Rafi Sa’ab

Today is Rafi Sa’ab’s Birth Anniversary and I had made a commitment last night to publish a post on him today. I managed to do it in literally  the last minute: I published this post at 23:59 on 24 December 2017. Why did I have to keep the commitment even if in this token form? It’s because I owe a lot to the voice of the great Mohammad Rafi. No. I am not a singer. Neither do I regularly listen to music in general or to Mr Rafi’s songs in particular. Yet, there are songs, his songs, when they reach my ears, in his voice or in mine, I feel good. Or, when I feel good I search opportunities for his songs to be played or sung. He is not the only one I like. There’re Lataji (Ms. Lata Mageshkar) and Kishoreda (Mr. Kishor Kumar) too, and Hemantada (Hemanta Kumar) in Bangla, yet, this post is to be about Rafi Sa’ab. And then, although I know there are many who may not agree, Rafi Sa’ab’s voice had a soothing quality that is generally not found in male voices.

It’s probably that soothing voice of hers that makes Lataji the greatest of all female Hindi playback singers. Also, probably the same soothing voice makes Rafi Sa’ab my favourite male Hindi playback singer. His songs with the two Burmans (Mr. Sachin Dev Burman and Mr. Rahul Dev Burman), Mr. O. P. Nayyar, Mr. Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal etc. have been a source of pleasure to me for as long as I can remember enjoying vocal music.

Few of his songs that I must specially mention here are:

“Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko”, “Chand mera dil chandni ho tum”, “Chaudahvi ka chaand ho”, “Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaya to kya hai”, “Lagta Nahin hai dil mera ujde dayar mein”, “Pukarta chala hun main gali gali bahaar ki”, “Isharon isharon mein dil lene waale”, “Teri bindiya re”,  

 

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City, Roots, Death and After

A modern city is the place where a modern man is born, grows roots into its soil and then, most probably, is uprooted from it to be transplanted some city else. I shared the soil and the roots with one such man. He passed away nearly a fortnight ago. The loss was personal and so was the grief, or whatever ounces of it I am capable of.

 

Funerals are strange events. For me, they are more about my death than that of the dead person, and more about their life than that of mine. So, I stood by a black stinking drain of a river that they have converted Mother Yamuna into and looked at all the goings on.  I saw myself on the pyre. A lot of his identity was mine and vice versa.

We belong to Varanasi (Which verb do I use when talking of my dead uncle and me alive? Should I use his tense on mine or mine over his? My using past tense may create ambiguity here so I’ll use the present tense whenever I’m confused). We spent our active professional careers away from home. We raised children (his three, or my two) and played various roles given to us in cities we were not born in, and in my case, never grew into.

On his death my thoughts went to the boy who grew up in the lanes of Varanasi. He traversed through the same lanes that I was to walk in, thirty odd years later. Did he feel the loss of his city as I do? I never got a chance to ask him this question, and many more.