Friday, March 30, 2007

Things musical...


Music is one prime reason why I continue living in Pune, though at times, like millions of others well the city treads on my toes and yelps emanate at time with a gush of profanities... have had many fights uselessly. My silver beard lets me get away with reactive assaults on ill-mannered youngsters.

Baroda or Vadodara as it is called, used to be my nowhere-place, my private little heaven where for years I would have prospered in total anonymity for the city never had any pretensions of being a metro -and if that has contributed to my solitude-seeking nature, well... so be it.

Pune has often been described as a bigger and brighter version of Baroda. Not for nothing, that has been said often. Countless times I have parked my car or got rid of an auto-rickshaw to walk around aimlessly in the labyrinthine mazes of Sadashiv Peth or crumbling houses crowding Kasba Peth or Bhavani Peth with their indelible stamp of poor Muslim families herded together in sub-human conditions... and Baroda swings back in my mind like a steel pendulum and knocks me nearly unconscious. All the mazes of bylanes around Nyaya Mandir or Mandvi even parts of Champaner Gate area would be very similar to what I experience here. Nearly the same architecture, the same passion for a spot of greenery -which could be teeny weeny potted plants, a great amount of cleanliness, quite a lot of useless junk thrown in heaps in the courtyard or in a tiny veranda depending upon the size of the dwelling. People show the same friendliness to a lost stranger, and give very precise, correct and true answers.

'True' may be an odd man out in the sentence above, but I do recall several friends in the upmarket Alkapuri area who used to sit on compound walls to while away the hours every day from 4.00pm to midnight -colossal waste of time, but then does it matter, when you are an adolescent? Now it does perhaps, in our times it did not. Several of my cronies, otherwise good sons and disciples, good boys nicely brought up, used to be averse to stranger stopping and asking :" Which is the way to Baroda People's Society?" One of these boys would point in any random direction and send the guy on a wild goose chase. Many times, the same guy would be back sweaty, fatigued on his bicycle and with glowering coals in his eyes : " Waah yaar, aavun karvanun? (hey pal, why did you do that?) and with profuse apologies the same guy will direct him to another wrong lane... we would disperse long before the guy would return with loud abuse and intent to maul.

Baroda had its musical overflow -one could hear some singer or the other practising virtually in every lane. Some of my best evenings in that unforgettable city were spent listening to the heavenly voice of Ranjana Dharwadkar, then an All-India Radio artist and a huge celebrity for us to rub our shoulders with and exchange civilities. We were a bunch of unwashed college students, or guys who had just taken up jobs and the university still attracted us so much we would be spending most of our wakeful hours either in the university, either at Fine Arts faculty (now called Performing Arts) or in the Science/Arts section where we had buddies. Many of us would cancel appointments when Mrs. Dharwadkar was scheduled to sing on the radio. A borrowed transistor radio would be arranged and a hold-your-breath sort of silence would prevail. The occasional teas-shop boy with his loud voice and loutish manners would be violently suppressed into silence when the lady would be singing. Endless bidis and cigarettes would be rolled and smoked with rapture in everyone's eyes.... some of us were very knowledgeable, apart from yours truly and his music-crazy younger brother, for instance Simeen Punegar who had trained for 14 years under Pandit Dinkar Kaikini. She would do her own riyaz in the tiny cottage where Renjan lived -with his larger than life reputation of a painter who painted, not talked but really produced paintings... there was every year a profusion of young girls barely out of teens, who woud descend upon this ex-drug abuser who had seen it all, and spend days and nights at his place. Talented youngsters flocked to his place -soon we found out why. He could tell stories.

And that can be a huge attraction -it has been so for millenia. More about music later.

(c) Max Babi


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