Thursday, November 17, 2011

Musings-World of Babas

Sri Sathya Sai Baba left for his heavenly abode a few months back leaving behind a vast fortune and equally vast chaos. Some astrologers (jyotishis) and some Tantriks also call themselves Baba. Likewise, Baba Ramdev was in news recently taking up government against corruption and his attempted antics on Ramlila ground, though his main forte is Yoga.

This ‘Baba’ is an interesting word. The moment ‘Baba’ is attached to one’s name, one’s stature increases. Try removing ‘Baba’ from Ramdev or for that matter from Sathya Sai and see the result. Both remain common entity.

Interestingly, the word ‘Baba’ has different meaning in different languages or more than one meaning in the same language in different contexts. Let us take Hindi first. Here ‘Baba’ is used for one devoted to God, like sadhu baba or Sathya Sai Baba etc. ‘Baba’ is also used for one who has renounced the world or worldly pleasures.

In Gujarati, ‘Baba’ means a small boy. Whatever a boy’s name be if you don’t know it, you can safely call him ‘Baba’. In fact, yours truly too was called ‘Baba’ till he was married. In Urdu, ‘Baba’ is related to Tantriks & Fakirs and the like. Baba Farid and Jumman Baba Tantrik are good examples. In the case of Bengali, ‘Baba’ means father.

Interestingly and uniquely, all these different meanings of ‘Baba’ justify in the case of Baba Ramdev. He is a Yoga guru, wears saffron, gives spiritual discourses and has massive following. But the most pronounced meaning in his case is ‘Baba’, a small boy. A child is mostly stubborn. When a boy (Baba) wants something, he wants something, period. He doesn’t want to understand that thing’s utility, affordability, availability etc. We, on our part, try to explain all these to the child and also offer alternative things. When nothing works we spank him and that always works, well mostly.

Same is the case of Baba Ramdev. Except for his “abolition of corruption”, rest of his demands are not feasible. For example, Ramdev wants nothing short of death sentence for the corrupt or total abolition of high denomination currency notes. In a country where a killer of several lives don’t get death sentence and even if he gets, is not hanged for years, how can a mere corrupt ( small crime relatively) be hanged. Our administration went out of its way to reason with him, cajole him but to no avail. The last resort is spanking and that will definitely work. I personally guarantee.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jagjit Singh-Winner all the way

True to his name Jagjit (winner of the world), Jagjit Singh captured the world by his inimitable voice. When he entered into Ghazal Gayaki (singing), Ghazal was a serious business and that too for a limited few. Jagjit Singh entered and shook this world upside down.

Jagjit singh is one of my two top favorite Ghazal singers, the other being Ghulam Ali. No doubt, there are other capable and worthy singers and I like them too but these two are my favorites. Jagjit had that deep, gloomy voice that instantly stirred your soul whereas Ghulam Ali is a master of variations few others can claim.

Personally I was not into Gazals when young. I didn’t know and didn’t like anything beyond film songs. During sixties and early seventies my favorite composers were Madan Mohan and O.P. Nayyar who along with lyricists like Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and others created magic, at least for me. Come late seventies and the first Ghazal of Jagjit I heard was “baat nikalegi to fir door talak jayegi” and there was turmoil inside me. I heard this number again and again and instantly was into Ghazals. Then came his “pyar jo tumne kiya mujse to kya paogi”, “tumko dekha to ye khayal aaya”, “ye daulat bhi lelo ye shohrat bhi lelo,” just to name a few. He captured the Ghazal world like a storm.

I distinctly remember when “ye daulat bhi lelo” came, I was posted in the North and enjoying the life there. This number instantly transported me back to my childhood in Calcutta. True to the emotions in the song, I remembered my childhood days in Bhowanipore where water logging was frequent and we did make paper boats and let them loose in water. Indeed broken toys were our wealth to be guarded with care. Along with depth and gloom there was something in his voice that moved me and I longed to visit Calcutta and particularly Bhowanipore where I was born and brought up and to meet those childhood friends with whom I played and quarreled. I did just that at the first available opportunity. I saw my old school, my old house (now occupied by others), the streets and by lanes where I played, with new eyesight. Alas almost all friends were scattered.

Jagjit Singh not only sung, he sculptured, crafted the songs during those sixties and seventies. Within a very short span I was deep into Ghazals and forgot all about film songs. That was Jagjit Singh for you.

There are, as I mentioned earlier, other great singers. But you can find similar voices or near identical voices of these singers. I doubt if we can find one anywhere near Jagjit’s for quite a time.

Jagjit Singh was the one and only one.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Musings-Advantage Bachelor

Ratan Tata, in his life so far, fell in love four times and in serious love at that, and came close to marriage. “I came seriously close to getting married and I guess I backed off in fear” is what he said on CNN Talk Asia Program. If Mr. Tata had married the first lucky woman he fell in love with, would he have fallen in love with the second woman, and the third and the fourth? It is a mystery even Tata himself cannot solve. But he is a sensible, smart and lucky person. It is not for nothing that he is Ratan Tata. Even in the heavenly bliss of love, he looked around carefully, observed us ordinary mortals having tough time in our married lives, didn’t like what he saw and decided (wisely) not to take the plunge. Most of us wish we had that sense and will power. But we are not Ratan Tata.

In contrast, take the case of Bagun Sambrai, a tribal politician who has over a dozen wives. Sambrai says Lord Krishna is his inspiration and intends to carry on his good work, brave man that, Sambrai. May he succeed in his divine mission and rot in hell.

Then there is Mangani Lal Mondal, an MP of JD (U) who declared in court that he does not remember how many wives he has. Mondal appears to be one confused person, suffers from loss of memory or perhaps he is sly. But to me, it seems he wants to forget the miseries of having so many wives.

Bagun Sambrai may boast of being a follower of Lord Krishna and Mondal may apparently want to forget the number his wives, but I am sure both of them and others like them, must be envious of Mr. Tata and wish they had that wisdom. Instead of taking inspiration from Lord Krishna, they wish they had that foresight of Mr. Tata. Though married only once, I for one wish I had that wisdom.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cricket-From Dad to Dadu

Just when we thought that Sourav Ganguly, the Dada (elder brother) of Calcutta had transited to Dadu (grand father), he was absorbed by Pune warriors to play in IPL matches.

Shah Rukh Khan’s slogan with Sourav “korbo. Lodbo, jitbo” (will work, fight & win), didn’t cut ice in the previous IPLs and Sourav was dropped like a sack of bricks from Kolkata Knight Riders. One would have thought that he would take a wise decision and retire with grace. But even after a clear “not wanted” signal from every team, he had aspirations to play and even publicly expressed his desire.

Seeing his desire to remain in the game, SRK and others offered him a job of an instructor or adviser of a team, that is, transferring from ‘Dada’ to ‘Dadu’. Wisely or unwisely, Dada refused and thought it better to while away his time. After all he had done that in the past and had reentered the game with thumping success.

But that time age was in his favor, now even though he is not old, we think he is well past his prime and should accept whatever work involving cricket, be that of a coach, commentator or anything that comes his way. Some people think that it is the player’s own choice if he wants to come back. Ganguly is no ordinary player but look at the last few years’ facts. He has not been successful in any of the IPLs. On the contrary, he was a disaster. Kolkata Knight Riders under him performed poorly and could not even make it to the semi finals. This constant failure shows that his powers are on the wane, law of diminishing returns. Look at his contemporaries like Srinath and Kumble who felt that their playing days were over and gracefully accepted the inevitable.

Still, here is hoping that Dada does well in this IPL for Pune warriors, if given a chance, of course.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good bye, Uncle Pai

Lights of our elder generation are fading. Panndit Bhimsen Joshi, the doyen of classical music, departed a few days back and now it is Anant Pai a.k.a. Uncle Pai, the creator of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, two of his most popular magazines for children. The story has it that decades back, Pai witnessed an incident wherein a youngster was asked the name of Ram’s mother, which he could not answer. Pai was immensely pained at this ignorance or disinterest of that generation’s youngsters towards our epics and scriptures and decided to do something about it. The result is Amar Chitra Katha, aptly named.

Pai, during his research, realized that history, in the manner which it was taught, had become a dry subject. Children being children did not understand the importance of history compared to other subjects like science and maths. Pai used simple language and beautiful illustrations to attract children towards history and historical stories. He succeeded and how? The rest, as they say, is history.

I remember old days when my own son was a teenager. I had arranged Amar Chitra Katha to be delivered at our place with our daily news paper. My son had early morning school and when A.C.K. was due he would remind me that it was A.C.K. day and go to school. Such was his expectancy that the moment he returned from school, he would throw his bag and rush for the book. He would lovingly gape at the title page and attractive picture on it for a long time. He would delay opening and reading the inside pages as long as he could so that the thrill of the new book lasts longer. Expectancy and satisfaction were written large in his young face and were worth seeing. He would ask me to get every ten issues hard bind and over the years had quite an impressive collection. He continued with A.C.K. even when he was in college. Alas, the cartoon containing this collection with other books was lost in transit while shifting from one city to another. He is thirty five but even today he regrets the loss, more so now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thoughts-Changed times

In today’s world of ‘might is right’, I am reminded of an incident about sixty years back. Aslam Khan was a well to do trader who used to supply some raw material to Lala Kirodimal’s factory. Kirodimal, a god fearing man, fondly called Lalaji by one and all, was a real wealthy man. Though Aslam regularly supplied material to Lalaji’s factory, they both were not in personal touch as all Lalaji’s business and other interests were being looked after by his trusted munim (manager), as was the practice prevalent in Marwaris those days. In fact, munimji knew much more about business dealings than Lalaji himself. Every body dealt with munimji and Lalaji rarely came into the picture.

So, Lalaji was surprised one day, when he received telephone call from Aslam Khan at his residence. Aslam introduced himself and said: “Lalaji, there is a small request.”

Lalaji: “Yes, of course, what can I do for you Aslambhai?”

Aslam ventured: “Lalaji, I have supplied material to your factory worth about Rs. six lakhs (more than a crore in today’s terms). The payment is not yet due. It will be after a month. But there is an emergency. If you can accommodate this payment now, I will be obliged. I also offer you what ever discount you suggest for this pre-payment.”

Lalaji: “Yes, I know all about your supplies. Well, no problem, I will ask munimji to send you your cheque right now. But Aslambhai, your voice sounds troubled. If this emergency is not too personal, can I do anything else for you?”

Aslam was surprised that Lalaji even knew that a supplier named Aslam even existed. But Lalaji’s mild yet grave and controlled tone gave some confidence to him. He knew Lalaji to be a man of principles. Never once, in his years of dealings with Lalaji, his payment was delayed. On due date, whether he went at nine in the morning, or seven in the evening, he never had to wait for his cheque. It was always ready. So he opened up.

Aslam: “Lalaji, my own supplier, who imports this material, has come from Delhi without any intimation. My payment to him is also not due. But while here, he saw some property and decided to invest. All of a sudden he came to my office and asked for eleven lakhs within a day. This amount is not big for him but he doesn’t understand my limitations. Of course, I can refuse payment as it is not due, but I don’t want to. For one, he is very reliable and another, he has never bothered me in the past for payments. Now, yours is the biggest bill of six lakhs. Now that you have given me solace, I will contact two three small dealers and hopefully I will be able to pay eight-nine lakhs, if not eleven. If you had not accommodated me, I would not have ventured to contact others. So Lalaji, I am really grateful and once again request you to deduct discount ten percent or even more for the pre-payment.”

Lalaji: “Aslambhai, I understand. You don’t have to call others. Send somebody your trusted, to my residence for eleven lakhs you require. Since you want to accommodate your supplier, better make a job of it. As far as your offer of discount is concerned, please remember that I am not making payment of your bill. It is still pending and you collect your cheque on due date. So there is no question of discount for pre-payment.”

Aslaqm: “Thank you for your trust, Lalaji. But don’t make the payment of my bill. Adjust it against your loan. The balance five lakhs, I will arrange as soon as possible. And I will personally come to your residence to sign whatever papers you want me to sign.”

Lalaji: “You are welcome. But there are no papers to be signed. This is not an official deal and it is on trust. And yes, you collect your cheque on due date otherwise I will have to explain several people in accounts department in my office as to why we are stopping your payment. Aslambhai, we both are seths (owners) of our businesses in our own right. Why should juniors know about dealing between two seths? Let our fists remain closed.Let it be business as usual.”

Aslam: “Lalaji I don’t know what to say? I never expected you to know that I exist. How can I ever repay?”

Lalaji: “Yes you can. I have heard that a very tasty Rabadi (Indian sweet) is available near your office. When I have an occasion to pass your office, I will drop in. You can get me that Rabadi to eat and we are quits.”

NOTE: This incident occurred almost a decade prior to my father narrated it to me almost fifty years back. My father was close to both Aslam and Lalaji as he was an insurance agent to both of them. Such was the generosity in those days.