Your relationship with songs that moved you, that brought tears to your eyes the first time you heard them and every time you hear them, is deeply personal. How can others relate to your experience? And no matter how well you write it would be less than what you felt.
Nida Fazli famously said:
Yun to har ghazal mukammal hoti hai
Par kalam se kaghaz par utarti hai to kuch kami rah jati hai.
The poetry was complete
When the poet first felt it.
It lost something
When he brought it down on paper.
(my rough translation)
How do I describe the feeling of wonder and trance when I first heard Balam aye baso more man mein coming from a distant radio ages ago when I was about 13. There would be restless yearning not knowing when and how would I hear that song again. It was not until many years later that I became acquainted with the songs of KL Saigal, and several of his songs such as jhoolna jhulao ri, main baithi thi, suno suno hey Krishna kala, hori ho brijraj dulare and prem nager mein banaungi ghar main (Chandidas 1934) entered my list of Best of Saigal. But balam aye baso more man mein (Devdas 1935), especially its opening notes of sarod (by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan – said to be the first use of sarod in a Hindi film song) always had a special place in my heart.
Later in the college hostel I would be drawn hypnotised every Thursday night to the common room radio by Lata’s abhi to main jawan hun which was the signature song of Radio Ceylon’s weekly programme Hamesha jawan geet. The programme would also end with this song which always left me enchanted and speechless. The effect was, in fact, enhanced by its second signature song jab dil ko satave gham tu ched sakhi sargam, again by Lata (Sargam 1950, music C Ramchandra). I knew I had to wait for a week because for some reason that I could not understand, this song never came on any other usual programmes of old songs such as Radio Ceylon (7.30 AM every morning) or All India Radio’s Urdu service. Gradually radio went out of our lifestyle and came Doordarshan, the sole channel for many years. At some point of time they started a second channel DD Metro. This had a weekly programme of old songs mostly of black & white era. They had some rare gems, but abhi to main jawan hun remained elusive.
Soon Radio Ceylon, AIR’s Urdu service, DD Metro all became part of distant memory swamped by the explosion of channels and their soaps, reality shows and 24×7 news. But abhi to main jawan hun remained a part of me even though tinged with sadness that I may not be ever able to hear it again. Then a few years back a music lover friend gifted me a compilation of video clippings of old songs. And would you believe it, it had the clipping of this song, when for the first time I discovered it was from the film Afsana (1951, music Husnlal Bhagatram). I had erroneously believed it to be from Sargam, it sounded so much like C Ramchandra. My joy on this discovery was almost like what Mahamahopadhyay Pandit Ganpat Shastri, the great Sanskrit scholar and curator of Travancore Oriental Manuscripts Library, Trivandrum would have felt on coming upon 13 manuscripts in 1912 of what he established to be plays of Bhasa, the revered and earliest known Sanskrit dramatist (these plays were lost to the Sanskrit world for about two thousand years until this discovery).
In the public mind Abhi to main jawan hun is synonymous with Malika Pukhraj. But for me it would always be Lata’s song from Afsana. Ameen Sayani is regarded as the Sachin Tendulkar of radio announcing, and perhaps rightly so. But for me, radio announcer would always be Manohar Mahajan presenting Hamesha jawan geet on Radio Ceylon every Thursday night in the late 60’s, which would start and end with this haunting melody.
Now I find that this song is more accessible thanks to the internet. But that has not lessened the deep mysterious charm it had on me.
With so much of absorbing of the songs of yore from different sources and now from the incredible collections of internet, I started thinking that there could be hardly a good song which I had not heard. But soon to my utter delight I was proved wrong.
It was December 2009 travelling from Mandapam to Rameshwaram and back by road that I had one of the most pleasant experiences of my life. The driver had put on some old film music. Nothing unusual in that except that the songs were not the too familiar super hits but some less heard gems, obviously compiled with great care by a music lover. They were also my special favourites, and I asked the driver to convey my profuse thanks to the owner of the Qualis. Then a song came which completely held me spellbound. I could not believe that there existed such a beautiful song I had never heard before. The song went:
Door papiha bola raat aadhi rah gayee
Meri tumhari mulaqat baki rah gayee
Mera man hai udas jiya mand mand hai
Badalon ke ghere mein chand nazar band hai
Badal aye par barsat baki rah gayee
Meri tumhari mulaqat baki rah gayee
Far away when the papiha sings
My heart sinks that the night is only half left
But alas our tryst has not even begun.
My heart is sad and I am feeling low
The moon too is held captive by the encircling clouds
The clouds came but they are yet to shower rains
Alas, our tryst has not even begun.
(my rough translation)
The song could be of Geeta Dutt or Suraiya. Their voices are very distinct but this song seemed to combine the singing styles of both. The driver could not help me as it was compiled on a pen drive by the owner. Later browsing the internet I accidentally came upon this song and again my joy knew no bounds that I could now give it an identity by singer, film and music director.
Door papiha bola by Suraiya (film Gajre 1948, music Anil Biswas) captures every music lover’s tryst with a great song. All great songs seem to beckon you from far away like a papiha’s song transporting you to another world. And when the song ends, the night seems to be gone too fast leaving you unsatiated and yearning for more.
(The songs Jhulana jhulao ri and Hori ho brijraj dulare are courtesy indianscreen.com.)