Sunday, April 20, 2008


Magic of Madhushala

I’ve always been rather fond of poetry. Not as fond of poetry as people who are actually fond of poetry- you know, the types who can quote Wordsworth and Keats and Tennyson and the et cetras any time they want or from who’s tongues the terms Victorian and Romantic roll off like anything. I just like to hear good verses and try to get hold of them. That’s it. And while I have an extremely soft corner for the English Language, I do believe that there is absolutely nothing in the world that can even come close to the kind of wonder that Hindi poetry is. We had a long discussion on the same in the Farmhouse one fine day but had to conclude with the usual “it’s all perception”. As far as novels are concerned, give me the Roman Script any day. Apart from Mrityunjay, I’ve not even read a single Hindi novel. But poetry is something completely different. I mean, Wordsworth did give a pretty good account of Westminster’s Bridge and there’s The Light of Other Days, The Brook, The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Sea (I’ve got to like it, it’s my name after all) but how do you compare anything to geniuses like Maithilisharan Gupta, Jaishankar Prasad or the inspirational Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’. And then of course, there’s the master of them all- Dr. Harivansh Rai ‘Bachchan’.

It was my Nani who instilled the love for Hindi literature in me. One of the million things that I consider her legacy. While she did introduce me to most of the legendary lines that any beginner who’s just begun to dabble in verse should be introduced to, Madhushala was somehow left out. I knew that Madhushala was Dr. Bachchan’s masterpiece, of course, but that was where my knowledge ended. Last week, when I was at home, Mamma and I spent a lovely evening going over the magical verses of his Magnum Opus (can Madhushala be called that, I wonder?). Trying to describe the many things it says would only take away from its beauty. They did remain at the back of my mind though, and I would recommend anyone who’s stumbled across this page to go read Madhushala ASAP.

A practical demonstration of the magic of Madhushala was in store for me the other day. Before I proceed however, a bit of background info might be in order. After having been through the banalities that comprise our Department Formals, where Yours Truly also obliged by doing the Boogie-Woogie on stage, Lefty and the Lousy Louts had unanimously decided that the batch just senior to us in our revered Dep was full of idiots with a capital I, and it would be up to us to uphold the integrity and coolness of good old Meta. The impression was far from the truth actually, but sensibilities would change later. The reason for this misleading impression was simple- the specimens of the senior batch that we were subjected to lacked a lot of the qualities that we were looking for. The ones that did possess these qualities- we were never subjected to. A classic case of ‘I get what I want not and I want what I get not’.

Having moved to the Farmhouse a year later, we modified our stand to- “most of them are idiots, with a capital I”. There were some fine gentlemen but they were in a minority. Luckily for us, they were in the same hostel. The minority increased as our years in the hostel grew and when the New Year brought with it daily games of cricket, we finally began to suspect that they might actually be a bunch of pretty cool guys. However, what two years couldn’t accomplish, Madhushala did with great ease. A couple of job parties, abundant liquor, and the previous viewpoints had been permanently reversed. It cost the seniors some dough, it cost me my old mattress and shoes but then, all’s well that ends well.

Having thus broken the ice, regular tete-a-tetes with the seniors became common. It would be too immature to say that we became bosom buddies but there was definitely some sort of a bond that was built which was enough to tell us that we would miss these guys a lot next year. So, we decided to give this now-declared cool batch of seniors a grand farewell (read, more liquor). Since I was the host this time, I couldn’t very well bolt myself up in my room or lock it and disappear as I had done previously after having borne the repercussions (read Nice Guys Finish Last). I therefore made an effort to be the life and soul of the party. Being one of the only sober guys in an inebriated group leaves you with a lot of responsibilities. You are the person who carries the extra wobbly ones to their rooms. You’re the ones who hides the empty, and occasionally full bottles, from the guy who tends to smash ‘em up when in a drunken stupor. You have to fill in as bartender occasionally and also see to it, as host, that the supply is constant. And on very rare occasions, you’re the one who has to see that the watchman is safely seen off with a glass of whiskey.

During the party, I could not just feel the disappointment regarding this late realization but had people coming up and talking about it too. Both our year and the senior one felt that we’d spent too much time being aloof and unconcerned. We had the same lifestyles, we had the same taste in music, we ranted about the same subjects and the same profs, for crying out loud. But unfortunately, we’d wasted too much time forming hasty impressions and not bothering to mix. It’s one thing to say that there are still a couple of weeks to enjoy, but as one of the best of them wisely said, “All of us know what we’ve lost out on.” On the bright side however, we did manage to see each other in the right light in the end. It might be too little too late, but at least it’s something. Incoherent chants of “Three Cheers for Third Year for throwing such a great party” and “Three Cheers for Fourth Year for deserving such a grand party” along with promises of a fully funded vacation at Goa rounded off a memorable night. Fresh from the verses of Madhushala, I could help twist some of Dr. Bachchan’s lines, which he uses to describe the religious divides and how Madhushala overcomes them, to fit into the present context:
“Bair karate Thomso-Cogni, Mel karati Madhushala”


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