Aug 152012

Again a piece of Lazy Blogging- here is something adapted from a post I did last a few years on the Idea of India – through songs.

I had earlier posted a version of this post on Blogbharti, as a part of the spotlight series . Today, on the 58th Republic Day 65nd Independence Day, I thought that it may be appropriate to post it on my blog… This version has pics… and a few more songs…
One of the things that interest me is this entire concept of Indian identity. After all, there is nothing that we really have in common – not language, nor culture, not religion or even gods, or even a common philosophy, theology, or even a view of the world. (We think we do. But, if you probe even slightly you realise that we dont. ) Our multi-party democracy and our zillion paths and our seeming anarchy will drive any one seeing the country right up the proverbial wall. Yet, we know who we are. We may not be able to define it in specific words, but most of us know what we mean when we say we are Indian.

On  Independence Day – the day, we the diverse people of India became Independent and united – in this shape and form for the first time in history, I thought it would be nice to have a list of songs from Hindi Film Music that represent this Indian-ness;not the national identity or the citizenship part of us but something that we recognise in ourselves and others as being Indian. Why only Hindi Film Songs? well because I have limited exposure to songs in other languages. Here is my top 16, do add to the list.

1) Sare Jahan se Achcha Hindustan Hamara – Written by Iqbal way back at the turn of the last century, the song that, I hope, really defines India. Not just the nation state, not even the geographical land mass, but the spirit of the space. There is a stanza in the song,

Mazhab nahin Sikhata, aapas mein bair rakhna….
Hind hi hai hum, Hind hi hai ham vatan hai,
Hindustan hamara

More than anything else this symbolises secularism in India for me. Not secularism in the western sense of separation of organised state and organised religion, but secularism in the sense of mutual tolerance, acceptance and co-existance. The irony is that Mohammed Iqbal became one of the strong proponents of division on religious lines. I am not really sure if it was ever used in a film, in its entirety. The new version of it for the Incredible India campaign is also worth hearing. I couldn’t find the video of the one we all heard we were in school, so here is the one from the Incredible India campaign.

Gateway of India

The Gateway of India, Mumbai

2) Chino Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara Rehene Ko Ghar Nahin hai, Sara jahan hamara. Written by Sahir Ludhianvi and sung by Mukesh, for the film Phir Subah Hogi the song possibly is an anti thesis to Sare Jahan se Achcha. It captures the dispossession of the dispossessed. Written for the film made in 1958, the songs lyrics are still valid today. The song was not given playtime on AIR (the only medium on which the song could be heard). Check out this stanza

Jitni bi buldinge hai, Sethon ne baant li hai,
Footpath Mumbai ke hai aashia hamara

While the number of home owners has definitely increased since the film was released, so has the number of homeless footpath dwellers. There is another song in this film, also sung by Mukesh, that deals with similar feelings – Aasman Pe Hai Khuda, aur Zameen pe hum.


The Little Beggar Girl, Mumbai

3) Sajan re Jhooth Mat Bolo, Khuda ke paas Jaana Hai – Mukesh waxes philosophical in this folksy number from Teesri Kasam. Picturised on Mukesh, the lyrics are by Shailendra, and music by Shankar Jaikishen. Check out this stanza

Bhalaa Kije Bhalaa Hoga
Buraa Kije Buraa Hoga
Wahi Likh-Likh Ke Kya Hoga
Yahin Sab Kuch Chukana Hai

At a very core level this is so true. I remember a ricksahawaalah telling me when HKL Baghat died, aise log na aise hi saad saad ke marenge. But, the flip of it is true too. You hear of people giving complete strangers shelter after a downpour, people who risk life and limb to help strangers, water being given away on streets to pilgrims & passers-by.

4) Aurat ne Janam diya Mardon Ko, Mardon ne use Bazaar Diya. Lata Mangeshkar in a rant against a system that is male skewed. At the core, India is still very much a man’s world, with women as an after thought. It is still a country where a Prinyanka Todi is not allowed to exercise her choice, and a Priyanka Bhotmange is gang-raped to teach her a lesson, it is a society which is OK with terminating a girl child and a system where women are offered the chance to marry their rapist. There are success stories, but by and large she is still property. This has Sahir at his revolutionary best, music by N.Dutta. This film also contains the great Geeta Dutt number Ramji ke Dwar Pe, Tora Manva Kyon Gabraye Re…. Lakh deen dukhiyaare saare, Jag mein mukti paaye. Check out this stanza for its poignancy

mardon ne banaayee jo rasmen, unko haq kaa farmaan kahaa
aurat ke zindaa jalane ko, qurbaani aur balidaan kahaa
kismat ke badle roti di, aur usko bhi ehsaan kahaa

(woman – Marathwada)

5) Vande Maatram.The film Anand Math, Music by Hemant Kumar and sung by Lata Mangeshkar. There are many versions of this song, including the one on All India Radio, and later by A.R.Rehman but, this remains my favourite rendition. It takes a rare genius to take a song about the beauty of the mother goddess and convert it into a marching song.

sapta koti kantha kalakala ninaada karaale
nisapta koti bhujaidhruta kharakarvaale
ka bola ka noma eith bole
bahubal dhaariniin namaami taariniim
ripudalavaariniin maataram
vande maataram …

What does it mean –Aurobindo translates its as –

Glory of moonlight dreams, Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees, Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet! Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low! Mother, to thee I bow.

6) Yeh Mehlon, Yeh Takhton, Yeh Tajon Ki Duniya – Mohd. Rafi singing for Guru Dutt in one of the most famous scenes from Hindi Films. A silhouetted Guru Dutt singing to a bunch of men and women who have sold their souls for something else Yeh Duniya Agar mil Bi Jaaye to Kya Hai. One of those songs that resonate deep within your soul. The other great songs in this film were – Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind per woh Kahan Hai Kissi.

read all about it

The newspaper vendor

7) Kissi Ke Muskurahato pe Ho Nisaar – Bringing joys to those around you. Mukesh in the film Anari. India is full of men and women who just give up material things to bring happiness to others. Look at the number of NGO’s and the good that they are doing at the grassroots – the people who serve without recognition, because they want to. People who help those less fortunate than themselves:

Maana apni jeb se fakeer hain, Phir bhi yaaron dil ke ham ameer hain

I remember a Dalit activist telling me that he works with the Pardhi’s because they have even less than him. And those stories abound, people who just help each other.
Pardhi School
(A Pardhi school – Maharashtra, run by volunteers. Read more – here)

8) Chodo Kal Ki Baatein, Kal Ki Baat Purani, Naye daur mein likhenge milkar nayi kahaani Sung by Mukesh for the film “Hum Hindustani”. At a very basic level this epitomises our view of history. While it is a great philosophy to move on, it also means justice sometimes doesn’t get delivered. Check out this stanza:

Aaj puraani zanjeeron ko tod chuke hain
Kya dekhe us manzil ko jo chhod chuke hain
Chaand ke dar pe jaa pahuncha hai aaj zamaana
Naye jagat se hum bhi naata jod chuke hain
Naya khoon hai, nayi umangein, ab hai nayi jawaani

Innocence, Naughtiness, Friendship & Mirth

Children LS - Bikaner

9) Chitthi Aayi hai – Sung by Pankaj Udhas, music by Lakshmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi. I remember hearing this song when I was a student abroad, and for some peculiar reason, my eyes filled up. For as long as I lived abroad, this song moved me and on my return I found it cloyingly sentimental. There is something about India as ‘home’ that draws us back. How many of us know people who still call India home after living for donkey’s years in firangland and with firang citizenship? This is the stanza that used to reduce most people to tears :

Saat Samundar Paar Gaya Tu, Humko Zinda Maar Gaya Tu
Khoon Ke Rishte Todh Gaya Tu, Aankh Mein Aansoo Chhodh Gaya Tu
Kum Khaate Hain Kum Sote Hain, Bahut Zyaada Hum Rote Hain
Chitthi Aayi Hai


10) Mera Jootha hai Japani – Mukesh for Raj Kapoor in a song that is us. In a modern era it may be educated in London, with an Australian citizenship and a home in Spain. But phir bhi dil hai Hindustani. I love the modern reworking of this song too. Udit Narayan sings for Shah Rukh Khan in Phir bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. Check out this stanza for the new Indian chutzpaha

Thode anari hain thode khiladi, Ruk rukke chalti hai apni gaadi
Humein pyaar chahiye, Aur paise bhi
Hum aise bhi hain, Hum hain vaise bhi


11) Mera Rang De Basanti Chola – I love practically every version of this song, utilised in the Hindi Cinema. From the Mukesh & Mahendra Kapoor version in Shaheed to the Sonu Nigam version in the Legend of Bhagat Singh. While the title track from RDB is not strictly mera Rang de Basanti Chola, it too, for me, fits in. Somehow the song represents that part of us that revels in Independence. The modern Indian republic is the first time all of us have been equal stakeholders, and this anthem for me represents not just that part of us that knows that we are free, equal, and independent but the part of us that is willing to fight to keep it that way.

13) Choti si Aasha. We all hope, and we will wish for a better tomorrow. Small little hopes that we wish would come true. Sung by Minmini for the film Roja, the music director is A.R.Rehman. For me this song was more the Indian ethos than the patriotic Bahrat hamko jaan se pyaara hai. This is a new India, where everyone can hope, dream and hopefully can make it. It is the India, where the maid sends her children to an English medium school, where sachets rule the roost in rural India, and where the gardener, the carpenter and the milk man own a mobile to boost their own business, it is an India where we all have small dreams that can be realised.

I will be a pilot — says the girl to her brother….

14) Aao Bache Tumhe Dikhaye -We had just moved from Delhi to Bombay. I was 7 or maybe 8. There was this school in the lane in which we lived in Vile Parle (E). The PT teacher (he could have just been the NCC in charge) would get the kids in the school to sing this song after their march. It was, surprisingly harmonious. Today when I travel India and I come across some place ordinary, I am struck by its timelessness & beauty. this song echoes in my ears.Goosebumps time…

mornings ...

15) Allah tero Naam, Iswar tere Naam – Lata Mangeshkar in one of my favourite Bhajans from Hindi Films. Music by Jaidev, for the film Hum Dono. Tolerance as secularism – a very Indian ethos. And despite bombs, terror, and a fatwa per minute, despite Khalistan, Khaps, and moral police and the hardening of stands across the board — that value still persists. Watch ordinary people of all shapes, sizes, and all persuasions passing by religious monuments or on festival days … they still share …. the elite have moved away from this, but the bulk are still ‘secular’ – in their faith.

16) Chak De India – the Indian way of saying Just Do It. This is the India not of the class system or the caste system or the old aristocracy. This is the India of a Sunil Mittal, an Irfan Pathan, a Mahindra Singh Dhoni, a Shah Rukh Khan, the Mayawati. Men and women with no famous lineage, a modest background achieving dreams achieved within their own lifetime, while they are still young. This is the India of the small town IAS officer, the India of, hopefully, the new meritocracy. An India, where we as members of the Republic take charge of our own destiny and move ahead, despite the system.

Have a peaceful Independence Day, and spare a thought for all those who fought and continue to fight to ensure that those freedoms remain !


and finally,  the National Anthem – an extended version of it –

Nov 152011

The trouble with the kind of churn that has been going on for the last 18 months, not just in India but worldwide, is that you (rather I) tend to lose faith in humanity… Your anti corruption leaders fudge bills, sportsmen fight for their personal trophies, whistleblowers are sexual predators, journalists run with the power elite pack, businessmen want zero risk and maximum return plus are not above subverting the State to achieving it… That is essentially the background for this fortnight’s column…

My column in today’s DNA

The past year or so has seen the fall from grace of many idols. It seems that no one is interested in the larger good. Today, it is not uncommon to hear the refrain ‘sab chor hain’ attributed to the political class only. Idols from the areas of business, industry, media, journalism, films, civil society, sportsmen and saints have all come crashing down to earth. It feels like that there is no one left to trust. It seems that there is no bright and shining light that tells you that people are decent, and act for the greater common good.

Today, this column is focused on people who put basic human decency and dignity at the core of their dealings. And, while it is important to know about the nasty things of life, it is equally important to know and celebrate the deeds of those who rise above the everyday ‘me first’ syndrome.

Azim Premji: Starting out as a maker of vanaspati – or hydrogenated cooking oil, Wipro has ended up becoming one of the most respected IT services company in the world. The credit for this vision and transformation goes to Azim Premji, who was only 21 when he took charge of the company But, business success is not the only reason we celebrate Mr.Premji’s work. It would have been so easy to rest on the laurels of transforming a Rs.12.5 crore company into Rs.35,000 crore company. But, that is not all what Mr. Premji did. He has set himself another challenge: to set up schools that provide top-notch free education in every little village in India. He has undertaken, what is possibly Independent India’s single largest act of philanthropy – $2billion dollars of shares transferred to a foundation that will drive this mission.

Bunker Roy: It is so easy to go into rural India and see the chronic poverty, deprivation, caste differences, illiteracy and put your hands up in defeat and drive back to the city. Bunker Roy is one of the few who didn’t react that way. He didn’t look down on people because they didn’t have literacy skills. Instead he chose to train them as solar engineers, midwives, masons, water engineers and these newly empowered individuals go forth and change the lives of others in their environment. The Barefoot College has trained more than three million people who have in turn transformed their societies. Think of people without any formal education being capable of electricity, water and basic primary health care to remote communities and you will begin to appreciate Bunker Roy’s vision.

Kalpana Saroj – A woman. A Dalit. where both have faced generations of institutionalized discrimination. A barely educated Kalpana Saroj took over an ailing engineering company and has managed to turn the company around. And, that is after ensuring all debts are paid and all workers’ dues are settled. In a world where we are used to hearing creditors losing money, and workers’ losing their back pay when companies are rescued from going bankrupt, you can celebrate not just her achievement but also her ethics.

Rahul Dravid – There are more glamourous players like Dhoni; players with more runs like Tendulkar. swashbuckling and adventurous players like Segwag. But, it is difficult to find one player who embodies the sportsmanship and team sprit the way Dravid does. When he walks on to the field, it is one player you can be sure is there to play for the love of the game, and for the team. And, he usually hasn’t let his fans down. In a world where we are used to individual records and individual glory, Dravid reminds you of that there are still people for whom old fashioned values still matter.

Vandana Shiva – Vandana Shiva’s greatest contribution to India has been to prevent large corporations from patenting seeds and taking all the profits generated for themselves. But, it was not just about fighting profits. It was fighting for ownership. If a company took a patent on a seed – that is produced by millions of years of evolution, and generations of farmers working towards improving seed quality and produce – then farmers’ would have to pay the corporation every time they planted the seed. What Vandana Shiva achieved was a fight against those who would take patent someone else’s traditional knowledge and make the poorest pay for it again and again.

There is goodness in the world. There are people who are trying to make a difference. Maybe we all just need to look and around and find them.

Jul 192011

Penguin had brought out an entire series of books last year (14 to be precise) to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Indian Republic. Called Words of Freedom – Ideas of a Nation – the series covers a number of luminaries who were at the forefront of the freedom struggle. When I chanced upon this one by Dr.Ambedkar – last week when i placed my order, I wasn’t aware of the other 13. The rest have gone onto my wishlist.




The Ambedkar volume is a collection of speeches. In this post i will quote extensively from the first of these speeches. If Democracy Dies, it will be our Doom – is an Address by Dr. Ambedkar at the All India Depressed Classes Conference held at Nagpur on the 18th of July 1942 – 70 years to date… and the issues he writes about resonate even today.

It is a matter of immense satisfaction that the Untouchables have made great strides along all sides. I will particularise only three. They have acquired a degree of political consciousness which few communities in India have acquired. Secondly, they have made considerable progress in Education. Thirdly they are securing a foothold in the institutions and in the public service of the country. (pg5 &6)

Progress in the competition of communities is the result of power. The power may be economic, it may be social or it may be political. Have we the power to sustain our progress? Have we economic power? I am sure we have none. We are a class of serfs. Have we social power? I am sure we have none. We are a degraded portion of humanity. The only thing, therefore, we can depend upon for our continued progress is the capture of political power. I have no doubt that is our only salvation, and that without it we will perish. (pg. 9)

Let me begin by telling you what has been the keynote of my politics. … The basis of my politics lies in the proposition that the Untouchables are not a sub-head or a sub-section of the Hindus, and that they are a separate and a distinct element in the national life of India. (pg.10)

He then goes on to discuss his issues with Mahatma Gandhi on the inclusion of Dalits as a sub-section of Hindus. He says that though he signed the Poona Pact to save the life of Mr.Gandhi, he believed that Gandhi played unfair by never giving his true and honest consent to the principle underlying the Poona Pact.

He then talks about the Muslim League and his opposition to them and in particular the new equation of values set up by them. It also gives a glimpse of why the talks between the Congress and the Muslim League failed – repeatedly. Jinnah, possibly, didn’t want an agreement.

The Equation says that the Muslims, whatever their numbers, are just equal to non-Muslims and therefore, in any political arrangement the Muslims must get fifty percent. To this equation no one can consent. Not only it is against arithmetic; it is also against the interest of all non-Muslim including the Untouchable. (pg.18 and 19)

He then goes on to give advice to his audience:

…you must insist on being recognized as an independent and separate element in the national life of India. The theory that they are only a sub-section of the Hindus must be fought tooth and nail. Failure to get the Untouchables recognized as a distinct element, separate from the Hindus, will keep them submerged and lead to their suppression and degradation. (pg 20)

He also says –

We suffer from bad administration and not from bad laws. The administration is bad because it is in the hand of the Caste Hindus, who carry their social prejudices into administration and persistently deny to the Untouchables for one reason or another the principle of equal benefit to which they are entitled. Good Laws can do you no good unless you have good administration and you can have good administration when you have persons belonging to the Untouchables holding high administrative posts from which they could watch how other Hindu civil servants are behaving towards the Untouchables and to check them, control them and prevent them from doing mischief. (pg. 21)

And for those of you who say reservation – here is the GoI figures on reservation in the administrative services :


Secy Addl. Secy Joint Secy Director
Total No. of officers 149 108 477 590
No. of SCs 2 31 17
% age of SCs 1.85 6.49 2.88
No. of STs 4 2 15 7
% age of STs 2.68 1.85 3.14 1.18

( The number of officers presently working as Secretary, Additional  Secretary, Joint Secretary and Director level posts, in the Government of India and the number of SC and ST officers on these posts and their percentage, as  on 14.3.201)

And the almost prescient Dr.Ambedkar has this to say

“It is, however, not enough to ask for mere reservation. It is necessary to insist that such reservation shall be given effect to within a stated period. This is far more essential than mere reservation. For, unless you fix a period, the reservation will not come. It will be evaded on one ground or another and of course on the usual and unfathomable ground that no suitable candidate was available. We all know to a Hindu, if he is the appointing authority, no candidate from the Untouchables would be a suitable candidate. “(pg.21)

And finally in this speech he talks about the solution. He ends by talking about the support for the British war effort against the Nazis.

This is a war between democracy and dictatorship – not an enlightened dictatorship but a dictatorship of the most barbarous character based not on any moral idea but on racial arrogance. If any dictatorship needs to be destroyed it is this vile Nazi dictatorship. Amidst all the political dissensions that one witnesses in this country …we are likely to forget what a menace to our future this Nazism, if it wins, is going to be. What is more important is that its racial basis is a positive danger to Indians. (pg.26)

Looks like people flirted with the Nazi ideology even then.

He continues:

…There lies on us a very heavy duty to see that democracy does not vanish from the earth as a governing principle of human relationship. If we believe in it, we must be both true and loyal to it. We must not only be staunch in our faith in democracy but we must resolve to see that in whatever we do, we don not help the enemies of democracy to uproot the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. …. If democracy lives, we are sure to reap the fruits of it. If democracy dies, it will be our doom (pg.27)


Such vision. Such clarity. Such empathy. Still relevant after 70 years ..


And in case you are wondering, i reject Dr.Swamy’s ideology – it goes against everything I believe in. Everything that I believe to be sacred.

I may support his right to express, but i will fight his ideology with all that I can and all that i have.
And finally, the photograph for today.

It was raining cats and dogs and buffaloes and cows – almost for a week. The lakes are full, and the roads have become the moon crater. I couldn’t bear driving any more so I took a rick yesterday. This was the view through the wind screen. The “Ram” is a sticker – the two red lights belong to cars stranded ahead of the rick. It is almost like giving me a glimmer of hope on a dark and stormy day…

30 day Project Day 14 - red2

Jun 222010

A few days ago, I read that Jose Saramago had died.

I first came across Saramago’s works nearly 20 years ago, when I chanced upon a copy of “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ”. It was a fascinating and thought provoking book. It was the first time that i read some thing that could be considered ‘blasphemous‘, though it wasn’t the last. Though, at the time I read it, I neither realised the extent of blasphemy nor the price the author had to pay for expressing it.

The Jesus that Saramago wrote about, was deeply human and terribly vulnerable. He wanted the things that everyone else wanted- peace, security, happiness, a partner, and children. However, divine chess between God and the Devil, ensured that he was martyred. Funnily enough, the Devil in the book, comes across as far more sympathetic than God. The God in this book is much more like Indra than like Ram, manipulative rather than beatific.

The next book that I read was Blindness. I reacted to it the same way that I reacted to Lord of the Flies – with a certain kind of nauseated fascination. While theoretically one knows that ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’ are not even skin deep – it is the rapidity and brutality with which it unravels in both stories that disturbed me. It is almost as though morality and conscience are cloaks that we wear, without really internalizing either.

I bought seeing a few years ago, and i have to confess that i still have to read it. Somehow reading Saramago requires a lot of attention and concentration – and the last few years have left me empty of both.

Saramago, has one of the most interesting narrative styles that I have ever read. It is long sentences, with very few full stops. I line is possibly a page:) often sections seem like the inner ramblings of a lead character – but, it is difficult to say, since there are no ” ” marks .

Saramago introduced me an entire range of writers who were writing in Portuguese and Spanish – including Isabella Allende, Marquez, Paz, Llosa – and my life and views are better for that!

Sep 052009

(Inspirations – a series that is reproduction of interesting speeches and writings. It is not about a writer’s block – i keep battling those – but more because these are readings / writings that inspired me at a certain point in life – and they still resonate.)

I discoverd Khalil Gibran via Robert Fisk’s book “Pity the Nation” – on the war in Lebanon. I was a student – in a society that was eclectic & multi ethnic. I had a flatmate who was Lebanese, another couple who were Coptic Egyptians, classmates who came from across the globe. Many of these were places with conflict – countries that had not yet recovered from colonialism and had not yet gotten used to the concept of Nation State. Identity was much more at the tribal, religious sect, ethnic or clan level.

In those days, I was curious about conflict, nationalism and national identity, colonialism, post colonialism – all the things that are so terribly important to students 🙂 And, somehow when i read this it struck a chord – i went back and pulped on Gibran – but none of it resonates as much as this – possibly because it was the first one !

Funnily, many of my classmates believed it referred to their part of the world. Every so often i revisit this – somehow nothing seems to have changed.

Pity the Nation

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.

Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity the nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

Khalil Gibran
The garden of the Prophet (1934)

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