Yonder Peaks Beckon

Hello to All & Sundry, Thank you for viewing my blog. I am an itinerant purveyor of good cheer and I dare say, a little bit of erudition. This space is primarily an outlet for me to jot down my rambling thoughts and give my brain a little bit of airing, which it really does need!:) I hope you have a good read! Tallyho!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marathas in Delhi

A point to ponder. After Shivaji Maharaj, Bajirao Peshwa and Sadashivrao Bhau, Anna Hazare is the only Maratha to have shaken Delhi to its core. Regardless of one's views on the Lokpal bill all Maharashtrians should feel proud about this.

Jai Maharashtra !

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Things To Remember While Buying Property In India

As a recent property buyer, I thought I'd blog about some common pitfalls while buying new property in India. Some of the points may be applicable only for property in Maharashtra.

1) Make sure the builder shows you that he has the title to the land. If there is TDR involved  then he should show that he has purchased the TDR for the land.
2) The builder puts up a board outside the land mentioning the name of the architect, the number of floors etc. Make sure that things like the number of floors that are allowed is accurate. For instance if he is selling you an apartment on the 6th floor and the board says he is allowed to build only 4 floors then warning bells should go off.
3) As the builder if the artist's impression he shows in the brochure is going to be the actual likeness of the building when its built. 
4) Ask the builder for a copy of the plan and blue print sanctioned by the municipal corporation. Get an architect to look at it and confirm point (3).
5) Ask an architect to measure the dimensions of your flat which are sanctioned by the municipal corporation and compare with the dimensions the builder shows in the brochure.
6) When doing the purchase deed, make sure that the items that are mentioned in the brochure (e.g. specific bathroom fittings, burglar alarms etc) are also mentioned in the purchase deed.
7) Insert a clause in the purchase deed that if the builder delays giving possession of the flat beyond a certain date then he has to pay a fixed amount for each day/month of delay.
8) Asking the builder to create an escrow account would be ideal to take care of item (7) but the builder is unlikely to do that except for very expensive flats or for an entire building.
9) When executing the purchase deed make sure how much of the flat is carpet area, how much is open terrace, common spaces etc. The builder should be charging less for everything else other than carpet area.
10) If you are creative and have your own architect/interior designer it is possible to get the builder to give you a raw flat at a lower rate i.e. it is the purchaser who will get his own guys to get plastering, tiling etc done as per his customised requirements. The advantage is that the builder will sell the flat to you at a lower rate and you can do the interiors as per your quality and design requirements and possible even earlier.
11) After getting the completion certificate, ask the builder to execute the deed of conveyance without which you cannot resell the flat.

I hope the above helps any potential buyers. Cheerio.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Inconvenient Realities Conveniently Ignored By The Indian Liberals and The Indian Left-Wing

The Inconvenient Realities Conveniently Ignored By The Indian Liberals and The Indian Left-Wing

The current outpouring of anti-US and liberal bullshit from the afore-mentioned groups in India in response to the OBL killing  has finally prodded me to rant about their blatant intellectual dishonesty.

1.         They will utter stock phrases like ‘the dead should be treated with dignity’ or use facebook status updates like ‘I cannot celebrate death’. They do not stop to think about the disrespect this shows to the thousands who died in the twin towers at the hands of OBL or the thousands who have died in India at the hands of similar ideology. Whilst uttering such stock-phrases, they don’t have the courage to actually come out and say which side they support.

2.         When it comes to supporting a particular side in this argument, they will talk semi-intelligently about geopolitical issues and crimes committed by the US. During this outpouring of scorn, they will conveniently neglect to mention that they prefer to live and work in the US and indeed are quite desperate to do so on many occasions.

3.         Gujarat as an example of right-wing extremism in India is a constant talking point. What is conveniently ignored is that the anti-Sikh riots in India after Indira Gandhi’s assassination did not involve the right-wing parties in India. The default option during any riot is to blame the right-wing and this is stated without a hint of irony at the bigoted nature of the accusation.

4.         They will sympathise with minorities and tribals, which is of course correct. However, point out the conditions of the Kashmiri pandits and how they were driven out elicits an embarrassed mumble and a quick change of the topic!

5.         Tribals and the tribal way of life will be eulogised but they will actually never go and live in a tribal area.

6.         They will oppose crony capitalism, big business, capitalism in general without offering an alternative model and whilst benefiting from the largesse and opportunities afforded by all three !!

7.         While on an anti-capitalism rant, they lack the courage to say that they prefer to live in communist states. They also usually own at least one high-tech, expensive and truly decadent product and likely to have it on their person when they are on their anti-capitalist rant J J

8.         Slum-redevelopment will be opposed frequently when they are in five-star hotel bars and restaurants or living in comfortable middle-class housing.

9.         Then, their next argument is that they oppose all state-intervention and heavy-handedness, which is fine until the next failure by a government to meet their standards of governance is met with virulent criticism. So the game goes on. Vehemently oppose the state and its structures and any strengthening thereof in public fora and on facebook discussions but at the first instance of a failure of state institutions, lament at the lack of effective governance they spend so much energy in undermining and criticising!!

The next post will be about the inconvenient truths ignored by the Indian right-wing! That should be fun too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Doomsday Capitalism


great article by paul farrell, even if a little over-the-top. its still relevant nevertheless. replace USA with India, Wall Street with Dalal Street and Washington with New Delhi or Mumbai and you get an idea of India's future !

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

India CPI and Government Bond Yield

Instructive !!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pondering over Anna Hazare's agitation

 All the hyperventilating leftists in India who are going ga-ga over Anna Hazare's fast is enough to make me very queazy and suspicious.
A few random thoughts:
  1. Is the Lokpal going to supersede the courts with its own police force?
  2. What's to stop the Lokpal and its powers from being misused especially if it has its own police force?
  3. All institutions can be corrupted as its the individuals who are corrupt. What's to ensure that the Lokpal is an exception?
  4. Why should we not be suspicious of unelected NGO chaps and santcimonius individuals like Anna Hazare who insist on being involved in framing laws now?
  5. Instead of having a new institution like a Lokpal, why cant Anna Hazare and his fellow agitators improve the existing law and order machinery?
  6. Why cant all Indians give comments on issues like Lokpal or for that matter any other law? Why should we be subject to the whims and fancies of these agitators?
  7. Why cant these people realise that we are not ruled by the british and freedom-movement like andolans are passe. I must admit that i am a little ambivalent on this point as the indian government by its very nature is brutal and ignores citizens unless they indulge in violence!
  8. Is this another agitation hijacked by the english media and the yuppies who like nothing better than an excuse to be on talk shows and light candles !

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan and Jaitapur

the state of the fukushima nuclear power plant is a clear warning signal for all the supporters of jaitapur nuclear power plant near ratnagiri. 

india is a third world country with third world level of systems, processes and a complete lack of discipline. i shudder to think what the impact will be of  a similar earthquake related emergency in jaitapur. it will be bhopal many times over. 

a jugaad goverment and a jugaad country and jugaad economy should never try to attempt something as sophisticated and dangerous like a nuclear power plant.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hindi Film Actors

it is so funny to hear hindi film actors talk about their movies as if they are the outcome of great intellectual thought rather than what they truly are - an expensive display of their vanity. to add to it, they usually fake an accent in order to either appear less indian or to 'fit-in' in Cannes, Oscars and the other sundry film festivals!

i am pretty sure that if there is every a calamitous event in india, something truly earth shattering, these so-called indian actors will be the first one to abandon ship!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


great mind-bullet !

excellence is the ability to call upon the full extent and force of one's talents whenever the situation demands!

on that note....off to bed !

ps- that thought was triggered by listening to c.ramchandra. even in his fallow years, he could still come up with a malmali tarunya mazhe. what a genius!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Great Quote

I read a great quote today. "Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.”

Its true of so many countries including India where the danger is palpably close. What a mess the country is in !

Total grid-lock in governance.

Friday, December 22, 2006

An Elegy For Hindi Film Music

An Elegy For Hindi Film Music

I espy Madhubala on the swing, swaying gracefully like the solitary flower caught amidst a strong breeze, to strains of ‘Aayega Aanewala” with Lata trailing of with a haunting Aayega, Aayega, Aayega to embellish Khemchand Prakash’s already formidable composition. The strains of the Mahal masterpiece are still with me when I switch the channel on the television, only to be presented a constant stream of diabolical excuses for music! The reality of modern day Hindi film music has rarely dawned so harshly on me.

Reminiscing about HFM has always been and will continue to be a wistful yet passionate exercise. Even a few minutes of listening to it creates a mist of melancholy and nostalgia for the melody that once was HFM. Tracing the decline of HFM is an imprecise job but one can see it starting from the mid-sixties: where rhythm took primacy over lyrics and melody and the creative juices of the great composers started drying up. The next generation of composers that took over the mantle – Laxmikant-Pyarelal, R.D.Burman and Kalyanji-Anandji despite their talent and loyal fans were simply not in the same league as their predecessors.

Sociologists might attribute other, dense reasons for the decline in the quality of Hindi film music. Perhaps the steady whittling away of national confidence through the decade of the 50s after the first flush of independence destroyed the desire of film makers to make Indian-centric movies with a natural musical context. Perhaps, the changing nature of Indian society with increasing organized crime & smuggling pushed Hindi movies towards more action-oriented and less musical subjects. All this is however, only grist for a sociologist’s mill.

The simplest and the most accurate explanation is that the composers who created and sustained the beautiful mosaic of Hindi film music simply ran out of creative juices. Their replacements were just not up to scratch. There are apologists who would defend the new generation of composers like RDB, LP, KA saying that theirs was a different time, with a different audience and so on. I think this is hogwash because none of them created melody as consistently as the composers of the 50s. Their talent was on full display occasionally but not consistently. This consistency for a long period of time is what makes the music directors of yore special, very special! Whilst we are on the subject of consistency, an oft-ignored fact is that only S.D.Burman could maintain the highest standards of music from beginning to the end – a feat not achieved by even the most prolific factories of hit music – Shankar Jaikishen. In fact, SJ’s body of work in the second half of the sixties shows an alarming decline in quality, which was only exacerbated with Jaikishen’s demise. Only occasional works like Amrapali (1966, with 4 stunning Lata solos), Teesri Kasam (1966) and Mera Naam Joker (1970) showed what they were capable of when they were not satisfying the least common denominator!

But I digress! I present below some nuances and reference points of good Hindi film music that all lie in the ‘golden age’ and which have been lost forever simply because there aren’t any talented composers who can pull them off. I’ve rambled a little but HFM is love affair like no other so one is allowed some license whilst writing about it!

1. Melody: Its definition differs with each listener but for most avid listeners of Hindi film music it’s always been associated with C.Ramchandra and Anil Biswas. I am more familiar with C.Ramchandra’s work so due apologies to Anil Biswas’s fans. One of my favourites from C.Ramchandra’s and Lata’s repertoire is Sajna Aa Ja, Daras Dikha Ja from Ladki (1953). It showcases the standard CR stamp – incredibly sweet yet simple composition and clean orchestration that allows Lata to flourish. C.Ramchandra can actually be the subject of a musical thesis. I’ve never seen ‘Ladki’ and it’s probably not a great film either but the composition alone makes one yearn to watch it on screen.

The number of movies made ‘watchable’ and even big hits only on the strength of their music score must be countless! If readers have seen Azaad (Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari, 1955) then they will know what I am talking about. With apologies to all Dilip Kumar fans, the movie is a grievous assault one one’s sense of logic. Yet I suffered through the movie only because I wanted to see C.Ramchandra’s compositions enacted on screen. It is the only thing of value in the movie apart from Meena Kumari’s delicate looks! What a score! And finished by C.Ramchandra in all of two weeks! This is the true mark of genius – the ability to draw on one’s talent at will to create something enduring. Even in his fallow years CR could still manage a Lata nugget – Jhilmil Jhilmil Lahron Ka Aanchal Udta Hai Chanchal from V.Shantaram’s Stree. The song has a very difficult and lengthy mukhda to compose but CR manages it very gracefully with a heart-stopping pause by Lata between ‘Aanchal Udta’ and ‘Hai Chanchal’ in the mukhda. There is the slightest hint of an instrument filling the gap caused by Lata’s pause. The effect as expected, is incredible.

C.Ramchandra was, without doubt, the true badshah of melody. His music unlike Shankar Jaikishen’s sometimes, never overshadows the singer. The music plays in the background (and very well mind you!) and allows the lyrics and the singer to dominate and how well did Lata and C.Ramchandra accomplish this!

C.Ramchandra was of course not the only virtuoso when it came to composing lilting melodies with Lata. Listen to Lata in Anil Biswas’s Man Mein Kisi Ki Preet Basake (Aaram) or in SJ’ Ichak Dana Bichak Dana (Shree 420) or Mere Sapne Mein Aana Re (Rajhath) or their Lata solos in Kali Ghata and Mayurpankh or in Salil Chaudhary’s Zulmi Sang Aankh Ladi & Aaja Re Pardesi in Madhumati or in Naushad’s Umango Ko Sakhi (Amar) and Meri Ladli (Andaz) or Hemant Kumar’s Dheere Dheere Machal (Anupama) or Madan Mohan’s Ham Pyar Mein Jalne Walon Ko (Jailor) or his work with Lata in Anpadh. Incidentally Anpadh as a musical score comfortably overshadows his mentor C.Ramchandra’s score for Amardeep released in the same year (1958), which is no mean achievement!

Its not surprising that melody is often associated with Lata’s voice. With a voice like that who wouldn’t want to compose the choicest tunes for her. Lata’s talent combined with a brilliant composer results in a creation that lies emblazoned on one’s consciousness forever. An example is Lata’s solo in Albela – Dil Dhadke Nazar Sharmaye (C.Ramchandra again!). Her voice is like the finest strand of silk threading a needle. Add to that Geeta Bali performing the song on screen and the effect is mesmerizing! Is that the best song in Albela or is it Dheere Se Aaja (to this date the standard reference point for ‘loris’ in HFM) or Balma Bada Nadaan?

That said, there are some very very good male solos and duets. Rafi and Lata have a great duet (rarely heard on radio) right at the beginning of Albela ‘Ghazab Ki Neend Hai…..Mehfil Mein Meri’. As an aside, I wonder why CR didn’t use Rafi as the male voice in the film. It fits Bhagwan quite nicely and moreover Rafi always sang extremely well under CR’s exacting baton. Rafi and Lata combine again with great results for CR in Nausherwan-E-Adil (Bhool Jaye Saare Gham, Taaron Ki Zuban Par), Saqi (Aa Gayi Hai Ishq Pe Bahaar), Khazana (Mujhe Tumse Bahut Hai Pyaar). Very good Rafi-Lata duets are also found in Amber (Hum Tum Ye Bahar), Dulari (Mil Mil Ke Gayenge), Tere Ghar Ke Samne and the multitude of SJ hits!

Talat-Lata duets are less prolific but of a rare and beautiful quality like a dew drop on a fresh young leaf. Gaya Andhera Huwa Ujala (CR, Subah Ka Tara), Jab Jab Phool Khile (SJ, Shikast), Dil Mein Sama Gaye Sajan (Sajjad, Sangdil), Seene Mein Sulagte Hain Armaan & Nain Mile Nain Huwe Baaware (Anil Biswas, Taraana) give us a tantalizing glimpse of the magic that Talat’s dulcet tremulous voice created when combined with Lata’s vocals.

2. Use of Percussion & String Instruments - Yet again a C.Ramchandra highlight! His use of percussion instruments like the tabla and dholak is at once playful yet endowed with a classicism that would’ve pleased a table or dholak maestro. Listen to Parchhain’s Kisi Ne Mujhko Mere Ghar Mein Aake Loot Liya (Talat-Lata) or Dekh Hamein Awaz Na Dena (Amardeep) or the best Lata-Asha duet ever composed (in my opinion of course!) O Chand Jahan Wo Jaye (Sharada) with jaw dropping use of percussion. Listen to CR use the mandolin in Azad (Dekho Ji Bahar Aayi) or in Subah Ka Tara (Gaya Andhera Hua Ujala).

SJ used string instruments heavily and to stunning effect – Chori Chori, Halaku, An Evening in Paris and many many more. Sangam has a beautiful sitar, piano and violin piece in the lengthy prelude music to ‘Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padhkar’. Again I must digress to come to the use of prelude and interlude pieces in film music. These are used now just as a ‘filler’. The MDs that I’ve talked about thus far used it to dress up their music and made interlude and prelude music an integral part of the song, sometimes even better than the song itself. Listen to SJ’s almost Mozartesque (heavy orchestration, almost violent, yet very hummable) prelude compositions in Anadi (Kisi Ki Muskurahaton Pe) Kathputli (Bol Re Kathputli), New Delhi (Nakhrewali), Yahudi (Dil Mein Pyaar Ka Toofan), Hariyali Aur Rasta (Bol Meri Takdir Mein Kya Hain). The effect leaves one dazed at the grandeur of the composition.

Naushad in my opinion from the mid-50’s onwards was more associated with steady compositions rather than the awe – inspiring music of his Rattan, Dastan, Andaz, Amar, Anmol Ghadi days. Naushad fans will be up in arms no doubt! Yet, listen to Naushad in his more creative phase using the mandolin beautifully in Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki (Dulari) and also a very sweet lilting Rafi-Lata duet in Dulari – Mil Mil Ke Gayenge. One yearns to hear something similar in his later years but sadly is left unfulfilled.

3. Use of Chorus: The chorus these days is usually heard in film music only in disco or Punjabi wedding songs! Modern Composers should listen to how the chorus was used by Naushad in Uran Khatola (More Saiyyan Ji Utrenga Paar, O Door Ke Musafir) or Shankar Jaikishen in Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (Ajeed Dastan Hai Yeh) or S.D.Burman in Kagaz Ke Phool (Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari) and Guide (Piya Tose Naina Laage Re) and Bambai Ka Babu (Mukesh’s Chal Ri Sajni Ab Kya Soche), where the chorus is used as interlude music. I must mention the song that is held up as a brilliant composition by Naushad – Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya. The song looks very good indeed on screen (almost entirely because of Madhubala!) and has a very good chorus in the ‘Jhuk Na Sakega Ishq Hamara’ line. However, in my opinion the composition itself is quite average and Naushad could surely have done better after allegedly spending an entire night composing it.

4. Romantic Songs: How modern composers can compose romantic songs without good quality poetry baffles me no end. I can easily woo a girl by singing Rafi’s Mere Huzoor hit – Apne Rukh Par Nigah Karne Do…..Rukh Se Jara Nakab Uthao Mere Huzoor. If I had to use a modern composition, it would have to be something like ‘Ek Chumma Tu Mujhko Udhar De De’. I am sure the result would be far less pleasurable than if I were to use any romantic song by Rafi. Whilst we are on the subject of Rafi, digress I must. Rafi, without doubt, was the greatest singer of film songs that the Hindi film industry has seen or is likely to see. One has only listen to how effortlessly he conveys the mood of the song and his versatility in ‘Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par’ and ‘Sar Jo Tera Chakraye’ (Pyaasa) or in Hum Dono (Kabhi Khud Pe, Main Zindagi Ka Saath) or Guide (Din Dhal Jaye) or Chitralekha (Man Re Tu Kahe Na Dheer Dhare) or Rajhath (Aaye Bahar Banke) or Nausherwan-E-Adil (Yeh Hasrat Thi) or Deedar (Meri Kahani Bhoolne Waale) or Kala Pani (Hum Bekhudi Mein Tumko) or Kala Bazaar (Apni To Har Aah Ik Toofan Hai) or Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (Dil Ka Bhanwar & Tu Kahan Yeh Bata) and countless more. Kabhi Khud Pe and Din Dhal Jaye are probably some of his best and certainly in any top 10 list of Hindi songs.

One can’t talk about romantic songs without talking of the actors who enacted them on screen. The finest of these was without doubt Dev Anand. I cannot think of anyone who can pull of a jaunty walk and a silly jog (watch Rafi’s Khoya Khoya Chand in Kala Bazaar) and still look handsome. I cannot but help smile at Dilip Kumar’s brave yet doomed attempt to look casual and handsome in the romantic songs in Madhumati, Azad etc. His intensity is just too much to hide. Dev Anand was refreshingly laid back. Rajendra Kumar was lucky to have great romantic songs (by who else but Rafi!) in Arzoo, Suraj, Dharti, Sangam, Sasural, Hamrahi etc but could never quite pull it off as smartly as Dev Anand.

5. Dance Music – A genre of music seen almost entirely in night clubs these days. Why oh why cant composers create something even remotely close to C.Ramchandra’s Navrang compositions or his dance compositions like ‘Aplam Chaplam’ and ‘Baliye O Baliye’ in Azad or his zany dance music in Albela and the Eena Meena Deeka (Asha) . Shankar is widely known as the master of dance music in the mythology of HFM. Good he certainly was – Rajhath’s ‘Nache Ang Ang Ang Tere Aage’ (even the gods would’ve wanted to see Madhubala dance!) or SJ’s Chori Chori lata-asha duet – Man Bhavan Ke Ghar Jaye Gori and many others. There are others however who can also lay claim to composing great dance music - SDB for Guide and Jewel Thief (Hothon Mein Aisi Baat) for example. Hemant Kumar comes with a lovely Asha dance number (Sakiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahi Aayegi) in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. The song is a must-see also for its picturisation.

6. Patriotic Songs: Even the biggest cynic will admit to being stirred by Rafi’s evocative patriotic songs in Leader (Naushad) and Haqeekat (Madan Mohan) or Hansraj Behl’s Jahan Daal Daal Par Sone Ki (Rafi singing for Prem Chopra and Premnath in Sikandar-E-Azam!) C.Ramchandra comes up with his own, now famous, Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo. It is a very different sort of patriotic song shorn of bombast and use of heavy orchestration or cymbals or trumpets. CR just lets his composition, the lyrics and Lata do their magic – and how well they combine to convey anguish and dignified patriotism.

There are more signposts of HFM that are no more to be found – songs for a dream sequence for instance. Parchhain’s ‘Dil Dil Se Kah Raha Hai’ is another C.Ramchandra stunner not often heard these days! Songs with social relevance like Mukesh’s songs for Khaiyyam in Phir Subah Hogi or Rafi’s full throated Karwan Guzar Gaya (Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal, Roshan) or his ‘Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par’ in Pyaasa are heard to come by. Good qawallis are also unheard of these days as are good bhajans. The list is endless and making one is very depressing.

There are still some who nurture fond hopes of a creative renaissance in HFM. If these people can find a modern composition to come even remotely close to C.Ramchandra’s Katate Hain Dukh Mein Ye Din or Tum Kya Jano Tumhari Yaad Mein or S.D.Burman’s Tum Na Jane Kis Jahan Mein Kho Gaye or Chand Phir Nikla or Shankar Jaikishen’s Rasik Balma or Do Din Ki Zindagi Mein Dukhde Hain Beshumaar or Naushad’s Lata solos in Amar, then, only then shall I concede that there is hope.

If I listen to all the above songs however, I know that HFM is now dead. Spare a thought for the trauma that people like Naushad, Shankar or C.Ramchandra must've gone through as they saw their creativity fade and musical notes that ebbed and flowed at their mere whim no longer seemed to acknowledge their presence. The demise – both creative and physical - of the towering personalities of HFM has left popular Indian music bereft of a soul. We are left to mourn as best as we can whilst reminiscing about a golden age of film music that once was and can never be again.

Monday, July 17, 2006

India - A Crisis of Governance

India – A Crisis of Governance

At the outset, I must confess that this piece is written in despair. Despair brought on by the relentless misfortune that continues to befall India and her helpless citizens. I was bold enough to predict in ‘Does India Really Have A Bright Future?’ that life in India would continue to go on as it had been since the ages – a series of droughts, floods, riots, bombs, terrorism and a dishonest & week-kneed polity hell bent on keeping the country and its constituents as their personal fiefdom, interspersed with the occasional good news about the individual achievements of its indefatigable citizenry. Nevertheless, I was earnestly hoping that India’s luck would turn the corner and her people would find a set of conditions wherein they could fulfill their individual destinies. I was hoping that she would be blessed with a reasonably honest set of politicos that would, most of the time, put her interests above their own. I was hoping that life in India would settle in to a stable, peaceful and prosperous routine that would afford her people at least a fleeting glimpse of Camelot! Alas! My hopes and prayers were in vain! Recalling the tragedies and misfortunes – both major and minor - in the last couple of years is a very disheartening exercise so I shall refrain from doing so. It is incredible however, to see how pessimism disappears in India as soon as the Sensex touches a new high! Anyone pointing out the millions living in gut-wrenching poverty is seen as a spoilsport or heaven forbid a communist!

Why are we unable to get out of this rut? Why do Indians invariably do better overseas? I believe, this conundrum is an amalgam of how the Indian ‘system’ (politicos, bureaucrats etc.) views the role of the government and the presence (or absence in our case!) of visionary leaders. The lack of even one these conditions is a recipe for underachievement or worse! The ‘system’ and tools of government should be configured in such a way as to enable the citizens to go about their lives without hindrance and insecurity and allow them to fulfill their potential. The state should restrict itself to providing physical security, broad macro-economic management and other functions of government such as education, healthcare and a policy framework to enable the creation of physical infrastructure. The people should be free to lead their lives as they deem fit with the knowledge that breaking the law will invite censure and punishment. The ‘developed’ world follows this model of governance and Indians, with their amazing intellect and hard work, naturally flourish in such a system. India herself, on the other hand, has a ‘mai-baap sarkar’. The government till recently used to dictate almost every aspect of our daily lives. People with pre-1991 memories would still remember the lines for the monthly ration, cooking gas, desperation to get in to a good school & college, long waiting lists to buy automobiles & scooters, the distress caused by lack of hospitals and communication, the ‘hollering’ to get themselves heard during a ‘trunk-call’ that had to be booked in advance through our blessed telephone system! I would venture to say that India achieved political freedom as a nation but that freedom was not passed on to her citizens. They remained chained to a brutal, heartless state apparatus that dictated their daily lives. They suffered under a system and a set of people that behaved as medieval feudal rulers, lording it over their hapless subjects. It is only since 1991, that the first stirrings of freedom and the daring to dream could be seen and heard in the hearts and minds of the average Indian. Their performance since then has been stellar and exemplary despite being continuously let down and discouraged by the Indian state.

As an aside, the nature of the Indian state should also be a point to ponder for thinking citizens. India as a political entity is an entirely British construction welded together in her early years by Sardar Patel! Before 1947, we did not exist as a single country. Therefore, despite the depredations they unleashed on us, we should be thankful to the British for forcing the various peoples of India to live together under one political entity, for better or for worse – just like a marriage!

Nations and empires reach their zenith, regardless of the nature of their political system, by a set of visionary, honest and upright leaders that have the courage and fortitude to see their vision through with unflinching zeal and unwavering commitment. History shows us numerous examples to illustrate this point. Rome achieved her greatest glory not on the backs of a squabbling senate but through the genius of Caesar and his charisma, leadership and loyal legions. The Mughal Empire was at the height of power as long as it had strong central authority to drive it but after Aurangzeb’s death it was sacrificed in the squabbles between his sons. The absence of a strong ruler in Delhi eventually drew in more invaders keen on the riches of India. South of the Vindhyas, the Maratha Empire saw its greatest days through the drive & vision of the Peshwas. With Nanasaheb’s death after the disaster at the third battle of Panipat, the confederacy could never quite recover despite attempts to resurrect its power by Madhavrao Peshwa. History is replete with similar of examples of a people achieving greatness through visionary and courageous leadership in sync with good governance. As soon as either one of these two factors disappears, the nation begins to sink in to a quicksand.

A post-independence India has never had these two factors in consonance with each other. When we had a PM with absolute authority & a certain amount of vision, our system of governance was a hostage to a romantic left-wing ideology. This preponderance of ideology in our politics is truly puzzling. Blind and unflinching belief in ideology gives even the incompetent a framework to construct arguments and conveniently allows logic and enlightened national interest to be flushed down the tubes. Both sides of the political spectrum are enamoured of ideology. Their adherence to ideology continues even in the face of election defeats. I find it incredible that an anti-incumbency factor is a given in all Indian elections, almost as if every ruling party concedes that it cannot but do a shoddy job of governing and that their time in power is going to end at the next election. With this logic, is it any wonder that every party in power seeks to maximise its rent-seeking behaviour while it can?

The post-1991 freedom experienced by the Indian people is by its very nature threatening to the ‘powers-that-be’. Even this little freedom, was given to our citizens not by an enlightened government but in desperation caused by extra-ordinary economic circumstances. Is it any wonder therefore that the ‘state’ will fight every inch of the way to arrogate unto itself a prominent role in the daily life of its citizens. This overbearing tendency of the Indian state is now aided in its diabolic efforts by an absence of visionary leadership, political opposition that has imploded and logjam in reforming our system. The factor that makes matters even worse is the nature of political coalitions that are now the only means of governing the country.

The greatness of India and her people will never be achieved by hotchpotch coalitions. Political coalitions are of interest only to sociologists and political theorists. The damage they will do to our prospects is impossible to measure but scary nevertheless, to imagine. Each member of the coalition regresses to its own narrow, frequently divisive agenda totally oblivious to the larger stakes at play. Compare this with the relentlessness with which our two main adversaries on the northern and western borders pursue their agenda vis-à-vis India!

Will future generations of Indians see the unravelling of their nation in to a number of fragmentary states with a weak centre? I hope not but history has seen this happen. The end of the Peshwai caused the fragmentation of the Maratha confederacy. The end of the Mughal Empire caused its individual elements to rise up and claim sovereignty over their fiefs. Even the long-subjugated Rajputs became independent. A weak locus had its inevitable result of inviting invaders, first from the northeast and then finally the sea-faring British who subjugated India and her people more comprehensively than any conqueror before. History teaches India, her government and her people many valuable lessons should we be willing to study them. If we ignore them however, we do so at our own peril and subject our future generations to the effects of our ignorance and our hubris.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mohammed Rafi

The article was publised on rediff but they made a hash of the editing! The rediff article is on http://in.rediff.com/movies/2004/jul/30rafi.htm

The original is below, slightly opinionated but with good reason!

What does one write about the great Mohammed Rafi? I run the risk of penning meaningless platitudes in an attempt to do so. The fact that his mellifluous voice worked wonders for many songs for more than 30 years, that his playback singing enhanced the careers of many a star like Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet etc. is well known.

In my opinion, Rafi’s ability to generate the complete range of emotions and draw the listener into the song, the mood and the character is unsurpassed - and all this is accomplished without resorting to antics like yodeling. Mukesh had the pathos, Talat the delicate tremor, Kishore, the zany songs as well as the gravitas. Rafi had all the above plus a certain extra, a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ as the French call it.

Just a cursory glance at Rafi’s repertoire shows us his mind boggling versatility. Who else, other than Rafi, could have sing patriotic songs(Kar Chale Ham Fida - Haqeeqat), romantic songs(Aye Husn Zara Jaag – Mere Mehboob), bidai songs (Babul Ki Duwayen – Neel Kamal), melancholy songs (Yaad Na Jaye – Dil Ek Mandir), philosophical songs (Yeh Mahlon Yeh Takhto Yeh Tajon Ki Duniya – Pyasaa), devotional songs(Duniya Na Bhaye – Basant Bahar), classical songs (Nache Man Mora,– Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen) , qawwalis (Na To Karvan Ki Talash – Barsaat Ki Raat) and several other genres with so much fervour and effortless ease.

This effortlessness is perhaps his unique quality. Other than heavy classical songs, I have not heard a Rafi song where he struggles through an octave or to convey the nuance of the song exactly as intended by the lyricist. Indeed, there isn’t a genre of Hindi film music that is not embellished by one or the other Rafi classic.

The 1950s and early1960s were unquestionably the golden age of Hindi Cine Music. The 1950s particularly so because of the simplicity, lightness and melody of the compositions, the great variety infused into music by such diverse composers like Shankar-Jaikishen, S.D.Burman, C.Ramchandra, Anil Biswas, Sajjad Hussain, Madan Mohan, Naushad etc. There were great lyricists and more importantly great lyrics for composers to work on. The great stars of Hindi cinema were too at their peak till about the mid to late 1960s. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Rafi’s golden age lasted till the replacement of melody by rhythm, the decline of the great composers and more importantly the decline of the great stars that Rafi sang for like Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand etc. Kishore Kumar & Rajesh Khanna took India by storm with Aradhana and sadly pushed Rafi into the back row, his few hits in the 1970s for Laila-Majnu, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sargam, Karz etc. notwithstanding.

Some readers may be surprised to find Dev Anand mentioned above. The popular mythology of Hindi Cinema puts forth the view that Kishore Kumar was the voice of Dev Anand. This is disputable. Rafi’s songs for Dev Anand in movies like ‘Nau Do Gyarah’, ‘C.I.D.’, ‘Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai’, ‘Asli Naqli’, ‘Love Marriage’, ‘Gambler, ‘Hum Dono’, ‘Kala Bazaar’, ‘Kala Paani’, ‘Tere Ghar Ke Saamne’, ‘Guide’ etc. are of extremely high quality. Guide, in fact, is a very interesting example from the point of view of comparing Kishore’s and Rafi’s singing for Dev Anand. Kishore has a ‘Gata Rahe Mera Dil’ while Rafi has three solos ‘Din Dhal Jaye’, ‘Tere Mere Sapne’, ‘Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya’. It is interesting to note that S.D.Burman chose Rafi for these 3 pivotal songs in the movie which are also heavy on pathos(din dhal jaye & tere mere sapne) and drama (kya se kya). The songs are at very important points in the film and Rafi’s singing completely outshines Kishore Kumar’s. In fact the quality of Rafi’s work for Dev Anand, in my opinion, far surpasses Kishore Kumar’s even when they sing in the same movie e.g. ‘Guide’ and ‘Nau Do Gyarah’. It would have been very interesting to get S.D.Burman’s views on his choice of either Rafi or Kishore for the Navketan banner.

I became a devoted Rafi fan quite by accident. I was in Class7, I think, when my Father bought a new Phillips cassette player and my brother who was already a Rafi fan bought an HMV cassette with Rafi’s solos. At that time, I was fascinated by Kishore Kumar’s yodeling and his songs for Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. My fascination for Kishore diminished quite rapidly as I listed to Rafi’s gems like ‘Aise To Na Dekho’ (Teen Devian, S.D.Burman), ‘Aaye Bahar Banke Lubha Kar Chale Gaye’ (Rajhath, Shankar-Jaikishen), ‘Hain Duniya Usiki’ (Kashmir Ki Kali, O.P.Nayyar).

Making a list of Rafi’s songs that I like is not a happy proposition. There are literally hundreds of songs of his that I adore. However, years of being a fanatical Rafi fan helped me to discover some real gems in Rafi’s large body of work that are not often heard, yet showcase his remarkable talent and are of exquisite quality. I present below some of my personal favourites.

Song Movie Composer
Tera Husn Rahe Mera Ishq Rahe Do Dil Hemant Kumar
Kabhi Na Kabhi Sharabi Madan Mohan
Yeh Hasrat Thi Nausherwane Adil C.Ramchandra
Karvan Guzar Gaya Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal Roshan
Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai Genghis Khan Hansraj Behl
Us Paar Is Deewar Ke Jo Saiyyan Sajjad Hussain
Tujhe Kya Sunaon Main Dilruba Aakhri Dao Madan Mohan
Meri Kahani Bhoolne Wale Deedar Naushad
Kahan Ja Rahe They Love Marriage Shankar Jaikishen
Ham Tum Jise Kehta Hai Kagaz Ke Phool S.D.Burman

For the purists, Mohamed Rafi may not have been the most technically gifted singer. Indeed, many talk about Talat Mehmood, Mukesh and even Kishore Kumar as better singers than Rafi. Without denigrating these other greats, I would invite fellow fans of Hindi Cine music to rediscover Rafi’s versatility. For fans of Kishore’s energetic and bubbly songs, I present a fitting riposte by Rafi. ‘Lal Lal Gaal’ from Mr.X, ‘She Ne Khela He Sey Aaj Cricket Match’ the crazy cricket song from Love Marriage. For fans of Talat Mehmood’s dulcet voice, I present ‘Meri Mehboob Kahi Aur Mila Kar’ from Ghazal and the beautifully picturised ‘Apni To Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai’ from Kala Bazar. Listen to Rafi as he matches, nay surpasses Mukesh’s pathos, in ‘Gham E Hasti Se Bas’ from Vallah Kya Baat Hai and ‘Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par’ from Pyaasa.

During my early years, listening to ‘Chayageet’, ‘Aap Ki Farmaish’ and ‘Bela Ke Phool’ every evening on Vividh Bharati was like a religious ritual. Listening to radio has perhaps nurtured several generations of Hindi Film Music buffs. However, these days, most people of the present generation seem to prefer the pretenders and clones of the great singers of yesteryears as video and form seem to have surpassed content and melody in importance.

Its been 24 long years since that fateful 31st July 1980 when Rafi passed on, leaving behind thousands of songs and millions of mourning listeners. I hope forthcoming generations will have the inclination to savour the richness of Hindi Film Music of the 1950s and early 60’s. Sadly the great music directors, lyricists and singers like Mohammed Rafi have been lost forever. It is like Rafi once sang in Dil Ek Mandir, ‘Jaane Waale Kabhi Nahi Aatey, Jaane Waale Ki Yaad Aati Hai’. There will never be another Rafi, yet his songs will continue to make us smile, laugh, cry, feel sad and experience life in its myriad hues.

Does India Really Have A Bright Future?

Hello Everyone,
This was originally an article I wrote for Sulekha.com before it turned in to a blog. I am posting it here once again.

What does India mean to her people? When we talk about India with foreigners, we talk about specifics – our families, religion, the Taj Mahal, yoga, ayurveda, culture, music, movies etc.
However, for me, India is not merely a collection of states, a collection of various sub-cultures, a collage of languages, customs and rituals. India is more than that. She is an 'idea' – an idea that she contains the genesis of all that is good and glorious about human civilisation, an idea that she contains many age-old secrets that can and should be used for the benefit of humankind, an idea that her philosophies, her metaphysics, her music, her art, her sculptures, her mythologies can give the world a vision of the lofty heights that human intellect is capable of scaling. India is all the above and much more.

Sadly, India -- the idea is now moribund. We, the people, have failed her. All that remains is a loose collection of individuals and communities – raucous, undisciplined and ready to riot and indulge in sloganeering at the slightest provocation. Since time-immemorial, our country have been in a relentless, remorseless decline – so much so that we have descended into a morass of continuous under-achievement.

In my opinion this state of affairs will continue for the next several generations. In short, we have absolutely no hope of joining the league of developed nations at any time in the foreseeable future. Development is a long-term process, readers may opine. Well, in the long term, as Keynes said, all of us are dead anyway. Any development process that takes several generations to come to fruition is a failure. We have a reform process underway for the last 13 years. Things haven't changed much in India. The only thing different is that we have more TVs, mobile phones, less propensity to save and a voracious appetite for energy (especially petroleum) that will severely damage the environment and will ultimately turn our cities into giant gas chambers. In the meantime, the traffic jams, bad roads, regular bouts of flood and drought, unreliable electricity, bad public transport, air pollution etc., are just as bad as before 1991!

The flag waving patriots in India and the NRI community will protest vehemently at such a pessimistic (very realistic, in my view) opinion. They will no doubt point out a few nascent strands of hope -- an economic reform process that might create a few national champions in the IT sector, our innate sense of confidence in our own abilities, our advantages with the English language and its spin-offs for the 'knowledge economy' of the future and so on. All this however, is a mere chimera for the following reasons.

1) Governance: It is a real wonder that we actually exist as a country. Given half a chance, the leftists would probably advocate freeing up states from central control, letting lose the centrifugal forces inherent in our politics and result in India being just a loose federation of states constantly bickering with each other. Witness how states quarrel like petulant children over water when there is absence of strong central authority. Alas, strong leaders like Indira Gandhi are no longer alive. I strongly suspect a leader like Mrs. Gandhi would have launched into economic reforms with much vigour and sold it to the people on the strength of her personal charisma alone. We completely lack – (a) a strategy for national development, and (b) a system of governance based on the agents of governance being technical specialists rather than generalist politicians. The entrenched interests will never allow the emergence of a new style of governance since it will erode their very raison d'etre.

2) National character: I submit that democracy is ill suited to our national psyche. We are well suited to be followers of strong leaders and relying on them to lead us. We are incapable of working together for a common good without spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to achieve leadership positions. I brace myself now for horrified looks and accusations of harbouring a dictatorial proclivity. However, readers should ask themselves whether they would give up their democratic freedoms in exchange of rapid economic progress and a high standard of living. I think an overwhelming majority would agree. Pride in being democratic is only good for the urban cocktail circuit. The poor would certainly prefer good quality roti, kapda and makaan over democracy.

Another curious thing about us Indians is that we are extremely fascinated by ideology. The right wing protests vehemently against 'competitive pseudo-secularism' while the left wing makes fraudulent claims to being 'secular' and 'pro-poor'. It is laughable to tell a poor starving person that he should be proud of his 5000-year-old civilization. Compare that to the prospects of regular meals from a generously funded madarsa or a local church and an ancient civilization doesn't seem to be of much consequence anymore. There are any number of leftist English speaking intellectuals in our educational institutions who can disparage everything about capitalism and the United States but who would jump at the chance to go and work in the US or UK and demand only the best scotch to drink at parties in the evening!

The amount of energy we spend in bickering and debating ideology is staggering, and what is worse is that it is to no avail. We still cannot come up with a coherent strategy for national development in any case. More often than not, the discussions on ideology that go on in our country are extremely shallow and superficial and typically academic without any practical use.

3) Lack of self-belief masked by supreme arrogance: A favourite point of discussion amongst NRIs and Indians who have traveled overseas is that we are more intelligent than anyone in the world. We may be a nation of highly talented individuals. Yet, as a nation we haven't achieved anything that justifies such arrogance. If we really are more intelligent and talented than the rest of the world then it is inconceivable that large sections of our people should still languish in poverty and misery.

If we really are much better than the rest, then why do we feel the desperate need to behave like Americans or western Europeans? Why do we crave justification and praise from foreigners for everything that happens in India? Why does our press and citizenry gush with pride and indulge in chest-thumping every time some sundry foreign leader says something nice about India or when Aishwarya Rai gets a Hollywood offer, or when more jobs are lost in the west to our BPOs? We are a nation of a billion people. Does it really matter whether foreigners like our movies, our food and our culture? Can't we feel proud of all these ourselves without seeking to justify that pride?

The answer to this conundrum, dear readers, lies in the fact that we are filled with shame when we compare the potential and actual achievements of our country versus piddly little East-Asian countries or countries in Western-Europe and America that have but a fraction of our natural resources, yet are several years ahead of us in the development game.

Is There A Light At The End Of The Tunnel? The daily lives of our citizens, politicians and bureaucrats are filled with making-do, with compromise, with a patchwork of solutions to a problem. There is no search for excellence. Why should there be? Businesses in India know that even if they lose one customer, there will be a hundred others willing to consume the same goods or service whose threshold of tolerance for poor quality will be higher. Politicians know that as long as they keep development coming in trickles there will be no mass agitation, peoples' expectations from them will not be too high and therefore there will be a good chance of winning the next elections.

This kind of lethargic attitude has prevented the governance, social or economic structures from dedicating themselves with single-minded devotion to solving our nation's problems. A few thousand BPO or programming jobs will not make us a developed nation. Taking into account the needs of the vast masses of workers without software and English language skills and providing them with employment and a decent quality of life near their place of residence is the key to development. Just hammering into childrens' heads that they should be justifiably proud of their ancient civilization is not going to make them proud citizens if they only see poverty and lack of opportunities surrounding them.

To those who advocate a step-by-step approach to development, I ask, how many more years of sub-optimal economic and social performance, how many more floods and droughts, how many more starvation deaths, how many more farmers' suicides, how many more terrorist attacks, how many more environmental disasters, how many more scams and frauds, how many more years of bad infrastructure does the average Indian have to suffer before we realize that we have well and truly missed the boat?

An India in 2020 will look pretty much the same as the India of today – struggling with illiteracy, unemployment, pollution, religious riots, border problems with neighbours, poor quality of life, still in the midst of debate over the virtues of socialism versus capitalism, public sector versus private sector, pseudo-secularism versus real secularism etc.

How I wish that my prediction does not come true, that India in 2020 is truly on its way to reliving its glorious days. Alas, I think it won't be so. Why? Because we are like this only!