The Urban Melancholy

A chilly winter night
Delhi, Cannaught Place, 10 PM

There was a nip in the smog filled air. The flag at Cannaught Place was taking a nap when the  wind picked up speed and forced it to sway evoking a faint patriotic fervour to the chilly night. Across the road the scene had changed at “Lord of the Drinks” an upscale lounge bar. A day that started like any other, had changed dramatically.The whole place was radiating a different energy field

About two hours back… The crowd had started settling in. The heaters were powered on. The projectors were beaming a boring test match between Srilanka and Newzealand. By the looks of it even the players were not interested. The tables were just  filling up. 

Earlier that day…

Lajpat Nagar 3 PM

Vicky was woken up by  a loud ring on the mobile. “Hello… Abhi milna hai…kaha??? Yaar graveyard shift karke aaya hu soya nahi hu…theek hai 5 baje milte hai… Guitar laata hu.” Vicky caught the metro and reached Rajiv Chowk Metro station at Cannaught Place. He and his friends jammed at Hari’s place nearby.Hari met him and both of them reached the Jam room. “Saale  kyu bulaya mujhe??? Queried Vicky. ” We have a problem, Freddy has taken ill and we don’t have anyone to play the guitar ” said Hari. “Ok , so then is it my lucky day?”said Vicky. ” Looks like. Don’t worry I will manage the vocals, Arun will be at the drums. Just go through the list of songs, regular stuff. I promise if you do well today you can be a regular with us” said Hari. Vicky had got his lucky break. He was labouring in the call centre only to meet ends, his heart was in music and today seemed to be his day

Defence Colony 6 PM

The Ahluwalias of Defence Colony were beaming. It was the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. & Mrs. Parminder Ahluwalia. The octogenarian couple had seen it all. From starting his life in Delhi from a refugee camp, to joining the Army, fighting three wars, becoming an Ashok Chakra recepient, Col.Ahluwalia epitomised the spirit of Punjabis who grew up in Pakistan, were forced to migrate to India leaving their homes and built this country called India. Off late, age had started catching up with the Colonel. From being the life of every party, he had become a recluse. 

Today was no different, he was showing no excitement for the 50th anniversary. The Ahluwalias called off the lavish party and decided to go for a quite dinner given the old Colonel’s disposition. 

 Lord of the Drinks, CP 9 PM

The evening was slowly lighting up. Most tables were taken. The place looked like a melting pot of cultures. There were people from all walks of life. A heated discussion was going on in one corner about a hostile board room takeover. On another table there were kids who looked like they had walked straight out of school, smoking hukka, drinking everything that flowed, every one on that table the guys and the girls alike looked like they wanted to fit into a club that surely they didn’t look from… They must have been from an international call centre. Those kids sure must be making some money, A pint of Bud cost 350 bucks here. Then there were the couples. The over dressed guys and the under dressed girls. Well for this time of the year with the weather outside at 5 degrees those mini skirts would look inappropriate in any city except Delhi.

At one end sat the Ahluwalias, all 10 of them. The colonel and his wife, their children, their grand children. The Old Colonel seemed lost in his own world oblivious to the hullabaloo around him.

The band arrived. The mike was set up. The bass guitar  was wired. The drums were placed. The whole band was going through their motions. Hari took the mike.

“Mike check…123.. Good everning guys. We are the Bandits. I am Hari I will be singing. This is Vicky on the Guitar and this is Arun on the drums. We are here to play some soulful melodies. I hope you will enjoy…”

 “Hmmm…

Na wo akhiyan ruhani kahi,

Na wo chehra noorani kahi,

Kahi dilwali baatein bhi na,

Na wo sajri jawani kahi

Jag ghumeya thare jaisa na koyi…”
This was followed by some more soulful melodies.Sufi, Ghazal, Indipop even Kishore Kumar was played.

Requests started coming in and the audience started swooning. The winter chill, the smog, the alcohol, the milieu of people, the smoke from the hukkas had all got mixed in the soft sounds emanating from the Bandits. The place was swinging along with the Bandits like they were under the spell of another pied piper.

Vicky gestured to Hari and whispered something in his ears.

He switched place.

Hi guys, My name is Vicky and this is my first live show. I have heard a song recently. It’s written by the great actor and play wright Piyush Mishra. He has sung it in Coke Studio. I havent been able to get the song out of my head from the time I have heard it. It is a song about love, longing and much more… 

Playing Husna …

Vicky strung the guitar…

“Lahore ke uss
Pehle jile ke
Do pargana mein pahunche..

Resham gali ki
Dooje kuche ke
Chauthe makaan mein pahunche..

Aur kehte hai jisko
Dooja mulk uss
Pakistan mein pahunche…”

The whole place stopped. Not a soul moved. Some had heard it before and some didn’t but not one person moved.

Vicky continued…

“Likhta hun khat mein
Hindustan se
Pehlu e Husna mein pahunche
O Husna…

Main to hun baitha
O Husna meri
Yaadon purani mein khoya

Main to hun baitha
O Husna meri
Yaadon purani mein khoya

Pal pal ko ginta
Pal pal ko chunta
Beeti kahani mein khoya
Patte jab jhadte Hindustan mein
Yaadien tumhari ye bolein…


Hota ujala, Hindustan mein, batein tumhari ye bolein
O Husnaa meri yeh to batado
Hota hai aisa kya
Uss gulistan mein
Rehti ho nanhee kabutar see gum tum jahaan
O Husna

Patte kya jhadte hain Pakistan mein
Vaise hi jaise jhadte yahaan
O Husna

Hota ujala kya vaisa hi hai
Jaisa hota Hindustan mein haan
O Husna…”

There was a certain density to the air around. There were many moist eyes around. People from the adjoining disc started making their way to the restaurant. The stewards, the waiters, everybody stood still. As if time stood still.

“Woh heeron ke ranjhe
Ke nagmein mujhko
Ab tak aa aake sataien
Woh Bulley Shah ki
Takriro ki, jheene jheene saaye
Woh Id ki iddi
Lambi namazey
Seyvaiyon ki jhaale
Woh Diwali key diye sang mein
Baisakhi ke badal
Holi ki woh lakdi jinmein
Sang sang aanch lagai
Lohdi ka woh dhuan jis mein
Dhadkhan hai sulgai
O Husna meri ye toh batado
Lohdi ka dhuan kya ab bhi nikalta hai
Jaisa nilkalta tha uss daur mein vahaan
O Husna

Dhuan mein gulstan yeh barbaad ho raha hai
Ik rang sya kaala, ejad ho raha hai
Dhuan mein gulstan yeh barbaad ho raha hai
Ik rang sya kaala, ejad ho raha hai
Dhuan mein gulstan yeh barbaad ho raha hai
Ik rang sya kaala, ejad ho raha hai
Ke heeron ke ranjhon ke
Nagmein kya ab bhi
Sune jaate hai haan vahaan
O Husna

Aur rota hai raaton mein
Pakistan kya vaise hi jaise Hindustan
O Husna…”

Vicky had stopped.

Not one word. Slowly claps started and in a moment the whole place was bursting with claps.

As the claps receded an elderly gentleman at the last table started sobbing uncontrollably. Col. Ahluwalia who had not uttered a word for one entire year cried and cried. He looked like he would not stop.The song seemed to have  ruptured a wall that held an ocean of emotion that was locked away somewhere deep inside the colonel. 

As the attention shifted to the table, the band stopped, the audience recognised the War Hero. The younger Ahluwalia spoke to the colonel and gestured  Vicky to the table. The entire place sat perplexed, The Colonel kissed Vicky and settled down. His son came and took the mike

“Vicky and the Bandits, You sang well. Of course the Original was written, composed and sung by Piyush Mishra in Coke Studio. Vicky, My father Col.Ahluwalia has a a story very similar to the one you sang. He had a Husna in Pakistan whom he left when he migrated to India during partition.Yes he has fought three wars, Yes he is an Ashok Chakra recipient, but till today he longs for his Husna…”

The evening slowly drew to a close.

A few meters away…

The Indian Flag, was again picked up by the wind and it swayed.

A rainy Conference

It was about 11 am, the weather outside was something else. The clouds were coming together and sticking up a dark blanket blocking the last possible ray of sunlight. The Hill resort atop India’s most famous monsoon hill station was shining in its element. The clouds had descended on it. The white haveli in the black background was just like a shining pearl in the abyss. The clouds had swelled up and the heavenly dance could happen any moment, the wind was picking up speed.

The Conference hall was full. It was the venue of the National meet of one of India’s largest dotcom companies. The atmosphere inside was a clear contrast from the weather outside. The windows were covered with curtains and the conference hall disconnected the people inside from the last sensory perception of Nature’s dance that was about to begin. 

On the mike was Vikram Singh the 35 year old head of the famous Indian online shopping company “ShopIndia”. A pioneer in the online shopping space, “ShopIndia”was facing some real tough competition from two major online Giants, One from US, the world’s largest Online market place and another from China, Asia’s largest market place. Shop India was holding up till now, however in the last few quarters some major sellers had veered off. The Competition had deep pockets and the Investors in ShopIndia were worried. Some tough decisions were to be taken. Some segments had a really tough time, Vikram these days was known to be really temperamental. A bad review with him could mean the end of someone’s career.The tension in the air was palpable, an absolute far cry from the weather outside where the dance had begun, the drops had turned into bucket loads, the heavens were pouring down. Vikram began speaking, he laid out the vision to a crowd that was listening in rapt attention, efficiency was the goal, the company would be ruthless to bottom performers, some people at the back were looking down. 

Suddenly the door of the conference room was flung open and two kids barged in… They started running around in circles, it was like a stone thrown at placid  water, there were ripples every where. The entire conference room burst into laughter. The hotel boy was called, he went looking for their parents. Vikram could only  manage a wry smile. The kids were not listening. They went and opened the door outside . the water came in and they just jumped and played in the rain with absolute disregard for etiquette & conformity. After about 5 minutes the parents arrived, they could just about manage a sorry. The younger of the two kids while being pulled back said, “Mama kitne boring log hai ye Sab. Aisi baarish me pata Nahi kya kar rahe hai?? Koi aaya hi nahi khelne.. “The mother could could only give an embarrassed look.

The entire conference room burst out laughing. The setting had changed. The door outside was flung open, the floor was dirty. The sound of thunder filled the room. The mood in the room had become more lively, as the smell of monsoon mud entered the room there was a lightness in the air. Everybody was far more relaxed. 

As everybody tried to settle in, Vikram asked, What is it that you guys want to do right now? “Off with the Blazer n Tie” came a voice from the back. “Tathastu” he said. The formality was off. “Now what?” “Let’s play in the rain” who said that? Before people could look back, Vikram said “Tathastu,let’s play football.” There it was every body in their leather shoes jumped out, quickly two teams were made and the lawn of the hotel lawn had become a football ground. People fell on their backs, clothes were torn. After 90 minutes there was a winning team. The whole hotel looked at the spectacle where corporate professionals broke into the most keenly contested mud football match ever seen. The entire hotel applauded the winning team. As the game was over, Vikram signalled everyone to the conference hall. They begged him to allow them to change. Vikram didn’t budge, he said pls come as you are.

“What did we learn today?” Vikram asked.

Many hands went up. 

Rahul stood up and said “Vikram the kids taught me that it is important to play your game irrespective of what others do” 
“They taught us to enjoy our game deeply and rest will be taken care off” said Sunita, the head of Customer service.

“They taught us to get drenched in the rain when it demanded and not be coy” said Mr. gupta.

“OK so are we ready to play our game?”Vikram thundered, 

“Yes”  “Yes”  “Yes” came the reply.

The kids were still playing outside oblivious to the effect they had on one of India’s largest companies.