In my last post I missed out on narrating this experience I had in Berlin listening to a Mehdi Hassan song with a Pakistani friend.
I was in Germany for two months last year for a journalism fellowship. Made many friends from many parts of the world. Among them was Bilal, a journalist from Islamabad.
We hit it off from Day One. It was male bonding at its best between two guys from countries divided by a thorny border. We got along so well that his female compatriot, Sehrish, would feel left out sometimes (I hope Sehrish doesn’t read this)!
But we couldn’t help it.
We had made a habit of going out for walks after dinner. It was summer and the German sun set only after 10 pm, which was a little weird for us. But after a while we got used to the sun staring at us the whole day and even at night.
The best part about those walks was we could talk in Hindi/Urdu without having to think about fellow journalists from other countries feeling left out. It was a relief from the constant chatter in English!
When you’ve made friends from across the border the talks inevitably veer towards politics, cricket, Bollywood and if you are a ghazal buff like me — Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali, The emperor and prince of ghazal gayaki.
During one of those walks Bilal asked if I liked ghazals, I said of course that’s all I like. And then he threw the bomb at me, ” Have you heard Mehdi Hassan?”
I didn’t know how to reply that!
Bilal never went anywhere without his i-Pod. If he was not chatting he would have the i-Pod plugged into his ears. But I, for some reason, had assumed that he would be listening to rock or pop or some such music which I understand very little, so never bothered to ask till the day he threw that question at me.
My initial reaction was “what an affront!” but didn’t say that. Just managed to say Mehdi Hassan is my favourite — an understatement if there ever was one.
My Pakistani friend was quite overwhelmed to know that not only I had heard Mehdi but he was also my favourite. As a quid pro quo perhaps Bilal said he loves Jagjit Singh and of course Bollywood.
In that spirit of togetherness, Bilal offered his i-Pod to me and said “Le ye sunn agla gana Mehdi ka hai (Listen to this one it’s Mehdi’s.”
This ghazal is again one of my many favourites sung by the maestro — “Zindagi mein to sabhi pyar kiya karte hain…”.
Instead of me listening to it alone I said let’s share the cords and listen to it together. It was not the semi-classical version I had heard, Bilal said Mehdi sang this for a Pakistani film of the seventies.
That day we walked a lot. Bound by music an Indian and a Pakistani walked through the streets of Berlin listening to a Mehdi Hassan ghazal we both loved.
PS: I am adding the classical version of the song I heard in Berlin. Notice Ghulam Ali sitting in the audience as Mehdi Hassan renders the immortal ghazal.