Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A small `Thank you'...

As the evening sun sets, the temptation to reminisce, to look back on the `good spots’, to count ones blessings overwhelms. There are so many people who have enriched my life beyond measure, people to whom I owe so much, but whom I have never met.  They’ve all passed into the great beyond, and it’s a trifle late in the day for me to say a small `thank you’.. Still, here’s saying it anyway.. 

My lifelong love affair with books and the English language started early. In a world without TV, and even radio to begin with, the printed word provided our only window to the world. And what a world it was – Noddy, the Five Find outers, the Secret Five, Secret Seven, and my “personal favourite, the Adventure series with Jack, Philip, Diana and Kiki the parrot! Boarding school capers, toys that came alive at night, scones, tarts, hot cross buns. One escaped into worlds of fantasy, smuggled torches into quilts after lights out – to read just one more page, one more chapter. Would Fatty outwit Mr Goon yet again, would Mallory Towers punish the Naughtiest Girl, would the golliwog finally make up with the goblins – these were issues that assumed earth shaking ramifications in our young minds. The first, and arguably my deepest debt of gratitude, would go to that wonder woman of children’s fantasy worlds – the one and only Enid Blyton. `Thank you’ sounds so woefully inadequate for all the pleasure you gave us. God bless you, my dear – and your legacy shall survive the grand children of my grand children – thou art truly immortal..

He wasn’t exactly disgruntled, but then he was far from being gruntled either! Only one person could get away with such outrageous syntax – the performing flea of English literature – Pelham Glenvile Wodehouse!   How many times have I fallen off chairs in unbridled mirth at the antics of characters only he could conjure up, and language that only this magician with words could string together. On a visit to the English countryside a few years back, when my niece (herself a Wodehouse fan) asked me where I would like to be taken, my prompt response was “Blandings Castle in Shropshire!”  Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, Lord Emsworth (he drooped over the railing like a wet sock!), Gally, Uncle Fred, and my all time favourite Psmith – they could each have you rolling in the aisles. One has only to witness two Wodehouse fans catching up and roaring in uncontrollable laughter to know what a genius this amiable gent was – what he could do with the English language was sheer magic. If only the world was closer to the one Wodehouse conjured up..

To the lasting chagrin of my parents, I was more inclined towards the arts than to Maths and Science (the fact that I did end up as a Telecom engineer is another matter). I started writing poetry at an early age – the first being a paean of love to my second grade teacher Rose Fernandes. The great poets, therefore, are next on my list of people to whom I owe so much. Robert Frost, WH Auden, Dom Moraes, Shakespeare (I visited his home in Stadford upon Avon), the list is endless. And of course the Urdu greats are even better – Ghalib, Meer, Iqbal, Faiz, Sahir and Kaifi Azmi. I try to translate some of their works, but fall woefully short. I once met the great Neeraj (Karvaan Guzar Gaya) and told him that for one line of his, uss ko sau khoon maaf. He smiled indulgently and asked me which one. `Chah toh nikal saki na, par umar nikal gayi’ I told him.. What would I tell Ghalib if I ever met him – I wonder. How do I thank all of them?

 I call him quite simply the voice of God. And I do so advisedly. There was a fakir in Kotla Sultanpur in Punjab in the early twenties who would roam the streets seeking alms, singing as he did so. A young lad followed him around, fascinated by the bhajan that the fakir was singing. Little did the boy know that one day millions would follow HIM, mesmerised by his voice. That boy was Mohamed Rafi  - and if you listen to Rafi himself narrating this incident (the video is available on Youtube), you will actually feel the transformation that comes into Rafi as he switches from talking to singing the same lines – it is as if God has entered his being! It has been over three decades that world has survived without Rafi, and yet his voice continues to echo in every corner of the planet. 31st July 1980 was a dark day – my God died young. But thankfully, his voice survives – captured in discs, iPods, laptops all over the world. As he crooned “Teri awaaz ki jadugari se, na jaane kis jahaan mein kho gaya hun...



  1. Harish,

    Not time yet for thanksgiving....we continue to enjoy them and we will continue to do so


  2. Yeah, Kelly - but THEY are no longer around to thank, sadly..

    On a train journey from Pune to Delhi some years ago, I ran into a British couple. The guy was reading `Lord of the Rings' - and when he saw the disdainful look I gave the book, I suggested he switch to Enid Blyton instead! And surprise of surprises, the lady turned out to be the grand niece of Enid Blyton herself! I was beside myself with joy, and asked her "Ma'am, can I just hold your hand please?". It's the closest I've come to thanking the great lady.

    Sadly, I am told she was later accused of racism, and her books have now been `amended' to remove all mentions of golliwogs..

    My daughter too is a voracious reader, and like me, she too cut her teeth on Enid Blyton.. So yeah, there's more than I can ever hope to repay by way of debt to Enid Blyton..

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