YT has been doleful witness to several events that have seared the nation. Among them are: 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 2008 M-Block Market, GK 1 bomb blasts, and finally the 26/11 Mumbai attacks of the same year. Serendipity at work one supposes, assuming serendipity is not always for the good. We happened to live through a flash-back of 26/11 recently in a totally different context, which we shall elaborate in the outrageously digressive traditions of this blog.
Well, the occasion was a music concert hosted in the august Yeshwantrao Chavan Auditorium Pune. The sole performer was, hold your breath, Swaryoginee Dr Prabha Atre. She sang Shyam Kalyan (35 mins), Madhu r kauns not Madhu-kauns (34 mins), a dadra in Mishra Khamaj, and finally the hair-raising Bhairavi sung famously at Durbar, UK- jagatajanani bhavtarini mohini tu navadurga. The prayer is well on way to achieving iconic status, with that stylised Arabic intonation in the prelude. The 82 year vidushi was suffering from a throat condition and had two shishyaas ( cf Shishyas) for vocal support- one the promising Arti Thakur, and the other an equally talented lady, wish her due recognition. Dr Atre relied on the vocal crutches minimally, and the crutches failed her altogether when it came to Madhurkauns, which is understandable, for that’s not a prachalit raga, having been invented by Prabhatai yesterday. They say Kesarbai Kerkar would plan all her concerts a whole year ahead, and rehearsals for the one coming up would commence two months in advance, and for 12 hours a day she and the accompanists would work exclusively on the presentation. You can’t say they don’t make such artistes anymore, for the simple reason that there are only two recorded instances of historical figures that took all this trouble: Kesarbai and Bhimsen Joshi…! Yup, Panditji always said he learnt his celebrated taans from Kesarbai! Gharana is no more, good news!
The 900 seat Yeshwantrao Chavan Natyagruha in brahmin hotbed Kothrud was packed and overflowing, needless to state. In Pune the meanest venue will fill up, whoever the artiste, and whatever the calibre, he or she’ll be lustily cheered… Alas we noted that the average audience age today definitely exceeds 60, and to our eyes YT @ 62, together with Missus, appeared to be the babies of the gathering! The country’s demographic dividend is not for Indian Classical it seems, if even Pune is like that…
The most interesting feature of the crowd was that 80 % comprised ladies and only 20% would be men. There is something about Maharashtrian women. The programme was free, passes dispensed by a music shop opposite the hall. Bet everybody carried their passes, but there were no attendants to check those passes, seating was free, and at the appointed time, 5 PM, everybody was seated, and curtains went up! The programme lasted three hours, few left early, and once thru, the audience arose and filed out through the various exits silently, no jostling..And yes- the daad was measured, warm and delivered with precision, at the right ‘places’- jaga, they say in Marathi!
We certainly have important ideological issues with Marathi ladies, highly parochial, each of whom sees herself in the image of Jizamata, Chhatrapati Shivaji’s mother or Prabhat, Savarkar’s daughter... But there is something about their doggedness when it comes to the call of duty. And yes, you cannot but generalise here. And thereby hangs this tale which we set out to narrate in the first place...
The Chabiwala-Bank-no-2’s Commercial Branch we headed then used to be the second largest bank branch in the country, with a business of over $ 5 bn, second only to CAG. It is housed in Atlanta building, behind what was then Hotel Oberoi Trident. There are a couple of buildings in between, but the back-side of the ill-fated Hotel is visible from Atlanta through the gaps between buildings.
By the time the attacks started on 26th November 2008, we were home, unaware of the unfolding tragedy. By nightfall, the entire Nariman Point area was under curfew. We got a call from the Bank’s MD, anxious about the safety and welfare of our men and women, some 70 in number. We were admonished against going anywhere near our bank the next day, for the attackers were targeting various buildings in the area, or could spill into Atlanta on the run. At 10 on the 27th morning, the bank guard placed on the premises called us in a state of disbelief. Five ladies, all Bombayites working in the Service branch attached to the Commercial branch, had reported on duty. One of the old girls took the phone and we were told about their journey in delightfully deserted locals from far-away places like Panvel and Dahisar. After mutual consultation they had concluded that though South Mumbai was closed, the rest of Mumbai was not, and upcountry clients of branches will find their funds stuck, unless we somehow open. How had they beaten the curfew? Mamas were very understanding, we were told. Besides though one lane girdling the building, Vinay Shah Lane was curfew bound, the other cross lane Jamnalal Bajaj was not, and they entered through the wicket gate! We would never have called you up but for a little fly in the ointment. Vehicles are not plying here and we cannot walk down to the RBI Clearing House 5 km away, so you are requested to kindly make it convenient to come to the branch in bank car, speak to the law and order machinery and arrange for curfew passes. Blah…blah…blah…We were so embarrassed, we called up our driver Gopalan and the commands of the doughty ladies were complied with. So there was no holiday for YT but the terrorists’ evil designs upon Mumbai’s economy were properly foiled by the ladies… In the bargain we got a ring-side view of Trident, for all day there was nothing to do but to stare at those flames emerging from windows, occasional terror-stricken faces, and to listen to the rat-a-tat of machine guns …The snaps are there on our cell-phone, but cannot be published for reasons of national security…joking he, he, he…they’re too hazy. But here are three snaps displayed on Aajtak on 26th night. They are supposed to be of the same scene- shooting of the CST attackers near Girgaum chowpatty- voila! same place, same time, two scenarios! They have been cited by independent Human Right agencies as evidence that police rearranged scenes in order to foist the fiction that one of the attackers (Kasab) was caught alive, after announcing for hours that all had been killed! Allegedly, Kasab, a ‘stock terrorist’, was loaned to us by Nepal for purpose of national catharsis, which would never have been achieved without the hanging of a Muslim, anyone will do…If you remember that story Andher Nagari Chaupat Raja: a man- a bearded man in the Indian context- is to be hanged. The MHA reports to the King that the man is too tall for the gallows- the noose doesn’t strangulate. Idiots says the King- catch a shorter bearded one and hang him…!
|SEEING NOT BELIEVING, SAYS AAJTAK: SAME SPOT, TWO PICTURES, COURTESY MUMBAI POLICE: THE SNAPS ARE OF THE SAME SPOT, TAKEN FROM TWO POINTS 90 DEG APART: THE LINE AND SHOES ARE COMMON|
|AAJTAK BOSS'S PRESENCE IN MUMBAI ON 26-11 MATTERED TO AUTHORITIES: PYGMY PRESSMEN|
|KITNE AADMI THE RE AAJTAK ?|
Congress was in power, by the way, but IB is said to be long infiltrated by men in khaki shorts! Congress or Jan Sangh- Gandhi or Golwalkar- they are all the same when it comes to mis-educating the generations. Whoever bats for a group smaller than humanity- be it cultural or national identities- Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, or religious- Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians- ideological- Communists or the Klan, businesses, linguistic asmita-licencees, sanskritis, hobbits, drones- he or she wittingly or unwittingly bats for arms dealers, corrupt politicians, crazy Generals, influence peddlers, drug-lords …in short, enemies of humanity…and deserves to be certified…Unfortunately, in India, an asylum for the sane would go empty (apologies, G.B Shaw)!
*Mainatai is a uniquely Marathi first name and vice-versa!
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*Mainatai is a uniquely Marathi first name and vice-versa!