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Let The Music Begin!

Our Correspondent has developed a fancy for the deafening chant of Bhajans on Mumbai trains. He has declared support to the Shiv Sena, which has declared support for the Bhajan singers. Here's his Ode to Singing In the (T)Rain. The views are strictly those of the writer and have nothing whatsoever to do with Dancewithshadows editorial policy.


In many newspapers, especially The Times of India in Mumbai, it appeared as a small piece of news. The venerable Shiv Sena, our Mumbhai local guardian holding charge of local gods, demi-gods and son-of-the-soil cultures and sub-cultures, declared support for those travelling in local suburban Mumbai trains and spiritualising their journey & others' by chanting Bhajans. I welcome the latest move with a whistle and salute the saffron brigade for making the belated move. 

For those who came in late, in Mumbai suburban trains, especially those blessed enough to travel by the Central and Western divisions of it, exposure to high-decibel Bhajans en route home is as much part of daily routine as the suburban travel itself. (Kindly read related article on Mumbai suburban trains here). There are innumerable groups of motley Bhajan aficionados, who not only pepper their long journey with the audio outpouring, but also insist that the rest of the unwilling co-passengers join them in their spiritual journey. The chant, much like the suburban journey, winds on for hours, with ample aid from Indian-made musical instruments. Recently, the Muslim League moved an application, praying that they should also be allowed to sing Qawwalis on the trains. The Railway Police in Mumbai, the cultural ignoramuses that they are, rejected the application and attempted to blow the whistle on the chant. They issued notices saying - God forbid - that chanting bhajans should not become a public nuisance. 

How audacious! That too from a measly rail hawaldar! Not even the Indian President can pull the chain on the country's vibrant culture and heritage. Those who feel it is a nuisance are free to hire cabs as they wish. (Kindly read related article on Mumbai cabbies here). 

The Sena has decided to get its volunteers - packs of them, as always - to board suburban trains at key points and lend the singers with vocal support. Any hawaldar worth his khaki is welcome to try and disrupt the proceedings. On Day One, Sena members delivered what they promised, lending critical vocal support for the singers on board. 

It is a welcome idea to propitiate our rich divine spectrum and have some fun on the way with Bhajans and Qawwalis. The authorities should be more accommodative of godly ventures in our own 5000-year civilised ways. The vibrancy of Indian culture and its varied means to ensure continuity cannot be gainsaid. The nation, as a whole, must use its collective resources to the fullest to ensure that the tenets of this 5000-yr old civilization are kept alive through suburban locals. In this context, I also have some other suggestions to ensure this heritage thrives untrammeled despite massive conspiracies being hatched by the Congress, secularists, Islamic terrorists and South Indians. 

It is my humble suggestion that not only bhajans, but qawwali, Guru Granth Sahib and Christmas carols must also must be permitted on local trains. We can even think of making reservation coaches like a Hindu coach, an OBC coach, a Christian coach etc. That would be uniquely phenomenal and set an example for the world that we Indians can manage the diversity through unity. Imagine a musical caravan on its jolly jaunt, emitting godly voices of all kinds! 

Hanging outside trains and travelling on footboards must be permitted. This is a uniquely Indian practice, which is not identifiable in any of the more "progressed" western countries. We have a historical responsibility to ensure that we keep this uniqueness alive. Didn't Lord Ganesha ride a little mouse? Did anyone complain of the roadworthiness of such a mode of transport? And didnít Lord Hanuman use athletic means to cross the sub continental waters to reach Ravana's abode? Did either of them meet with any accident? No! Both examples illustrate the strength of Indian heritage vis-ŗ-vis that of the west. Also, remember that Icarus, the Greek charmer failed in his solar expedition on strap-on-wings. 

Railway officials complain that there are several suburban travellers, upholders the country's 5000-yr old wisdom, who use the suburban coaches as a temporary public toilet. This writer once had the privilege to step into an empty train and come across a pile of human excrement on one corner, containing grains of the above-mentioned 5000-year old civilisation. The writer immediately thought about renowned author Guy De Maupassant who ate shit in his last days and Morarji Desai who drank urine. Since both have been intellectual giants much beyond the pedestrian level of a dotcom journalist, I bowed to the cultural wave sweeping the country and found a seat where the wave did not hit my nostrils. How wrong I was! Now I salute the uniquely Bharatiya way of dual purpose technology where a passenger coach can double up as a public toilet. The Americans and Israelis are yet to catch up with us in this tehno-mission and are still fumbling with dual purpose nuclear devices. 

Despite a lot of technological progress in booking rail tickets (here I am mentioning the long-distance trains, not the local ones) there is still a lot of black-market ticketing going on. This must be stopped at the earliest. I have a suggestion - legalise all black ticket sales! The current Union finance minister P Chidambaram legalised a lot of black money in his earlier appearance in North Block with a single wave of the wand. Similarly, once we legalise the black market train ticket sales, the black market no longer exists! This, I believe is a uniquely Indian method of ending a vice.

Playing cards and gambling on trains must be encouraged. It's time to shed the colonial baggage and assert our national identity. Same goes for smoking and drinking too. All of this must be allowed to enliven the dreary suburban journey. As mentioned early in this article, though who feel there is a nuisance issue are free to hire cabs. This is a classic case of the national interest taking precedence over purely personal interests. Didnít the Pandavas and Kouravas drink liquor? Didnít the Devas consume liquor? Didn't Jesus Christ and his disciples drink wine? Didnít Yudhishtir gamble and dispose of his entire country? Are we anymore intelligent than our collective divine pantheon? Then why this hypocrisy of not allowing drinking and gambling on trains? The lawmakers of this vast country must take the initiative to make necessary changes to ensure these can be operationalised soon.

To wind up, let me assert, singing of bhajans in trains is not a crime. Moreover, it is a national duty. The Sainiks are right in supporting this. I also seek their support for making the changes mentioned above. The criticism of singing in trains is born out of an ignorance of our culture, civilisation and heritage. Once we come to terms with our own national identity, we can see that train travel is just a microcosm of the Bharatiya identity, and cannot be wished away by rail hawaldars, with or without khaki. Let the music begin!




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