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Monday, October 18, 2004


Was daydreaming about the title of the above Khushwant Singh book, and my mind jumped backwards and zeroed in to the many-splendoured Community songs that we eager beavers used to sing at School.

For the uninformed, the Kendriya Vidyalayas ( or the impossibly named Central Schools) have this wonderful endeavour to unify and integrate-decibally, if not by distance, the piercing voices of its gullible flock through asking them to link their vocal chords and render nationalist ballads of different languages. It works like this—there are a number of such Community songs, which we lucky ones used to get to tear asunder every week in turn. during the morning assembly ( Who exactly juggled the songs so that they did not repeat, remains an unsolved puzzle). Most languages that we knew or recognized were represented—the exceptions were English ( for obvious reasons—none would try and inculcate cohesion through this ) , Nepali ( not a national language then ) & Manipuri ( same reason).

When we passed out of school( sic), it was a good time later that we did realize that these morning sessions of hollering in the wind were never to return. Even now, I may speak Indian languages with varying hues of felicity, but am confident about my ability to spew out an entire song replete with antaras, mukhdas, sur and taal in any language at the drop of a hat.

Memory, a strange thing….

So, to recap

Time: About 9 15 am

Venue—assembly hall/ground

Position: Stand-At-Ease

Specifications- Add, to taste

Now, there are some facets to the whole affair that made devoutly falling in tune with the Community songs distinctly unglamorous—a) almost impossible to master all the notes to the fifteen odd songs ( The Great One managed, thanks to being in a K.V, longer than most—and also rich and varied exposure (sic) to the Philharmonic Orchestras of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & West Bengal, having studied there ! ), b) Adolescent voices quavering and breaking , c ) A lack of perceptible contribution ( I mean, who could possibly detect if one tenor in a crowd of about a thousand did not pitch in (sic), and d) the inherent hummability of these songs .

Owing to which , some of the more prescient Principals used to walk the rank and file of the Class lines and mutedly, exhort the silent ones to quake louder. The threat was if one did not sing, he/she would be asked to sing all by himself/herself in front of the whole school. Shudder, shudder—who could risk that ? So we sang along.....

After all , Collective Cacophony beats Soulful Solitude !

Some of the more memorable ones were

Hey Muhijowatan ( Urdu )—a veritable tongue-twister. Full of rumbling Valley-like twists and turns. Words and phrases difficult to pronounce—felt as though one were hurtling down meadows and hedges . Took a lot of time to teach.

Aae maati re moro mote ( Assamese) – lots of rounded vowels as is the wont with some East Indian sounds. Again, one of the slow ones.

Dhorro dhaanye-( Bengali) –sonorous, subdued and mellifluous—a favourite among the Doordarshan clientele—you know, those fancy dress charades.

Aakash Ganga ( Gujarati)—a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w melody, Eminently dolorous . Bursting with the quaintness of Life’s Pathos, and with words like “ haasya , roodan, asha, niraasha”, even the most stoic scalawags must have felt a bitter chill , just by singing this. Also, a Madan Mohan-esque touch by the mukhda being sung in more than one version.

Pillallara Papallara-( Telugu) –for some reason, one of the lesser frequented haunts. Maybe, a direct riposte to the fact that Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be carved up on linguistic basis.

Aata oothvu saare raan ( Marathi) – another Ode to Nature. Tripping consonants and lilting notes. Joie de vivre--this was it.

Jai jana bharat ( Hindi) – one for the acoustically adventurous. Started off innocently enough , safely negotiated antaras, but ends on a unachievably high note, leaving one panting on the pinnacle of a musical peak. Gasp, gasp !!

Janma karini bharatam ( Malayalam)—one of the most popular across my schools. Causes, well, the same that results in some men squaring their in their chests, pulling their stomachs in, straightening their tie, all that when they see someone special.. Tis a song with rapids and cataracts gushing and heaving this way and that. Although it’s an easy song, it somehow gives off the appearance of a particularly tough rite of passage and insidiously implants the erroneous thought in the singer’s mind that he/she has accomplished true harmony and by inference musical bliss.

Chelluvina muddina makkale (Kannada) –responsible for most kids yearning to take up tabla classes-the equivalent of a Sampras jumped-overhead, a Sinisa Mihailovich free-kick, a Jans Peter Nierhoff backhand smash. Practical value, dubious—spectator value, enormous ! A series of callisthenic ministrations on the two tabla drums were certainly the mainstay of this song.

Odi villayudu papa ( Tamil) –am not even sure that this was the designated regional song. A Subramanyam Bharati exhortation to the sleepy children to rise and shine. Must be APJ’s favourite too !!

Oo kunnhe beeje ( Mythili/Bhojpuri ) –unsure of the language. Nice words, I remember.A late edition. ( Ed:(wistfully) One of my favourites..)

….and a few others that I omit, to my eternal ignominy. :(

I think I've rather overstretched myself on this post and not even sure if I've given away some family heirlooms in my placid munificence.

But, it’s been a long time since , hasn’t it ?

Note--All these are not to be confused with

Bharat ka swarnim gaurav, Kendriya Vidyalaya laayega

( which is the leitmotif / thematic refrain of the K.V family)

Quip of the Day

A seven-year German Shepherd called Dino on Death Row ,has won a reprieve. He had been convicted under the Dangerous Animals Act for assailing a woman who was trying to save her terrier. London, again !!


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