My parents never woke us up for school by calling out to us or shaking us awake. My father would turn on the record player on high volume and let the song do it's job. More often than not, the song would be "Mora Gora Ang Lai Le" from Bandini. Though I did not know it then, it was my first introduction to Gulzar. As I grew up I hummed and sang many of his songs without realising that they belonged to him. It was not until 1988 when I actually heard his voice on TV for the opening of the series "Mirza Ghalib" that I became aware of his existence and how! It was because of the desire to understand what the man was saying that I started reading Ghalib and was drawn into the world of Urdu poetry. And thus began the love affair with Gulzar.
Last week, my friend Riya, who loves me enough to write an entire blog post on me and is a hot-shot with Radio Mirchi(Something-Something Vice President) came down to Bombay to interview Gulzar for his birthday, which is of course, today - 18th of August. I decided to tag along for which she got permission but she very categorically told me that as far as taking pictures was concerned, I was on my own. So I took the smallest camera I own, slapped on the smallest lens and generally practiced looking small in the mirror and reached Gulzar Saab's place hoping that he would not notice me and my camera. But I think, my name gave me away and his eyes lit up with recognition and he recalled having met me some 11 years back when I landed up at his place to pick up the same friend, Riya, directly from a hair cutting salon. My appearance would have probably left a lot to be desired because the first thing he had done then was to hand me a brand new t-shirt after greeting me. I had sure made an impression!
Quickly deciding to put an end to my own misery, I blurted out my intention of taking pictures of him while he was giving the interview, half-expecting to be handed a pair of trousers this time and thrown out of the house. "He takes wonderful pictures," Riya chimed in at the most appropriate moment proving that 20 years of friendship had not been in vain. He smiled and graciously agreed on the condition that I mail him the pictures. Really? Shoot his pictures and get his email id as well?! Sure.
So the interview began in earnest and in the space between the questions and answers I started shooting. Coffee and biscuits were served as Gulzaar Saab talked about the influences in his life and I hung on to every word.
Could it get any better? Apparently it could. Somewhere along the interview and me taking pictures, happily munching biscuits and sipping coffee - he decided to crack a joke and mention me by name.
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I sat there stunned because I had least expected it. It's just one of those things that you never think will happen in a million years. The very voice that had introduced me to Mirza Ghalib, Jagjit Singh and RD Burman, the very voice that had set me off on such a wonderful journey of music and poetry as a child, the very voice which is perhaps responsible to a large extent for the trajectory my life has taken so far - had suddenly, out of the blue, just called out my name. Happy birthday Gulzar Saab and thank you for the wonderful,wonderful gift!