I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

…Of A Secret Memory

   It was eight or nine years ago, on a trip to my Jagoka, my maternal village. I was past the age when Jagoka used to be a Mecca for all the kids in my family, but was still in love with the place. My Nana bawa and Nani ammaan were of course the two people I loved the most, the daily rituals were still there – the mandatory tablet of sweet Simco that we got from Nana to chew on, the early morning visits to the “Khooh”, the afternoon ‘70’s Indian movie in Nana’s room, the strange concoctions of Masala and milk that we had for lunch with leftover rotis – and all the kids were home for the holidays.
  Life followed a brilliant pattern there. Waking up early in the morning as the whole house was being swept, breakfast in the smoky, cavernous kitchen with Nani ammaan sitting at the stove and shouting her way to the start of the day, the post breakfast lull, the semi-proper lunch of questionable culinary origins , the uncomfortably warm afternoons in the summer and the mini powernaps in the winter, supper exactly at sunset with a choice of sweet warm milk or plain cold milk at the end.
   It was on one such visit that me and Nana bawa were resting in his room and the talk got around to Gramophone players. When I say talk, I mean another one of the various Q&A sessions that we used to have. From falling stars to caterpillars to ghosts to snakes to boar-hunting to farming, these talks were the perfect answer to the terrible curiosity I had back in the day. And as me and Nana bawa were lying in his room, staring at the ceiling and talking about Saigal, Bioscopes and other such stuff, suddenly Nana stopped as if suddenly remembering something.
   We were quiet for a while, one of those wonderful silences we used to have, and then suddenly, he started singing.
  I had never heard him sing before, and almost jolted up as his wavy baritone voice grew louder. It was an old song, a lullaby. One that I’d never heard before, and one that he was obviously recalling with some difficulty. I have never listened to anything with more attention, my ears straining to pick up every word, every attempt at recalling the tune and every breath that he took midway between the verses. Lying supine, fearful of turning my head towards him lest I break the magical moment, goosebumpy all over, I just lay there. Still.
  He finished, there was another silence, and then he told me where he’d heard the song. Apparently, in the ‘50s, he had gone to Lyallpur to see a film, the name of which he couldn’t recall. The only thing he remembered was that it was an Indian film, and Lata had sung this lullaby in it. He had heard it only once, and now had sung it to me as much as he could remember 50 years later.
  Our talk ended, our trip ended, and four years ago, Nana passed away, taking his one song with him and leaving me with my most personal memory. I had kept the few snatched words and the ragged melody of the song in my mind all this time, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Intensively searching every archive I could get to, I just could not find the song. I had gotten slightly worried now, worried that my secret memory could fade if I did not find that song.
  And then, suddenly, I found it. My secret memory is not secret any more….


  1. That's lovely and sad...
    How'd it feel finding the song?

  2. Not sad actually, i was grinning the whole time.

  3. qasam se you men are weird.
    I'd have been bawling my eyes out.

  4. I'd have bawled if I hadn't found it actually...

  5. Really good yaar. It was so "melancholic". Really thought I was going to cry. On the verge of tears I was. Anyways can you tell me the name of this song on Facebook? I can't play it here. Slow net speed, you see...

    Usama Lali.

  6. Nice post...Made me nostalgic about my trips to my village. I enjoyed your blog...Came across it quite randomly