New Delhi Tit Bits (June 2007)

New Delhi Tit Bits

By Rajeev Sharma

Poet Neeraj

Call it sheer luck. I have had the privilege to
personally interact with two of my favourite
lyricists. Both are amazing personalities: Gopal Das
Neeraj and Gulzar. First, Neeraj. You may recall the romantic songs, most
of which are filmed on Dev Anand. One of them is the
memorable ‘Shokhiyon mein ghola jaaye phoolon ka
shabaab, aur usme phir milaayee jaaye hodi si sharaab’.
Your fantasy takes a new wing whenever you come across
this number. Neeraj has crossed 80 years (born February 8, 1926).
But his humming still has strength. Neeraj continues
to attend poetry meets. Organizers invariably invite
him on to the stage at the end so that the audience
sits through for him.
Songs penned by him have a combination of a yearning
for love and finer aspects that characterize our life.
Neeraj, as a child, was exposed to poverty so much so
that in Aligarh, where he lived, he had to live
through the day without one full meal, a couple of
‘kachauris’ from a roadside vendor would keep him going.
Neeraj says he owes the crispness of
his voice to the taste of those ‘kachauris’. Those
mouth-watering salty, sweet, kachauris – what oil on
earth were they soaked in!
Today, so many researchers have done their PhDs on
him. Neeraj is extremely fond of Osho and is a
well-read astrologer. He continues to live in Aligarh
(Uttar Pradesh).
I have heard Neeraj many times, and the most memorable
is an evening when Neeraj regaled a group of about
sixty friends – a sprinkling of industrialists, IAS
officers and politicians in Delhi’s Rajendra Nagar –
at his fan’s place with his inimitable style of poetry
rendition. Here, Neeraj was in his elements as he held
a glass of liquor in his hand and let his best ones
float still. Sample this: ‘Ab ke sawan mein shararat ye
mere saath hui, mera ghar chchod kar poore shahar mein
barsaat hui (the rain did this mischief with me this
season, it poured all over the city, not over my
house). I heard this in his voice for the first time
in my life. After that poetry session where I met him,
he invited me over to his hotel Alka in Connaught
Place the following morning.
It12 was to be a heart-to-heart interaction. We talked
about many things, and I got to know that only
sensitive souls such as him could bring out the ups
and downs of life through ones’ pen. To portray a
colour of life in its truest form is not easy.
Take a look at some of the songs written by him:

“Swapn jhade phool se, meet chubhe shool se, lut gaye
shringaar sabhi bag ke babool se, aur hum khade-khade
bahar dekht rahe, karvan guzar gaya gubar dekhte rahe”
(Dreams wilt like flowers, friends pierce like nails,
the beauty lost to the thorns of cactus. And here I
stand watching the spring, and the clouds of dust left
behind by a caravan.) Movie ‘Nai Umar ki Nai Fasal’
(1965), music: Roshan, singer Mohammad Rafi.

“Phoolon ke rang se, dil ki kalam se tujhko likhi roz
paati, kaise bataun kis-kis tarah se pal-pal mujhe tu
(With the colours of flowers, the pen of my heart, I
write to you every day. There’s no way to tell how you
torment me moment after moment.)
Movie Prem Pujari (1970), music: S.D. Burman, singer:
Kishore Kumar.

“Likhe jo khat tujhe, wo teri yaad mein, hazaaron rang
ke, nazaare ban gaye”
(The letters I wrote to you in your absence became
scenes of thousands of colours.)
Movie Kanya Daan (1970), music Shanker-Jaikishan,
singer: Mohammad Rafi

Rangeela re tere rang me, yu ranga hai mera man,
chchaliya re na bujhe hai kisi jal se ye jalan
(I have painted my heart with the colours of your
love. But it has made me thirsty of your love, which
not even rain can satisfy.)
Movie Prem Pujari (1970), music S.D. Burman, singer:
Lata Mangeshkar

Megha chchaye aadhi raat, bairan ban gayee nidiya,
bata de mein kya karoon

(It has started raining in the middle of the night and
sleep has turned its back on me, tell me, what do I
Movie Sharmeelee (1971), music S.D. Burman, singer,
Lata Mageshkar

The simplicity of Neeraj can be gauged from the fact
that after our discussion at the Alka, he requested me
to drop him at the New Delhi Railway Station. And in
the crowd at the station, the old man clad in white
kurta-pyjama got lost after offering me the customary
“thank you”. Who knew in the crowd that the Great
Neeraj was amidst them!
About Gulzar, next time.

‘Garam’ Delhi ‘thandi’ CM

Delhi these days is whipped by a heat wave with the
temperature soaring to 45 degrees. Delhi is groaning
under the season’s extreme. Water and electricity are
in short supply. It’s beyond imagination how the city
will host the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Power
outages last for hours, and less said the better about
the water supply. Even after eight years of becoming
Delhi’s Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit has not been
able to get the full grip over the problems.
Let me share a joke with you about Delhi’s system,
which my bureaucrat friend Khalid Akhtar has told me.
In olden days, a Nawab of Lucknow had the habit of
having a glass of milk in the night. The milk cost
only 25 paise. His servant would arrange for this
every night. As the time passed, the servant developed
dishonesty. He pocketed one-fourth of the 25 paise and
bought the milk. He served it to the Nawab after
mixing it with water. The Nawab immediately knew what
was wrong. He reprimanded the servant and appointed a
checker over the servant. For a few days, the Nawab
got the milk in right quantity. But then, the old
servant made the checker too as dishonest. After all,
the checker too had a family to look after! Both
pocketed one paisa each and gave milk to the Nawab
with the rest of the money. The Nawab flew into a rage
as he drank the milk. Then he appointed one more
checker. Again for a few days, the Nawab kept getting
the pure milk. Then one morning when he woke up, he
became angry with all his servants. He furiously
told them: “You, blokeheads, why didn’t you give me
milk last night?” The three got together and said:
“What are you talking saab? Look at your moustache in
the mirror, there is a streak of cream over it. The
Nawab got convinced when he saw himself in the mirror.
He must have had the milk, so he thought. The three
smiled and shook hands.
Similar is the situation of Delhi’s citizens!
Source: South Asia Times (June 2007)

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