My father's hurt, accusing voice is haunting me still.
I was braced for the monologue ever since the caller tune of my unlisted phone (yeah the one I CAN switch off at will because the COMPANY doesn't pay for it) crooned "Pappu can't dance saala...!" into his ears.
"Are you kidding me?" were his precise words in that clipped tone I have come to associate with his disapproval of anything "ultra modern".
I can understand where he is coming from, having grown up on Naushad, Aamir Khan saab and Begum Akhtar. Also sometimes Don MacLean and Neil Diamond. So he couldn't care less if Pappu can dance or not. "Wait, it gets better... Pappu ki aankhen light blue, Pappu dikhta angrez hai...." I tried a weak shot at humour.
Oh come on. Its not as if I have loaded "Ho tainu ghodi kinhe chadhaya? Bhootni ke, tainu dulha kinhe banaya? Oye bhootni ke.." as my caller tune. I mean that's worse isn't it?
Lyrics have changed drastically over the last ten years. I remember shocking mom with "aisa bolega.. Saala.. waisa bolega.." when Rangeela was running in our local cinema hall.
"Saala" was a word decent girls from good families just didn't use.
Then came Rajababu and hip thrusts made triple indecent by the dhoti-langoti combination that had my dad gnashing his teeth and banging his tea cup down with unusual violence. Not to mention of course "sarkailo khatiya jaara lage..." featuring heaving bosoms and naughty stuff under blankets on a rickety cot.
Thank Virgin Mary my dad has not heard of Eminem.
"My bum is on your lips, my bum is on your lips"
And if I'm lucky, you might just give it a little kiss
And that's the message that we deliver to little kids
And expect them not to know what a woman's clitoris is
Of course they gonna know what intercourse is
By the time they hit fourth grade
They got the Discovery Channel don't they?"
Dad was quite fond of Amy Winehouse, her drug habit notwithstanding. I was frankly surprised. "She looks so much like Sharmila Tagore, doesn't she?" was his sheepish explanation.
You have to remember that during his days Rajesh Khanna, all dapper with a red scarf around his neck, nodded away to Tagore whose towering bun had men all aflutter. So quite understandably Winehouse with her kohl eyes and messy bun pulled at my dad's heartstrings.
Till he heard "Rehab".
"They’re tryin to make me go to rehab
I said no, no, no
Yes I been black, but when I come back
You wont know, know, know.
I aint got the time,
And if my Daddy thinks im fine,
He’s tried to make me go to rehab,
I wont go, go, go."
I don't know many girls who haven't chorused with "who the FUCK is Alice?" with Smokie's famous number. But I have had to yell the chorus as softly as possible because good girls also didn't say "fuck". Well, in my house at least.
But its all changed now.
The more kick-ass the lyrics is, the better. Which is why I still hum "Akhiyo se goli maarey" (also imitate a gun going off when no one's looking) and "Bhalobasha maaney Archies Gallery" (Love means Archies Gallery) by Bangla rock band Paras Pathor.
My grandma says when she was a kid, singing itself used to be taboo in her house as it was considered a profession of the 'kothewalis'. Then with time, she convinced her father to let her learn Hindustani classical with the solemn vow that she will never perform outside home in front of an audience, let alone make money out of it.
But she is surprisingly modern and game about "Billo Raani". "Its a good song," she declared. When I stared at her round-eyed, she patiently unravelled the song into precise raagas and notations. I was awe-struck. She just smiled and said no song is good or bad, if you know the grammar you see the song clinically.
"Even 'dhak dhak karne laga?"
"Even 'slim shady?'"
"Don't push it."