. He started to tell me about his musical journey. Like most persons who seek a career in filmdom, he too had his share of struggles. After his stint at the Lucknow radio station where he met his future life partner Ira who was a Bengali (Roshan Nagrath was a Punjabi) he migrated to the citadel of filmdom Bombay in 1948. After assisting a small time composer, he came in contact with veteran director Kedar Sharma . Roshan was entrusted the musical score of film “Neki aur Badi” whose failure at the box office did not deter Sharma from engaging Roshan for “Bawre Nain” which saw huge success. The songs from this film “Khayalon mein kisika” crooned by Geeta Dutt and the one with the rustic flavor song “Sun bairi balam kuch bol re ib kya hoga” courted great popularity. I knew all about this and much more beyond it till the last phase of his career I had become a diehard fan of his having fully savored the subtle beauty of his songs like the devotional “Ae re main to prem deewani” or the emotion laden “Rehte the kabhi “ from Mamta : the philosophically worded “Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein”; the evergreen “Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi wo barsaat ki raat’ ; the FIlmfare award winning, the perennial favourite “Jo vaada kiya wo nibhana padega”, to name few of many hits. When I expressed my admiration for his mastery over melody, the gentle composer just acknowledged with a smile.  I could not help heaping praise on his iconic qawaali,” the mother of all qawaalis “as it is hailed, “Na to caravan ki talash thi” unusually long and vibrant that could easily enliven the dullest atmosphere. Countering my opinion that no one could match its marvelous quality he made haste to say that there were so many other qawaalis that fit into my description. The credit should be shared equally by the singer and the lyricist, he said. He told me he had immense love for classical music in which he had sufficient training. While I wanted to ask a question on this aspect, the maestro told me “be good enough to have a leisurely lunch with me. We can continue without talk later.” On my refusing point blank, he openly showed disappointment. ON his insisting further I agreed, the homely atmosphere making me feel as if I was a family member. The table was laid by Roshans wife herself.  I was in for another surprise as she herself started doing the culinary chores. I could hear the sound of rotis being rolled out. Roshan and I sat down to lunch while his housewifely wife started serving us hot rotis one by one making sure that the rotis were straight from the tava.  Here I felt a little ill at ease. While I felt honoured to have my lunch with the famous maestro the fact that his wife was at the kitchen slugging for us, made me embarrassed. I made my way into the kitchen to enquire her lunch. She gave a reply that she had kept a ‘vrath’ for the health and long life of her husband. Having finished the lunch, the chat went on. Roshan said, he had achieved full satisfaction in his career having had enough opportunity  for putting to use his knowledge of classical music as in the musical score of Kedar Sharma’s “Chitralekha” The songs “Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare” and “”ye ri jaane na dungi’ being special to him. “Aye re main to prem deewani” in raag Bhimpalas in “nau Bahar” also was one of his favourites, he added. Throughout the chat nowhere could I found even a shadow of ego, the I and the mine being totally absent. A pleasant smile was naturally on his lips. His expressions did not vary. A calm exterior reflected the inner peace and contentment. And the lunch part of the interview? It was not as if they could not afford a cook. Ila’s herself cooking the food and the in ostentatious way y of laying the table and the serving of the lunch as in the style of a middle class family spoke of their simplicity. During the last few years by dint of hard work that led to his popularity he had become quite affluent, possessing even an expensive limousine. In spite of this the answer that I received for the question I asked as to whether he was keen to see his sons Rakesh and Rajesh step into his shoes was a bit surprising. His opinion was that he would not object to it, if they opted for this line which however, could not guarantee a stable secure life. “The out of work periods which are inherent in this line could be quite agonizing”, he said, with a thoughtful expression. The interview long over, I left with sweet memories of the time with the famous composer. But hardly a few days had passed when I came across the news of his sudden demise in the newspaper. It came to be known that at a party he attended his uncontrolled laughter at a joke cost him his life. Being a heart patient this stress led to cardiac arrest. Then I realized why his devoted wife kept ‘vrath’ frequently. His life was not too long; it was cut short at 51. But indeed he lived a full life, leaving a veritable treasure of heart touching soul-elevating songs of everlasting quality. download As far as the frank opinion about the uncertainty in the line, luckily neither his sons, Rakesh and Rajesh Roshan and his grandson, the darling of millions Hrithik Roshan have not been its victims. They have reached a stage where there is little possibility of such a situation.

 

 

YOUTH AND OLD AGE

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Old Age is the stage when one hankers  not after luxurious goods

But only harbours the hope of hearing a few sweet words

Alas, the fulfillment of this wish often remains elusive

For the youth of the day have their own life to live

For us the ancients, they have little or no time to spare

So conversation with them becomes ever so rare

We the dull oldies are woefully ignorant of the current in thing

Hence, in the eyes of the smarties, we are simply nothing.

Our eager queries seldom fetch in reply not more than a monosyllable

We unnecessarily talk to them they think, because we have no work, we are idle

Our words of advice, (if we dare give it!) fall on deaf ears

They are sure they are mature beyond their years

Every poser is answered after a long pause, maybe to curb our urge to talk more

Fearing our insipid chatter, might death them bore?

Our normal  talk is to them a source of irritation

For which we fail to see any rhyme or reason

The best way therefore is to keep mum

Taking in our stride their every fancy and whim.

This indifferent attitude towards us is sometimes hard  to endure

But they still love us about which we are very sure.

*A poem I wrote for ‘Harmony’ Magazine for the June 2008 issue

EDUCATION THROUGH TV?

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A friend of mine who teaches general science to the lower classes in a reputed school, observed

 amusedly that thanks to TV viewing, the students display a greater interest in and knowledge about the animal kingdom and that her classes have become livelier. 

In the light of this statement, I wonder if TV is not more sinned against than sinning. 

Do the programmes-other than the ones meant for entertainment-fail to hold the interest of children who are regarded as the main victims of the ‘new opiate’? I, for one, eel youngsters take a keener interest in sports, literature, science or even politics, as a result of watching TV.

A school girl known to me has become an avid reader of Tagore, Premchand, O’Henry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, etc., in recent months. I think TV whets their appetite for general knowledge in a way.

As for waste of their prime time, in the absence of TV the children could well become hooked on to comics of dubious merit. Injudicious viewing is indulged in by children only in households where the parents lack the requisite firmness to deal with them. Or, do some parents themselves ned to be de-addicted?

 

 

 

*this letter won the first prize in the Eve’s Weekly magazine, Feb 28th to March 6, 1987 edition.

WHY SHOULD EYEBROWS BE RAISED AT ALL?

ImageA friend of mine lost her husband in the prime of her life. He had been a heart patient for years and she had looked after him i with exemplary care, love and devotion. After his death she did not feel like wearing good clothes or jewellery. She wanted to switch over to simple white sarees but her college going children dissuaded her from doing so on the plea that this would remind them of their bereavement whenever, they set their eyes on their mother. 

She finally but this gave rise to shock waves in some quarters.

It set me thinking, what purpose is served by making the already dull life of a widow more so by her adhering to conventions. How many of the tradition bound widows have such a story of sacrifice behind them? Can my friends wearing fine clothes detract from appreciating the way the served her husbands for long years in her youth/ Why should eyebrows be raised at all?

THE PLIGHT OF WIDOWS

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I was lucky to have in my grandmother a strong feminist who wanted us grand-daughters to be highly educated and economically independent. Often she would bemoan the fact that she remained semi-literate as she was married off at a very early age, in tune with the times.

Her benign eyes would light up when some of us shone in our studies or excelled in extra- curricular activities. Often she would contrast our good fortune with those of her contemporaries, many of whom had become child widows. One particular heart rending episode she narrated was that of youthful widows with clean-shaven heads covered with white saris, indulgently adoring the salt and pepper hair of their suhagan mothers or mothers-in-law with flowers.

The only ambition of these women had, was to go once in their lifetime to Kashi to take a holy dip in the Ganges. Only a fortunate few realized this dream. The rest resigned themselves to their fate.

Pondering over it could any society be more callous towards its womenfolk?

*this article had won the best letter in Femina-July 23 to August 7, 1989