Thursday, 14 August 2008

A Man and His Music


Mumbai.

July 30, 2008. 6 pm.

It has been raining quite heavily the whole day. Traffic is at standstill and we have reached only Dadar. I anxiously glance at my watch. My flight to Chennai takes off in one hour and I am not at all sure we are going to make it.

“Shall I put on some music?” asks Siraj.

I say yes, half-expecting to be bombarded with the high-decibel dance beat of the latest Bollywood hit. But suddenly the soft, mellifluous voice of Mohammed Rafi fills the inside of the car.

Yaad na jaaye beete dinon ki, Rafi Saab sings.

“They have been playing his songs whole day long,” says Siraj. “Tomorrow is Rafi Saab’s death anniversary.”

“I know,” I say simply. I do not add that it is a date no one needs to remind me about.

Traffic starts moving slowly. I look out of the window. It is grey and overcast. I feel depressed.

The RJ, a young girl, talking rapid-fire, English-accented Hindi from a prepared script, mouths inanities about the legendary singer and his honeyed voice. She puts on another song.

Tum jo mil gaye ho to ye lagtaa hai...

“Do you like old Hindi film songs?” Siraj asks.

Just to needle him, I say: “Yes, I can even tell you which film this song is from and who the music director is!”

But Siraj seems lost in thought and does not seem to be interested in taking up my childish challenge. He carefully negotiates the traffic at Sion circle and inches his Ford Ikon through the fringes of Dharavi.

“You know,” Siraj says, “I have given my shoulder to Rafi Saab’s coffin.” He uses the Hindi term, kandha milana.

“How did that come about?” I ask, interested.

“I was ten or eleven at that time. I had gone with my father to the Bandra mosque for the evening namaaz. When we came out, Rafi Saab’s funeral cortege was just entering the compound... well, in the pushing and shoving that followed, I managed...to put my shoulder to...”Siraj’s voice trails away.

We are both quiet for a long time. I think about a singer who died 28 years ago and how his voice and his songs unite a Malayali Hindu and a Bandra Muslim in the small confines of a car on a wet, miserable day in Mumbai, to share a common memory, sacred to both.

The car picks up speed once it enters the Western Express Highway. I feel reasonably confident about catching that flight now.

The song changes again. It is one of my favourites. Another priceless composition from the composer, Madan Mohan.

Tu mere samne hai, teri zulfein hai khuli...

We have reached the airport. Heaving my laptop and overnight case out of the boot, I say good-bye to Siraj.

Khuda Hafiz,” says Siraj, and drives away.

7 comments:

padmaja said...

Rafi is one of my favourites too.. I love the way he changed his voice to suit different heroes. From Dev Anand to Shammi to Dharmendra... Awesome.. His voice really touches the soul...

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Yes, music unites.

Thiruvengadam said...

Rafi was a versatile singer with a melodious & crystal clear voice which can aptly express the emotions of any song. It is amazing that he could lend his voice to Johnny Walker with as much grace as he used to sing for Dilip Kumar. And who can forget his trademark mischievous rendition for Shammi Kappor's antics. Truly a class apart.
Sadly the void left by the trio of Rafi/Kishore/Mukesh is still to be filled.

Rada said...

@Padmaja: All singers of that era were outstanding with their own distinct style. Just think of Rafi Saab, Mukesh, Kishore, Hemantda...

@Cynic: As usual, short and succint!

@Manohar: Very scholarly comment and so apt. I fully agree.

harini calamur said...

there is so much rafi has sung that is brilliant...
mein zindagi ka saath nibhaata chalagaya, mein kahi kavi na ban jaoon tere pyaar mein hai kavita ; ehsaan tera hoga mujpar; zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi;

thank you for reminding us...

Vatsa said...

Was googling up Rafi and read your post. Amazing and touching. Rafi = God. So many amazing songs. What a voice and the fan site has so many great stories with a human touch. The arguments would be never ending between a Rafi fan or a Kishore fan, but for me it is Rafi all the way. Other than the usual suspects my favourites include "Tum Mujhe Yoon/Pagla Kahin Ka, Yeh Jo Chilman Hai/Mehboob Ki Mehendi, Ek Haseen Shaam Ko/Dulhan Ek Raat Ki).

Nice follow up, btw with the Mallu connection to Hindi music.

Rada said...

Harini, Vatsa,

So charmed by your comments. Unsurprisingly, all the songs both of you mention, are my favourites too! :-)

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.