Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Primal Cry

       "Those who think that there is no connection between corruption in public life, the growing crime in society, the restlessness and discontent in family life, the atmosphere of indiscipline in the studend world, the films depicting amorous dances and songs, the growing admixture of sex and love life, social indifference to vice, in fact the tendency to justify certain trends from half backed authority from some science, or the degeneration of human mind are indeed fortunate. But God has not included me among them. I am unfortunate. I think that all these evil trends in society are branches of the same poison ivy. The fast moving life, making a robot of man, is feeding this ivy"
Do you think this is some octogenarian unable to accept the fast pace of modern India in the 21st century ranting about it? If you did, you are wrong. This is an excerpt from Introduction to Jnanpith award winning book/novel Yayati by V S Khandekar written in 1959(1)!! The original is in marathi, translation by Y P Kulkarni(2) is about 250 pages and is titled 'Yayati; A classic tale of lust'. Well, I didn't find it really as a story of lust. Khandekar’s Yayati is centred around man's longing for the unknown, appeal to the unknown. Khandekar is too kind to King Yayati. Here King Yayati is not totally consumed by his carnal quests. He also wonders, worries about those 'great questions' that sages also worry and do penance to find an answer. While reading it I thought the book is more about Yayati’s Primal cry to fill the vacuum that he feels inside himself but finds it unfillable, because it gets emptied in spite of whatever and howmuchever varied efforts he makes than about his indulgence.
Who does not know about Yayati's story? The story or rather the beginning of the story was part of our non-detail Sanskrit text book in High school(3).
Khandekar's Yayati is quite different from whatever remains of the story I had in my head. I thought King Yayati had too many sons and out of the many, only one accepts 'youth exchange offer' and hence gains the love and also the kingdom. If you want to read about Khandekar’s Yayati you can read it here.
May be it was just a coincidence that I read this novel while in Delhi last week. May be that god-awful city(4) made me interpret King Yayati's profligacy as a cry for release. I don't know. I have never screamed in my life. So I have this fascination for music which kind of echoes my unscreamed scream. Music of Enigma, which apparently used a lot of Gregorian chants, many songs of A R Rahman especially those with a touch of Sufi and several ragas such as  Malkauns, darbari, bhairavi, des and the film songs based on them so touchingly depict man’s inner’s struggle and strife. Whenever somebody says its a primal cry we normally associate it with unrestrained, unfettered tribal scream. But I think its a wrong association. Archimedes' Eureka scream is also primal so is Caesar's proclamation 'veni, vidi, vici'. There was this movie, 'Sur' which got released some years ago, may be a decade, which sort of focused on music. It was a watchable movie. I liked it, not just because it was about a teacher and a student! Two songs from the movie 'jaane kya doond tha hai di' and 'Kabhi shaam dhale' are my favourites and you can count it as examples for the primal cry as well, even though the first song is more of a musing than a cry. 
(1) This makes me wonder whether its the habit of those who cannot indulge, splurge to criticise and put the blame for everything that goes wrong in the world on those who can!
(2) I think its an abridged translation of the original. And its not a good translation, more often than not you feel that its not flowing smoothly, that its forced. 
(3) Now when I think about it, I wonder why it was called non-detailed text. Really it does not make any sense. I have forgotten in which class we had that as our text book but all I remember is, when after the lesson, our teacher told the entire story and asked us what we understood from the story, one of the boys had said one should never offer a right hand to a girl!! 
(4) Delhi has changed said a colleague and urged me to explore New Delhi doubly made new with CWG money. I felt the city looked new but like a woman who looks fresh and younger with the help of botox. One of the images from Delhi of 10 years ago that refuses to go is of a small singing girl (5) who ran after a bus in centre delhi while I was waiting for 522 to take me to Malviyanagar. Those days Delhi had those infamous blue line buses, I guess they are off the roads now. The bus driver slowed down and as soon as that small girl holding ektara and towing another small boy along with her neared the slowing down bus, he pressed the accelerator and fled. The face of that small girl and the conductor who stood grinning on the footboard is still so fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. The girl was stunned for few seconds but without making much fuss merrily returned to the bus-stop. But I was angry and hurt.
(5) Whatever happened to those vagabonds who used to sing popular bollywood songs in buses? May be like Rajiv Gandhi who asked Bangalore Municipality to throw out monkeys for beautifying city for SAARC Summit, Delhi also did away with those singing nomads.

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