Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Kothagoi: Not Myth but Hi(story)

     First of all, the title of the book. The word Kotha, in its deteriorated form, may ring the alarm bells in many minds. And they may push aside, taking it as eulogizes written by an inebriated majnu of some mujrawalis or kothawali. It did, in fact, in my mind too. But after witnessing a lively discussion between the author and a senior journalist, my perspective changed and the reader inside me became impatiently eager.

The second attraction was city. The city at the centre of the book, Muzzfarpur, is the one, through which I would have crossed at least thirty times within a span of last two years. And I really can’t believe that I had never heard about this place, Chaturbhuj Sthan, a mine of tales, from this point view.

Chaturbhuj Sthan has existed for more than 125 years, may be its raison d’ĂȘtre has been changing from time to time, but that is not the disclosure, the surprise is no writer, poet or historian considered it of any importance. So it should not shock us that history has become a myth. ‘Who the hell say it was such a place? It is mere a red light area,’ many people would say today. So what could have been history has not remained even story today.

Every place has a golden era, and this small place too had its grandeur, its fame and its own golden era, when Panna bai ruled the heart of thousands. And truly, her legendary voice and beauty became myth, because there is nothing to prove that once it was a reality. But fact remains, even though only in the memories of some people associated with the place, that these tales are part of the history of this city; a history that was not written because it mattered to none.

Prabhat Ranjan, who has lived in that part of the city, has dared to tell these tales because he realized that an important part of city’s history has remained untouched. Whereas the same kind of history or stories of many other cities has or have been relived, retold and relished, this city was left because there was no one to believe that it was a significant part of their history and culture. The author does take an oath, in the very beginning, that everything is a lie. May be or may not be. Who knows?

Even if it is a lie, it is a beautiful lie. A real magical world of tales! His world is so charming, so engrossing, so real that sometimes, you feel that canvas is falling short. And you wonder, how you would have felt, if you had watched it on a larger screen. That was the only regret I had reading the book. ‘Why does the story end so fast?’ I wondered a few times.

Be it Panna bai or chhoti Panna bai…Chanda bai or Gauhar khan…Babu Lakshmeshwar Nandan or Barka Babu… characters grip the minds of readers and make them restless, hungry for more. Covering their stories in less than two hundred or so pages is like cramming all the clothes of an entire family into one suitcase. That was my thought. But then, Ranjan says, these are not stories to be read, rather these are tales to be told. And certainly book takes us away from a general way of storytelling. It has a new perspective and it has impacted his style of writing, which certainly has magnetic power and it immediately transports readers into his world of creation.

I don’t know many Hindi writers from Bihar, particularly from north Bihar, who have tried to focus on their region, their history, culture and tradition and have succeeded in projecting them through fiction or non-fiction with acclaimed fame.

I had read Phanishewar Nath Renu (I hope you remember Hirabai of Teesri Kasam based on short story Mare Gaye Gulfam) long back but even now when I look back to my region, just to assess the progress, I find him only there as the one, who stands tall even today for his unique style and language.

Kothagoi  is certainly an igniting hope and worth reading. I hope someday like Hirabai or Umrao Jaan, Panna bai too would become alive on the screens. At the same time it has raised our expectations. We hope Ranjan comes back with another, larger and more engrossing tale.  

KOTHAGOI(Chaturbhuj Sthan ke kisse) is a recently released book by Prabhat Ranjan. This is not a review but a reader’s view.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Does it happen with you too?

If I ask you do you listen to music, most of you would be furious. What a silly question.  But if I ask what kinds of music you like, then perhaps you would pause and say, well…well… songs only, wait I like instrumental too…and a bit classical…but, of course, a lot of filmy songs.  Well, I know, you know, most of us like this or that kinds of songs, music etc. What differs from person to person is type of songs.  

But has it happened ever that you have fallen so madly in long with a particular song that you have kept listening to it again and again? So many times, that people around you got irritated and declared you a maniac.  

It might have happened with many of you.

Also, has it happened with you that your choice of songs have kept changing with the passage of time and different stages of you life? The kind of songs you used to love once, you started to hate or avoid after some years or after a particular age?

May be that would be the case with some of you.

If it is not clear even now, what I am trying to say, then I must present my case before you. I remember there was a time, and that was at a very tender age, when I had nothing to do with melancholy or nostalgia or love and separation, I had fallen in love with Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh. Their sad songs soothed my heart. One of my friends, used to say I had grown old without passing through teenage and adulthood. Later, I came to a conclusion that perhaps it had to do with my sad and sick childhood.
But that phase didn’t last long and was soon overtaken by Kishore Kumar ‘jabbhi koi kangana khanke payal chanak jaye…’ and ‘Samne wali khidaki main…’ He is superb. I still love him. But that time, it was perhaps impact of a damsel in my high school, the seed of romanticism had been sown. And soon Kishor da was overtaken by Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik and Shabbir kumar.  

Then the place changed:  I migrated to Delhi and language also changed. One of my friends introduced me to Bryan Adams. Not to singer but to his songs. It didn’t take long, I was listening to his each songs ten times a day ,’ Whatever I do, I do for you,’ ‘Summer of Sixty nine.’  I remained almost one year under his spell, when I suddenly fell in love with English country music.  

Wait, I missed something. I don’t think any of you have forgotten Titanic and how your heart went with it, with magical voice of Celine Dion. She was a discovery for me, and later on I found out she sings in French too. In fact, she is a Canadian singer from Quebec, a French speaking region. It was during this period, one night I heard on TV, a singer, named Barbara Streisand. What a magical voice! 

Well, I said I had fallen in love with country music. It started with Bob Dylan (Butterfly kisses) and my list started getting longer and it became so long, perhaps it would not be possible to mention everyone here. But Kenny Rogers (You decorated my life), Allan Jackson (Pick Up Man) and Robbie Williams (Angels) had made huge impression on my mind.

But I had yet to discover a very old song that I would keep singing throughout 300 kilometer long bus journey to my home town.

To be continued…