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A wonderblast of a war conch

If this were a blog, I’d share the Youtube link for a mind-blowing ‘Mian ke Malhar’ from a long ago baithak in Pune by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

art and culture Updated: Jan 30, 2011 00:45 IST
Renuka Narayanan

If this were a blog, I’d share the Youtube link for a mind-blowing ‘Mian ke Malhar’ from a long ago baithak in Pune by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. It’s like this really grand lion roaring. Imagine an 11-year-old boy running away from home to be a singer just because he heard a thumri by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. In that lion’s roar and all the hours of slog that produced its excellence is the drop dead romance of existence, the love of an idea, the mad, glad poetry of life.

Hopelessly impractical? But that’s how projects happen, right from that gleam in Bapu’s eye that we just celebrated this week as our 61st Republic Day.

Actually, to win the love of our battered but stubbornly-idealistic-underneath Indian people is not easy for anybody given how cynical we’ve got with the corruption and violence in our society. Perhaps that’s why when we see someone or something of some quality we love them to bits. Makes you think of that old trumpet blast from advertising: of “delivering to the Indian heart.”

Our (otherwise chicken-livered) heart seems to have a noticeable soft corner for risk takers, for the jaanbaaz, like Sehwag and the dil-phenk, like all the brave souls in Bollywood or even, at an everyday level, the neighbour or colleague who calls the stranger home.

A rich term for risk-taking is “emotional courage,” which reminds you rather of the BG, I mean the Bhagavad Gita and the first and forever-famous Bhimsen (“There is no charge for being awesome,” like Kungfu Panda might say for him).

So there they are in BG, Chapter 1 and Sanjay’s doing a great job as King Dhrit’s OBC van when suddenly the ambient sound is taken over by a master blast of Pandava war conches in Verse 15 (gives me goosebumps): panchajanyam hrsikeso/ devadattam dhananjaya/paundram dadhmau maha-sankham/bhima karma vrkodarah.

Meaning, “Then, Sri Krishna (Hrishikesa) blew His conch, the Panchajanya; Arjuna (Dhananjaya) blew his, the Devadatta; and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of gigantic tasks, blew his great war conch, the Paundram.”

The conches blow to stir up the Pandava army for the fight they have to throw their hearts into and across. Kurukshetra is supposed to be an analogy for life: who’d imagine a thumri could work like a war conch and trigger a dil-phenk of such consequence like Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi? Isn’t life amazing?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture