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, July 28, 2005

The aftermath of the rains in Maharashtra

Prediction 1:
Astrologers are going to hastily revise their predictions.

Prediction 2:
Environmentalists, scientists, writers in National Geographic and other folks will claim that this is one more proof of global warming and the effects of pollution. Libertarians will claim that the latter has nothing to do with it and it is part of a regular cycle that happens every million or so years.

Prediction 3:
Blog wars on the eviction of slum dwellers will result in Dilip D'Souza[PBUH] and Ravikiran[PBUH] fighting a duel on Mahim causeway. Little street urchins and other Baker Street irregulars will sell tickets: dus ka teen, dus ka teen. Amit Varma [PBUH]will cover it live for Cricinfo. Zigackly will create one more group blog. Dina Mehta will report the duel on Skype as an interesting social experiment. Friends of Dilip will create a wikipedia article on the event.

Prediction 4:
NGOs will predict cholera, malaria and ask for millions of $ in funds. Lots of papers will be written in journals. The Khadi Jhola types will attempt to make everyone else feel guilt-ier than thou.

Prediction 5:
Lit bloggers will polish their keyboards and begin life with renewed hope. All of them will commence operations on their next book. All of them will choose the title, "Love and flooding in Bombay". All of them will be rejected by publishers and will wait for the next big event.

Prediction 6:
Delhi-ites will envy Bombayites. They always do. Bloody wannabes.

Prediction 7:
Life goes on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

To be frank, huzur..

Once again, Pritchett in Nets of Awareness:
Poets can also show their royal rank by treating kings with varying degrees of disrespect. Momin refused a lavish pension from the raja of Kapurthala when he discovered that the same amount was being paid to a mere “singer” as well . Mīr snubbed the nawab of Avadh by declining to compose on demand and by proudly refusing to accept money or a robe of honor despite great need. When Shāh ‘ālam himself honored the mystically inclined Ḳhvājah Mīr “Dard” (1721-1785) by visiting him, Mīr Dard scolded the emperor for sitting among Ṣūfīs with his legs disrespectfully stretched out; Shāh ‘ālam replied that his feet hurt, to which Mīr Dard retorted that in that case he needn’t have come at all. When Shāh ‘ālam boasted that he could compose ghazals even while using the toilet, Saudā replied, “Your Majesty, that’s what they smell like, too”

Pride and the poets

Annie Zaidi links a Mid-day news report on a poet-fight. It may sound surprising to readers of Urdu poetry - with its tradition of good manners and gentlemanly conduct - that fisticufss were quite common during the most glorious days of Urdu poetry.

Frances Pritchett writes in Nets of Awareness:
In short, when this scheme didn’t succeed, Mirzā Fāḳhir took another tack. He had many shagirds in Lucknow, especially the Shaiḳhzādahs, who at one time [before Akbar’s conquest] had been the rulers of that very land of Avadh; the vapors of impertinent aggressiveness and arrogance had not left their minds. One day Saudā, all unaware, was sitting at home, and they forcibly invaded his house and surrounded him. They placed a knife against his stomach and said, “Take along everything you’ve written and come before our ustad, so things can be resolved.” Mirzā was very skilled at inventing the roses and flowers of poetic maẓmūns, and creating the parrots and mynahs of speech, but this was quite a new maẓmūn! He was completely at a loss. The poor man gave his folder of poems to a servant, and himself climbed into the palanquin and went with them. That Satanic crew were all around him, he was in the middle. When they reached the Chauk, they wanted to dishonor him there. After some argument, they again began to harangue him. But who can dishonor him to whom God has given honor? By chance Sa‘ādat ‘Alī Ḳhān and his entourage came by that way. Seeing the crowd, he halted; and inquiring about the circumstances, he seated Saudā with him on his elephant and took him away. āṣif ud-Daulah was in the ladies’ apartments, having a meal.

Sa‘ādat ‘Alī Ḳhān went and said, “My dear brother, it’s an awful thing—while you rule, such a calamity in the city!” āṣif ud-Daulah said, “What is it, brother, is everything all right?” He replied, “Mirzā Rafī‘—whom Father used to call ‘Brother’ and ‘Kind and generous friend’ when he wrote letters to him, whom Father used to beg to come, but who never came—is here today, and in such a state that if I hadn’t arrived, the ruffians of the city would have dishonored the poor man.” Then he told him the whole matter.

Naqsh Faryadi - Faiz

Mangs posted a poem by Faiz. My comments are cut and pasted here:

Trivia about the poem. It was sung quite beautifully by Noorjehan in a 1962 film Qaidi, music by Rashid Attre. Majrooh Sultanpuri used a line from the poem "Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakkha kya hai" and made a complete song out of it in the film Chirag, music by Madan Mohan. Here are far better translations of Mujhse Pehli si Muhabbat. There may be mp3s of the Noorjehan version on the web somewhere.

The title 'Rebel's Silhouette' is from Faiz's famous work "Naqsh Faryadi". The translation of those words to 'Rebel's Silhouette' is a stretch. You will no doubt recognize that Naqsh Faryadi is the opening shair (matla) of Ghalib's famous (and much debated) ghazal.

naqsh faryādī hai kis kī shoḳhī-e taḥrīr kā
kāġhażī hai pairahan har paikar-e taṣvīr kā

See Frances Pritchett's online works. She is a far superior translator to Shahid Ali.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bill's diary

The diary of the former President.
Yesterday I toured the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Lesotho, a tiny country contained entirely within South Africa. Thirty percent of its citizens are HIV-positive, and the country will cease to exist if this trend continues unabated.
Read the full thing. [Above emphasis mine]

Quote of the day

In 1939 Nadia Boulanger was asked what it was like to be the first woman to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the world première of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks. She replied "Well, I have been a woman for 50 years now and have recovered from my initial astonishment."

Read the whole thing.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Dunce of the week

..award goes to Sonu Nigam for this insight on why women music directors are rare in India:
This is because they can’t really handle the difficulties involved. Music direction involves dealing with people galore — some of whom are not even trained in music and are very vague about their requirements — and women find that taxing.

Also, girls may not be comfortable with music sittings that last eight to nine hours in a roomful of men. Men are probably more comfortable — physically, emotionally and politically — to deal with a host of people, ranging from technicians to marketing people. A girl prefers to become a singer rather than a music director.
Read on, it gets worse.

The language of sexism

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word tease thus: To worry or irritate by persistent action which vexes or annoys; now esp. in lighter sense, to disturb by persistent petty annoyance, out of mere mischief or sport; to bother or plague in a petty way.

The posts by Mangs, Uma, Charu and the Blank Noise Project describe acts that should not fit the above definition. Yet, the media still categorizes harassment of a particularly deviant nature as “teasing”. And therein lies part of the problem. Our behaviors and beliefs are often reflected in the language that we speak. The words that we chose define the sexist undertones that lie beneath the surface. Statements that are seemingly harmless often convey sexism quite implicitly. How often has one heard sentences such as; “I’m bringing my wife to the film show”, “I’ll get my girlfriend along”, “I’ll go to India for three weeks and get married”?

The physical acts in all the cases may be different. But they vary only to a certain degree. While incidents like groping and molestation are indications of outright dominating behavior, the subtle sub context of abuse of the non-physical type should not be missed, nor forgiven. They are not harmless, since they demean. They make human beings into objects.

On Social Dynamics

Most older residents of Bangalore have seen the changing face of the city. Bangalore became different in the late 70s and 80s with the influx of students from other states. The fact is that these students, especially from a certain North Indian state, were far away from home, had access to liquor, saw the relative free movement of women and consequently, could not control their repressed selves. Matters became so bad that engineering colleges places ads calling for admissions with a blunt note; “Students from _______ state need not apply.” Sadly, it was quite late in the game. The damage was done. The culture had spilled over to other students, including locals. The genie was truly out of the bottle and could not be pushed back.

No, that is not a Shiv-Senaesque generalization. And no, I shall not be politically correct. I have seen in my engineering college hostels, that students from certain states ragged/abused the juniors from their states very badly. Perhaps, there is an underlying class/caste/religious undertone to their behavior.

I do not think that differences in education and in matriarchal-patriarchal societies are sufficient answers. I've seen the very same behavior by some students from Kerala. The causal factors for these behaviors may be quite complex.

Friday, July 15, 2005

What about permission from the court?

Don't they require a magistrate's permission to authorize a wire-tap?


There are some who find the Salman tapes amusing. Others convince themselves that he was drunk or deranged. If the tapes are indeed true (the Mid-day transcripts seem weird since the Ash parts do not seem like coherent responses), read this in order to understand abusive behavior better.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The goat song

Some Greeks had an interesting ritual to pay homage to Dionysus, the god of fertility. Dionysus was worshipped by the Maenads. They would drink the sacred drink (wine), head out & do the sort of crazy things that excessively stoned people do - kill goats or bulls with their bare hands.

Quite a few Greeks served in the armies of Egyptian Pharoahs. Egypt, by then, was a highly developed civilization with an active theatre. It is believed that they came across the legend of Osiris and Isis. Perhaps, the Greeks decided that they could get drunk and worship better in a theatre instead! So they stopped their wild behavior, wrote plays and gave drunken performances which were accompanied by a lot of singing. Legend has it that these songs were probably composed by the satyrs - well equipped (ahem) half-men, half-goats who accompanied Dionysus.

These songs came to be known as goat-songs - trag oidia in Greek. The word tragedy is derived from it. If someone accuses you of acting the goat, you can tell her that you are merely performing a Greek tragedy.

The Underworld shows

Most people have read about the underworld involvement in film shows. The Hindustan Times claims that a very famous actor tried to coerce a more famous actress and then girlfriend into performing at such a show. Check out the transcripts here. PG-13.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


The Einstein among judges Preeti Sagar, while justifying the national award given to Saif Ali Khan for 'Hum Tum' said, that Saif had done a wonderful job in the film and it was not necessary to give an award to a 'heavy' performance all the time.

Some get it...

..while others don't. Uber Conservative Patrick Buchanan blames it on the victim.
The Sept. 11 terrorists were over here because we were over there. They are not trying to convert us. They are killing us to drive us out of their countries.
This is such utter tripe. India has faced the onslaught of the jihadists not because we are over there. Ditto with Russia, China, Indonesia (Bali) and countless other places. It is because of what we believe. We, as in, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims alike.

Hitchens: We cannot surrender

Christopher Hitchens writes:
The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.

Read the full thing

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Quiz: Raj Kapoor

There is an excellent article from the archives of Studio Systems on Raj Kapoor.
If Raj Kapoor had not been a filmmaker he would have been an excellent composer and a good singer as well. He proved his ability as a singer early in his career, when he sang 'Hum babu naye nirale hain'(Music: Ram Ganguli/N 2666 1) in Prithvi Theaters' stage-play ' 'Deevar '. He displayed an admirable sense of Theatres' stage-play 'Deevar'. He displayed an admirable sense of rhythm and melody in the song. With a little more effort he could have been a successful singer. He also sang in'Chitod Vijay' (1947/S D Burman)'Jail Yatra' (1947, Ninu Majumdar),'Dil Ki Rani'(1947/S D Burman),Neel Kamal'(1947/B Vasudeo) and 'Gopinath'(1 948/Ninu Maiumdar/record not released).Eventually Raj preferred the sonorous voice of Mukesh from 'Aag'('Zinda hoon is tarahki ghame'/ 1948) to'Mera Naam Joker' ('Jane kahan gaye woh din'/1970)
Listen to Raj Kapoor sing a song in the 1948 film 'Gopinath'. Gopinath also featured a Surdas bhajan Aai Gori Radhika rendered by Meena Kapur. Yes, the tune was used by Raj Kapoor in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. The original music was composed by Ninu Mazumdar. Once again we return to Mr. Nalin Shah for more info.

The tiff between Raj and Laxmikant took place at the Mehboob recording studio. A poet who was once close to Raj Kapoor and who was a witness to the incident, told me, that R K expressed his annoyance to Laxmikant for not according priority to a R K film. Laxmikant had replied that unlike Shanker-Jaikishan they were under no obligation to look after R K films at the cost of other producers. Raj Kapoor was piqued. He needed a composer who was not only competent but also had a sense of
belonging to the R K banner. His search for such a music director ended with Ravindra Jain.

When I asked Laxmikant about the unpleasant incident he denied it. But I did not put much credence to his denial because he also had denied that they ever accepted Raj Kapoor's suggestions while composing music. When asked about the song 'Yashomati maiya se bole Nandalala', he had said that it was he who had sung it to Raj Kapoor on telephone. The fact is it was Raj Kapoor who had insisted on. retaining the notations of 'Aal gorl Radhike Brij men bal khati' (from his own starrer 'Gopinath' 1948) for 'Yashomati maiya se'. Raj did it withoutcompunction, nor did he care to hide the fact.

A year ago while in a private concert the host introduced singer Kaumudi Munshi to Raj Kapoor. When told that she was the wife of Ninu Majumdar (music director of ' Gopinath') he teasingly asked her if sheremembered 'Aai gori Radhike'.

Then he told the gathering how he was inspired to use the 'Gopinath' tune for 'Yashomati maiya se 'In 'Satyam Shivam Sunderam'.

Notwithstanding Raj Kapoor being' the most musical producer' they ever encountered, Laxmi-Pyare resented his constant 'Interference' in the matter of music.
Use the audio clips in a quiz!

Monday, July 11, 2005


The word 'Tamarind' originates from the Arabic for 'Date of India'. Yes, it is an old quiz question. The OED states:

= Sp., Pg., It. tamarindo, med.L. tamarindus, ultimately ad. Arab. tamr-hind, i.e. date of India, whence in the early herbalists and physicians tamar indi, in Marco Polo (Fr. version) tamarandi; in 13th c. F. tamarindes pl. (Hatz.-Darm.), mod.F. tamarin (15th c. in Hatz.-Darm.).]

1. The fruit of the tree Tamarindus indica, a brown pod containing one to twelve seeds embedded in a soft brown or reddish-black acid pulp, valued for its medicinal qualities, and also used in cookery as a relish, etc. In Commerce, Med., etc. tamarinds means this pulp.

India's secret weapons

..for cross-border invasions, are soap operas.
And if someone who does not regularly watch the Star Plus soaps happened to switch on the channel, this is what they’ll be seeing: the girl who is this boy’s wife never went through the wedding ceremony herself so she’s not really married to him; the other girl is his actual wife but he doesn’t know that she performed the marriage rituals with him; and then the first girl is not really her own parents’ daughter either, while the other girl is the first girl’s parents’ daughter though the parents don’t know that their daughter is not really their daughter; and the first girl is actually the daughter of the other girl’s parents who don’t know they are the girl’s true parents! Bizarre, illogical and senseless. But these strange happenings have the audiences under a spell and the collective viewers of such stories include the average housewife, the corporate executive, the neo-intellectual, the college student and even the daily labourer.
Read the full thing.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

An original and a copy

Thee are hundreds of songs that are copied blatantly. The sad fact is that the folk singers who compose the originals lose out on the big bucks made by slick artistes from the Bombay film industry. Take Nimbuda Nimbuda from HDDCS for example. The original Rajasthani song was composed by Ghazni Khan Manganiyar. You can listen to it here - it is the 9th song from the bottom.

Two years ago the Sunday Tribune had an interesting article on it.
"The song was actually composed by a little-known folk singer, Ghazni Khan Manganiyar," informs Kothari. "Its original Rajasthani version was even recorded in a private album. And now, somebody from Bombay comes, steals his song and takes all the credit!"The worst part, according to the archivist, is that Manganiyar cannot sing his song any more. "He has to take permission and perhaps, even pay royalty to the Bombay composer for singing his own song," says Kothari. "This is grossly unfair."
In Hindi, one would say; chori aur seena jori.

The stoic Bombayite

Much has been made about the stoicism of the Londoner. We saw pretty much the same reaction during the aftermath of a much more effective and brutal bombing of Bombay in 1993 and 2003. In the Telegraph, Charles Moore writes an article asking for a Gandhi (I had thought along the same lines a while back):
The strength of a civilisation is shown not only in its great monuments and works of art, or in its famous people: it appears also in the instant, instinctive behaviour of millions at a moment of crisis. By this measure, London is part of a great civilisation.
Amen to that. From a former Bombayite. Patrix has written a nice essay on the 1993 blasts.

Now, I'll have my misal, sabudana vada and panha thank you.

Friday, July 08, 2005

When India conquered Greece

Here's a superly researched article from World Bank economist Helen Abadzi on Greek songs that were inspired from Hindi film songs. Ms. Abadzi writes:
These movies were considered working-class fare. They had much less appeal for the middle-class, which looked westward for entertainment, wanted more humor, and was not plagued by the social dilemmas of the poor and the limited solutions available to the heroines. Nevertheless, the Hindi masterpieces were seen by many. Mother India premiered without much advertisement in Kotopouli, a downtown theater on a snowy day in February 1960. The first few curious spectators were so moved by it, that they stopped strangers on the way out and told them not to miss that “social gospel”. Four hours later, a waiting line two city blocks long had formed, and the movie played in some Greek town or other at least for the next 10 years.

There seems to an interesting amalgamation of ethnicity, class and language in the audiences that found Hindi films favorable.
The Hindi songs were rendered in an oriental style that was popular with Asia Minor refugees (who fled to Greece after the 1922 massacre) and with residents of remote villages, where older musical traditions were remembered. [3]This style of songs was called “rembetika” before 1959 and “laika” or popular songs (sometimes also “varia”-- heavy laika) after that date. The imitation and inspiration from Hindi created a specific class of songs called to this day “indoprepi” (Hindi-style).
The film Aan was renamed "Mangala, the Rose of India" after the character played by Nimmi and not after the more famous (aristocratic) character played by Nadira.

Read the whole thing and use the audio clips in quizzes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A heretic Christian bugger

The word "bugger" has an interesting etymology. Per the Oxford English Dictionary;
a. F. bougre:L. Bulgarus Bulgarian, a name given to a sect of heretics who came from Bulgaria in the 11th c., afterwards to other ‘heretics’ (to whom abominable practices were ascribed), also to usurers.
Wikipedia has the more info on the root of the word bulgar from which bugger is derived. The OED mentions that Bogomil was:
A member of a heretical Bulgarian sect which arose in the 10th or 11th century, whose main tenet was that God the Father had two sons, Satan and Christ. Hence Bogomilian a. and n., Bogomilism, Bogomilist.
I'm glad the word India does not have such fanciful origins. That would've been bugger all.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Nizamuddin Aulia

There is an excellent rendition of a raaga Dhaani bandish by Smt. Malini Rajurkar. The lyrics are:
Ha pir more Aulia Nizamuddin
tumhare bina dujo jagmo nahin aasro mero hai

Deen duni ke daani tum ho ata pravin
aayo hai darbar sharan sujan aaj
duur karo vipata binti yahii hai

The song refers to Nizamuddin Aulia, a sufi saint who was a guru of Amir Khusro. Most songs that contain the words "Nizamuddin Aulia" are composed by Khusro. Aulia lived in the 13th century AD.

Anyway, during his time, the Sultan of Delhi Ghiyas ud din Tughlaq wanted to shift the capital from Delhi to a new city; Tughlaqabad. His soldiers approached Nizamuddin Aulia, the sufi saint, who refused to lend laborers for building this city. The laborers were constructing a water tank for poor villagers.

The sultan promised to deal with Aulia when he returned from his Bengal campaign. Aulia refused to flee stating that "Delhi was far away". {He said in Farsi; "Hanoz Dilli Duur Ast"}

The sultan never reached Delhi. While on his way to Delhi, he attended a reception in his honour. While he was on the stage, the platform collapsed and he was crushed to death.