Yeh raat yeh fizayein

The kids are fidgeting and it’s a hot summer afternoon. I draw the double shades, switch on the AC and let the dark room cool. All the while singing and patting them to sleep. I am running out of songs and I suddenly fall back on an old song that Ma used to sing at parties. Yeh Raat Yeh Fizayein. Like all the songs I grew up hearing my parents sing, I never considered the origin. They were Mama’s or Dada’s song and that’s it. Ma owned this particular song because she has this deep, velvet, smokey voice that makes it richer and more sultry than the original. She slows it down so that you feel each word, each line and have time to let it sink in, unlike the chirpier original. I have a clearer, higher pitched voice that naturally takes away from the warm feeling it evokes when she sings it. Over the years, Dad who doesn’t understand a word just does his bit – plays the guitar and hums along, adding a deep bass to it and the song is now theirs – nothing to do with Rafi or Asha.

Growing up between Rafi on one hand and Black Sabbath on the other, I picked up bits and pieces and one day sang this song in class during a free period. Once in a while a teacher would be absent and the substitute would be from the science section and a complete waste in our commerce section. The easiest way to keep a class shut (we were 94 kids in a section!) was to get one from among us to stand up and entertain. It was almost always me and one day I skipped the contemporary numbers and hesitantly sang this, testing waters and wondering whether this smokey almost seductive number would be acceptable to 80 male and 13 female 17 year olds. It worked. Everyone loved it.

And then we went for the school picnic, playing antakshari all the way in the bus. On the way back I was sitting with the girlfriend of the class umm…. bad boy? And I don’t mean the bad boy in a brooding way. He was rough, brash, big built, barely interested in studies, carried a country pistol to ease his way through things and was at the helm of most of the school violence. She was pretty, slim, had the most beautiful curls, shapely long legs and her laughter was almost musical. Β I don’t know what she saw in him but I am guessing no one figured what I saw in the anti-social geek who only worked out, avoided events such as the school picnic like the plagueΒ and read esoteric literature while the rest of the class struggled with the lone piece of literature that was part of the syllabus for the year.

Anyhow. It was naturally too much to ask of this bad boy to be seated like the rest of the class and he prowled the bus aisle restlessly, a caged lion. It was still a long way home and he growled at me – “You, why don’t you sing the song you sang in class the other day?”

Which one, I say, determined not to let my voice quake in fear. He tells me, I nod, and then I sing.

The OA would probably say the poor singing brought tears to their eyes, but the noisy bus quietened around me and they all listened. And as I sat there, understanding dawned. I was singing this for her – from him. I saw her eyes well up and by the end she was openly sobbing. He turned away and looked out of the bus window, his eyes wet with tears. I didn’t really see what there was to cry about. We were young. A lifetime and so much promise lay ahead of us. We had so much time with the ones we loved. So much we wanted to do.

A couple of days later we had our first board exam and his body was found floating down the Ganga in the early hours of the morning. Gang war, family fight over property, the rumours flew thick and fast. It was the first time in our young lives we’d encountered a violent death and we were all in shock. She walked into class and a deathly silence fell. We all moved away from her. Death is a scary thing and no one wants to be associated with it. Not when your biggest concern that morning was the English Language paper or your un-waxed legs. She broke down and before long all the girls were crying. He may not have been our favourite classmate but the experience was a shocker. And all I could remember was singing for the young lovers barely a week ago and wondering what made them so morose when all I felt around the chosen one was elation. Maybe they had a premonition that it wouldn’t last.

I was talking to some people a few days ago who were talking about frogs in wells and travel. At some level they were right. If you don’t get out of your little well, you don’t see much of the world. But life, it comes to you no matter where you are. There in that small town, living an unremarkable life, those two met intense love, great loss and murder without taking a ticket to anywhere.

Here’s the song, by the way.



55 thoughts on “Yeh raat yeh fizayein

  1. I like the way you start with something and end up on a different note πŸ™‚ When I started reading the post, I thought it would be about babies/your parents but you brought up a totally different thought…

  2. God, you made me go from awwww to “oh no” in those few lines.

    I remember hearing a college friend sing ” Hontho se choolo tum” and bawling like a baby in a room full of college mates post holi festivities. And my friend (the reluctant target of the song really !) glared at me for giving any credibility to the boy for his voice and the way he sang. It’s another matter that my boyfriend ( now hubby) decided to latch on to this and sing it for me and I ended up in tears again – this time laughing till I cried !!! he sings like a besura crow .

    BTW, you should let us listen to your voice ( including the famous childhood one snapping at your lil bro as he bawled in the background – isn’t there one like that ?)

    • minx you’re such a meanie! its funny how some singers and songs do that to you. i remember this boy I was really fond of, singing Kabhi alvida na kehna when I was leaving for college and I was a complete mess. he still cant sing that song without me bursting into tears. the beauty is that we’ve not had to say alvida. the brat and bean love his daughter and years later the next generation have grown to love each other.

      Ps: You mean the “shut up Tambi, no one calling” one”? my mother is going to be so happy to know that someone other than her remembers that incident πŸ˜€

  3. Dear MM,

    you have written it beautifully….I have been meaning to ask this: What should I do to start writing like you??. I will definitely try or At least I will practice my 4 yr old from now to end up like you – seriously! pls let me know

      • You are the best I have seen and so I don’t know about the others who wrote books or whatever they do!!!
        You didn’t answer me though πŸ™‚ . I mean, If I keep reading your posts, will I get there ( to start write like you) or should I go for creative writing classes???

        • LOL! you’re embarrassing me! but I do think if you keep reading the kind of writing you aspire to and practicing your own writing, you will improve. It’s what I hope I do!

  4. “But life, it comes to you no matter where you are. There in that small town, living an unremarkable life, those two met intense love, great loss and murder without taking a ticket to anywhere.” i love these lines.

    Life comes to u no matter where you are: that’s so true.

  5. Sigh….could see it all happening right there. For some reason I had a different song in my head (ye raaten ye mausam, nadi ka kinara…yeh chanchal hawa) when you wrote the words, but I listened to the youtube clip and I can understand how poignant that song would have been to them… beautiful writing πŸ™‚

  6. Oh one can really guess what life has in store for them na…n its trivial things start meaning so much and become significant memories of our life.

    I can’t access the link..have u linked the original song or a recorded version of u singing it ? U know, I LOVE being sung to sleep…used to make my sis sing to me all the time, n once I was a li’l grown up we both used to sing each other to sleep. My ma is too shy to sing n will be so embarrassed when we 3 (dad, sis and I) catch her humming to herself in the kitchen πŸ˜€ The memories u bring MM! Thank You πŸ™‚

  7. “The OA would probably say the poor singing brought tears to their eyes”….come on now, lets not just dismiss this theory outright. I think it explains a lot.
    But its a great story despite that and very evocatively written. Your poor writing brought tears to my eyes πŸ˜‰

  8. Loved this post. Thank you for introducing me to this song. I had a horrid day at work and was trawling the ‘net for songs to listen to before going to sleep . Came here, heard the song on YouTube and loved it. This and Defying Gravity are my lullabies for tonight. πŸ™‚

          • you know Sur that is why I like watching Chinese films. People can wistfully jump off a cliff/ get honor killed by The Master/get married to the shrew while The Beloved is pushing out babies for evil sister and rapacious bro-in-law and then meet for green tea in a mist filled train 20 years later, sigh, and carry on with the revolution.
            I also need a resident copy editor. That dream house I mention in MM’s next post, yes it needs a copy editor too

          • chinese have taken over the consumer world, and now our love stories too?

            i would not mind a cup of green tea though.

  9. Amazing how some songs will always belong to certain people and certain times in our lives. And you are right about every life holding enough of drama right there in itself…just the going-ons in my building in India are like a soap opera.

  10. Very well written piece MM, evocative.
    Brought back a lot of memories for me; losing a classmate in a mindless accident, singing with what I always thought to be a high pitched voice, mom’s lullabies….

  11. This is can say, without hesitation, is my favourite post on this blog that I have been reading for many years.

    Its beautiful how you made rafi, asha, and tragic love stories your own through one song. This is an exquisite short story that you must publish.

  12. This, I can say, without hesitation……. and thats how english is meant to be written said the wren and martin in surabhi’s deep sub conscious to the ‘always in a hurry’ sloppy surabhi

  13. Oh my God. Life does strike you sooner or later. I kind of feel very depressed to think that my kids will have to probably go through heartbreaks sooner than we did. Just want them to remain kids and shelter them from the big bad world. Let them remain innocent as long as they can 😦

  14. Wistful.

    Not something i imagined i’d read on your blog MM. very unlike the general tone of the blog. Very very wistful. makes me think if you want to give it a shot, you wouldnt, you know, like, totally, suck as a short story writer.

    You should do some more of these if you can, third party encounters and peeps into another world and time. this was a beautiful post..

    • I suppose so. Used to do loads on the old blog but now I have less time and I’d rather journal the kids’ growth which is the point of the blog than write about such stuff. I do it if i find the time…

  15. Tugged the strings at the right place..
    Knocked me down to the days when we heard so many unspoken feelings in these lovely lyrics…I still remember the mild shivers, hurried glances and nervous smiles…

  16. Oh my such a beautifully written story. Pulled at the strings of my heart all right.
    Really really love the way you write πŸ™‚ Simple yet striking.
    Life comes to you wherever you are: that’s so true. I still prefer to get out of the house and see it in its various forms.
    Would love it if you could put up a song sung by you, as so many others have already requested. πŸ˜€

    PS: You are so lucky to have been brought up in a family which was so much influenced by music and literature. I would have loved to have that, but sadly, no one in our family is that artistic.

  17. I remember it and was taken back to those days in school.Loved the song though never heard u sing it.Beautifully written!

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