Here’s wishing everyone here a Merry Christmas!
May the season of giving sprinkle your worlds with magic dust and unbounded joy!
The little alleyway by the side was now extremely well lit, freshly painted and teeming with people walking in and out of the two sets of washrooms on either end. If anyone had told her that this was the passage to her heart and her heartbreak from a decade ago, she wouldn’t believe it. How could any two people ever have snatched any moments of privacy here as Arnav and she once had? Of course, how could anyone of any age, let alone an eighteen year old with more lights in her eyes than good sense demanded, sit by herself alone – singing, no less – on a ghat by the Ganga without either worrying for her safety or scrunching up her nose at the filth?
“Revisiting all these places wasn’t the best idea after all,” She whispered to herself with a rueful smile as she turned away and walked back into the familiar auditorium, now in its final stages of life given another, grander version was being commissioned all the way across the campus by a generous outgoing class.
“It’s not the same, is it?”
She whirled around to spot Arnav walking up to her from the other end of the same alleyway that she had just vacated, a small smile playing on his lips. “You found me.” She said simply, breathing in her surprise that he indeed had, just as he had all those years ago.
“Not very difficult to guess where you would be especially since you mentioned you’ll see me straight at practice.” He replied as he walked towards her and stopped just inches short of kissing her, breathing an audible sigh of despair as they glanced at their surroundings. “Did you miss me?”
“I’m used to it.” She said as she stared back into his eyes. “At least this time, it was just a week.”
“It’s going to be a lot more once we get back. And I cannot believe we are spending our time here where…” He leaned in, “I cannot even kiss you let alone all the other things that…”
“Stop it,” Khushi whispered and quickly tipped up on her toes to kiss him on his mouth before turning away from him. “Come, let’s go find Nishant-Sir and his soon-to-be-wedded wife.”
“I know. But you still love me.” She quipped with a small smile as looked back at him with a small lopsided shrug
“I’ve created a monster.” Arnav sighed and then walked up to her, slipping his arm around her waist as they walked out of the auditorium.
“I love you too.” She said with a chuckle as she stepped away from his embrace once they saw their friends.
The strain of music filled the sharp slip of silence in the auditorium, now nearly empty at this time of night except the group of alumni that sat scattered in an illformed geometrical shape of undefined proportion.
Khushi watched, her breath caught in her chest as Nishant-Sir nodded slightly at Tripti who raised the mic to her lips without missing a beat and sang the opening lines
Ranjha ranjha kardi ve main
Aape ranjha hoyi
Ranjha ranjha saddo ni mainu
Heer na aakho koi
Khushi fought a frisson of familiar excitement as she heard her sister’s voice echo around her even as Arnav’s strums rushed to thread through the ribbon of her words. No sooner had the guitar joined, Nishant-Sir’s own voice rose like a majestic wave waiting to add its own beats to the sound of music in the room
Ranjha ranjha na kar Heere, jag badnaami hoye
Patti patti jhar jaave par khushboo chup na hoye
Uff, Khushi whispered to herself as she closed her eyes to savor the moment. A small nudge in her ribs told her that she had but a few moments to herself as she needed to join the song, one of the many that the Aarohan of Alums was planning to recreate a couple of days later. It was insane to imagine that Tripti and she would be able to seamlessly sew themselves into the intricate pashmina that was Arnav and Nishant’s troupe of near professionals. Except, in the song that was unfurling around her, there was no trace of unfamiliarity stemming from any corner of their little coterie.
Begunah pakda gaya, Divya began from somewhere her right and Khushi allowed her lips to curve as the men rushed to provide the chorus “Yaaron”
Ishq mein jakda gaya, she sang. Aankh ke dosh mein dil, Divya winked at her soon-to-be-husband, Bewajah pakda gaya
Aankh se hatt ti nahin, arrey hatt ti nahin, arrey hatt ti nahin, Nishant winked right back at her as he sang, sending everyone around them in a tizzy of surprised yet silent chuckles.
Sotey sotey bolta hoon, kabhi bolte bolte sota hoon, he confessed, as if to say that it wasn’t his fault that his Divya had dragged him right into her own brand of shameless insanity
Kya jaane kya hota hai, kabhi jalti aag tatolta hoon
Ek baar to aake dekhe woh bhi, he trailed off as he nodded, shyly even now, to her as Khushi acknowledged and picked up where he left.
Ranjha, ranjha kardi ve main aape ranjha hoyi
Ranjha, ranjha saddo ni mainu Heer na aakho koyi
It was one of her favorite songs, one that she believed didn’t get its due in the shadow of a bad film and what people inconceivably branded as one of the Maestro’s weaker links. That the group had somehow found it just as enticing and even included it right into the repertoire, was nothing short of a miracle.
Just as it was, to hear Arnav’s voice join hers once more in that same carefree manner that shimmered just as much as it sizzled with promise.
Ranjha ranjha na kar Heere, jag badnami hoye
Patti patti jhar jaave par khushboo chup na hoye
They were quite a quintet, Tripti, Divya, Nishant-Sir, Arnav and her. With the others – Jeet and Raghav choosing to restrict themselves to the instruments as they cheered the new additions to the vocals, there was nothing but golden harmony in the auditorium – just what they needed in the lead up to the event.
Jal ja, jal ja ishq mein jal ja, jale se kangan hoye, she raised an eyebrow at her sister who was openly laughing at them.
Jalti raakh laga le maathe lagey to chandan hoye, Arnav joined as he mock-saluted both Tripti and Divya
Ranjha, ranjha kardi ve main aape ranjha hoye, the women sang together, their voices merging seamlessly.
Ranjha, ranjha saddo ni mainu Heer na aakho koye
As the vocals quietened for the interlude, music took over – an array of instruments recreated by the humble keyboard and accompanying drums, expertly managed by Raghav and Jeet.
Waqt katt ta bhi nahin, waqt rukta bhi nahin, Nishant resumed right on cue, as always
Dil hai sajde mein magar, ishq jhukta bhi nahin
And in perfect sync, Arnav joined. Bina tere raatein, arrey raatein kyun lambhi lagti hain?
Khushi fought a blush and kept her eyes averted from either his or those of the other women who she knew were trying to catch hers.
Kabhi tera gussa, teri baatein kyun achchi lagti hain?
Yeh jalte koyle, arrey koyle, ab rakhna mushkil hain
Ranjha, ranjha kardi ve main aape ranjha hoye, she sang, finally lifting her eyes to look at Arnav
Ranjha, ranjha saddo ni mainu heer na aakho koye
“Stop, stop, stop” Tripti interrupted as both Divya and she burst into uncontrollable laughter.
The rest of the team groaned and Khushi sighed, knowing exactly what was headed her way.
“Okay, out with it, Krishna. I cannot take the suspense anymore. Clearly there is a story here and we might as well know it if this practice is go anywhere useful.”
Khushi raised an eyebrow at Nishant-Sir who looked borderline murderous as he stared at Tripti and Divya in a familiar expression of consternation.
“Aapki shaadi mein Kata kata bechara bakra gaa denge, Nishant-Sir. Take a chill-pill. Believe me, this is funny.” Tripti replied, not batting an eyelid at Nishant Kumar Pathak’s famous sincerity-backed temper.
“Gaya gaya ek aur gaya, bechara,” Arnav whispered in her ear, making Khushi laugh even as she watched him stare at his sister in incredulous indulgence.
Tripti had made a quick two-day trip to Bangalore a couple of months ago and not surprisingly, Arnav and she had struck a rather instant connect. It was evident in an unexpectedly short time frame that she bestowed him with borderline reverence and he returned the favor with unmeasured affection – something Khushi knew to be grateful for, forever. Whether Arnav got along with her parents or not didn’t matter half as much as his relationship with Tripti – and she knew they all knew it. “Nishant Sir or you?” She whispered right back and he laughed too, shaking his head. That’s my sister, she said to him mentally as she smiled to herself and waited for the barrage of teasing to explode in their face.
“Look at them sing Ranjha ranjha with such earnestness and passion. And just two hours ago, they were sitting stone faced and white as sheets in a room of four equally perplexed adults. Seriously, Divya Di, if it hadn’t been for me, that room would have exploded with unspoken nerves. Of course,” Tripti added, “My parents were right there with both of them, sitting like electrocuted ducks who didn’t know what to do with the benevolence of a bountiful spring.”
Everyone, including Arnav and her, burst out laughing though Khushi was sure she and Arnav shared the embarrassment of Tripti’s account being almost entirely accurate and of no exaggeration. The evening had been one of awkwardness spelled with all capital letters. Neither Drs. Gupta nor Khushi and Arnav had known how to break the air of discomfiture that was thick in the Gupta household. It had, in fact, taken Tripti and her irreverence to blast the ice into smithereens so that they could reel the evening back in and at least start to make way for a shared future.
“Pyaar yeh jaane kaisa hai” Divya crooned as soon as Tripti finished regaling the group with more tidbits from the evening.
“Kya kahein, yeh kuch aisa hai,” Tripti and Nishant joined her in a moment of completely unexpected coincidence.
“Kabhi dard yeh deta hai, kabhi chain yeh deta hai,” All three of them sang as Khushi allowed her head to slump into her palms and shook her head.
“Kabhi gham deta hai, kabhi…?” Tripti stopped with a question mark in her verse as she raised a brow in Arnav’s direction.
“Kabhi Khushi deta hai,” Arnav answered with a grin eliciting a groan from Khushi and a never-ending stream of applause from everyone else around.
Thirty minutes and two more practices later, Tripti was still singing Pyaar Yeh Jaane Kaisa hai to herself when Khushi walked up to her and knuckle-rapped her skull in a mock admonition.
“What?” Tripti said, rubbing the back of her head more dramatically than Khushi’s barely there pat necessitated. “If you decide to be Mahatma Gandhi, there will always be Nathuram Godse’s waiting to take aim.”
Khushi raised an eyebrow. “That’s a scary metaphor, Trip.”
Tripti grinned and shrugged. “I love this little group you have Di. You know, this is exactly what I wanted you to do all those years ago. Chalo, der aaye and all that.” She teased. “And…before I forget, did I congratulate you yesterday?”
Khushi smiled and shook her head. “No. You were busy congratulating your…I mean…Arnav…”
“Awww, you can’t say my Jeej, can you? Awww,” Tripti reached out and pulled Khushi’s cheeks much to her disgust. “Awww, Di! Now I really cannot wait to sing Wah Wah Ram-ji. Too bad he doesn’t have a younger brother…I wonder if he has a cousin I could flirt with…”
Khushi instantly sobered. “Trip…”
“I am joking!” Tripti said immediately, her voice never changing as she spoke. “Don’t get all butwhataboutArjun on me now.”
Khushi waited for a long second and decided the moment was not one for serious conversation. And so, she forced a smile and raised her eyebrow. “Now is it my turn to sing Pyaar Yeh Jaane Kaisa Hai?”
“Kya kahein yeh kuch aisa hai,” Tripti sang with a wide smile but it was the sudden dimming of her eyes that was Khushi’s clue to give her a big hug.
“Pyaar yeh jaane kaisa hai?”
The sisters broke apart as Khushi turned to smile at Arnav who was looking at them with a curious smile.
“It’s turning out to be quite the theme song of the evening no?” Tripti said and then wiggled her eyebrows in Arnav’s direction. “Jeej, you have a younger cousin I can flirt with at the wedding – preferably one who can sing Wah Wah Ram-ji with me at your Sangeet?”
“Yeah,” Arnav answered easily as he slipped an arm around Khushi’s waist. “He isn’t much with the singing. But…”
Tripti’s smile morphed into a scowl as she rolled her eyes. “Et tu.”
“Pyaar yeh jaane kaisa hai,” Khushi laughed in melody as Arnav joined her.
Kya kahein, yeh kuch aisa hai
Kabhi dard yeh deta, kabhi chain yeh deta hai
Kabhi gham deta hai, kabhi khushi deta hai
No sooner had Arnav and Khushi stopped, Divya and Nishant joined in a repetition of the opening lines, Raghav and Jeet in tow with the instruments.
Pyaar yeh jaane kaisa hai
Kya kahein, yeh kuch aisa hai
Kabhi dard yeh deta, kabhi chain yeh deta hai
Kabhi gham deta hai, kabhi khushi deta hai
Tripti raised her hand to them all as the group paused for the music. Nishant-Sir was just about to admonish her again when she broke into song again.
“Humne suna dilbar, puraane log kehte hain”
Khushi’s mouthed O-ed in surprise as the song Tripti had weaved into the one they were singing became familiar. That there was nothing except the lead actress in common but the songs seemed like they had secret passageways leading to each other, was a gleeful discovery – one Khushi and Tripti had always loved stumbling upon through the years. It had been a few years since they’d done anything new like this and that added to the magic of the moment.
Aise ghane jungle mein kaale bhoot rehte hain, she joined her sister as the others looked on in bemused wonder.
Tere nainon se gar woh nainon ko ladayega
Teer nighaon ka uske dil mein gadh jaayega
Tere ishq ka bhoot, bhooton pe chadh jaayega
Gale milke gale, chale aashiq chalein
Chale milke chalein, deewane hum chalein
Khushi and Tripti paused at this moment and looked at everyone else for a second as Arnav chuckled and joined them.
Do pyaar karne waale jungle mein, kho gaye
Pyaar yeh, Nishant-Sir intruded in a moment of epiphany, jaane kaisa hai.
Kya kahein, yeh kuch aisa hai.
“Do pyaar karne waale jungle mein,” Arnav, Khushi and Tripti sang together, “kho gaye”
“Baaghi bane, paagal bane, deewane, ho gaye”
“This is spectacular! Are you sure you are both Professor Gupta’s own blood!” Raghav exclaimed from somewhere around Khushi and she beamed at her sister.
“We get it from him,” Tripti pointed out. “And wait…can we please focus on this…”
Arnav chuckled out aloud and shrugged his shoulders at Raghav who was shell-shocked to say the least.
“Hmmm….do pyaar karne waale jungle mein, kho gaye” Tripti hummed softly and nodded her head at Khushi who wove in the other song with envious ease. “Pyaar yeh jaane kaisa hai. Kya kahein yeh kuch aisa hai…”
“Ho gaya hai tujhko toh pyaar sajna…” Divya offered almost tentatively when Tripti clapped her hands loudly, her face alight with the glee of serendipity.
“Laakh kar le tu, inkaar sajna
“Dildaar sajna,” Khushi sang along, “Hai yeh pyaar sajna…”
They had hardly finished the line when Arnav jumped right into the song.
“Har dil jo pyaar karega,” He began, nothing hesitant in his voice. It was evident he knew he had completed the little mash up with unexpected perfection – his choice of song unusual but well fitted. “Woh gaana gayega.”
Everyone else joined right in, their voices loud and beaming. “Deewana saikdon mein, pehchaana jaayega. Har dil jo pyaar karega…”
The re-transition of tracks followed with well-oiled precision as the men metaphorically took a step back and allowed the women to continue. If there was an internal orchestra in each of their heads and hearts that was guiding them, it was superbly tuned, every person a different instrument and yet completely in-sync with everyone else.
“Aye waqt ruk ja, tham ja theher ja, waapas zara mod peeche.” The three women sang.
“Main chhod aayi, khud ko jahan pe, woh reh gaya mod peeche.”
“Kahan main?” They asked. “Kahan tu?”
“Yeh kaisa, hai jaadu?”
“Har dil jo pyaar karega, woh gaana gayega,” Arnav and Nishant sang with Tripti humming the piece right along
The room burst out with whistles and whoops as the singing came to an end. Multiple conversations broke out in every corner and yet before long, they were all back in that ill formed circle, every one tentatively checking with the rest of the group – some vocally, some otherwise –if they had indeed found their mash-up for the grand finale a couple of evenings later or if this was better preserved for a music video to celebrate the induction of the Gupta sisters and the globalization of the now-not-so-small effort that Arnav Varun and Nishant Kumar Pathak had kicked off in a music den back in Detroit.
River Song, Music and Lyrics
Song Title: Jaane Kyun, Dil Jaanta Hai
Singers: Vishal Dadlani, Chorus
Music: Vishal – Shekhar
Lyrics: Anvita Dutt Guptan
Chhote chhote, kuch palon ka dostana yeh
Jaane kyun ab, lag raha hai, jaana maana yeh
‘Coz when you smile for me, world seems alright
Yeh saare pal yahin, yun hi tham se jaayein, jaane kyun?
Jaane kyun, dil jaanta hai
Tu hai toh I’ll be alright
- And so we come to the end the penultimate chapter of the River. And yes, this one was short. :)
- The song medley of sorts that is this chapter – HOW I wish there was a way for me to translate this into audio if not a full fledged YouTube cover!
- Final River Update: Jan 1, 2018, late night IST