A cab ride on a wintry morning left me smiling at the cab driver’s passion for music and his deep understanding of the essence of “music made from the soul”.
It was a cold wintry morning. My husband and I were in an Uber going to work, discussing the deadlines, client issues, launch dates of the new App, etc… you know, what we typically call mundane office stuff but essential.
Anyway, breaking through our work talk floated in a soft melody – Jiya le gayo ji mora sanwariya… my ears perked up. Madan Mohan’s music? A 1950s song? In a cab? You see Delhi cabs mostly play jhakkad-jhakkad-jhakkad-jhakkad…in other words, songs that sound the same and bounce off without registration – can be anything from Hindi to Bhojpuri, Punjabi to Mathili. 🙂
I looked at the driver – mid 50s, salt-and-pepper stubble, a dark woollen cap, spectacles… not the usual late 20s commonly found.
I asked him, “Which channel are you playing? Big FM does not play old songs any more I guess. Its all the 90s stuff. But this is Madan Mohan.”
He looked back, surprised. “Yeh to Vividh Bharati hai, madam.”
“Vividh Bharati? You get it on your mobile?” It was my turn to be surprised. “Mere mobile mein to nahin aata.”
He chuckled. “Madam, give your mobile to your kids. They will set it right.”
We laughed. “Sahi keh rahe ho, bhaiyya. Kids know much more than we do.” I nodded, giggling.
“Madam, hamari memory in sab kaamon ke liye nahin bani hai,” he supplied, knowledgeably. “I just give my phone to my kids and tell them, I want this done. They fix it in minutes. Its the new generation. They can learn much faster than we can.”
He raised the volume of the song slightly. And maybe he thought I was also fond of old songs and would understand what they mean to him, he continued, “Madam, in gaanon mein Ishwar baste hain. My day begins with them. I get up in the morning and put on my Vividh Bharati. All through my daily chores and getting ready for work, these songs keep me company. My children ask me, yeh kya sunte rehte ho. Naye gaane bhi suna karo. I tell them, in gaanon ko logon ne apni aatma se banayi hai. Bahut mehnat hai inmein, pyar hai, lagan hai.”
I was amazed not at the fact that he loved the old songs – you get to hear them in the local fruit juice stall, at the barber’s shop when you pass by it and in family antaksharis typically. The way he described the essence of these songs was quite remarkable.
My drop-off point was coming closer. I chipped in to encourage him to continue, “Jee bhaiyya. All the elements in these songs had a purpose and meaning – whether words, or the tune or the way it was sung.”
“Bilkul sahi,” he agreed, happy at the way his thoughts were being echoed. “Yeh log apne kaam mein apni jaan daalte thhe. Rafi Sahab… jitne bade gaayak, utne hi bade insaan…” He paused and said, “Aur woh bhi… kya aawaz, waah…kya naam thha…? Woh…” He trailed off, trying to recall something.
I nodded vigorously. My phone with its opened mail, just lay there on my lap. Ignored. This was more important. “Kiski baat kar rahe ho, bhaiyya? Talat Mahmood?” My stop was less than two minutes away.
“Arre, Talat Sahab ke kya kehne. Nahin… woh… kya naam thha…”
“Kishore Kumar?” My husband asked softly. My husband, who claims to have been “forced into music to please his musically-mad wife” knows some of the names and has an uncanny habit of always piping up a name (singer/composer/film, whatever) when he hears a song and getting it invariably wrong. He knows I will correct it and so does not find it necessary to pressurize his memory cells. (I have a hunch he does it on purpose to perk me up.)
“Nahin, not Kishore Kumar,” our driver shook his head, now trying frantically to recollect… “Woh bahut sureeli aawaz…”
“Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey?” I continued the supply. “Not Hemant Kumar… uff kya dard thha unke aawaz mein.”
“Mukesh?!!!” This time I knew it had to be right. “Mukesh to anokhe thhe…” Well, I give up. Then who?
The cab came to a halt. So it would remain a mystery who fascinates our musically-inclined sarathi.
As I was picking up my laptop bag, he tried one last time, “Woh gaan thha na… muskuraake jio,” looking back at me, hopefully.
“Mahendra Kapoor!!!” My squeal sounded more like ‘Eureka’!
I could see the joy and relief on his face. “Haan, haan, Mahendra Kapoor. Kahiye, hai na damdaar aawaz? Alag hi andaaz thha na?”
Absolutely, I agreed. “Waise, bahut mazaa aaya aaj, bhaiyya.”
As I closed the door, he grinned back, “Mujhe bhi.”
We meet so many people on our journey and some leave behind moments that make you smile. This cab ride was one such “recall-and-smile” moment for me. 🙂
As an end note, here is the song that is so well remembered that just a phrase from it can help you recollect the song (Na moonh chhupake jio), the singer (Mahendra Kapoor), the lyricist (Sahir Ludhianvi), the composer (Ravi), the film (Hamraaz, 1967), the director-producer (B R Chopra), the actor (Sunil Dutt), in short, everything associated with it. Such is the magic of “music made from the soul”.
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