Date : Sunday 1st October, 2000
A train sans brakes, a chaotic traffic minus policemen and a sudden decision of VSNL to change their Internet servers a day before the Calcutta coup were some of the minor hurdles we had to overcome to make October 1, 2000, happen. And, boy, when it did … the Oxford dictionary was found wanting in its mission to choose the right adjective to describe the event.
One can very well imagine the plight of yours truly, having been given the task of describing the Calcutta coup.
Tell me, what do I write about? The lovely gathering we had? The exemplary arrangements of Madhumita (Nilangshu’s better half)? The beautiful music we played? Or the heavenly post-lunch session that saw all of sing, scream, shout, strum, beat and yoddle our way to glory? And last, but definitely not the least, the unexpected appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Badal Bhattacharya, childhood friends of R.D. with two albums full of rare personal photographs and lots of personal memories.
I am, frankly speaking, confused to the d.
Let’s follow the safest route: chronological description. So here it is…
I, with my sister, reached Nilangshu’s place around 10:30, hoping to be the first one to arrive. But, there he was standing in front of the door, ready with his bag full of bullying techniques, “Is the time to arrive? No wonder we call you Bhappi. And, you are not the first one, Dikshit Arya has already come.” Slightly embarrassed and fresh (?) out of the scolding spree from Nilangshu and my sister (she promptly attributed the delay to me), there I was standing in front of a 6 feet plus figure who called himself Dikshit Arya, stayed bang opposite Nilangshu’s house and knew virtually everything about the maestro’s compositions without having any formal training in music whatsoever.
Within an hour’s span we had a full house with Tublu (a superb tabla player who shares his nickname with RDB, learned the instrument from Ustad Sabbir Khan and single-handedly managed the rhythm part in our post-lunch session. I have never seen somebody who knows every theka RD used in each of his songs. And, anyone who is a RD fan will agree that the rhythm part was the most difficult one in his music), Amit Kumar Sharma, Arjun and Ashish (AKS’s friends and fellow Panchamaniacs), Souvik Srimany (this guy started travelling at 4 pm the previous day from a deep jungle in Orissa, came to Bhubaneswar via road to catch the train, undertook an overnight journey to land up just in time for the Calcutta coup (and he is the one whose train’s brakes failed after which he hopped into a local train lest he misses out on the coup). BTW, Tublu (a.k.a. Sourangshu) is a lawyer by profession.
And of course, how could one forget Nabanita Mukherjee, wife of famous sitar player Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee and an AIR artiste herself. Needless to say, she is also a fellow Panchamaniac. Boy, what a voice she has. If we have the sound recording alright, I suggest all of you should listen to her rendition of Piya Bawri and Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein. Give her any Pancham song, and she will dish it out in no time with all the gayaki intact. Finally, came Bappa and Susmita (Nilangshu’s cousin and cousin’s wife), both Panchamaniacs. Bappa was insistent, after tolerating our scrooning histrionics and helping Madhumita with the video recording, that we sing Bhaago bhoot aaya!
The pre-lunch session had a general discussion on RD, his music and we listened to a lot of music. Including the not-so-freely-available Bengali version of Pooncho na yaar kya hua (Ure jaabo aamra). Shashi, if you are here, it is time you came to Calcutta. Mr Haldar has managed a record-wallah who is turning out to be a goldmine. Records of Jailyatra, Mr Romeo, Awaaz and Zindagani are already adorning Nil-da’s shelves. Nilangshu also displayed his CD collection. And we listened to the songs discussed recently on our group like Aa dekhe zaara and Yeh silsila pyar …
Just when we were preparing for lunch, the bell rang and there was Souvik Srimany, the person responsible for keeping the RD beat alive even in the deep jungles of Orissa. With him came a cassette full of Oriya numbers of RD. I am sure, not many of us are proud owners of that. Instantly the cassette found its place in the deck of Nilangshu and we were proof to the fact that the only language of music was music. It was sheer magic, pure RD style.
A Biryani-Cha(m)p-firni lunch over, we sat down to the real session of the coup. What followed was 5 delicious hours of non-stop musical magic courtesy all of those present. Nilangshu on the guitar, Tublu on the tabla and maraccus, Nabanita-boudi and Susmita on the vocals and myself chipping in with whatever energy I had. Frankly speaking, I have never enjoyed life more. There was nothing to worry about, no protocol to be followed and no deadlines to be met. Just music and Pancham. I lack words to express what transpired in those 5 hours. We sang every song we came across in Nerurkar’s book, tried to do the harmony in Dil sajan jalta hai — every now and then falling back on tra-la-la-la thanks to our poor lyrical memory. But it was not the words that mattered: all that mattered was the spirit and the music. The common factor that brought all of us together. Suprising, how much we think alike. If Dikshit thought of one particular number so did Souvik. And within a few moments Nilangshu and Tublu were ready with the chords and rhythm.
Nilangshu was fascinating on the guitar, so was Tublu on the tabla. A special mention must be made of their rendition of Hoga tumse pyara kaun from Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai. Perfect to the t.
I think someone else should describe this session. I am getting to excited. Dikshit, how about volunteering?
Around seven in the evening, when we were taking a well-deserved break, came Badal Babu, with his wife Mili (one of the closest friends of Asha Bhosle), his daughter Doel (RD used to think of her as a daughter and she is one of those rare ones to have been trained by the maestro himself), her husband and two daughters. With them were, two albums with the rarest of the rare photographs of RD the human being, RD the friend and RD the musician.
We sang in front of them as well, and Badal Babu narrated a few incidents which none of knew. Like how RD used to pack papa Burman to some distant place so that he could use westernised instruments for recordings. Or, how RD used to say in 1994 January, just before he died, “Mark my words, this will be MY year. Just let 1942 … release”. We were just short of crying. So was he. A couple of hours of listening to him, spell bound, later, he had to go home. I must say what his daughter Doel told us: “Baba, never goes to any parties. I was quite surprised when he said he would be coming today… If only Rahul kaka was alive…”
We lack words to thank them. His kissas were the most detailed and authentic ones I have heard till date. Would be sharing them with you one after the other. Before ending this already lengthy mail, please join me in thanking Madhumita (for recording the entire event on video and making such lovely arrangements) and Nilangshu’s mother (for bearing with us and chipping in with her requests. (Sitamgar being her hot favourite).
And yes, how could one forget Nilanjan (Jr. Nilangshu). All of four year’s old, but big enough to play the guitar and recognise R.D. Burman.
But one sad thing of the entire event was Sourav M’s inability to make it along with his friend Subhodeep Gupta (of Music Kitchen fame). He had some emergency to attend in Mumbai and so could not join us. The result: The original Lahiri title being snatched away from me!
To cut the long story short, I have never realised the truth of the adage ‘Every day is not a Sunday’ more.