Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I was talking to a friend a few days back about bhajans. Those small songs in praise of God that we memorised, sang, hummed, and performed – depending on our varied skillsets. The discussion then went on to 'How many songs do you think a Parthi student would know?'

We decided that an average Parthi student should know about 80 bhajans. From the mundane 'Rasavilola Nandalala' to the profound 'Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye' – if you add the shlokas, stotras, songs and bhajans together, 80 would be a decent number, I'd think.

Also, when you think of the fact that it was not simply about memorising the words, but also the tunes – it seems like quite an achievement.

You could also add to the list the number of shlokas, vedas (as they were called), and songs that are a part of every Parthi student's repertoire and you have a veritable bank of prayers and hymns with every student.

Bhajans had lives of their own. For eg, if someone sang a bhajan that no one knew, the more knowledgable ones would nod their heads in appreciation and say, "It's a very old bhajan. Not sung anymore these days."

Some bhajans had a much longer shelf life and elicited an 'ooooh' of response from the audience when they began. Like the tremors of excitement when Ravi would begin 'Mohabbat ki kami dil mein', or the frantic passing of the 'duff' when 'Allah o Akbar, Allah o Akbar' began.

Personally, I remember being heartbroken somewhere around my 8th standard. I had a soft corner for bhajans in Hindi – like 'Sai mera, tu hai sahara', and 'Tere siva prabhu'. In the rare moments when I used to pray (probably because my ass was on the firing line due to some incident), I would sing out these bhajans – wailing and praying, squeezing out every ounce of devotion in my otherwise corrupted heart.

So why was I heartbroken then? News reached us that Swami had asked students not to sing songs that referred to God as 'Tu'. Instead, songs that referred to God as 'Tum' or 'Aap' were to be sung. Of course, it seems like a nothing incident right now. Like Venkatpathy Raju waking up on a Tuesday morning and picking his nose. But back then, it meant a lot to me. I remember thinking about it. Would God really mind if we referred to him as Tu instead of Tum? But my Daivabheeti prevented me from thinking about it any further.

While bhajans were an integral part of our lives, they were more accessible. Almost everyone could sing them, and thus they held second place for me in comparision to songs.

Now songs, were a different matter altogether. You couldn't really sing them without raping them a bit, and hence learning them was a challenge. At least for the few music guys in our class. We would listen to songs, then try to replicate them in corridors, bhajans, and the dark alleys of our minds.

The songs we listened to them also brought with them a hue of moods and memories. Every song had an association with a certain time of the year, or a time of the day. As the song floated towards me through those rectangular black Ahuja speakers in the dormitory, a thousand feelings sprang up and danced with the tunes.

You may forget the tunes, the words, the interludes. But can you really forget a certain feeling?

I can vouch for the fact that you cannot. Everytime you listen to the song, there is a certain flight of emotions inside you. It never changes – lifting you up and transporting you back to the days when a magnet was the most important thing in your life.

So without much ado, get ready for a journey back into time. For best results, play the songs that have been provided above the description, close your eyes for a moment, and then read.

O Sai Maa – by Ajnish Rai

The album O Sai Maa hit us like a storm. Sometime around 1997, the album found a place in the elite selection of cassettes that would be played on the PA system, and I doubt it has been replaced till today.

As the strains of the song begin, there is a general happy feeling that envelopes you.

It's Sunday morning, and the lines to the Prayer Hall have begun. The morning is cruel, and sleep is an elusive golden deer. But there is hope. Of better things to come. As you sleep walk from your bed to the lobby to the bathroom to the Prayer Hall, you know there is hot breakfast waiting for you. Followed by Darshan, and then six hours of absolute freedom.

There is a sea of white in the Prayer Hall, falling over the person in front like waves as the song plays in the background.

The lyrics somehow seemed romantic to me – words like pyar mein hum palte hain, phoolon jaise hum khilte hain – made me feel like a 90's hero serenading a badly dressed heroine on mountain tops. There is a romantic, happy feeling in the heart, that goes on throughout the album. By the time the song is over, you have probably dozed off. To be mildly shaken when the Ashtotram begins, and fully when it's time to go down for breakfast.

Naa Sai Nanu Chera – by Ghantasala

Ghantasala is a legendary playback singer in the Telugu film industry. He had once visited Parthi, hoping for some special attention due to his fame. He got none of it. Heartbroken, he wrote a song whose lyrics said, "My Sai doesn't come towards me."

All the pathos in the song comes through the Ahuja speakers. For some reason, I associate this song with Thursday darshan. Thursday darshans were the anti-thesis of Sunday darshans. It all began when the bhajans started, and the mikes weren't switched on – there was something utterly depressing about it.

Everything about the Thursday morning was the same, and yet nothing was the same. You woke up, had bath, went to the Prayer Hall – the same process. Yet deep within, you knew that after the bhajans, you had to go back. The white would be discarded for the Sky Blue and Navy Blue. You had to go back to your classes, chant the prayers, and go ahead with the drudgery.

The song was a cry of pain, like the Thursday mornings.

To complete the story, later, Ghantasala regretted his pompous attitude and was blessed with blessings. He went on to compose a happy song called 'Enta Hai Enta Hai Eenadu' (Oh! What a joyous today is). Sadly, it did little to change the sombre mood the earlier song brought in. A sense of impending doom. A sad, draggy feeling.

Sankata Mochana Naam Tihaare – by Hari Om Sharan

Hari Om Sharan's 'Hanuman Chalisa' was played at least once a week on the PA system. Right after the epynomous Hanuman Chalisa, this song would come on.

I always imagined the singer was a grandfather who was telling the story of Hanuman to children. He would sing a paragraph and then the chorus would sing, 'Ko Nahi Jaanat Hai Jag Mein Kapi' – Sankata Mochana Naam Tihaare'.

My memories of the song are mixed. Like the cycle of birth and death, happiness and sorrow, the song was a steady fixture throughout my years in the school. Surprisingly, it seemed to shift its mood according to the situation. When there was a Video Show on the day, the song seemed like a joyous tribute to the glory of Hanuman. But if it was a day with two Maths classes and Brinjal Curry, it could suck the happiness out of you.

A reflection of your day ahead, this tune could either haunting or jaunting.

Ya Devi Sarva Bhooteshu – by suspected Black Magician Sitting in Bengal

I don't really know who made that album. As far as I know, it's a common prayer in Bengal, sung during Dussehra. But this definitely had the most impact on me.

Through the Seventh Standard Dormitory windows, you could see Headmistress Aunty sitting in front of the idol, adding fiery red kumkum to the idol in a dark hall. It often sent shivers down my spine. When I was caught in a scandal (which was often), I would often wonder if Aunty would strike down on me with a Trishul, her tongue out like Kali Mata.

A haunting tune, this prayer had further rammifications in our schedules. Even though the song was scary in itself, it's playing heralded the coming of happy times. Dussehra would be followed by Winter Holidays, and then by Birthday Celebrations (with a limp Unit Test in the middle), followed by Sports. In short, a three month long extravaganza that climaxed in the Hill View Stadium.

Memories of the pyre in the Poornachandra Auditorium, with the sages chanting the shlokas. The stage burning a yellowish orange. Of prayers in the mornings and dramas in the evenings. Of happy times lurking behind the scary chants.

Jogging Music

The most glorious music to have touched the ears of homo sapiens.

I could write a book on what the music meant to me.

Five Stones, Rasna, Item Wise Practice, Squares made of chalk powder, the smiling Parvathi statue who could see you wherever you were on the ground, the ma'am behind Parvathi with a deck, waking up late, and sleeping even later, of bath in the dining hall, and practice in the dormitory.

Of new friends found, irrespective of batches. Of new records set in juggling and duff rotating. Of cricket and WWF cards hidden in the pockets. The school dress relegated to oblivion, the Shoe Rack bursting out in the enthusiasm, or probably protesting the stench. Of food in the dining hall at any point of time. Of the lights in the ground at night, the music that would become our life for the next few months.

Of a ribbon stiched along the sides of the pant, of a morning filled with exuberation. Getting ready hours in advance, and putting on the costume. Of waiting for your turn to go in, feeling like the world depends on you, even though you are just a speck in a large formation. Of listening to the music for the last time. Of walking back to the school, listening to the last strains of the music fade out of your mind.


And then the cycle would go on again, the songs, the Ahuja system, the moods, the bonda kadi, the buffalo milk, and the Sunday bhajans.

The Panchhis and the Bhanwre

Long long before the evil world of websites came into our perverse lives, there was imagination. And along with imagination, there were films. 

Now, I don’t know how many of you were allowed to watch films by parents at home, but they were strict no-no. To put it in relative terms, I might have as well asked my folks to get me some cocaine during Parents Meet.

And so I got whatever bit of film music from Superhit Muqabla, Chitrahaar, and the numero uno way to learn new Hindi film songs – Weddings.

You can’t really shut off the sounds coming from a loudspeaker that measures 4.7 on the Ritcher scale. I heard the songs, memorized the lyrics, and began to hum the tune – in my head, of course.

When the song was memorized, it would be used in underground antaksharis back at school. Now that I think of it, my idea of cinema was three-ponged. I would listen to the songs and learn them, would see posters on the roads for the visuals, and listen to the stories from friends for the narrative. 

(Wow! That’s a deep, you’re-not-one-but-three sort of complicated Vedanta concept.)

Using all the three senses together, I created a mental picture of films in my mind (since I had never been to a cinema, and one among the four films I had watched included Hatim Tai).

Over the years, the situation loosened up a fair bit, and I could sneak in glances from here and there – friends’ houses, shops, TV when psychotic family members were around, etc.

And yet, I never understood anything about the birds and the bees.

And let’s face it, films do not do a very good job at revealing stuff to children, either.


Back then, conjugation was enacted by a 5 minute song in Ramoji Film City, followed by a close-up shot of a baby poster in the room. Then, there were the raunchy ones where Raveena Tandon would gyrate in a yellow saree, giving birth to a million sinful thoughts.

Or there would be the pseudo-conjugation scenes were actors would rub noses, breathe into each other’s cheeks, and if you were Balakrishna – do Suryanamaskar on the heroine’s navel.

Which created a disturbingly confusing image in a child’s mind.

What really happens there? I mean, I understand there’s some touching and rubbing involved, but  what do I do if there’s no song playing in the background? And what if it doesn’t rain?

Being among the few people who engaged in the occult, illegal act of reading books, I gathered some information from that source too. But how many truths of life can one learn from Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew? The raunchiest those books would allow themselves to get, was a passionate kiss at the end of a story.

All of this resulted in a gigantic, Namita-sized confusion in my head. And I spent much of the Meditation sessions cutting the Gordian knot – fixing pieces of the jigsaw by my creativity. Creating narratives that made the picture clearer, trying to understand the truths of life. And then standing up, bowing down, and getting the fuck out of the hall when my head was tapped on.

This magical phase of endless possibilities was brutally shattered one night in Sixth Standard. It happened after everyone had been put to bed, the lights had been switched off, and the teachers had left. As we lay awake in bed, listen to a senior tell us of the amazing things he had learnt.

“The man puts his No.1 Place in the woman’s No.1 Place,” he said.


Long after he had gone back to his bed and to sleep, my friend (a man who continually pushes the limits of human perversion to this day) and I stayed up awake.

We discussed and critiqued the outlandish theory that had been suggested to us a few hours ago.

‘Do you think it is possible?’
‘No, eee. I think he’s gassing.’
‘Yeah. Children happen because men tie Mangalsutra around the woman’s neck.’

I thought about it for a while. It made perfect sense. But…
‘What about Muslims?’

‘They have that thing no? Tabeez? You have not seen Azharuddin, aa?’

‘And what about Christians?’

‘They have Cross, na?’

‘Oh yeah…but how do you know all this?’

‘I asked my mother, she told me.’

That sealed it for me. ‘Yeah, you’re right, eee. He is simply gassing.’

We turned, covered our blankets, and went to sleep.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Swami's Grandson

I haven’t posted on this blog since long, and there have been many reasons for this. 

One, I have been busy with my blog, a website I am trying to create, and my feeble attempts at writing a book.

Two, at times, I felt I should write a new post, but one question troubled me: We all hail our school as the best. But doesn’t everyone think the same way? Which led me to think of our school from a third person, neutral standpoint.

Was everything rosy and happy and colourful as I was suggesting in my blog? Certainly not.

When I spoke to a few people about this, they suggested I shouldn’t write about it. They opined that people do not want to remember the bad parts, and that’s why memories are such beautiful things – they document what we want to remember, not what we want to forget.

But I differed. I think we as an audience are mature enough to digest something that is not all happy and colourful. So here goes, this is my first post of dissent.


Our school was no stranger to ‘special boys’. Boys who were given a slight preferential treatment over others. These privileges ranged from an extra vada in breakfast, to the freedom to bunk classes that he was not interested in.

I could perfectly understand foreigners being given a slight preferential treatment when it came to food. It was wrong to expect someone from Europe to devour chitraannam and tomato rasam. I was also fine with some ‘special boys’ who were given special treatment because of their health conditions. Minor benefits like being allowed to bunk marching, sports practice and morning assemblies. Apart from strong envy, I harboured no grudge against these guys.

If there was one group of ‘special boys’ who pissed me off, it was these kids called ‘Swami’s Grandson’.
These guys’ claim to superstardom was the fact that they were born in Swami’s family. Some random chance happening that entitled them to a childhood of special privileges.

We had this guy who was about three years my junior. I won’t reveal his name, but those who studied around the time I did, will have no problems in guessing. This guy was the epitome of what an asshole should be like.

He was stubborn, short tempered, a bully, and was gifted with the brains of a hippopotamus. 

So while we were slogging our asses off under the hot sun for Sports Practice, this guy would be helping himself to snacks and Rasna. And when we would be performing our ‘items’ on the final day, this little clown would go around the stadium on his bicycle, like he was doing a front wheelie on the moon.

This sort of treatment angered me no end. I mean, we were made to believe that we were part of a spiritual, evolved, movement that promised no discrimination and right in front of us was this absolute good for nothing idiot who was being accorded special privileges because he happened to be born into a family.

So why do I have a grudge against this guy? For personal reasons, of course. I once had a fight with the guy, and we both were ‘taken to mam’. I won’t name her, but let it suffice to say that she was one of the more evolved ones, who spoke for hours about god and spirituality in a language that would give Shakespeare a hard-on.

After hearing both our versions of what had happened, she asked me to apologise to the guy. Seeing my shocked expression, this is what she said, “He has done great karma to be born in Swami’s family. What have you done?”

I remember being crestfallen.

But if there was one person the guy couldn’t walk all over, it was my personal hero – Warden Aunty. She hated the guy’s guts. I have seen her shout at him a number of times, and even punch him in his face. A loud, powerful, Warden Aunty special ‘Boom’ on his face. It was satisfying, to say the least.


Now that I think about it, it wasn't the guy’s fault at all. He was made to believe he was special since his birth. He must have realised quite early in his life that he could get away with anything, and so he behaved like the sun shone out of his ass.

I wonder what he is doing now. In all probability, he is a clumsy, social misfit with no real friends. Or may be he has grown up alright.

Be as that may be, the treatment he received in school quite frankly sickened me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 50th Brother

You remember those Sports Days when there would be 'Bike Stunts'?

The Bike Stunts were undoubtedly the most exciting bits in the entire day.

A few weeks before the actual day, rumours about the bike stunts would begin. “You know aa, Ravi Kiran brother is going to jump over 50 brothers, ee?”

The challenge would be jump on a ramp, fly through a ring of fire, and cart across 50 guys lying down on the floor, shoulder to shoulder.

So there would be one dude, with a Royal Enfield, who would revv his bike in the corner of the field.

The commentator would add to the tension in the field. “The rider has to maintain a thin balance between the power of his motorcycle and his own riding skills. Tasks such as these are extremely dangerous and need months of rigorous practice. The sheer danger involved could test the nerves of the bravest souls.....”

The motorcycle would be revving, raising a cloud of brown dust. The audience holding their breath, murmurs of excitement flowing like ripples across the sea of people.

The noise of the motorcycle grows to deafening levels, the cloud of dust revealing a speck of black amidst the brown, and fire is set to the ring.

The guys sleeping in front of the ramp would lie still, the fire would consume the ring, a bright yellow and orange, sending off black smoke into the air.

The motorcycle would shoot forward, zoom towards the ramp, and get the elevation...

For a few seconds, the bike stayed in the air, angled upwards, and continuing to rise, as we stared open mouth...

and then land comfortably on the back wheel, amidst cheer, claps, and ooohs and aaahs. The commentator would orgasm, the roar of approval would grow louder.

The rider would dart off into the mens' gallery, the guys would get up, dust their clothes, and walk away into oblivion.

The rider would then come back to the stage, and was generally presented with a chain or a ring, and would instantly have a lot of female fan following. Which is all good.

But I have often thought, what about that guy, that unknown guy dressed in white who was the last in the line to sleep in front of the bike?

I always felt that he should have been given the prize, for it is difficult to jump across 50 guys on a bike, but it is even tougher to be the 50th guy in the row, waiting for the damn bike to jump across you.

I sometimes wondered how they chose who would be at the end. May be the guy who pissed off the warden the most was awarded that position. May be the guys who behaved well were made to lie down near the ramp, so they could live on, and spread peace and love and humanity in the world. And the guys who pissed the warden off were made to lie at the extreme end, ready to lay their lives down for a good cause.

I don't know. But I still feel the 50th brother should have gotten the ring and the chain!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Today is 16th January. Classes have started again.

Sports are over and all are wearing School Dress only. Assembly just got over, and during Vedas, I was feeling damn sleepy. I felt off clever and all and sat behind the second pillar, but that Spiru bum Sai Kiran complained and aunty pulled me by my ear and made my stand outside in the Old Prayer Hall. That kuchhu is dead, you wait.

Today breakfast was Chitraannam and potato bajji. I slipped off one potato bajji under the mat. It seems in 'that school' they will give tea and coffee for breakfast, I want to go to that school and be in Bike Stunts with Big Brothers. It's really pith you ba, wearing school dress and all again. For one month, all wore home dress. It was damn nice.

But this year Sports was not so nice. Last year was better. There were so many fellows in the audience last year, this year only some fellows came. Plus na, this year, all ma'ams and all were not taking things very seriously and all.

Oojar! I never told that any ma'am told anybody that they are not taking things seriously. But Niranjan's sister who is in 11th standard it seems heard from someone that things are not very serious and all this year. In 3rd na, terrific it was. Full two months holiday we had, for Birthday and Sports. All these muck 1st standard fellows are feeling off much with this year's sports only.

We guys enjoyed only, but not so much.

I was in Dance, this year. The only good thing was that most of the steps were the same from last year, so I was not there in Special Practice group. One 7th standard brother this year got caught playing five stones and Sumati ma'am made him wear a frock and stand in the lobby. So sad for him. One more brother got caught with mobile and it seems aunty told him that he is going to get TC after Sports got over.

It seems Institute brothers are allowed to keep mobiles and laptops and all. This may be true, because now teachers don't tell us anything if we keep cricket cards with us. But WWF cards are still not allowed. And in our class, some Spiru Gurus still don't co-operate.

This year in Sports our class guys starred. Sai Rohit broke the record for juggling. His record was 3534 with three stones, and it seems he had to stop only when Bull Amma entered the dormitory. But I think he just gassed that. Because one more fellow it seems challenged him and he did till 1000 and then flew brrr.

Shubhankar Reddy rotated duff for 2 hours 16 minutes. Now that fellow keeps feeling off.

I learnt handstand this year. Now I am also in the handstand vs headstand fights. We had a lot of handstand vs headstand fights during Item-wise practice.

Nothing much, you ba. In 'that school', brothers are having Games for two hours everyday. I want to go to 'that school' fast.

MSKP Srikanth,
Class V-B

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Courtable Courts

Since nothing has been posted for long, I have recycled something that was on the 'Conventies' group on Orkut (No, I did not have to go to the museum to retrieve it!).

We lived with so many beliefs, stories, and lines that they formed an important part of our growing up years. Presented below are some of the lines that I remember. Please feel free to add your own. Also, if any of you think you have something to post in this blog to keep it from dying, please let me know so I can add you as authors on the blog.

So here comes the list...

1) "Dont talk while I'm writing on the board.i can see u.I've got eyes at the back of my head too"
-Sheshukumari mam, inspiration for the character of "Severus Snape"

2) "Sai Rama....are you a rakshasha?"
-Vimla aunty, if she caught u fighting..

3) "Rascals,jingoists,lying leprechauns,mentally retarded morons,half-wit vagabonds......"
-Anantalakshmi mam, famed author of "Thesaurus of Insults for kids,part-1,2,3.

4) "Go bite......"
-Bull amma, Professional Tyrant.

5) "#*@!&$ *&%!@$"
-Bull amma, if u happened to enter the dorm when she was mopping.

6) "Aaahh...amma,sorry amma,please amma,aaahhhh....."
-You, if u still dared to enter the dorm!!!

7) "Shameless donkey!Go to class 5 and learn 7 table...."
-Manorathi mam, winner of "Best Pincher in the World Award-2006"

8) "I am 75 years old and still I can dance.."
-Tall Viju mam, in 1996

9) "I am 75 years old and still I can dance.."
-Tall Viju mam,in 1998

10) "I am 75 years old and still I can dance.."
-Tall Viju mam, in 2000

11)"Sai Rama......"
-Tulasi amma. (only thing she ever said)

12)"Dont eat chewing gums.They are made of pigs' tails"
-(again) Anantalakshmi mam

13)"..............?.........!.................. ?"
-Valli amma (never heard or understood anything she said"

14)"Dirty boy,talking dirty things?Get out of here,dirty...."
-Uma mam, Runner up in the "Best pincher in the world awards-2006",who always mistook my name to be "Dirty Ranjan"

15)"Amma ledu,Bomma Ledu....."
-Ram Tulasi amma, when u asked her to mix a little cold water in the tub during bath(still dunno what it means)

16)"...Rakshash, Pishachi, Goonda, Jaanvar........."
-Shashi mam, owner of the only garden in the world in which plants grow even they are given more milk than water!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The very first time I entered the school compound, the very first thing I noticed was the huge blue elephant, whose trunk reached the ground. While we were walking towards the building, my sister ran towards it, climbed on it, and slid down. I remember watching in awe!

I was scared of the Elephant. I would walk into the elephant, but was too scared to slide down the other end of its alimentary canal. I would walk into the dark cave, and stand there. Someone had etched the names ‘Sai Gita’ and ‘Sai Kishore’ with stone. I would stare at it. I would say something, and listen to my echo, sounding like the bellowing of a monster from deep within its stomach

I would walk up gingerly to the top of the Elephant’s head and inspect the world from my crow’s nest. The world that looked small and insignificant from my high position...

Then somebody would scream from the back, I’d excuse myself, and climb back down!!

There were two smaller slides to the right of the Elephant. They were humbler, made of metal and would heat up like a tawa in the afternoon. They were much smaller, and so I’d climb them up, and turn back to face the Elephant, like Jack Sparrow facing Kraken. I would sometimes walk under the elephant, looking at its huge, pillar-like legs in awe.

I remember the first time I slid down its trunk. We were in 2nd standard and after dinner, we were asked to go out and play in the ground.

So we went to the ground to play. Being in second standard, my friends had graduated to cooler tricks like sliding down backwards, or without holding the edges of the slide. Loka mam was at the bottom, helping people to stand up once they had reached the base.

Ready to face my demons, I climbed up, stood for a few seconds and slid down. Loka mam clapped, and said “Very Good!”

But she was Loka ma’am. She’d say “Very Good” even if I shrieked and jumped off in fear!

The “Very Good”, however, went a long way in giving me the confidence.

After that day, the Elephant became a friend. I would spend the entire Games Time climbing up from back and sliding down the front.

Through dormitories and corridors, the sight of the Elephant, standing alone in the ground, waiting for kids to slide down its trunk, gave me hope. It reassured me that the classes would end, and there would be Games Times, and fun, and laughter.

When I returned to the school after many years, the Elephant didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. It’s not very big, probably the size of a real elephant.

I wish it grew as well. I wish it still intimidated me. I wish I could climb it up again and scream while sliding down. Over the years, as we grew up, the Elephant was replaced with games like Cricket, Chick-chasing and Age of Empires. But it’s still there.

The Elephant, standing alone under the hot sun, waiting for kids to slide down its trunk.