Monday, October 13, 2008

Cross Border Harmony

video

The man that hath no music in himself,Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;The motions of his spirit are dull as night,And his affections dark as Erebus.Let no such man be trusted.—William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Why let the moment slip away? I asked myself. That's when a visiting member of Tears Ministry, founded by Rev. Lang Do Khup belted out the song “Suahtakna la sa ning” to the congregation in EBC Church, Delhi. That was one of my favorite numbers from the Agape’s, the gospel music band from Myanmar. And that prompted me to peel off my 2-mega-pixel camera phone and capture the moment. That was an absolute moment of nostalgia.
The music cassettes released in packets of about 10 songs at every interval came through the porous Indo-Burmese borders like Moreh and Henglep in Manipur, on both sides of which their fans live.

Such were the times when contraband tape-recorder virtually replaced Philips radios brought in by army men, as a status symbol. Since the Agape’s were the sole music band that I knew of then, I believed that the popularity of contraband tape-recorders during the same time (also smuggled from Burma) was a case of down stream effect (as a consequence of the popularity of the Agape's).
For the sons of the not-so-rich fathers, the love of music exercised a peculiar kind of swing. A friend of my brother's had a black and white picture of the Agapes affixed in a corner of an almirah that stood facing their living room. I fixed long glances at the band of guitar slung, longhaired guys in the act of performing a concert I'd never seen in real life.As much as I heard and enjoyed the Agape music by sitting in the verandah of or walking past the house of some government servant families, I had the urge to have another look at the picture. The irony is that the household with the still photo of the music band was not in possession of a tape-recorder. Every time I saw the picture, I used to feel that I heard their music that had lingered on in my memory. Again whenever I listen to the music I saw the picture in my mind's eye. I decided that my brother's friend, who was relatively well off than my family, really need to have a tape recorder. In the meanwhile I appreciated the muted photo that was ruthlessly blurred by the refractive designs of the glass panel.
I fell in love with the song, "Huih aw hong nung in" by the Agapes when a cousin burrowed a walkman and other peripherals like sound box and an Exide battery from some of his friends from Lamka, the district headquarters. The words mean "Oh wind, blow in my direction" I was overwhelmed with emotion because of the tune plus the words. Since a moving wind is indispensable in flying a kite, I was able to identify with the song that invokes the wind. It requires wind to fly a kite. Someone had to lift up the kite and some one had to pull the line. But when there is no wind blowing about, it's no use pulling the line. You have to run, and perhaps stumble over the checks in the paddy field or even run onto some marshy corner of the field. We used to whistle to entice the wind. May be it's due to the effect of the whistle or may be out of sheer coincidence, the wind really blew sometimes. Due to lack of sufficient chance to intently listen to, and being unable to understand the song other than words 'huih aw hong nung in', I used to inquire from my friends about the import of the song. My enquiries that used to spark off hot debates over what the song really must have been about, led us to no substantial conclusion. As such I just assumed the song to be Agape's expression of deep devotion to the favorite past time of ‘kite flying’. And an ardent flyer of kites myself, I felt emotional with the sound of the song.
One fine day while I was admiring the picture of the Agape’s, my brother's friend came chattering and making noises. As much as I felt disgusted with the noise, I wished that he opened the almirah so that I might see the picture clearly. Instead he bent down and kissed a corner of the glass panel and he exclaimed, 'Surely, this lovely lady loves me, you know there’s something about me that senses'. And when I returned to the glass panel, I spotted the picture of a young lady. Then his sister, who was weaving handloom, questioned the wisdom of worshipping someone who didn't care what happened to 'poor and jobless guys like you'. Suddenly I was awakened to the fact that it would be a long time before my brother's friend could purchase a tape recorder and I knew that I had to contend with the tape recorders available elsewhere.
It was during the early 1980s that I got a break. A neighbor of ours vacated their house in favor of a just married off daughter. The makpa- sungkhum (a term used to refer to husbands who subscribed to in-laws’ ways and sways) had a stereo tape-recorder. The house with the tape-recorder was swarmed with youngsters, some playing cards, some chitchatting, and some even drinking at some corners. I used to wait for my favorite music band being played by the DJs in the house, which wore a semblance of a club hall.
One night when most peers left the club I hadn't heard any track from the Agape's. May be the house-in charge had had enough of Agape's. He played western rockers like the BoneyM, ABBAs the lyrics of which even himself didn’t understand.
It’s true that even I understood very little of the Agape's lyrics. At least I could say for sure that the writer of, 'Huih aw hong nung in' wants the wind to blow. And this newly married man, who lived on the bounty of his in-laws, sure knew very little English. And still he played songs sung in English. It's shame on him to ignore the fact that a good neighbor of his mother-in-law’s was waiting for his favorite number!

A young lad, the sole (uninvited) guest apart from me gambling on the music had lucked out when the makpa sungkhum switched over from the rocking westerns to a series of Hind film songs from All India Radio, Guwahati. As for me I had to admit bad luck and walk out with the music of a song that shoved me out all the way from where I was seated though the door, the flights of steps and through the gate - 'Aajare, ajare o mere dil bari aja, dil ki pyase bhujhajha, o ajare ooo noorie, noorie'.
I missed out on the company of my friends and still not hear the Agape's? So I made up my mind. Closing the gate carefully, I picked up a stone, hurled it on to the direction of the tin roof house that sheltered the newly married couple, and I sped off into the darkness.