Doing Something Different This Baisakhi

This coming Saturday, 14th April, is Baisakhi Day. It’s a great occasion for the Sikhs, especially farmers who offer gratitude for the harvest and pray for a bright tomorrow. Baisakhi also sings Happy Birthday to the Khalsa faith, which was born way back in 1699. This is a family of soldier-saints from the Sikh faith, which itself was started much earlier, in the 16th century.

On this day, many places witness a prabhat-pheri, which is a morning procession of believers walking through the streets and singing hymns from the holy book, Granth Sahib. These singers typically go with thoughts like, “Tujh bin koi naahi, waheguru, waheguru, waheguru” (there is no one but you, wonderful Lord) and ”Tera keeta jaato naahin” (I have not appreciated your blessings). The lead singer reads from the holy book he carries along, and the others repeat in keertan style, ie shared recitation of a religious thought. For all this, they carry a couple of basic microphones and several percussion instruments: cymbals, chimtas, kartals, a dholak strung around the neck, with some beaters and rattles. Everyone joins in.

My friend from Mumbai, Sardar Manjit Singh Kalsi has for decades been part of such early morning devotional processions, and will be doing the same this year too. He also loves cinema, which is what binds me to him, and he informs me that later in the evening he will be thinking of wrestler and actor Dara Singh, though not for his work in cinema or in the wrestling arena. For the evening event, he has invited me too. We will look at the Dara Singh part later, including why I have politely declined the invite, but for now let’s get a bit reacquainted with some of the Sikhs who did a good deal of work in Hindi films. Since there have been so many of them, and we don’t have space here, we’ll just look at the main names in a hurry. And we will make this a flying visit over a couple of their songs only, so that they appear on a common musical platform here, regardless of whether they faced the camera, wrote the song, composed it, sang it, or filmed it.

  • Dara Singh, actor: Dil hai hamaara phool se naazuk (with Kamran in Faulaad, 1963), and Sooni-sooni lag rahi hai zindagi tere baghair (with Meenakshi in Chaalbaaz, 1969)
  • Dharmendra, actor: Aapke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai (Bahaaren Phir Bhi Ayengi, 1966), and Bahaaron ne mera chaman loot kar (Devar, 1966)
  • Geeta Bali (Harkeertan Kaur), actress: Dil dhadke nazar sharmaaye to samjho pyaar ho gaya (Albela, 1951), and Hum pyaar mein jalne waalon ko chain kahaan (Jailor, 1958) 
  • GS Kohli, composer: Pyaar ki raah dikha duniya ko (Lambe Haath, 1960), and Agar main poochhoon jawaab doge (Shikaari, 1963)
  • Gulzar, lyricist, filmmaker: Mora gora ang lai le (Bandini, 1963), and Tum aa gaye ho noor aa gaya hai (Aandhi, 1975)
  • HS Rawail (Harnam Singh Rawail), filmmaker: Ye nayi nayi preet hai (Pocket Maar, 1956), and Aye husn zara jaag tujhe ishq jagaaye (Mere Mehboob, 1963)
  • Jagjit Kaur, singer: Tum apna ranj-o-gham (Shagun, 1964), and Kaahe ko byaahe bides (Umrao Jaan, 1981)
  • Jagjit Singh, singer, composer: Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho (Arth, 1983), and Hosh waalon ko khabar kya (Sarfarosh, 1999)
  • Kabir Bedi, actor: Jab bhi ye dil udaas hota hai (with Simi in Seema, 1971), and Waqt thoda sa abhi kuchh aur guzar jaane de (with Simi in Seema)
  • Kuldip Kaur, actress: Gore-gore o baanke chhore (with Nalini Jaywant in Samadhi, 1950), and Abhi to main jawaan hoon (Afsana, 1951)
  • Neetu Singh, actress: Ek main aur ek tu (with Rishi Kapoor in Khel Khel Mein, 1975), and Hum banjaaron ki baat mat poochho ji (with Jeetendra in Dharam Veer, 1977)
  • Poonam Dhillon, actress: Aye saagar ki lehro (with Sunny Deol in Samundar, 1986), and Door naheen ja sakti tujhse (Hisaab Khoon Ka, 1989)
  • Rajinder Singh Bedi, writer, filmmaker: Ye bahaaron ka sama chaand taaron ka sama (Milap, 1955), and Toote hue khwaabon ne humko ye sikhaaya hai (Madhumati, 1958)
  • S Mohinder (Mohinder Singh Sarna), composer: Tera kaam hai jalna parwaane (Paapi, 1953), and Guzra hua zamaana aata naheen dubaara (Shirin Farhad, 1956)
  • Sardul Kawatra, composer: Pyaar bhi aata hai kabhi gussa bhi aata hai (Goonj, 1952), and Tabiyat theek thi aur dil bhi beqaraar na tha (Mirza Saheban, 1957)
  • Simi Garewal, actress: Ye kaun aaya roshan ho gayi mehfil kiske naam se (Saathi, 1968), and Teetar ke do aage teetar (Mera Naam Joker, 1970)
  • Uttam Singh, instrumentalist, arranger and composer: Are re are ye kya hua (Dil To Paagal Hai, 1997), and Main nikla gaddi leke (Gadar, 2001)

You may perhaps know that Baisakhi goes hand in hand with the folk dance bhangra, but there is no bhangra song in the list above. This is because the idea was to go away from the predictable, to see other cultural dimensions of the Sikhs here, even if we did so on Baisakhi day. This thought was sparked by the Dara Singh invite I declined, an event that has nothing to do with Dara Singh’s turf, ie, acting and wrestling. As many of us know, the man was also known for his voracious appetite, like a dozen eggs and two chickens and several glasses of milk in a single morning session, all of which he needed to keep his metabolism going, what with his workouts and all. Consistent with the late hero’s polyphagous reputation, an inventive Sardarji from Mumbai has started offering a huge vegetarian and non-vegetarian platter for lunch and dinner. Called the Dara Singh Thali, the platter is there to be eaten in his restaurants called Mini Punjab in Powai and Thane. The thali contains 40 different items: half a dozen non-veg dishes, 15 large bowls of dals and vegetables, soup, curds, kachumbar, papads, pickles, biryani, with a spread of 7 large rotis and parathas. It also contains 6 desserts. Still have room? They give you a few glasses of coolers to drink. If after all this, you still have room, you can wash things down with the 9” glass of lassi. You pay Rs 1154 including taxes for this meal, and they let up to four people eat out of it. If however, you can finish eating it alone, you pay nothing. Apparently, no one has been able to do that yet.

As for why I’m not going, it’s because it is said people in that restaurant look at newbies in an amused fashion. Everyone does go for the challenge too, in an “us-versus-the-platter” kind of way, and they end up seeing others get delighted to see them lose this battle. Worse, when people eat like gluttons, they lower their sense of self-esteem. This is not the kind of thali people eat. It’s the kind of platter that eats people.


Featured image on top: Gulzar wearing a turban

Originally published on page 13 in DNA Jaipur 8 April 2018

10 thoughts on “Doing Something Different This Baisakhi

  1. Sardar dilwale.. Appetite wale bhi. A great article on them and their contribution to Hindi films. Was wondering about Jaspinder Narula. She’s a cousin of a local. I heard her in Ottawa before she migrated to HFM.

    As for the Dara Singh Thali, dikha ke hi dara diya. I wonder what are the items therein, would help plan a month full of menus!

    Super compilation, as usual!

    1. Ha ha ha, Dara Singh ne Dara Diya 🙂
      I loved Jaspinder Nirula, but she passed through our musical skies too early…wonder she’s doing these days…

  2. Balle! Balle! Manekji. For a typical Southie like me, the image of a typical Sardarji has always been awesome and larger than life. Large-hearted souls, most of ‘em, with larger appetities for food, life, drinks and any celebration, in whatever order. Just watching a bhangra in motion, revives the zest for life. Whether endearments or expletives, they are delightfully liberal with their expressions. I knew one who would use both simultaneously while giving a crushing bear-hug. I think Gulzar is too soft and subtle to be a Sardarji. I was actually surprised to learn that he is one. Dara Singh with his two-dozen eggs and two chickens diet seems to be more befitting. As for the giant platter, it scares me. An average underweight Southie like me can survive with it for a complete month. Anyway, your platter of artistes and songs was quite filling and delectable. Still if there is space for a red chilli, you may include Amrita Singh (‘Betaab’-waali)

    1. Nathan, I was doing a double take during this read. What a sense of humour you are blessed with! “Whether endearments or expletives, they are delightfully liberal with their expressions. I knew one who would use both simultaneously while giving a crushing bear-hug. ” 🙂

      But guess what, you scan everything so well, but you too, like me, overlooked Bhupinder Singh, singer and musician 🙂 Will add him soon…

  3. Amazing write up Manek ji!!
    That thaali looks so tempting and Punjabi lassi certainly sounds yum ?
    Would love to add more artists to the list – Singer Jaspal Singh, Dilraj Kaur and ace guitarist Charanjit Singh.
    Of course in the newer lot we have Daler Mehndi, Mika Singh and Diljit Dosanjh!!

    1. Yes, all valid names, Deepa, and both of us forgot Bhupinder Singh! In fact, no one remembered him here 🙂 Will add him soon..meantime, thanks for liking the essay _()_ And also, you are the kind that won’t touch that thali…if I know you well 🙂

  4. Wasn’t there a singer called Surinder Kaur,Manek Premchand?
    The platter eat us part was hilarious.

    1. Sure PC, in fact she was the sister of a very dear friend’s mother, Mohinder Kaur. Surinder Kaur did sing a few nice songs, mainly in the late 40s and early 50s. “Badnaam na ho jaaye muhabbat ka fasaana” is a famous song of hers, from Shaheed…but not enough corpus of great work, I thought…

  5. Unrelated to your blog today,I posted about the Mini-Punjab Restaurant = Dara Singh Thali, with a YouTube link of the fare they serve. As you have already said that , you won’t be able to mention all the names from the Sikh community ,I have no grouse of you omitting the name of Jagjit Kaur [ wife of Khayyam] who sang the immortal song = tum apana ranj-o-gam, apani pareshani mujhe de do
    tumhe gam ki qasam, is dil ki virani mujhe de do

    1. Oh Dilip, I feel like kicking myself! How could I write down her name, and then forget it in the story? Making amends now, editing…thanks mate 🙂

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