Saturday, July 26, 2008
They touched our soul
We were invited by Jayendra Shah to perform on stage with him in Baroda last night (Saturday) to pay tribute to legendary Hindi playback singer Late Mohammed Rafi. Four of us - Manohar Vaidya, Yogesh Bhatt, Devansh (the ten-year-old youngest member of the Harmonica Club) and I reached Baroda at around 6.30 p.m. It was Yogesh Bhatt's birthday too and so his wife and daughter were accompanying him. While Devansh had his parents with him.
We had decided to meet at the Bandstand of Kamati Baug, the central park in Baroda, where we had performed last month. On our arrival, Amjad Khan Pathan, popularly known as Babubhai, Chavan Sahab, Roopesh, Arvind Kumar and a few other players from Baroda soon arrived. They had brought some hot dal wada and cold drinking water for us. Apurva Bhatt arrived soon. He had come straight from his office on learning about our arrival.
While we were having the snacks, news arrived of the serial bomb blasts in Ahmedabad. It was shocking - 17 blasts within just about half an hour all across the Eastern Ahmedabad, killing 30 and injuring hundreds others. Baroda too is known as a communally sensitive city. We were in an utter state of confusion, not knowing if the evening's programme was still on or had been canceled.
"Not to worry, everything is going to be OK. Let's all play the song - Jahan Daal Daal Par Sone Ki Chidiya Karti Hai Basera, Yeh Bharat Desh Hai Mera," said Apurva Bhatt. Amjad, Roopesh and Chavan took the cue and began playing the song. A small crowd gathered and listened to them in rapt attention.
We, from Ahmedabad, were getting calls from our friends and relatives giving us accounts of the mayhem in the city. We were discussing whether to spend the night in Baroda or return to Ahmedabad. I being a journalist and Yogesh Bhatt being a senior member of the judiciary could easily get accommodation in the government circuit house.
"All of you please stay with me at my home. We have plenty of space to accommodate all of you," said Amjad Khan Pathan. "Though my place is small and is located in a troubl-prone locality, you all can stay with me too," said Apurva Bhatt. Manish Vaidya, a photographer with the Press Trust of India, too reassured us that we will be safe with him at his home.
We were still not sure if the evening's programme would be held, the town hall, where it was to be held, being close to the densely populated and violence-prone walled city. "The life around the town hall is absolutely normal. The programme will happen. Let's all go to the hall," said Apurva Bhatt.
We had about 2 hours before the program was to start and wanted to utilize the time in practising the songs we had chosen to play. We began practising in the green room of the hall, behind the stage. We were lucky to have the able guidance of Apurva Bhatt, who is an accomplished harmonica player. He immediately spotted the flaws and corrected us. This helped us gain confidence and we were all ready for the show.
The star performer was singer Jayendra Shah who sang all-time favourite songs of Mohammed Rafi. The harmonica players were to present songs between his numbers. The hall, with a capacity to seat over 500 people, was nearly full. The audience comprised of the elite of Baroda city - the mayor and two MLAs and some senior administrative officers being the main guests.
After a few songs rendered by Jayendra Shah, the turn of harmonica players came. The first performance was that by Manohar Vaidya and Yogesh Bhatt. They were greeted with a thunderous applause from the audience as soon as the first few notes of the classic 'Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki, Na Jaane Tum Kab Aoge' were played by Manohar Vaidya. For Yogesh Bhatt, this was his first ever experience on the stage and was obviously very nervous.
However, his nervousness did not get reflected in his performance which turned out to be excellent as was evident from the tumultous applause from the audience. Several people from the audience came backstage to greet them. Even the singers congratulated them for their grand performance.
Even while we were all looking forward to a wonderful evening, a posse of policemen arrived backstage to inform the organizers of the police commissioner's order to stop the function immediately in view of the tense situation prevailing in the city in the wake of the serial bomb blasts. And, the evening had to be wound up abruptly.
None of the players from Baroda was willing to let us return to Ahmedabad and insisted we spend the night at their place. However, we decided to return to Ahmedabad after we were reassured by some journalists that it was safe to travel.