Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dilli abhi duur

The government releases Hindi/Tamil Open source applications with great fanfare [Office, OCR, Hindi Firefox etc]. A critical review by Vinay Jain in a Hindi blogzine can be found here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Quiz time by Aaman Lamba

My old pal Aaman Lamba has an excellent blog, a veritable smorgasbord of articles on literature, movies, economics, current affairs, art, technology and most importantly, quizzes. The latest quiz is here and at Blogcritics. Try it. Aaman is a veteran of the famous Karnataka Quiz Association, where he was a member of many teams including 'Mustapha and the Psychedelic Fat Bottomed Girls' and I have painful memories of competing against that team. :-) The team name was quite a tongue twister for our venerable and legendary quiz master sans pareil, Wg. Cdr. Mulky.

Go read his blog.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Babul Mora

One of the greatest songs ever written in Indian history is a tragic Thumri by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. This rangeela king was a very cultured gent.
"He learnt Hindustani vocal with Basit Khan, Pyar Khan and Jaffar Khan and underwent Kathak training under Thakur Prasadji and Bindadin Maharaj. Although his pen-name was Qaisar, be used the pseudonym "Akhtarpiya" for his numerous compositions. Under this pen- name, he wrote over 40 works, poems, prose and Thumris. "Diwani-Akhtar", "Husn-i-Akhtar" contain his Ghazals."
Unfortunately, he was up against the British. They exiled him to Calcutta. His tragic departure from his beloved Lucknow is lamented till this day. When he was informed about his exile, he wrote this Thumri:
babul mora naihar chuuto hi jaaye
chaar kahaar mil, mori Doliiyaa uthaaye
more apanaa begana chhuTo hi jaaye
anganaa to parbat bhaye, dehlii bhayi bides
je baabul ghar aapano, mai chali piya ke des

The rough translation (the song can be a metaphor for a wedding as well as funeral procession)
O father, I depart forcibly from my home
Four men gathered to lift my palanquin {see the wedding/funeral analogy here?}
my loved ones will become strangers
the innermost portals of my home will be unreachable
as I leave my father's home and go to my husband's country.
Even when he was exiled to Bengal, he married many a woman there and enjoyed life. But his beloved Lucknow remained a dream till the end.

K. L. Saigal has, of course, given an immortal Bhairavi rendition of this song in "Street Singer" - which in my opinion is the greatest Hindi film song ever recorded. But this version is by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. The entire song is 18 minutes long and you have to hear every second of it. [There is also an excellent version by the inimitable Smt. Girija Devi.]

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


As of 5.17 a.m. on June 20, 2005, I'm a very proud first-time dad. My son and wife are fine. Blogging will be slow.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Saint Meerabai wrote:

Pag ghungroo bandhkar naachi re
baap kahe Meera bhayi baanwari
log kahe kulanaasi

You listen to Pt. Omkarnath Thakur's redition of that bhajan here. Those three sentences are filled with meaning.

Mushtaq Ali - R.I. P

You can watch Mustaq Ali's batting here - the films division site.

He would have fit into my all time India ODI XI anyday. Mushtaq Ali & Farokh Engineer (WK)
would be my openers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Aye Na Balam

In the previous posts, I mentioned Manrang and Adarang. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan used the nom de plume "Sabrang" while composing bandishes. This one is a Thumri masterpiece set to Raga "Mishra" Bhairavi.

kaa karoon sajni, aaye na baalam
tadpat beeti mori un bin ratiyaan

rovat rovat kal naahin aaye
nisdin mohe biraha sataaye
yaad aavat jab unki batiyaan

Yes, no points for guessing that Yesudas has sung a similar composition in "Swami" under the baton of Rajesh Roshan, lyrics by Amit Khanna.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Muhammad Shah "Rangila" (1719-1748) was a debaucher. He was so in love with music and other pleasures of life that he forgot that he was supposed to rule a kingdom. His neglect made Delhi a prime target for Nadir Shah's invasion. The barbarian rode off with the Kohinoor and the Peacock throne. Anyway, even if those things do not survive in India, some of the court gems of Rangila left us with memorable bandishes. We already discussed "Albela sajan aayo ri" by Bhupat Khan (Manrang) . This is by his brother Feroz Khan (Adarang). The bandish is:
Aaj more ghar aaila balmaa
karoongi Adarang son rang raliyaan

atara aragajaa sugandha basana peharu phoolavana
seja bichaaooN chuna chuna kaliyaaN
aragajaa: A perfume of a yellowish colour compounded of several scented ingredients

sej-bichaaon = to make a bed
Listen to Ustad Amir Khan's rendition of that bandish here. Yes, Trilok Gurtu did a fusion version of this in Usfret.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A bandish in Ahir Bhairav

The CD of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam credits Mehboob for the lyrics of "Albela Sajan Aayo Ri" - the song bawled out by noted Sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan and partners in crime, Shankar Mahadevan and Kavita Krishnamurthy. The song is a traditional Ahir-Bhairav bandish composed by 'Manrang'. Who was Manrang? Per an article:

Niyamat Khan (aka Sadarang): 1670-1748 was a court musician of Mohammad Shah "Rangile" (1719-1748). He had two sons, Feroz Khan ("Adarang") and Bhupat Khan ("Manrang").

You can listen to Pt. Basavaraj Rajguru's superb rendition of the above bandish here.

Click on "Audio sample"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Book Tag - June 2, 2005

Thanks to Amit for book tagging me. Like he says, this is a list that is malleable. Next week, it may be different!

Note: There is a slight change in my links. I tried to link to audio interviews with the authors wherever possible. You can all google Amazon for the books.

Total number of Books I own: Between our family home at Bangalore and my place in the US, about 500.

Last book I bought: "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

Last Book I Read: "Benjamin Franklin" by Walter Isaacson. Still reading "Buddhism for Mothers" by Sarah Napthali. - it was gifted to my wife, but I grabbed it!

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:

These are books that I never tire of reading over and over again. There are other books that I have adored - "The Moor's Last Sigh", "Catcher in the Rye", all the Sherlock Holmes novels & short-stories, Asterix, Tintin, Enid Blyton and many works of non-fiction including (auto)biographies - Montgomery, Rommel, McNamara, Gandhi, Guderian, Slim, Gavaskar and so on. However, these are my five desert-island books.

"History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and its Literature" and "Nyayasudha by Jayathirthamuni" - both by Dr. B. N. K. Sharma.

"Diwan-e-Ghalib" - Website by Frances Pritchett and "Love Sonnets of Ghalib", a book by Dr. Sarfaraz Niazi.

"The Jim Corbett Collection"

"Collected works of James Herriot"

I want to buy the "Hindi Film Geet Kosh" series and carry them with me. I do not have it yet. One man, Dr. Harmandir Singh "Hamraaz" is attempting to compile all the songs ever written in the history of Hindi cinema. He has reached till the mid 1980s. A lot of people are compiling this website for the same purpose.

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs:

Aaman Lamba - a pal from my days with the Karnataka Quiz Association.
Nitin Pai

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Star Spangled Indian connection

This is a redux of my old post in another blog.

As we approach one of the truly great historical events of the past 500 years: the day America won independence and established the first modern democracy derived from the writings of Locke and the great Greek philosophers, it is time to ponder over past events. Americans have, for generations been moved by their national anthem, 'The Star Spangled Banner'. Here it is in full glory:

Oh say, can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
Over the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the Rockets Red Glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night, That our Flag was still there.
Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
Over the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

There is a deep rooted Indian connection to this song. In the late 1700's, Sir. William Congreve, a British soldier/inventor was intrigued by reports from the British soldiers coming from Southern India. They had encountered fierce resistence from Tipu Sultan and his men in Karnataka. During the battle, the Indian army had used rockets with devastating effect. This had made the British soldiers panic and their tales inspired Congreve to device his own rocket by reverse engineering the Indian ones. This was called the 'Congreve rocket'.

These Congreve rockets were built on 6 foot long poles and were fired from a light weight tripod, allowing them to be carried quickly to the front area of a battle field and fired at the enemy, or to be carried on a ship. Given that the common soldier of the 1600's was equipped with a black powder musket with a range of 75 to 100 yards a rocket that could fly 600 yards and explode over the enemy's heads was a deadly threat. Congreve rockets used Black gunpowder as both the fuel to fly and the explosive to send Shrapnel downwards.

During the British-American battle of 1814, the British, having captured Washington moved on to Baltimore. There they encountered tough American opposition in Fort McHenry. A young American lawyer, Francis Scott Key was called to negotiate a prisoner-exchange deal with the British. While he was with the British, he witnessed the devastating firepower which was unleashed at the fort. There was smoke all over, much of it caused by the Congreve rockets. And yet, when dawn broke out, Key saw the Star Spangled Banner fluttering proudly in the breeze. He was deeply moved, and when he reached the shore, he wrote a song titled, "In defense of Fort. McHenry", which he tuned to an old - believe it or not - pub song "To Anacreon in Heaven".

This song was later called, "The Star Spangled Banner". Who would've dreamt that an engineer's invention in Tipu Sultan's army in Karnataka would inspire so many people in another corner of the world in the 21st century?.

Read these fascinating article on the Star Spangled banner in the Smithsonian Magazine and this superb article on the history of rocket technology.

Citizen Tipu

This is in response to a recent comment in Ravikiran's blog

If you take note of Indian moral values pre and post British times, the evidence leads you to believe that Victorian morality and centralization (both govt + moral policing) came after the British rule began in earnest in 1857. Yes, thankfully we were not ruled by the Portugese, Spaniards or the French. Yes, the Mughal rulers were tyrants. The Brits were worse.

In fact, the ideas of democracy and free speech was not necessarily brought by the British. [I am very tempted to use the old cliche of "it happened centuries ago", but I do not have a couple of books on Sanskrit drama and poetry and the associated discussion on free speech etc with me right now. Read it many moons ago]

If you read up on the history of 17th and 18th century Indian rulers, you will notice that they were very aware of the works of old Greek philosophers as well as the new European (and American ones). Tipu Sultan, for instance, was a founder-member of the Jacobin club. He was greatly inspired by Thomas Paine's 'Rights of Man'

This biographical sketch shows an important facet of that man:

A French paper was found in Tipu's Palace in 1799, entitled 'Proceedings of a Jacobin Club formed at Seringapatam by the French Soldiers in the Corps commanded by M.Dompart. ' A Scotsman, Capt W Macleod, attested to its authenticity. The Paper listed by name 59 Frenchmen in the pay of 'Citizen Tippoo'; it described the gathering of a Primary Assembly on 5th May 1797, to elect a President, Francois Ripaud, and other officers. The 'Rights of Man' were proclaimed, and Ripaud presented a lecture on Republican principles. Further deliberations and formalities followed before, on 14th May, the National flag was ceremonially raised and a small delegation were formally received by Tipu. The 'Citizen Prince' ordered a salute of 2,300 cannon, all the musketry and 500 rockets, with a further 500 cannon firing from the Fort. A Tree of Liberty was planted, and crowned with a Cap of Equality, before Ripaud challenged his co-patriots: 'Do you swear hatred to all Kings, except Tippoo Sultaun, the Victorious, the Ally of the French Republic - War against all Tyrants, and love towards your Country and that of Citizen Tippoo.' 'Yes! We swear to live free or die,' they replied.