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Saturday, January 30, 1999

A song and dance on Republic Day

Amrita Shah  
Tuesday, January 26, 7 a.m.:I am shattered, I am devastated. My nerves are all on edge. It's only 7 in the morning and the nukkad DJ has decided to give the neighbourhood a wake-up call. It doesn't happen every day, nor very often. Just on select public holidays when everyone looks forward to a little extra sleep. On Ganesh Chaturthi last year, he blasted us with Aay malik tere bandhen hum and Bada natkhat hain re kishan kanhaiya.

Today at least his choice appears to be more appropriate to the occasion. The programme this morning has commenced with the stirring Ghar Chale hum fida followed by the grim and pathos-filled Ay mere watan ke logon. I consider fleeing, finding a safe house where the sound does not percolate. And then I check myself. Flee? On the anniversary of the date of commencement of the Constitution by which India resolved to constitute itself into a Sovereign Democratic Republic. Nah! That seems chicken hearted.

So I stay and listen thinking perhaps it is justmy punishment for not doing anything distinctly patriotic over the last year. More songs and more images of our brave jawans dying in distant snowy mountains. Why are our jawans always dying in distant snowy mountains, I wonder. For the last twenty years they've been close by, on the streets battling rioteers at home. 8 a.m.: Just as well. There's been a shift in tempo. It's time for wonderful India, hopeful India songs. Yeh desh hain, Chodon kal ki baatein, Jahan daal daal par. The songs are all about diversity and beauty and idealism. "Yahan satya, ahimsa aur..." I can't take it any more. I go down the road to investigate. There is a tent and loudspeakers and a deck. But no person. Must be operated by remote control.

9 a.m.: Marathi geets are next. It is fitting. After all, Mumbai is a part of Maharashtra. "Ghanshyam Sundara ...Arunoday jhala." Very soothing. Very lovely. Just wished they had reversed the order a little bit and started with this section first.

Noon: It isRewind time. The DJ has slithered into nostalgia. The songs are late sixties, mid-seventies vintage. Bindiya Chamkegi, Dil kya karen. Images of Mumtaz flirting with Rajesh Khanna, Vikram making out with Laxmi. The national obsession with love, romance, heartbreak. Phool tumhe bheja hain khat mein, Milo na tum to dil ghabraye.

5 p.m.: The DJ has decided to redeem himself. He is into the present with a vengeance. HAHK, DTPH, KKHH. And Chaiyya Chaiyya. Over and over again. The sixth time, I wonder what happened to all those couldn't-do-without hits of not so long ago. I mean when was the last time you heard Ek do teen, Choli ke peeche, Mera Piya Ghar Aaya or Muqabla? Long time ago I bet. Fickle listeners, fickle nation. But perhaps they'll be hitting the Rewind section twenty years later.

7 p.m.: Patriotism, diversity and romance have given way to religion (now why does that sound familiar?). A Satyanarain puja is in progress. The volume seems to have been turnedeven higher than before (which was high enough). The droning of the shlokas, the murmur and crackle of the attendees comes through boom loud and clear.

9 p.m: The puja is over. It is party time. Young men have gathered. Sounds of merriment filter through the sound system. Suggestions are being flung at the DJ. A popular request comes through. Goli maar bhejen mein. "Thishkyaon" the crowd erupts. And sings along. To Kallu Mama and Mum-BHAI.

11.30 p.m.: The sound has been switched off. Peace reigns. Happy Republic Day.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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