Friday, September 25, 2015

Jugaad or Inventiveness

No one is more inventive and ‘jugaadu’ than school students. Every school tries to instill and enforce discipline among the students in different ways like spanking, slapping and reprimanding. Going back to my school days, there was another kind of indiscipline indulged in by students. It was moving about in the premises , taking a ‘break’ from the class. The teachers were under instructions to stop any student and inquire from him as to why he was loitering about. But then students had to answer the call of nature at least once in a day , for which it was devised to have a ‘pass’ in every class , which was either a piece of wood or of card board with the words ‘PASS’ and the name of class and section inscribed on it in bold letters with ink. This way only one student at a time could go out for the purpose given before.But then boys are boys , and there is no reining them in. It was alright as far as there was a teacher in the class as one student at a time could go for a little while by taking the ‘pass’ .Our contemporary Edisons and Newtons, found a way out in case there was a vacant period . There was not one but many passes transferring hands to be shown when required.With this jugaad more than one student had the ‘break’ with the farzi pass in his pocket.

Any doubts about what I said in the beginning ?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Murphy Boy

Friends of my generation, who had come of age in seventies and eighties, may recollect Murphy Boy, the iconic picture of a tiny cherubic baby adorning the print media with full page ads , when around Diwali, the company would display models of radio sets and Transistor Radio sets for prospective buyers to choose from. Rumours were afloat that the baby had actually died and the ad carrying his picture was also a commemorative one in this sense.The baby with all that childlike charm was cynosure of all eyes rather than the product being advertised . I felt sorry for the child as I had felt in my school days for Lucy Gray the subject of Wordsworth’s famous poem. It is stated to be true that the baby girl who was used as a model for Murphy products in the beginning had died. More than two decades passed with me carrying the sad episode in my subconscious mind. It was a great relief some three years back in 2012 when there were news appearing in the media that the Murphy Boy who had modeled in the seventies and eighties is none other than Dr. Kagyur Tulku Rinpoche, who happens to be the husband of Mandakini , heroine of the Raj Kapur directed film ‘ Ram Teri Ganga Maili‘. The picture that we saw in ads was taken at Manali when Dr. Kagyur Tulku Rinpoche was just three year old and his appearance then bore striking resemblance to the original baby girl who had modeled for Murphy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

रामधारी सिंह दिनकर

राष्ट्रकवि स्व. रामधारी सिंह दिनकर की आज जयंती है । दिनकर जी के नाम से परिचय स्कूल के जमाने में हुआ जब पाठ्यक्रम में हिमालय पर उनकी एक कविता पढ़ी । कुछ पंक्तियाँ अब भी याद हैं , यथा :
मेरे नगपति मेरे विशाल’
साकार दिव्य गौरव विराट,
मेरी जननी के हिम किरीट,
मेरी माता के दिव्य भाल ........
वीर रस और शृंगार रस जैसी परस्पर विरोधी काव्य शैली में ‘कुरुक्षेत्र’ और ‘उर्वशी’ जैसी अनूठी व अद्वितीय काव्य रचनाओं का सृजन कर दिनकर जी ने अपनी प्रतिभा का लोहा मनवाया है। हुंकार,रश्मिरथी, परशुराम की प्रतीक्षा जैसी काव्य रचनाएं तो की ही, इसके अतिरिक्त ‘संस्कृति के चार अध्याय’ नामक पुस्तक पर उन्हें साहित्य अकादमी पुरस्कार भी मिला । ‘उर्वशी’ के लिए भारतीय ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार से सम्मानित हुए तथा पद्म विभूषण भी मिला । उनकी कविताओं की कुछ बानगी इस प्रकार है :
‘असल में हम कवि नहीं शोक की संतान हैं ............’
‘रे रोक युधिष्ठिर को न यहाँ, जाने दे उनको स्वर्ग धीर ,
पर फिरा हमें गांडीव गदा, लौटा दे अर्जुन भीम वीर.......’
‘मर्त्य मानव की विजय का तूर्य हूँ मैं,
उर्वशी अपने समय का सूर्य हूँ मैं ...........’
‘क्षमा शोभती उस भुजंग को, जिसके पास गरल हो; उसको क्या जो दन्तहीन, विषहीन, विनीत, सरल हो....’
हिन्दी साहित्य के इस पुरोधा को हमारी विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि !

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


A very conspicuous presence in our day to day life during my growing years was that of the Dhobi. In urban households dhobi would mark his presence once in a week in the morning whwn he would deliver the washed clothes and collect the dirty ones to be washed by him and delivered next week . The practice was followed like a ritual. Every household had a family dhobi who once engaged would continue for years till the client changed his place of residence or in case of a Government employee, transfer took him away to some other station. A dhobi was conspicuous and easily recognizable by his white kurta, white dhoti and jutties with upturned toe, always carrying a bundleor a ‘gathri’ of clothes on his back. The linen clothes that were given to him for washing were white bed sheets, white bed covers , quilt covers and last but not the least white cotton shirts , an essential part of school uniform and a preferred colour of office going people. In our locality, dhobis used to come from dhobighat , just on the fringe of famous Annadale ground , just below it. The reason behind the choice of place by dhobis was plenty of water available in a khud flowing nearby and ample sunshine from morning till evening, which helped the washed linen dry quickly.The clothes were washed in washing soda and collar of shirts were starched. From some vantage point linen drying in the sun could be seen from a distance.Since most of the linen or the clothes were white , there was every chance of getting these mixed up , but to avoid this , dhobi would put a separate identification mark in indelible ink on the linen of a particular household . There is an idiom –to wash your dirty linen in public- but yes dirty linen was literally washed and left to dry in public . The dhobi whose services we continued to avail for years was one Bhagwati Prasad. My father used to call him baretha (बरेठा ). I did not know the meaning of this word until I found out from the google that it is a synonym for dhobi. But then my late father possessed a vast vocabulary of such like terms.
Dhobis almost always walked in a group of three or four, as talking while walking was the best way of fighting fatigue caused by steep ascent from Annadale right up to the circular road , then called the cart road.
All dhobis were seen together on the day next to Holi when they would celebrate Hola and take a procession , visibly drunk , rejoicing all the way .
It is decades since I encountered one of their ilk, as most of the washing is done at home , thanks to washing machines available in every household.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Haircut , the necessary ritual

They say even a king has to bow before a barber as no one can have a haircut with the head held high.The barbers have been an important segment of society and in villages, apart from cutting hair they were engaged in carrying messages or communication especially pertaining to marriages and marriage invitations. They were said to be a garrulous lot and unstoppable talkers with unmatched wit . But this perhaps merits a separate discussion.
I have clear memories of having a haircut at home when the barber would come once in a month on Sunday to do the job. This continued till the time I was old enough to accompany my father to the barber’s shop and to absorb the unfamiliar atmosphere of a shop or a saloon .The barber would place a wooden plank on and across the arms of the chair and make me sit on it so that my face came up to the level of the mirror in front so as to be clearly visible .Longish hair would be snipped with a scissors .I was made to move my head left, right and down and the machine would move on the back and sides with a clacking sound. The barber was one Jhania Ram, a middle aged man, in the early sixties, who used to give a haircut at home also. The shop is still there in Lower Bazaar , Shimla and is the first barber’s shop while going from DC office side.
While in School ,with rich growth of hair on my head ,which grew in length rather quickly, it was not only a ritual but also a necessity to have a haircut once in a month lest it should invite the ire and anger of teachers and parents alike . Sporting long hair was not in vogue.When I reached seventh class , I started having a haircut , going to the barber’s shop unescorted , on my own. Reaching higher classes , I made it a point to have my haircut at a place near my school during some PT period, so as to save on time .It was a must to have a hair wash immediately after the haircut or else jokingly , the barber was said to be ‘sitting on one’s head’.It was an arduous job as there would be very small hair scattered all over , thanks to the machine . Mercifully,these days only scissors are used and a electric trimmer is used to shear the sides. The place was called as barbers’ workshop where about a dozen barbers did the job under a roof along the stairs that lead from Lower Bazar to Ganj Bazar, literally the grain market of Shimla. The ‘workshop’ is still there.
In due course, change of place and residence took place and it was natural to have haircut from different barber at different time and place.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Double Roti Wala

To  me  bread     has always meant   डबलरोटी and not रोटी’  which it actually means. About   two-three months  back , when a bakery showroom opened  at a walking distance from my  locality- a suburb of Shimla - it was welcome , for otherwise  all bakery items like pastry, cake etc had to be brought from the outlets at the Mall or Lakkar Bazaar. Bread is of course available  at all places. I am taken back to the time when there were no outlets selling bakery items and bread vendors carried the stuff in a metal box on their heads. The box was of standard size and specification.To our surprise some times the vendor would walk with free hands with the box strategically balanced on the head.Some had regular customers to whom  bread was delivered daily at their doorstep. , while some others passing by would loudly call out  डबलरोटी’ so that some people residing nearby could buy bread etc. Some others could be found on the roadside , with the box placed on a parapet and any passerby could buy whatever he wanted to.   I fondly remember one Jagannath or Jagarnath from  the sixties who came daily in the neighborhood to deliver bread. He was a jolly good fellow, with always a smile on his face.  The box or the trunk was  layered with trays. The upper layer contained pastries, middle layer stuff like cream rolls  & rusks   and at the bottom were bread and buns , which colloquially   were called ‘band’ .The bread was a complete bread , which was cut into slices with a sharp big knife  before delivery. A full bread would cost eight anna  or 50 paise and half bread could be had for four anna or 25 paise.Pastry cost 15 paise.Since this was a daily supply , stuff was always fresh , bread was soft and tasted sweet .With time  baking technique and  packaging have considerably improved   but the bread no longer tastes that good.

Apart from the stuff one badly misses,  the personal bond that existed between the vendor and the customer with pleasantries exchanged from both sides. Nowadays  it has become  only businesslike no one bothering to know even the name of one another. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Asha Bhosle

When   Shakespeare wrote   “…Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite  variety”,

- among other things, perhaps he was  presaging , in a good sense  the   advent   of  Asha Bhosle , the renowned  playback singer  of   Bollywood in the twentieth  century   through   twenty first century. Asha Bhosle , the evergreen , versatile singer of  Hindi  cinema  turns 82 today. In a singing career spanning  about   six decades, she has captivated  the  music  lovers  of the Indian sub continent  with her unmatched voice , which  is difficult to describe  or  define in  terms of tone, tenor  or timbre  in one single  phrase. Her songs    Aya Holi ka tyohar & Aadha Hai Chandrama Raat Aadhi from the film  ‘Navrang ‘ , Ab ke Baras Bhej  Bhaiyya ko babul    from  ‘Bandini’, Kali Ghata Chhaye mora Jiya tarsaaye from  ‘Sujata’ , Udein  Jab Jab Zulfei teri  from ‘Naya Daur’,   Tere Khayalon mein hum from   ‘Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne’,  Paan Khaye sayyan hamaaro from ‘Teesri  Qasam’  are simply superb. Her  non- film number- Geet kitne gaa chuki hoon, is sukhi jag ke liye- can  virtually  draw  tears  from even  an unemotional   listener.She has sung playback for child artistes in films ‘Boot Polish’ and ‘Jagriti’.   Besides her Punjabi songs are no less popular. Pyar de bhulekhe kinne sohne sohne   kha    gaye ,     and   Das mereya   Dholana  ve   toon  kehde arsh da tara,- both  duets with   Muhammad  Rafi  are unforgettable  masterpieces. For her voice quality, she has been  the  favourite  of late  O.P.Nayyar , who never  took  Lata Mangeshkar for his compositions. Asha Bhosle has lent her voice to Qawwalis, Bhajans, Shabads also  and  done full justice to these with her rendition. She holds the record for  most recorded    singer , leaving even Lata Mangeshkae her more acclaimed and celebrated elder sister behind.  We hope she continues to sing and enrich the music world with her melodies.