Saturday, June 14, 2008

What song are you humming now?

IT IS 2PM ON A DULL Friday afternoon. It has been an excruciatingly long week as I keep looking at my watch patiently awaiting the needles to show me the ‘3PM position’ so that I can wrap things up and head home. I sit back after responding to another email from a colleague and yawn as carelessly as a two month old infant. And just like that, I start swinging in my chair looking blankly at the computer screen. It is one of those moments where saying nothing and doing nothing make perfect sense. I am now waiting for her follow up response to what I had just sent. To ease myself, I take a deep breathe and exhale out a tune. And the string of words that follow next have me wrapped in their comfort for the next few seconds.

‘Wahaan kaun hai tera…musaafir…jaayega kahaan…dum le le ghadi bhar…yeh chaiyyan…paayega kahaan…’

No sooner have I finished crooning this 1965 classic a few times from the brilliant movie ‘Guide’ in a fake SD Burman voice, that her follow up response arrives and my afternoon continues. I smile to myself as I have found a renewed sense of peace again.

What struck me the most about this incident was the fact that it took a 1965 song to actually help me find a subtle yet familiar calm in a 2008 afternoon! So, there were 43 long years in between them that I had managed to bridge in that brief moment of impatience and fatigue. Amazing – I thought – 43 years. That is almost one and a half times as old as I am now! Then how was it possible that such an old tune was able to help me amplify my mood that afternoon? Is that not the definition of a timeless classic? Does that not truly qualify to be the epitome of human melody?

If there is one thing that has always been sung in Indian folklore, it is the unique essence of variable music in our country. Be it any language – Kannada, Hindi, Bhojpuri or Bengali – each language has classics of its own that make our collection so distinct. I mean lets face it – the one that automatically came to my subconscious was a tune half a century old! What more testament can there be of the word ‘classic’? But along with this assuring thought came a rather disturbing one too. How many such classics can I pick out from the last ten years of Indian music? Or shall we say Hindi music? Or even Kannada – my mother tongue - for that matter? Fifty? A hundred? Two hundred?

I can bet good money that the list will thin out after a while since I wonder if memorable songs are even being made any more. Sure – they are a rage once they are released – but a few months into their run and they have emptied out their lifespan. You remember them – but you do not croon them to entertain yourself. They have died a natural death. Why is this? In an era where freehand copyright violations of music are considered ‘hip’, have we truly lost sight of original tunes? And even if they are original, are they really coming with expiration dates? It was a sad sense of loss that crept into me since I, like many fellow Indians in my age group, are the final generation who had the best of everything. We – the 27 – 35 age rangers – were the truly gifted kind who jumped up in glee at the color television and applauded the dial up Internet connection. We were the X-generation kids who played hide and seek for evening games and surfed online in search of a date. Oh yes – we have been through it all. But what bothered me the most, is that how little we have managed in music to offer to the next generation. How futile and media-crazy our industries have become that dish out one pathetic attempt after another. The mad race for ‘get rich quick’ has pretty much weeded out the true gems, who stand waiting for their share of sunlight.


I am sure 20 years from now, people will still be singing ‘wahaan kaun hai tera…’ while everything in between might have become a void. And some day another person will write a similar article – only the number of years will be 63.

So,reader,what song are you humming now?


3 reflections:

Anonymous said...

At this moment i'm humming a kannada song.."mareyadiru aa shakthi ya mereyadiru maanava' year unknown.

shakri said...


Thank you for the response. :)


Anonymous said...

nice and true :)