Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Musical Evening With C. Sanjay

C. Sanjay is someone with whom I share a special bond. I met him in Engineering College, when he was a national level athlete running the 1500 m, a member of our basketball team, stylish rider of one of the few Yezdi's in the college, sharp of repartee and humour, quick of wit, high on intelligence and style and the only one who had a proper girlfriend then. So conscious of his style was he that he once famously picked up a pair of socks and then bought many other accessories including a shirt if I am not mistaken, to match the socks. Never a hair out of place, always nattily dressed, ready for a smile and a quick verbal match, C. Sanjay and I also shared two other passions - food and music.
Perhaps explaining the meaning of a ghazal - C. Sanjay, circa 1988! 
But before that, one must dwell slightly on days when he would drink in those college days. He knows no grey areas and when he gets going, he gets going. (Until he stops and then he won't touch it.) So with the booze. He'd drink and drink and then it would get difficult to handle him because he is difficult to handle even when he is not drunk. So we had run ins with the police, with other drunks, were scared out of our wits when we rode pillion as he 'showed' us how to ride a bike (and he was brilliant at that). He was the kind of a guy who exchanged his trousers with Uday Velu, another guy with similar temperament, on the spur of the moment, right behind the bus stop at Andhra Mahila Sabha. One moment they were gone and the next they were back with trousers exchanged. And on and on including some stuff that should not be mentioned.

Sanjay enjoys his food and I enjoy mine. So there were times when we drew money from his bank account and headed off to the cheap Chinese restaurant near Sangeet, went to Alex's Kitchen, explored the wonders of the biryani joints and so on and so forth just for the love of food. So much so that he'd make it a point to call me over home when he thought there was something that I liked to eat. Likewise I'd call him home on occasions when I suspected some special stuff might be made.

One other thing we both love even more, is listening to music together. We just enjoy the idea of listening to good music. I rate these relationships highly, along with those with who I can share a laugh uninhibitedly. So names like Sunil Jyothi and Naresh Raghvan come easily to mind and also Vidyuth when he listened to music more seriously. With Sunil it was always western music, with Naresh also the same but with Sanjay, it was Hindi music and more so, ghazals. Then the Pune gang of Milind, Parth, Raja and Satish with whom there is always a raucous time at the end of any evening. There is something that the music conveys that words cannot - I can feel my comfort with people from the kind of songs we like listening to, or even the way we listen to songs.

But back to C. Sanjay. Sanjay has this fine knowledge of ghazals - from Ghulam Ali to Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh to whoever (he was critical of me when I first told him that my ghazal exposure was limited to Pankaj Udhas. Sanjay'd know the structure, the meaning, the subtler meaning and he would enjoy revealing the thought behind the well crafted and composed words with such enthusiasm and exuberance that many times we'd say wah, wah just for his performance. Sometimes it would take me more than once to get it but then, when I got it, I enjoyed ghazals thanks to Sanjay and his tireless initiation. Another favorite genre for us was Hindi music - Kishore Kumar, Rafi, Mukesh and the works.

There was this instance when on one rainy summer afternoon during those college days, we were cooped up inside the house due to the incessant rain. One whole afternoon we expended our energy singing songs lying on the floor and looking at the ceiling. When we finally emerged from the room, we realised there was an audience of my family members listening to our unabashed singing. Someone also said - you guys sing well. We exited rather sheepishly. Nothing subtle for us then you see.

But what set the tone for our once a year musical nights was this. Once, after we passed out of college and out of single status etc, I called him rather late at night and asked if he was in the mood to listen to music. He said he was and could I come over. I went to his place at Musheerabad at 11 in the night, a distance of 10 kms or more. We settled down and played cassette tapes from 11 to 3 in the morning after which I rode my scooter back home, a content man. Once again Hindi songs and ghazals were the staple diet but the quality of listening was what made it fun. It's an episode I won't forget for the sheer spontaneity and energy.

We do this late night musical stuff more often these days - about once a year is the average. Mostly it's just the two of us and the music. The other day was one such occassion. It was rainy outside. We started slowly at 10 pm but then the mood picked up and the songs came by thick and fast. Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh, Kishore Kumar, Rafi, Mukesh, Suresh Wadkar...the list of our favorite songs went on and on and on. Right up to 3 am again. 'Awargi', 'Jhuki jhuki si nazar', 'Diye jalte hain', 'Chingari koi', 'Kuch to log kahenge', 'Akele hain' and so many more.

Like always, it's an evening that somehow empties you of all the stuff you have inside and makes you feel nice. A bit like purging yourself. You listen, you enjoy, you sing, you smile. It's just amazing how the energy keeps increasing as we find more and more of those songs that we both like.

And just to add another small story, a couple of days later, V. Ramnarayan, first class cricketer, well known writer, editor of Sruti India's only magazine on classical dance and music, got talking about something quite random over the phone when he suddenly told me that he sang a bit. He sang one song (and he sings beautifully) and then another and before long he had sung pretty much close to 20 songs over the phone. Rafi and Mehdi Hassan mainly. It's one of those things that happens once in a lifetime. Spontaneous stuff. I totally enjoyed it. Must be how it is like when one is serenaded - though Ram for sure was serenading himself than me. I was just the excuse and a very lucky one at that.

Good to see music making its way back into my life like this. Nothing to beat a song in the heart. I met Sunil J (recently when we did a Prince retro but I could meet him again - however I need to connect with Naresh in the USA and close the loop. And while at that perhaps interest Vidyuth too - he and I shared much music as roommates in many of our tours together. And the Pune gang - Raja, Satish, Milind, Parth.

Most of my musical connections have a special song in my head - Sanjay (Awargi, Diye jalte hain), Sunil J aka Topper (Jetthrotull and Supertramp), Naresh (I just died in your arms), Vidyuth (Danger Zone, Tarzan Boy). Adnan Sami's 'Kabhi to nazar milao' has special significance as my mother would listen to it during her last days. 'Aise na mujhe tum dekho' for Shobhs, perhaps 'Tanha Dil' for Anjali who requested me to sing that today. I think I have one for everyone.

A big thanks is owed to Satish N, for gifting me that little Bose speaker that plays on bluetooth and Shobhs for lugging it back from USA. The days of lugging the entire system and setting it up are now gone. Not that I did not like it - I enjoyed those days as well. For a while it was in a confused space - cassettes went and with them the deck, CDs came and went, ipods came and I found a way to connect them to my system, now phones with their hollow sound. But this Bose thing is quite convenient and makes a nice sound.

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