Saturday, August 16, 2008

Card games and I

When I was growing up in 1960s and 70s, playing cards were considered bad in many "respectable" circles. In fact playing card games was considered as synonymous with gambling. As a result, I never had any exposure to cards, a nice and properly brought up kid that I was.

I was finally introduced to playing cards in 1980s in my hostel, and the card game that was popular among card players was bridge. Us freshers were given a list containing rules of bridge by our seniors, and we were required to learn them. There were some of us who were already exposed to cards and bridge, and their expertise was much in demand among the other freshers. We would seek these knowledgeable people out and request them to enlighten us. They would condescend to help out, but for a consideration. Their charges were - cad ( cadbury chocolate), double omelette and other such goodies.

Despite the crash course we underwent, there were some who found the rules more difficult to crack than a jigsaw puzzle.They would memorise the bridge rules by rote, without actually understanding them, and hoping that their learning by rote would help them pass muster with the seniors.

And this was not the only thing we were supposed to learn. We were also given the rules of billiards and snooker to learn. But that discussion will have to wait for some other day.

I had great difficulty understanding the concept of suit and colour, bid and trick,deal and trump etc. When I finally managed to have an idea what a suit was, I found myself struggling to remember the terms for them. I had heard of hindi terms like "paan, "eent" "chidi" and "faawda" in my younger days when exposed to such talk by some less reputable school mates. But associating them with their English equivalent terms turned out to be a giant mental step for my limited mental faculties.

Having learnt about suits and colour the hard way, it was the turn to grapple with bidding. We were given the rules of bidding in what was called strong club, semi strong diamond convention, which was suitably amended in house and renamed as CCC. The acronym shall remain unexpanded to public, the hint is that none of the C's stood for cricket.

I was among those who just crammed the rules and managed to pass muster. I never put this "knowledge" to practice.

A few years later, I finally got interested in playing brigde, and I brushed up on the CCC rules once again, and started hobnobbing with bridge players. Initially I would just watch the experts in action from the sidelines, hoping to pick up valuable tips on how to play the game.

After a period of apprenticeship, I was finally offered the chance to be one of the players. Boy, I felt like a debutant Indian cricketer who finally gets selected in the playing XI.

Cards were shuffled ( fentna was the hindi term) and then dealt ( baantna). I got my 13 cards and tried to arrange the cards spreading them into a fan like structure, as I had seen others doing. And I started sweating. The cards seemed to stick to each other and would not come to the V shaped figure that the other participants managed with such ease. Manging to make the cards took like an untidy fanlike shape, with a few cards looking like they would slip off any time, my next worry was to find out what carrds I actually had. All the cards were in left hand i a haphazard way.. Others would bid and I would struggle to make head or tail of my cards.

Keep the cards of one suit together, came the friendly advice. Yes, it was a very good advice, why did not I think of it earlier?

My bidding would often be wrong and my partners, never very patient men, would give me a mouthful of their tongue lashing. In case our team won the bid, my partner would be the active player and I the dummy, literally as well as figuratively, and I had little role in that hand. But in case the opponents won the bid, then I had to be an active player. I would not know which card to play. "You should have played that card, I had such good cards of the other suit to take advantage of, if only you had played that card"- this was a standard criticism I would cop from my partner.

I was always amazed how other players in general, and my partner in particular always knew what card I needed to play, and if our team lost, it was always because of me.

But I was loving the game, and when you love something, you take such pinpricks in your stride.

I began taking interest in the saturday English paper where there was one bridge column and one bridge game would be discussed. I started reading that. I started cutting that clipping every saturday. In fact, I began to look for bridge articles on all news papers and sports magazines. I even bought bridge books when I went to bigger places like say Calcutta or Delhi.

But the published games showed who had what cards, and what cards were left after a few tricks. In real life contests, I as a player had no way of knowing who had what cards. Others appeared to guess the cards of others, and even knew who had what cards left. I could never acquire that ability to visualise the cards.

Once a bridge tournament was held in the hostel, and I too decided to participate. The most dificult part was to find a partner. Seeking a good player as partner When you were not good enough as a bridge player took guts, and it was like an ineligible bachelor going around proposing to eligible girls.Most good players had already formed pairs and I finally managed to convince one person to be my partner.Fortunately he was a decent and a patient man. We managed to do decently well. Of course we did not go too far. I am not aware how we got eliminated. To me we seemed to have done reasonably well.

Cut to present- I no longer play bridge as that needs 4 players and those bridge enthusiasts are now spread over to various parts of the country. But that does not mean I have lost touch with cards. My daughter likes to play cards. She has learnt one card game from my wife ( no idea what it is called) which can be played by any number of players. Here one starts with a card ( say 7 of diamond or 7 of other suits) and every participant has to play the next higher or lower card available with them. The person who disposes off all his cards wins, people left with cards get points depending on cards left with them. Player who has the lowest points after a few rounds wins.

I am not interested in the game, but I am dragged into playing. "We will play only 15 rounds", my daughter assures me.

If I deal the cards, the two would accuse me of giving them bad cards. "I have got two kings", one would say, "and I have got two", another would say, and I could very well see that they were lying because I would have three kings in my hand.

At the end of the 15 rounds, when I invariably finish last, the two have a hearty laugh at my expense. I tell them that the match was fixed, because the two of them were liberally exchanging information about their cards. I also tell them that these card games are like Sharjah cricket tournaments, they were like Pakistan, and I was like India. I would also threaten to pull out of these games like BCCI pulled out from Sharjah tournaments. On rare occasions when I win and one of them finish at the bottom, the loser throws lots of tantrum unlike me, the graceful loser.

Of course, pulling out of these fixed matches has never been a viable option for me, though it is not for want of trying. May be I need to do some introspection why I am so bad in cards- or as they say in cards lingo,Playing cards has never been a strong suit for me.The only way I can finish off their entusiasm for cards is if I start beating them regularly. Just as England's enthusiasm for Twenty20 cricket ended when Yuvraj hit Chris Broad for 6 sixes in an over,I need to hit their card craze for a few sixes.Yes, let me start playing bridge with them.My CCC notes, here I come.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kishore Kumar's sad &serious songs (part I)

He was almost a complete film personality, and if I had my way, I would vote for him as the bollywood star of the millenium.

Kishore Kumar as a comic actor and as singer of light hearted songs is popular not only among older generation, but also among generations who were born after Kishore Kumar had passed away. And it is no small feat for a person who left this world nearly two decades ago.

Like most people, I too was under the impression that Kishore Kumar was mostly a singer of bubbly, happy songs. When it came to sad songs, it is other singers whose names often come to our mind. Kishore Kumar sang just a few sad songs, that is all- it is the commonly held view.

I too subscribed to this view. But when I decided to research Kishore Kumar's sad songs, I was in for a surprise. I kept on discovering songs after sad songs which still have the ability to move the listeners. And the number of such songs is not just a dozen or so, there are many more such songs.

When Kishore Kumar sang happy songs, the listeners felt the joy. When a person of such sunny disposition as Kishore Kumar sang sad songs, he could make his listeners feel the pain. It would seem to me that people who sing great happy songs are capable of singing great sad songs too. It is certainly the case with Kishore Kumar.

Here, I will present a list of Kishore Kumar's sad songs. There are quite a few of them, and I will just present a few of the best such songs.

Song 1
This was perhaps the first sad song sung by Kishore Kumar.Kishore Kumar had a few happy songs as well in this movie, but it is this song that stands out even today.

Dukhi man mere (Funtoosh 1956) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Saahir, MD-S D Burman

Song 2
Jhumroo was a movie in which Kishore Kumar was seen at his versatile best. He was a one man work force in this team. In addition to being an actor and singer, he was even the music director of this movie, and there were very popular happy songs in this movie, but the song that finished higest of them all in Binaca geetmala 1962 final was this song-
Koi humdum na raha (Jhumroo 1962) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Majrooh, MD-Kishore

Song 3
Perhaps one of the gtreatest nostalgic songs of all time
Koi lauta de mere beete huye din (Door gagan ki chaaon mein 1964) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Shailendra, MD-Kishore

Song 4
Awesome song on the topic of spurned love. Superb lyrics penned by Asad Bhopali.

Ajnabi tum jaane pehchaane ( Hum sab ustaad hain 1965 )Singer-Kishore,Lyrics-Asad Bhopali,MD-Laxmikant Pyarelal

Song 5
Wonderful song which finished 6th in Binaca geetmala final of 1964.
Mere mahboob qayamat hogi ( Mr X in Bombay 1964) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Anand Bakshi, MD- Laxmikant Pyarelal

Song 6
This song was sung by Rafi and Kishore separately, and the Kishore version filmed on a character artist became more popular.This song finished 17th in Binaca geetmala final of 1969.
Tum bin jaaoon kahan (Pyar ka mausam 1969)Singer- Kishore( Rafi in other version),Lyrics-Majroh,MD- R D Burman

Song 7
Wo shaam kuch azeeb thi (Khamoshi 1969)Singer-Kishore,Lyrics- Gulzar,MD- Hemant Kumar

Song 8
This philosophical song on life was 21st in Binaca geetmala final of 1970.
Zindagi ka safar (Safar)Singer-Kishore,Lyrics- Indeevar, MD-Kalyanji Anandji

Song 9
Another song that could move its listeners.
Jeewan se bhari teri aankhen (Safar) Singer-Kishore,Lyrics- Indeevar, MD-Kalyanji Anandji

Song 10
Teri duniya se hoke majboor chala (Pavitra paapi 1970)Singer- Kishore,Lyrics-Prem Dhawan,MD- Prem Dhawan

Song 11
Koi hota jisko apna (Mere apne 1971) Singer-Kishore,Lyrics-Gulzar,MD-Salil Chowdhary

Song 12
Geet gaata hoon main gungunata hoon main (Laal Patthar 1971)Singer-Kishore,Lyrics- Dev Kohli, MD-Shankar Jaikishan

Song 13
Khilte hain gul yahan (Sharmili 1971)Singer-Kishore,Lyrics-Neeraj, MD-S D Burman

Song 14
O mere dil ke chain (Mere jeevan sathi 1972) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Majrooh, MD- R D Burman

Song 15
Kiska rasta deke ai dil ai saudaai (Josheela 1973)Singer-Kishore,Lyrics- Sahir,MD- R D Burman

Song 16
Mere dil mein aaj kya hai (daag 1973) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Sahir,MD-Laxmikant Pyarelal

Song 17
Meri bheegi bheegi si (Anamika 1973) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Majrooh, MD- R D Burman

Song 18
Zindagi ke safar me guzar jaate hain jo mukaam (Aap ki kasam 1974)Singer-Kishore,Lyrics- Anand Bakshi,MD- R D Burman

Song 19
Ghungroo ki tarah bajta hi raha hoon main (Chor Machaye Shor 1974) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics-Ravindra Jain, MD-Ravindra Jain

Song 20
Mera jeewan kora kaagaz (Kora kaagaz 1974) Singer-Kishore, Lyrics- M G Hashmat, MD- Kalyanji Anandji

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

My encounters with mice- part I

Dogs, cats, horses etc are animals that mankind have domesticated over the last few thousands years, but mice appear to have moved in with them uninvited, like refugees. And these mice have continued to torment mankind ever since.

Conventional wisdom has it that women are afraid of mice, but men are not. I think this wisdom is not entirely true. I am a male and I was afraid of mice as a young kid. Of course, admitting to it was a different matter altogether.

Women can actually admit to it and demonstrate it when opportunity presented itself, that they were afraid of mice, and everybody would accept it as a matter of course.But a man cannot admit to it without running the risk of being ridiculed.

Well, as I said, I was afraid of mice, but I managed to hide it ( I feel) by putting up a brave face when face to face with a mouse. In case there were other men in the house, they would take care of the mouse.

But there were cases when I was on my own, and I needed to act. I would try to ignore the mouse, hoping that it would go away and leave the house on its own. But it rarely happened. I would try to scare it off, but all that would only cause the mouse to hide behind some articles, only to come out in the open as if to mock me.

When I could no longer ignore it, I would be forced to contemplate strong action ( similar to the strong action that Govt of India threatens to take every time there is some terrorist attack in India).

I would arm myself for the war. I would wear shoes, and full trousers, and also full shirt. The head would be left unguarded, because there was good probability that the mouse would not be able to target that high. Another reason could be that helmets were not yet in use either in cricket or while riding a two wheeler. Incidentally, two wheelers those days meant bicycles, not scooters or motor bikes.

I would also wear gloves ( one could not take any chances) and carry a stick which needed to be atleast 4 feet long.

Suitably armed like this, I would cautiously approach towards the battle field which was the space behind some furniture in the house. I would move the stick in air menacingly, hoping to score a few browny points over the mouse. I would detect no reaction from the opposition. I would hit the floor with my stick in the general direction where the mouse could be hiding. No reaction.

I would move the furniture around hoping to clear the room a bit for freer movement of the arm. Suddenly I would jump in the air in a reflex action, and the mouse would scurry around to the other corner of the room, missing me my millimeters. Despite my nervousness, I would manage to have a glimpse of the mouse vanishing behind books.

That would really make me uncomfortable. Mouse eating off my prized possessions viz magazines ( Chandamama, Lotpot, Nandan, Indrajal comics, Manoj Bal pocket books etc) was something too painful to even imagine. I needed to do something and fast to protect the books.

I would move towards the books gingerly, and hit the stick against the wall, trying to make the mouse run away from the books. I would even leave one corner free offering the mouse free passage to escape. Like Indian government dealing with terrorists, I fully respected the rights of the mouse.

It appeared to me that the mouse was not interested in my generous offer. More than the mouse, it would put me a tight corner, as then I would become obliged to carry out my threat. I would go to the book shelf, and remove some books, and then jump up in the air, startled. There was the mouse, hiding behind that very book.By the time my airborne frame would land back on the ground, the mouse would have run away.

Sigh of relief, the mouse has run away from the house, I would rationalise and start relaxing. My feelings would be mixed. Certainly it was a stalemate. It would have been better had I managed to kill the mouse instead of just scaring it away. But just like the Indian bowlers did not know where from their next wicket was going to come from, I too had no idea how I was going to notch my first kill against a mouse.

Just as I would almost forget all about the mouse, it would reappear again. By that time I was in no doubt that the mouse had sized me up and was regarding me as a pushover. Big mistake, Mr Mouse,one should not underestimate one's opponent. Like the Indian cricketers, the mouse would tend to become complacent. I would aim at the mouse with my stick, and miss it entirely. The mouse would run away, and again hide, this time behind a huge box.

I would go to the box, and push the box against the wall with all my strength, and I would continue to keep pushing for many minutes. No movement from behind the box. I would pull the box away from the wall, and search for the mouse. There is nothing on the floor. There is nothing on the wall either. Where has the mouse gone? Suddenly, I would jump up in air, startled, as I would notice the mouse hiding on the side of the box. The mouse would run away again, and this time behind the books.

This time I would not pause, I would go to the bookshelf and push the thick book under which the mouse had vanished. I would keep pressing it against the wall for some time. Carefully, I would release the pressure, and then remove the book. This time, just as I was on the verge of jumping up again, I would manage to control myself. There it was, the mouse had got squashed between the book and the wall. And it was not merely dead, it was most sincerely dead, as they say in the "Wizard of the oz".

My chest would swell a few inches, and I would feel like Vetaal ( Phantom)feels just after vanquished an army of baddies singlehandedly. This time my feeling would be unalloyed. I managed to kill a mouse. A 'mouse', can you believe it. No one ridicules Atul and gets away with it. The mouse learnt it the hard way, let it be a lesson for other mice of the world. Hopefully, this would send a strong message to the other mice that I was not to be trifled with.

I would feel happy with myself and with the world. I would tear a piece of paper from an old newspaper, and carefully wrap it around the tail of the mouse, ready to run away, in case the mouse miraculously came back to life. Luckily it would not. I would lift the mouse triumphantly by its tail, and pose with it for the benefit of non existent cameras. Then I would go out of the house, and give my body a rotation , like a discuss thrower, and in a discuss thrower's motion, throw the discuss.., I mean the mouse, away. It would only lands a few feet away, but that did not matter. What mattered was that I had finally triumphed against a mouse.

(to be continued....)
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