Movies · Time Pass

The Nostalgia of Antakshari

Does no one play antakshari anymore?

antakshariPlaying antakshari is one of the simple pleasures of life I miss these days. It is the remnant of times when you didn’t have 24/7 entertainment available and had to find ways of entertaining yourself. Perhaps also a remnant of times when people’s sphere of interests were limited and similar. Evening family gatherings in the inevitable absence of the treacherous electricity, cousins getting together during weddings and functions, and the attempts to enliven those homesick evenings in the school hostel – they are all associated with a lively game of antakshari. And who didn’t like Hindi movie songs?

Even though I call it a simple pleasure of life now, boy, was it a complicated affair? Rules were difficult to agree on. Are the “non-filmi” songs allowed? If allowed, just how far are you allowed to go? Can you go beyond the Hindi language? Albums? Bhajans? That classical song you learned in your music class? School prayers? Folk songs usually sung during weddings and functions?

And even after those boundaries were established, how would you know you were staying within those boundaries? Endless debates:

“You can’t sing that. Aye maalik tere bande hum is a school prayer, not a real song.”

“Idiot! It was sung in a film first. You school picked it up from there.”

OR

“That song doesn’t start with ‘ha’.”

“What does it start with, then?”

“‘na’. It’s ‘Na jaane mere dil ko kya ho gaya…'”

Does an obscure sher before a song count as the beginning of a song, or is it to be ignored as a dialogue? What about all those “ho ho” or “aa ha aa ha aa ha” before the songs? Are Gulzar’s songs even songs?

As someone not very socially adept otherwise, antakshari worked for me. I excelled at it. I could pull out my special reserve of old Hindi movie songs to challenge the opponents of my age and win the approbation of the elders. For many of those songs, I knew nothing about them other than the first couple of lines, just enough to use them in this game. Years later, when I saw the picturization of some of them on YouTube, I was aghast. My mental model of what those songs should have looked like on screen was wildly different.

Two of my latest memories of playing antakshari are almost a decade or more old.

We played it in Lucknow, after our wedding, with a group of cousins. We stayed up almost all night. I and a younger cousin-in-law were pitched against each other, I with my repertoire of old songs, she with her collection of the latest ones. Almost nobody could challenge any of us on the correctness of our songs. We couldn’t challenge each other either. I had no idea that the songs she was picking up actually had any lyrics. And she didn’t know anything about the ones I was picking up.

Before that, I had played antakshari with my colleagues at Google, during a bus ride for a company offsite. The game ended when my own partner accused me of making up the songs I was singing! The song that triggered this betrayal went like this:

Ganga maang rahi balidaan
Yamuna maang rahi qurbani,
Aaj watan par jo mit jaye
Wahi hai sachcha hindustani.

Even today, I can’t find this song on YouTube or any other online sources. So, I can’t prove that I wasn’t making this up. I may misremember the lyrics, I definitely misremember the tune. But the song is real. I had heard it on Doordarshan – some old black and white movie.

At Navodaya, our teachers would rather have us play antakshari with Hindi poetry – not with those inappropriate “filmi songs” that corrupt the young minds. But poems were easy to run out of. And too academic. We always had other plans.

Whatever reserve of older songs I had, the first line of attack always consisted of those cringe-worthy, tacky songs of 90s. I suppose it is always the ones you grow up with.

With the light social gatherings focussed on parties and serious ones focused on books, antakshari has been pushed out of my life. The cosmopolitan nature of my friend circle also means that not everyone is a Hindi movie song buff. God knows I am not a language chauvinist, but antakshari doesn’t lend itself to language egalitarianism without spoiling the fun!

But if we do ever have a face-off in antakshari, do be prepared for songs like “dulhe ka sehra suhana lagta hai” and “roop suhana lagta hai, chaand purana lagta hai”. And remember “ho gaya hai tujhko to pyaar sajna” doesn’t start with “ha” and “sandeshe aate hain” starts with “ho o o o”, and hence with “ha”. Also, try not to descend into “Maine Pyaar Kiya” antakshari sequence.

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Time Pass

Unity in Stupidity

Some proverbial straw broke the proverbial camel’s back today and I have to get it out of my system.

There is one thing that seems to unite people on social media across caste, creed, religion, political beliefs, social standing, educational background, and economic status. The temptation to make strawman enemy, challenge them, ask them questions,  then feel outraged or victorious that it hasn’t been answered, and pass judgment on them. This strawman enemy, at first glance, doesn’t sound like a strawman. Because their names do carry a meaning. Questions get asked to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Atheists, Agnostics, Americans, British, Pakistanis, Indians, Liberals, Feminists, Upper-class Hindus, Sunni Muslims, rich Dalits, Men, Women, Transgenders, Homosexuals, Gay, Lesbians – you name it. And the victorious question typically takes the form of “Why is (category) X not saying thing A about the issue I?”

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“Why are high-caste Hindus not talking about beef lynchings?”

“Why are Muslims not condemning terrorism?”

“Why are feminists not saying anything about this actress misbehaving?”

“Why are liberals not decrying this incident of state oppression?”

And when they don’t get an answer or don’t get a satisfactory one, they proceed to pass on a sweeping judgment about the group (sometimes the judgment is passed beforehand, because they already know they won’t get the answer).

Bhai/Behen, exactly who are you talking about? Do you know all the Hindus, all the Muslims, all the feminists, and all the liberals? Do you know about all the different places, where all of them express things? What on earth does it mean that X is not talking about I? Who exactly is X? Are you asking that question to all the people who belong to X? Do all of them have to talk about it? Are you looking at a certain percentage? Why that percentage? How do you know whether or not that percentage has been achieved? Do they have to talk about it on the specific forum you want? In the specific way that you approve of?

Get a grip. There is no Feminists Association of India that can talk on behalf of all the feminists. Even if there is an AIMPLB, what they say is not what all Muslims think and say. There is no Liberals United issuing memberships. There is definitely no Hindus of the World Association which speaks on behalf of all Hindus.

By all means, ask questions to an organization or a group that has a responsibility or has control over resources important to the issue at hand or whose job it is to have answers and which is identifiable enough to answer it. Ask questions of National Commission of Women (disclaimer: it is NOT a feminist-representative body, just a political-bureaucratic organization). Ask AIMPLB how can it support triple talaq in this day and age. Ask Congress why it had brought 66A and despite that is pretending today to be a champion of free speech.  And ask BJP why it condones lynchings? Ask the government why people are being denied food because of Aadhaar when it was supposed to bring inclusion? Ask news channels why they didn’t cover a particular issue.

You are still not guaranteed an answer. But at least you are not being stupid by asking.

I can’t give you a strict definition of what kind of group can be asked a question, and what kind can’t be. I don’t have a strict classification in my head. If you really started making a list, there would be gray areas. But I know absolute absurdity when I see it. If you stop to think for a moment, you would know it too. Think, who you are asking the question to. Who are you passing the judgment on? If you are asking it to too broad a group with no ‘official spokesperson’, most likely you are being absurd. Most likely, it is just a few individuals you are following or connected to, that you are talking about. Then please do us all a favor and refrain from passing sweeping judgment about a group.

Of course, who am I to stop you from asking and saying whatever you want? Not only do I not have any power, I am a supporter of free speech and all. Even in principle, I can’t ask that you be stopped.  Even if I had power, I wouldn’t. So ask if you want. Your freedom of speech. I will call it ridiculous and stupid. My freedom of speech. And I might especially call you out (and not answer the question) if you direct stupid questions at feminists, liberals or agnostics (even atheists). Because I identify myself with all those labels. Then you will perhaps ask why do feminists not call me out when I ask a question to Hindus. Why only when I ask a question to liberals. Guess what? You are being absolutely absurd!

Disclaimer: This rant is about what we see on social media, where these questions and judgment keep getting absurd by the day. I am not trying to say that groups don’t have specific, identifiable majority inclinations and characteristics. Just that discussing those and understanding the nuances is beyond the ability of our social media scholars.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Time Pass

Appreciating Indian Classical Music… And Indian TV Serials

What would happen if someone who has grown up on the exclusive diet of Bollywood music was taken to an Hindustani classical music concert?

Predictably, he would come back rather dissatisfied. Perhaps even angry at the money wasted on the concert.

“You can’t even understand the words they are uttering, there is so much aa-aa-aa going on,” he would fume. Although if he is the consumer of 21st century Bollywood music, probably not understanding the lyrics will not be his biggest complaint.

Still all that artistry of the alaap and the taan and catching ‘sam’ after a complex maneuver and the difficult dedh-gat and expert use of vivaadi and respecting the time of the day in the choice of the Raga would leave no impression whatsoever on him.

“I’m better off on YouTube,” he would declare and put on his fancy headphones.

Do you see what the problem is? Appreciating classical music needs you to have some training. Otherwise, you are like an illiterate person trying to appreciate a great work of literature which doesn’t even have any photos to entertain you.

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It is the same with appreciating Indian TV serials. You need to be trained to see the nuances involved in the art.

If you are not trained to see those nuances, you would not know the difference between an Ekta Kapoor serial and a serial by a new production house that is making a “different” kind of show. You will fail to see that while a misunderstanding between the protagonists (that admittedly should not have occurred between two beautiful people who are endowed with the abilities of seeing, talking, hearing and presumably also a bit of thinking) goes on for two months in the Ekta Kapoor serials, while it is resolved within a week in the newly minted “different” serial.

You would also not appreciate the genius of being able to shoot knee-buckling romance scenes after romance scenes, day after day when actors in real life have long ceased to talk to each other. But they can’t move on because the show must go on until the TRPs start falling, whether or not you have a story.

Check this review of a show on First Post, for example. What is he complaining about? That the makers of a show called Reporters don’t seem to know anything about how a newsroom works. But you know what a trained Indian serial watcher would appreciate in the show? That there is no evil saas in there (not for the heroine anyway). And although the heroine’s hairdos are superbly intricate for a busy field reporter, she isn’t doing her job in a benarsi silk saree. You need to be trained on a heavy dose not only of the now outdated Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahut Thi, but also of the Balika-Vadhus, Saath Nibhana Saathiyas and Ye Rishta Kya Kahlata Hais of the world.

And if you are not willing to spend your time and effort in some difficult training, well that’s your choice. Classical music, or Indian serials, are not your cup of tea. You keep listening to the Bollywood songs or watching Mad Men.

Time Pass

Modi-Sarkar

Usually I post form the blog to facebook. This time it is the other way round 🙂

Pages manage करने हैं चार,
FB से नहीं भाग सकती यार।

नया-नया है केजरीवाल,
काँग्रेस पर anti-incumbency का भार,
वापस आ गये येद्दी और BSR,
तोड़ ही लोगे बचे दो-चार।

तो दिमाग का मत करो दही-अचार,
बन जाएगी तुम्हारी मोदी-सरकार।

Time Pass

My shopping woes

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There is one stereotype associated with women, which I really regret not being able to conform too. The supposedly superior shopping skills of women. The most important being bargaining.

I can’t bargain to save my life. To top that I end up discouraging even a shopping companion who is trying to bargain on my behalf. The entire your-are-ridiculous-I-am-hurt business makes me cringe and want to run away. Abhaya has been a recent victim of this at Gariahat market in Kolkata.

Recently I met the founder of Zopnow and he mentioned something about typical men vs. women buying behavior. Apparently women tend to look through as much as possible. Then do multi-stage filtering. So, they take out 4 things amongst all they have seen. And then from those 4 narrow down to 1. Men, on the other hand, keep looking and as soon as they find something they want, they take it and are done with it.

I realized that I falter at this stage itself. I identify with men’s behavior described above more than women’s. And there is something else that makes my shopping issue worse. Once I like something, so long as I can afford it, I must have it. Not getting a good enough bargain can’t be a reason for me not to buy it. There you see. The shopkeeper is quick to realize this and is not likely to give into bargaining after that.

Phew. And it continues. Even in the malls and bigger stores. With 51% off on most items, the one thing I end up liking turns out to be the latest arrival and not on discount. And me being me, I must buy it.

Why dear God why? Mere saath ye nainsaafi kyon?

Time Pass

Steps of Health Consciousness

  1. In student life: It doesn’t matter what I eat, I do not gain weight or have any health issues. I am cool.
  2. Right after college: Some weight gain will actually make me look good. All is well.
  3. Couple of years into the job: Ah! I have gained too much of weight. But who cares. I am not a weight-freak. And I do not have to get into modeling or acting.
  4. A while later: Grr… I can not buy so many nice looking dresses due to my weight. Garment industry in India is so discriminatory. They should learn from the US. Some half hearted attempts to lose weight, control diet and regain fitness. Abandoned soon.
  5. Couple of years after that: How many different types of doctors have I visited in last 2 years? At this rate I would not be able to walk by the time I am 30. Raise alarm. Become obsessive about health and weight management.

Rest of the story is still being written. 😛