Some songs stay on with us as golden memories of childhood. Rachna Rajesh recalls the madcap song Meri bhains ko danda kyun maara and how it resonated with her early schooling days.
I grew up amidst buffaloes, goats, and dogs. Hang on. Do not jump to conclusions. Let me explain.
Bro and I commuted back home with mom, in a human pedalled cycle rickshaw, in the early days of our schooling; the rickshaws have been re-engineered since, making them less gruelling for the rickshaw puller. My mom sat on the high cushioned seat. My bro and I took turns to either sit with her or on the low wooden seat facing her. In my turn on the low seat, I typically put my head on my mom’s lap and fell asleep promptly. I woke up every now and then, as I got airborne momentarily when we went over a hump.
On the way home, we crossed the densely populated Gopabandhupali, an exuberant working-class locality surrounded by jhuggi settlements. The rickshaw navigated through a narrow street, lined on both sides with Kirana stores. Potbellied and genial uncles, running the stores, continued their conversation across the busy street; the traffic, never a deal-breaker. I keenly tried to catch some of the chatter, as the pace of the rickshaw dropped.
We then emerged onto a precariously narrow high road overlooking a rectangular pond on one side and a deep grassy field on the other. I woke up with trepidation and excitement at this point, as this is where the adventure unfolded. I stayed agog for the rest of the journey. The narrow road was packed with animals and people on all modes of transport, jostling for space. When a big vehicle or a truck passed by, everybody fell back to the edges, hanging on to life, nonchalantly. It was a routine affair.
The pond was a hub of activity. There were people, children and buffaloes bathing in the pond. Women sat at the bank, washing clothes and vessels. Devout men went in further to stand and offer prayers. I looked wistfully at the scene in the sweltering Rourkela heat, even as I wrinkled my nose mildly at the strange musty smell wafting up to my nose. When I read about the Great Bath of the Indus valley civilisation later, I carried this picture of the Gopabandhupali pond in my mind.
The other side of the road had goats grazing in the deep grassy field. By and by, the people and the buffaloes in the pond climbed back onto the narrow road. Around then the goats got done as well and were herded back onto the road. What followed hereon was an eclectic (con)fusion of commuters, buffaloes, goats, stray dogs and children, fresh from their baths in the pond. The merry ones raced in the buff with their moms chasing them and waving their clothes at them. I hung out of the rickshaw, following the chase to a conclusion. In the melee, we often got lashed by a buffalo’s wet and muddy tail. “Why is the tail so muddy, when they have been bathing in the water for so long?” I asked my mom indignantly.
Amidst all this frenetic activity, this spot on the narrow bridge gave me, at an early age, epiphanic insights into the reflexes of buffaloes, dogs and goats. I haven’t confirmed these insights with a zoologist since, but considering the soundness of my logic, I hold them as well-formed beliefs.
Buffaloes don’t have reflexes. Even if they do, they are too secure in their size to bother about stepping out of harm’s way. They probably believe, with good reason, that ‘harm’ will get harmed if it comes in their way.
Then there are dogs. They have swift reflexes. They squeal and always jump ‘out’ of harm’s way. It’s uncanny how they get it right instinctively. I have found this trait in my husband. His reflexes always get him ‘out’ of harm’s way.
Finally, we have the goats. They have swift reflexes as well. But there’s a catch. They bleat and skitter right into the path of collision. Always. They remind me of my son and myself. (For the record, my son vociferously disputes this statement).
Once we crossed the pond, the rest of the homeward journey was uneventful.
Now that I have qualified my opening sentence, let me talk of the song that resonated with us in the backdrop of the story above. It was Manna Dey’s Meri bhains ko danda kyun maara from the 1970 movie Pagla Kahin Ka, starring Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. Composed by Shankar Jaikishan who were a regular in the Shammi Kapoor camp, the lyrics were penned by Hasrat Jaipuri. Like most of our favourites, this was the only song we listened to from the album on our turntable Fiesta.
It started off with a scraping sound with a sinister and breathy ‘kyun maara’ getting picked up by the chorus. Our eyes popped out and the eyebrows disappeared into our foreheads.
Meri bhains ko danda kyun maara
Woh khet mein chaara charti thi
Tere baap ka woh kya karti thi..aaaaaa..aaaaaa
My head shook vigorously with the alaap.
The antara followed,
Woh laddoo pede khaati hai..
Bro and I went ‘haaaaaan’ nasally.
Manna Dey’s comical tone, the lyrics and the rhythm rivetted us from the word go. It was all designed to tickle and light up our imagination.
It’s only recently that I got around to watching the video of the song. And I feel the same glee I felt as a kid. The lyrics are whacky and the composition, catchy. Then we have Manna Dey. History will remember him as a superlative genius who got typecast into niche genres; a monumental loss. He is brilliant as usual and has a comic timing, no less than that of Kishore Kumar. The choreography matches up to the madness and Shammi Kapoor is in his elements. The only note that jars is the stereotypical use of physical features for comic relief. That apart, it is a delightful watch; an underrated gem with a timeless appeal.
Meri bhains ko danda kyun maara (Pagla Kahin Ka, 1970) Shankar Jaikishan / Hasrat Jaipuri / Manna Dey
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