As I continued to pick what I felt were Appa’s absolute favourites that should be showcased and celebrated as immortal and evergreen musical achievements, my sisters too chimed in. What started as an attempt to bring Appa’s music to all of my readers turned into an amazing conversation between the five of us when we recalled the smallest to the most significant memories associated with music and Appa. The list of his favourites kept growing and I had to resist turning this into a mini novel of musical delights!
I struggled to stay focused and bring to you only the most special of his collection. And what a collection it was! Audio tapes, records and in later days CDs that filled shelf after shelf to overflowing.
All our mornings inevitably began with some or the other spiritual collection of songs, as is the case in most households of my culture. It never quite translated for me into how much a part of me these songs and chants became until I realised I could sing along like a reflex action and chant most of the chants in sync with the wonderful singers.
Evenings and weekends were the time for nostalgia, olden goldies and listening to Appa singing along to some of his favourites.
So on to my last batch of Appa’s absolute favourites!
After Suraiya, Appa loved to listen to Noor Jehan’s voice. I recall we had a record of one movie of Noor Jehan in particular called “Anmol Ghadi” which was released in 1946. It is a testament to how many times I would have heard that record end to end during my childhood that to this day I remember every single song of that movie and all of us sisters can sing almost every stanza of these songs. It was that era in the movie industry where most actors were also accomplished singers and sang their own songs. Noor Jehan was one such versatile personality.
I still recall the first song of the album. It began with a very upbeat song about love and the joy it brings to one’s life. That song was “Jawan Hai Mohabbat“. What I remember most was this unique jig Appa used to do whenever he heard a song that uplifted his spirits and made him happy. It was a sure shot indicator of his good mood! One that I used to look for, if I wanted his permission for something. This song made Appa dance his jig!
Appa once told me that when he was small, advertisement posters for movies used to boast of the number of songs the movie had. It was a big selling point for the movie and Anmol Ghadi was no less in this respect. The movie has a total of 12 songs of all moods and sung by a range of singers. I am focusing only on the ones Noor Jehan sang.
The next song I recall from this album is a sad one and is a duet that highlights the sadness around two lovers who are separated and cannot meet. “Awaaz De Kahan Hai” along with most songs of this movie touches that corner in your heart which holds memories of your own bereavement, loss and parting.
Another beautiful song from this movie that Noor Jehan sang was “Mere Bachpan Ke Saathi“. It is a very sweet song that implores a childhood companion not to forget her.
The last song I would like to share of Noor Jehan is also a sad one. This time her dialog is with God Himself, asking Him what he gained by ruining her hopes and dreams. “Kya Mil Gaya Bhagwan” is also a memorable song to listen to. All the songs of this movie are not only a musical treat, but the lyrics are deep and stay with you forever.
Moving on from the nostalgic memories that Noor Jehan evoked, the yesteryears also had an actress who was known for the beauty of her eyes. Nimmi’s eyes spoke before she delivered her dialogues. Appa loved her eyes all the more because he often said it reminded him of Amma’s eyes. Yes, Appa was a die-hard romantic and he was never bashful around us when it came to this.
A couple of songs of Nimmi come to mind when I think of Appa’s fascination with her. Both are from her super-hit movie “Udan Khatola”. The first song that comes to mind was beautifully upbeat and shows Nimmi and her girlfriends out on a horse riding trip when they spot a plane in the sky and begin to send greetings to the passengers on the plane in song form. “Dil Ka Salaam Le Ja” shows women horse-riding effortlessly, full of energy and enthusiasm and is guaranteed to put a spring in your step when you listen to it!
In the same movie, there is a more gentle and mellow song, also pictured with Nimmi singing while rowing a boat. “More Saiyanji” is a lovely song set on a gentle river, and the singer’s tone almost matches the peaceful setting.
But there is one incident that is uppermost in my mind which highlights Appa’s deep love for music like no other. It happened in December 2009 when Appa was on the last leg of his battle with cancer.
On that fateful night, Appa wouldn’t respond to voice or touch and we feared the worst. The doctor came and gently told us he was slipping into a coma. All throughout his battle with cancer, if there was one thing he would always tell his doctor at the end of almost every appointment, it was “Doctor, I don’t want to go into a coma”.
We had to do something. This was one eventuality that, in Appa’s mind anyway, was not in the cards. We did something that my words possibly cannot describe adequately enough to do justice to the collective energy of that moment, but I’ll try.
All of us, Amma included, stood around Appa’s bed and to the doctor’s utter shock began to sing “Tu Mera Chand Main Teri Chandni” in one voice. At different points in the song, one or the other of us broke down, the sight of Appa not responding and the emotions associated with the song assailing us from all directions. When this happened, the others picked up the words and we made sure the song was sung with no breaks in rhythm or words, just like Appa would have sung it.
The doctor began to look at us sympathetically, she had been through this with her own father and didn’t expect a song, however well-intended, to really bring anyone back from that point where the body had decided to shut down in a moment of self-preservation.
She was proved wrong in a few minutes. Appa’s eyes opened and he returned back to us for a few more months with his faculties intact for the most part.
That incident sums up for me more than anything else how much Appa loved music.