Lost Baggages

Yesterday, information pills stomach poet, director & writer Gulzar celebrated is 73rd birthday. Thanks to his recent successes, he is one name who is still pretty reknowned amongst the young generation. These days, his Kaminey‘s Dhan Te Nan is quite popular. And earlier this year, he co-won the prestigious Oscar for Jai Ho (Slumdog Millionaire)

Due to this, every radio channel worth its airwaves played his songs on their daily ‘oldie goldie’ programmes. By ten pm, I was furiously switching between four channels, simultaneously sms’ing to two friends the favorite songs (multi-tasking, eh!).

Well, as the frenzy endied, I thought I had to list out a few of his songs that the Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar has graced with her mellifluous voice; after all, both have immense mutual respect for each other. She has sung in most of his films. And he has directed her home production (Lekin). The association started right from Bandini, when a young Gulzar wrote a lovely lyric about a love-lorn woman, based on refrains from Radha-Krishna lovetale. Mora gora ang lai le continues to enthrall listeners, old and new; S D Burman’s frugal but fruitful music enchants.

(As always, this is a random list – not in any particular order, and since Mora gora ang lai le has been mentioned above, and deserves to be before any list, it is not mentioned below).

Yaara seeli seeliLekin – A heart-stopping, breath-taking, wide-sweep & panaromic number that spans emotions ranging from pathos to fear to loneliness to numbness. The pain of the spirit caught between the material and the nether worlds finds a haunting echo in Gulzar’s words ‘pairon mein na saaya mere, sar pe na saayiin re, mere saath jaaye na meri parchhaiin re‘. Indeed, it’s said ghosts do not have shadows. But at a deeper level, it’s about not having a companion; its about loneliness. Having said that, let me admit, more than a lyric-based song, or even a tune-based one (after all, it’s a folk-tune resurrect; I have even heard Reshma’s similar number), it is purely and wholly Lata Mangeshkar’s song. She takes the track to an impossibly high altitude; and the alaap in the end is a crescendo designed and created to make your heart miss several beats!

Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din / Ruke ruke se qadam ruk-ke baar baar chaleMausam – Had destiny not meted out its savage blow that fateful July in 1976, I firmly believe Madan Mohan & Gulzar could have jointly produced several more such precious gems. Alas, that was not to be! In fact, Madan Mohan Saab couldn’t even live to enjoy Mausam‘s success. Latadi sang three lovable numbers- the faster version of Dil dhoondta hai, the pain-lashed Ruke ruke se qadam and the impish Chhadi re chhadi kaisi gale mein padi.

Thodi si zameen thoda aasman tinko bas ek aashiyanSitara – Gulzarsaab‘s forte has been his imagery. The moon can be a pillow or a plate. The eyes can emit fragrance. The roads can curve and course. The sun can set like a ghoonghat being unveiled. Time will be a fruit hanging from the tree-trunks. Anything is possible with his pen. In Thodisi zameen, he conjures up a rustic household replete with ‘lepa hua chulha’, ‘chhota sa jhoola’ and ‘saundhi saundhi khushboo‘. My favorite lines are in the last stanza – Raat kat jaayegi din kaise guzarenge, baajre ke kheton mein kauvve udayenge…baajre ke sitton jaise bete ho jawan. And when Latadi squeezes in that extra sweetness, one can only listen with a tender smile and a fond heart; and yes, her little giggle is like the wind-chimes’ tinkle on a languidly warm breezy day.

Zeehal-e-musqin makunbaranjish bahaal-e-hijra bechara dil haiGhulami – Never mind that the song opens with a rather ungainly Huma Khan prancing on hot Rajasthani sand. Ignore her. Close your eyes and savor that angelic voice nimbly skipping over the high-pitched lines – Kabhi kabhi shaam aise dalti hai – immediately, one can visualize a stark orange sun dipping into the ochre desert expanse. Gulzarsaab‘s words are tricky here; one, he uses strict Urdu in the opening lines. Two, the song spans varying emotions through its four stanzas, and hence there is no single theme. Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Gulzar are a rare combination; but this song (and the other solo Mere pee ko pawan kis gali le chali) shows that when great talents merge, they create magic. Zeehale musqin has been a childhood favorite, and I recall learning its full lyrics way back in 1984-85 when the film released.

Ghungta gira hai …Koi mere maathe ki bindiya saja de re mai dulhan si lagti hun dulhan bana de rePalkon Ki Chhaon Mein – Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Gulzar once again sparkle their talents in this Meraj-directed film, starring Hema Malini (Meraj was Gulzar’s assistant, if I am not too mistaken). I love the thought in this song. A lady feels she is a bride, and wishes to be dressed up so. Once more, Gulzar’s impeccable imagery is at work – ‘aankhon mein raat ka kaajal saja ke’ and ‘mai aangan mein thande savere bichhadun’. It’s a short number; barely 3 minutes long, but it’s packed with solid feelings. And needless to add, Latadi (one of her low-pitch songs) sounds divine! When she whispers ‘mai dulhan si lagti hun‘, the heavens eagerly advance to color the universe in love!

Humne dekhi hai unn aankhon ki mahakti khushbooKhamoshi – This one has scorching lyrics. Let the relationship be unnamed, don’t assault it with a label. I loved the usage of ‘ilzaam’ here. As also the line ‘pyaar koi bol nahi pyar koi raag nahi, ek khamoshi hai…‘ Indeed, a very refreshing and practical take on love. Hemant Kumar’s music is an array of softly swaying violins that suit the song’s sombre mood.

Jahan pe savera ho basera wahin hainBasera – I was still in my knickers when (while watching the film on VCR), this song knocked my air out. Ever since, I haven’t recovered and it still tingles my inner core. I marvel that a human voice could go so high and yet remain so tuneful and melodic. Hats off to Latadi and RD Burman for pulling this feat off. It’s much later that I could look beyond its easy tune and superlative rendition, and comprehend the beautiful words as well. Na mitii na gaada, na sona sajaana, jahan pyaar dekho wahiin ghar basaana…so true!

Jiya jale jaan jale nainon tale dhuan chaleDil Se – Thematically, this song is Koi mere maathe ki‘s extension; a love-lorn heroine on the threshold of holy matrimony sings about meeting her beloved. In fact, full credit to Latadi to render lines like ‘honth sil jaate unnke narm hothon se magar’ with such grace that no one even fleetingly thought of it as distasteful. Gulzar’s wordings are immensely sensuous; he writes about a woman sensuosly rolling in the bed with desire, but what a way to present it – Raat bhar bechairi mehdi pisti hai pairon tale, kya karein kaise kahein raat kab kaise kate! The song’s ending is marvellous; and it is said Latadi didn’t really ‘sing’ that. She was rehearsing the alaap, and A R Rahman recorded it. Whoa! Now that’s humungous talent, indeed!

Yeh shahar bada purana hai / O dil banjaare khol doriyan / Mere sarhane jalaao sapne / Khud se baatein karte rahna / Ek haseen nigaah kaMaya Memsaab – However vague the film might have been, one can simply not fault its music. Hridayanath Mangeshkar and Gulzarsaab team up to create five top-notch Latadi solos. And Latadi delivers them with panache and style that only she can provide. Whereas in Mere sarhane jalao sapne she takes her voice low to give a very haunting and disturbed effect, however, in O dil banjaare, she simply opens it up and leaves it to sway over the musical notes, like an irreverent kite flying joyously but naughtily teasing a balmy zephyr. (Incidentally, I find O Dil banjaare the best of the lot). In Khud se baatein karte rahna, Latadi retracts her voice, clinging it to her heart, stingily, painfully. Gulzarsaab again borders the risque in Yeh shahar bada purana hai when he writes ‘Yeh jism hai kachhi mitti ka, bhar jaaye toh rissne lagta hai’. In totality, a very satisfying album…but yes, it truly grows on you. Initially, I had found it a bit disjointed. But over the years, I have become its ferocious fan.

Tere bina jeeya jaaye na / Aajkal paaon zameen par / Aapki aankhon meinGhar – It’s so difficult to decide the better of these three songs. Whenever I play Ghar‘s CD, I am forced to hear them in a row, one after the other. Having said that, I must confess I have a very special corner for Aapki aankhon mein – especially for that small laughter just before Latadi delivers the line ‘aapki badmaashiyon ke yeh naye andaaz hain’ – naughty, jovial albeit shy and taken-aback; all packed tightly in seven words. I am confident her rendition would have made Rekha’s work much easy. Gulzarsaab‘s favorite composer R D Burman does complete justice to his lyrics.

Iss mod se jaate hain / Tum aa gaye ho noor aa gaya hai / Tere bina zindagi seAandhi – Like Ghar, another album I have to listen to in its entirety. It is well nigh impossible to pluck just single rose from this garden! However, another confession – Tere bina zindagi has a better edge, lyrically, since it captures the futility of a failed relationship succcintly; life moves on, but is that really life? So well stated. Singing wise, I believe, Latadi is absolutely remarkable in Iss mod se jaate hai; she wonderfully stretches out the word ‘mod‘ , giving it tiny ripples, and provides through sound just the correct meaning to it. When she sings noor aa hi jaata hai, otherwise Hindi film music would have been absolutely ‘bewajah‘! Once again, R D Burman at his sublime best.

Phir kisi shaakh ne phenki chhanvLibaas – Alas, the film never released. Mercifully, its music found a way out. One of RDB-Gulzar’s last outings together, Libaas is an out-and-out Latadi score, with her delivering four power-punching numbers. Be it the subdued Sili hawa chhoo gayi or the regretful Khamosh sa afsaana or the mirthy Kya bhala kya bura, they are all top-league. In the last, Panchamda joins her for a small party. Gulzarsaab captures those carefree days once more- ‘saara din ghazalein pirona, raat bhar aawaargi’! My favorite, though, is ‘Phir kisi shaakh ne’; partly because I loved Ashaji’s Khaali haath shaam aayi (Ijaazat) and inwardly yearned for Lataji‘s voice in that song. But thankfully, RDB created a similar melody for Lataji in Phir kisi shaakh ne. Also, the song effectively speaks about fear of falling in love again after a doomed relationship : Hum toh bhoole hue the dil ko magar, dil ne phir aaj kyun humein yaad kiya!

Din jaa rahe hain ke raaton ke saayeDoosri Sita – I have written on this song earlier here.

Chaand churake laaya hun chal baithen church ke peeche / Gulmohar gar tumhara naam hotaDevta – Oh, there we go again…RDB and Gulzarsaab, but this one is a little-known nugget, which has somehow slipped public attention. Else, Chaand churake laaya hun is a terrific track about a couple meeting surreptitiously behind a church, sitting below a tree. Light. Frothy. One can only smile bemusedly at Gulzarsaab’s innovative lyrics. So straightforward, yet so deviant. You know what I adore in Lataji’s voice here? She sounds a bit ‘rondu’ (sorry, I couldn’t find a better way to describe, and trust me, its not wholly degrading), just the way Shabana Azmi sometimes looks.

Thoda hai thode ki zarurat haiKhatta Meetha – That every common man’s lament: you have a little, you desire a little more; another Gulzarsaab triumph. As the song moves on various characters, each one’s desire finds a befitting verse. Latadi and Kishoreda sing this breezy Rajesh Roshan composition.

Yaad na aaye koi lahu na rulaaye koi / Ae hawa kuchh toh bata / Paani paani re khaare paani reMaachis – Another complete album. Vishal Bhardwaj zoomed his way up the charts in his debut, and Latadi was right there, supporting him. Paani paani re was quite a big hit (though the biggest ones were Chappa chappa charkha chale). My favorites – the lines ‘jungle se jaati pagdandiyon mein dekho toh shaayad paanv milenge’ (in Ae hawa).

Chai chhapa chhai chhapak ke chhaiHu Tu Tu – I adore the joi-de-vivre & playfulness in this song, and in Lataji’s voice. It’s as if she is having a blast, and she so efficaciously reflects the image of ‘paani mein chheente udate hui ladki’. But what is the ‘whistle-inducing moment’ in the song? When she says ‘janaab‘ – aah! She makes the words worth being words!

Tu mere paas bhi hai tu mere saath bhi hai phir bhi tera intezaar haiSatya – Taste honey or listen to this song. Same thing. A spirited track. Very light. Very energizing. Very melodious. Another Vishal Bhardwaj success.

And add Jahan Tum Le Chalo‘s Shauq khwaab ka ho toh neend aaye na, we have quite a rich Gulzar-Vishal-Lata ouvre.

Dil hoom hoom kare / Jhuthi muthi mitwa aawan dole / Samay o dheere chaloRudaali – She ‘hoom’ed her way through the nation’s heart, and the song is no less a neo-classic, mentioned with revere and remains till date a connoisseur’s treasure. My special favorite is the percussion-and-santoor based rain number – Jhuthi muthi mitwa; Latadi’s voice is as refreshing as the first rains on heated earth. The third best is the three-part Samay o dheere chalo.

And finally, I end this piece with the lines from Kinaara‘s song which actually symbolizes and summarizes Lata Didi, and nothing more is left to say : Meri aawaaz hi pehchaan hai … (and let me say, needless to say ‘gar yaad rahe‘ ). Thank you, Gulzarsaab for these immortal lines, and huge thank you Latadi, for singing such brilliant songs, in the way that only you can.


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Last year I travelled to Almaty in Kazhakistan, health one of those break-away nations when USSR crumbled. It’s a quaint place, dysentery and I quite liked it; the flight to and fro (that too from Delhi) was anything but. While going they tortured us by being extremely stingy in serving water. On return, cialis 40mg they upped the ante. We reached around midnight, exhausted, and sanguinely looking forward to crash into the bed before catching an early morning flight to Mumbai. In between, I had planned to slip away and visit parents; after all, it would be callous and criminal to be in Delhi and not visit them.

I rushed from the duty free shop towards the baggage claim hall, in Delhi’s newly built swanky T-3 Terminal, hoping to rapidly retrieve my suitcase and exit at the earliest. That wasn’t meant to be. As the excruciating wait extended beyond the normal minutes, and the baggages dried up on the conveyor belt, panic set in, and I sensed something was amiss. There were nine of us still waiting. Approaching the ground personnel we received the horrific news that our bags had been offloaded at Almaty due to the plane being over-full. I heard the news with disbelief. How the bloody hell can you offload without informing the passenger? What ensued was a high-voltage high-volume drama, with nine of us clamoring over the harried personnel, my vocal chords stretched and my patience shredded. My plans of visiting parents suddenly melted; and a chilling realization crystallized – my Mumbai home keys were in those offloaded bags!

The hot-air pandemonium continued for another hour; we furiously hovered over the ground personnel like a tornado whirling in a compressed balloon, even as he made some desperate calls to his head office. They got about filling up forms, calling Kazhakistan to deliver in the next flight (which incidentally was not the next day, as the service is not daily) and promising to deliver it at Mumbai; in between all this, they threw in a sweet word- compensation! How much? 50 Euros a day. The fury fizzled out. While I kept an angry facade, inwardly I gleefully thought – who cares if I dont carry a bunch of dirty soiled clothes, if they pay that much daily and eventually deliver it at home? Not a bad deal, at all!

The only little irritant was the bunch of keys to my home’s main door, for which I would find a locksmith and would get a duplicate set made.

However, that hot July night I visited my parents richer by a promised Euros 200 (as they bags would reach only four days later). Though the actual monies came in after several months, with a huge amount of rigorous follow-up, and a lot of threatening to their higher ups. In between, they back-tracked on their Euro 50 promise as well, though thankfully we had it in writing from them, which (on hindsight) was a fabulous decision to have taken amidst all that airport mayhem and chaos that night. I made good use of all the customer complaint mails that I’d have ever got in regurgigating it back to Air Almaty, almost getting some vicarious pleasure in punching out emails upon emails till they relented to transfer the entire funds. Not a euro more, not a euro less.

This year we travelled to Kenya. The minute I heard about the trip, I joked tongue-in-cheek to the colleague who was making the arrangements (and who had also been one amongst the nine last year), ‘Please ensure I lose my bag on return’. He guffawed, ‘Air Kenya. Trust me, it’s a possibility’. Only, the reality of this possibility extended to something even more bizarre.

Nairobi airport’s check-in is a tedious process with a never-ending queue snaking all the way towards the entrance; there aren’t too many flights and Air Kenya opens only two counters. Even before my turn came up I sensed a commotion. On enquiry, I learntthat there were ‘a few of us not confirmed’ as the flight was over-booked. What the hell! This was a group booking, but apparantly Air Kenya had grossly mis-calculated and evidently taken in more than it could aboard its flight. Thereafter as we crawled ahead, it became a game of Russian roulette – which of us would be accepted and which not. I was not. The number was fifteen odd people, but soon with some noise and some threatening to the tour operator, it got pruned. Eventually, there were just eight of us left without a boarding pass. I was. I could have once more exercised my voice’s weight but the personnel had already surrendered with the ‘c’ word – compensation! Hotel stay and USD 200. I didn’t even bother to put up a facade this time around.

A few who had been with me in the previous trip looked at me incredulously, ‘You? Again?’ Barely concealing my grin, I remarked wryly, ‘Just upgrading myself. Last time, they left my baggage. This time, they are leaving the whole of me!’

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The airline came up with some manipulations and managed to board us, even though a few of us hurried into the airplane with the doors closing on our heels. Sadly, even the baggage reached safely; and to my dismay, mine was pretty early to arrive on the carousel.

On Holi this year, I wasted the festival flying back from Chandigarh on an incredibly uncomfortable Go Air plane. I had sworn off Go Air ever sincetheir rude behavior at Kochi two years back. But I had to swallow my pride, and had conceded flying with them since they were the only flight available at my preferred time. On reaching Mumbai, I painfully regretted the decision. I awaited at the baggage conveyor, right near the hole that spewed out the luggage (in the hope of grabbing mine early), vaguely registering the entering bags, swinging gently over the trolley, and humming some Lata Mangeshkar ditty. I was so engrossed in my thoughts and songs I didn’t even notice the dwindling quantity of bags rolling over, till the time the belt shuddered to a halt. I spun around to horrifyingly observe that that belt was virtually empty of any passenger. And my bag had not arrived. Frantic, I searched for the airline staff, and found her near the ‘Baggage Desk’ (or whatever it’s called) entwined with another harrassed passenger. ‘I am here, I am here’ she assured, ‘Just give me a minute’. But my temper had risen, she should have been near the conveyor and not here, and what had they done with my bag, ?!

Mentally I had already typed a customer complaint letter, which I never sent. Honestly, I found her very rude and uncaring, but I think I should expect that of Go Air after the Kochi experience. Worse, to my utmost dismay, she never uttered the ‘c’ word, and eventually I just gave up and left after she duly filled up her forms and noted my address. Who cares if I dont carry a bunch of dirty soiled clothes, even without any compensation, if they promise to deliver it the same night at home! Still, not a bad deal. But yes, turned out that Go Air is such a useless airline that it delivers its lost baggages the same day, and doesn’t even pay compensation per hour (tongue firmly in cheek).