How many of you knew of the existence of a significantly sizable African community of India? I am guessing not many. There is extraordinarily little awareness of their presence, their location and culture in media in general. That is probably because it is not a very influential community, and also, they don’t seem to participate in the any of socio-political discussions or noise.
BTW. I am referring to Siddi’s of Karnataka.
Siddi’s find their origin in the Bantu tribe of southeastern Africa, brought to India by Portuguese colonizers as slaves. That is right. It’s similar to but in opposite directions of Indian slaves’ communities built in Fiji, Guyana and West Indies etc. The only difference is Bantus made great soldiers and bodyguards to the royalty, where Indian slaves were taken for farming.
Once colonies and princely states collapsed, Siddi’s pretty much became redundant. Subsequently, they got assimilated into rural India and ceased being significant. Indian diaspora in Africa, on the other hand, kept appearing on stories. Be it Gandhi’s South African Chronicles or Idi Amin’s economic war on Indians. Even that Divya Bharati’s Saat Samundar had its premise set in Kenya.
Anyways, the first time I heard about Siddi’s was when I was a kid. An African community found their mentions among the Chronicles of Chhatrapati Shivaji when Grandmother narrated them. It goes like this – At some point in history, the Siddi’s gained control over a strategically important Janjira island fort located off Maharashtra’s coast. Shivaji’s Navy laid multiple sieges without any avail and largely remained unsuccessful. The Legend goes that Marathas even used monitor lizards to climb those walls but could not sustain the hot oil poured on them from the top.
It is hard to believe this warrior clan is now reduced mainly as farm labourers or foraging honey from the jungles of Karwar.
I have not personally met one, but based on what I know, they speak Indian languages, worship Indian Gods, dress like Indians. However, they still have retained small little features of African cultures through their collective memory. Have a look:
P.S. There was one attempt by the Government of India to train this community’s youth in Olympics sports. Despite initial success, I believe the program did not take off.
Nope, this title is not clickbait. I indeed have this weird topic to cover, and you may find it intriguing as well, just like I did. This is mainly to do with Bollywood lyrics related to the title – the crows eating human flesh! Be aware that I am not trying to connect Bollywood to scavenging birds, but I would understand if you wish to refer to them as so.
Okay, let’s start. You would have heard this song titled “nadaan parinde ghar aaja” by A R Rehman, which composed for the movie – Rockstar. If you did, have you happen to focus on the lyric behind it? I did not try to understand until recently. In fact, I was fully concentrating on what this overrated Nepokid Ranbir was trying to bray on the screen.
If you notice, there is a line that reads:
Kaaga re kaaga re mori itni araj tose Chun chun khaaiyo maans. Arajiya re khaaiyo na tu naina more Khaaiyon na tu naina mohe Piya ke milan ki aas
I could not believe my ears when I heard this!. For those who do not read Hindi thoroughly, let me translate it for you. It appeals to stray crows asking them to go ahead and eat his flesh by picking as per preference. That, except not to feast on eyes, which apparently, are required for him to hold a union with his love interest. I am not kidding. This is true.
I had no clue why so much gore in these lyrics. To be absolutely sure about what I heard, I asked Alexa to play it a couple of times more. Amazon’s AI engine picked up my request and queued up a few more songs with the same lyrics on my radio. The next was Sonu Nigam and All Yagnik singing the same in more contemporary dialect Hindi.
कागा सब तन खाइयो चुन चुन खाइयो मांस
दो नैना मत खाइयो मोहे पिया मिला की आस
Then there was another by Kailash Kher, then one by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and I know this now by heart!
Initially, I was so confused about why all these good people singing the recycled verse, appealing to scavenging birds to eat all the flesh but eyes? Is this some kind of sacrificial ritual practiced by a tribe? Or does it have any historical significance?
After a bit of research, I found this blog post that tells me that it was originally written in Punjabi about a millennium ago. It was written by a Sufi mystic in Northwestern India, which is present-day Pakistan. He was Baba Sheikh Farid (1173-1266 ). You can read more details here.
This is what he wrote :
Kaaga karang Dhadoliya saglaa Khaaiyo Mass Aey Do Nainaan Mat Chhuchho pir dekhan ki aas
( O crow! come and peck all this flesh over this skeletal frame of mine, Leave these two eyes untouched for they are in wait of that Grand beloved of mine )
I am not gonna judge the baba or his followers on why this was made famous over centuries because I don’t know how love worked during then. May be birds involved, and maybe not. But our current generations of Bollywood should have known better. This is not the song for the present century, and we should stop using it.
I know I am delayed by a couple of days to publish this content. Sorry about that. But hey, why would you mind if I post it on a different day. The causes of women’s equality are open items even today as well, right? Additionally, I have little more than a few cliched social media status to share. It’s not a “forward as received” kind of content. 🙂
One. Can we agree on Women’s journey towards equality has been painstakingly slow? It is like watching paint dry. Agreed that we are currently living in a more gender-equal society than at any point in the recorded history of human civilization. However, it’s sad to see we have outsourced the progress of equality to the wrong set of torchbearers. We should’ve never trusted the Left to achieve anything good in this regard. In fact, off late, we’ve seen regression on what was accomplished over the last few decades.!
Let me give one example. Recently, there were some decisions taken by the elected government entities which can potentially kill women sports. I am not kidding. This is true. There is no point in guessing who lobbied it. Potentially, the women may not be able to even qualify to forget winning in their own “women’s sports”. If this momentum continues, this might impact the Olympics as well. Please read through Joe Biden’s First Day Began the End of Girls’ Sports
Second. There is a regression in the way storied are being narrated. The moment an imagined lie is introduced in the story, the credibility goes for a toss. I have written about it in one of my previous posts on a movie review – Gunjan Saxena. Here, a director built an entire movie around a woman officer’s plight in the armed forces, where 100% of the misogynistic treatments was pure work of fiction. The lady officer eventually took the legal route, but the damage was already done. Let’s achieve equality, but not at the cost of truth.
I will leave you with a video. Please consider it a greeting card for women’s day. Its a song called Aigiri Nandini written in Sanskrit by Adi Shankaracharya. If that information were accurate, in all its likelihood, this lyric is 1400 year old!!! The song is a set of praises to the Goddess, the mother of the Trinity of Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. She takes various forms to visit earth whenever there is the regression of collective values of earthlings. The song sings about this and the qualities attributed to her in a very clever use of language.
Evidently, the same song can be used to appreciate women in more of a philosophical sense. That is why its a great greeting card for women’s day.
Another thought. This song is probably the first rap song, with its full version, has more than 800 words, which are to be sung within a few mins.
While I was glancing through your Wikipedia profile, I gathered all the great stuff you’ve been part of. I read that you have been actively involved in promoting children’s education and the safety of women. You also worked towards the social causes such as finding homes for Orphan kids, child trafficking, saving & empowering the Girl Child, etc. There was even a slogan you had popularised – Girl Rising: Woh Padhegi, Woh Udegi. Well done there. If all these were true, which I have no reason to doubt, you might find this post very interesting for weekend reading.
In short, I have a bone to pick with you on the exact topic. This is about a song, one of your most famous one. I hope you remember “Chane ke Khet mein” from the movie Anjaam (1994). Of course, you do. It was a super-duper massive blockbuster song. I remember it was played perpetually by every Autorikshah-wallas, wedding bands, school events and most importantly, middle-class kitchens and living rooms. Kids of our generation used to recite this song by-heart and housewives hummed this while they cooked daal. The Legacy continues to this date, you can see YouTube is filled with its cover performances, including the dance classes. Little girls in their pre-teens perform to this in tictok.
The regrettable part of whole Chickpea field song is, Mrs Madhuri Ji, none of your fans ever tried to understand the lyrics! If they did, it would not be so famous as much as it was or is. I believe you know what I am talking about. The lyrics of this summarizes a few of our society’s most prominent evils, in a celebratory tune!Let me know if you want me to list it down.
It reinforces our obsession with the fair complexion of the skin.
background of the premise is a teen going out into the fields for open defecation!
The most problematic part is that the core concept is unfortunate roughing up of a teenage girl.
And somehow, this song has is a celebratory context and expressed in a for a marriage/wedding event?
How is this a bridal shower song?
Does it even make any sense to you? I can see you dance with your whole heart invested in this song, it’s one of your best dance performances. This indicates what happened to that girl was something to be amazed about, and she is privileged to have gone through it? How appropriate is this?
I believe you were fully aware that these questions will we asked you at some point in your career. And you must’ve been prepared with justification. Why don’t you go ahead and explain yourself? If you get a chance, can you ask Poornima how she felt singing it?
Thanks, Not a fan. – The Bach
P.S.. For the benefit of the readers who do not understand Hindi, here is a translation of the song only for the first few lines.
(I ) was eighteen, innocent and unmarried (I ) had gone out with (my) face veiled But (I) got caught and trapped in the chickpea field. It was a straight-up robbery of (of modesty) in the chickpea field.
First, that evil (guy) caught me by the wrist. Then he slowly pressed down the finger. Roughing up and fighting followed in the chickpea field It was a straight-up robbery (of modesty) in the chickpea field.
I was surrounded by a group of hunters. Sitting there, were, of known to loot the youth. I gave up after calling out.
It’s deplorable that in the land of Kuvempu and Bendre, the Kannada movie songs exceedingly obsessed nothing more than morning hygienic routines. Or it’s evening routine if you chose to take a bath at night. Don’t get me wrong – these are beautiful songs with great original tunes, it’s just that their poetic value is abysmal. This is not something I could tolerate easily with the unfortunate reason that I happen to know the language. Sometimes, it seems like producers never provision a budget for a lyricist and instead choose to get it done by their kindergarten kids.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
Exhibit 1: A foot-tapping item song with 61 million views translates as “Female: Planning for a Disco, I donned self payal. I used Lux branded soap and just took a bath. Male: I was relaxing after a large meal of Onions !! I washed my hands just to shake your hands.”
Exhibit 2: another viral song translates as “Put soap, scrub body, close the door and take a bath, then put on powder … “
I can go on and give you more examples, but you get the point. To make it absolutely clear, I am not an anarchist to dislike songs about human hygiene and its importance. But I am absolutely convinced that we don’t need legends, songs and epics on what we should do in the bathroom.
Generally, it could take up to a for a single fantastic song to come out of this industry with both good tune and lyrics. One of such rarities I liked very much is “Hands up” from Avane Shrimannaraya. A very classy song in all aspects. The Originality, choreography, direction, cinematography, lyrics, tune. It’s an all-round entertainment. I am sure you have seen it as it had gone viral a few months ago.
Unlike the typical Kannada movie songs, this song is actually written in Kannada, not with English vocabulary. You would definitely require a translation to understand the context. However, unfortunately, the entire Internet does not have a translation. That would be a criminal injustice!
So, I thought, why not do that service.
Disclaimer: I do not call myself a poet, or even a translator. I have tried my absolute best to do this, Hope it helps.
Note: Singer switches the roles between Narrator and Protagonist. Careful about that, please…
[Narrator] ಕೇಳಿ ಕಾದಿರುವ ಬಾಂಧವರೇ, ಭುವಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅವನ ಅರಿತವರೆ, ಯಾರಿಲ್ಲ ಬಿಡಿ, ಮುನ್ನುಡಿ, ಇದ್ದರದೊಂದು ದಂತಕಥೆ Keli kadiruva bandhavare, Bhuviyalli avana aritavare, Yarilla bidi, munnudi, Iddaradondu dantakathe Listen, patient Ladies and Gentlemen, and those who think who comprehend him, He is not that. What you heard of him is a pure urban legend.
[Narrator]ನಾಕು ದಿಕ್ಕಿನಲೂ ಬೇಕವನು, ಬಂದೂಕು ಹಿಡಿದ ಮಾನವನು,, ತಲೆಮೇಲಿದೆ ಕಿರೀಟ, ತೀರಾ ಹಠ, ಗುರಿ ಬೆನ್ನತ್ತೊ ನೇತಾರನು Naalku dikkinalu bekavanu, Banduku hidida manavanu, Talemelide kirita, thira hatha, Guri bennatto netaranu He is ‘most wanted’ in all directions, flaunting his gun, sporting a crown, a stubborn and very focussed on his goal.
[Chorus] ಗಾಳಿಮಾತಿನ ಬಜಾ಼ರು, ಸುದ್ದಿ ಸಾರಿದೆ ಸುಮಾರು, ಪಾತ್ರದ ಪರಿಚಯ ಇರೋರು, ಆ ಬಂದೂಕಿಗೆ ಇದೆ ಘನಹೆಸರು Galimatina bajaru Suddi saride sumaru, Patrada parichaya iroru A bandukige ide ghanahesaru You know the Rumour mill, has spread this news, Only those who know the character, must know, his gun has a reputation to keep
[Protagonist, Chorus] ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್ ಅಪ್, ಅದು ಅನವರತ , ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್ ಅಪ್, ನಾ ಅಜ್ನಾತ, ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್ ಅಪ್, ಇದೆ ವೇದಾಂತ Hands up, adu anavarata , Hands up, na ajnata , Hands up, ide vedanta Hands up, that’s infinite, Hands up, am in disguise, Hands up, its a philosophy
[Narrator] ಇದು ಚರಿತ್ರೆ ಸೃಷ್ಠಿಸೊ ಅವತಾರ Idu charitre srusthiso avatara This character meant to write history
[Narrator as Protagonist] ರಂಗೇರಿದೆ ಮಾಯಜಾಲ, ಅನುಭವಿಸು ಓ ಪ್ರೇಕ್ಷಕನೇ, ದೃಷ್ಟಿ ನನ್ನೊಬ್ಬನ ಮೇಲಿಡಿ, ತಪ್ಪದು ನಿಜ ಮನರಂಜನೆ Rangeride maayajala , Anubhavisu o preksakane, Dristi nannobbana melidi, Tappadu nija manaranjane The stage is now set, experience it oh Audience. Keep your eyes on me, and I promise you entertainment
[Protagonist] ನನ್ನ ಗೆಲ್ಬೋದು ಅನ್ನುತ ನಿಂದನು ಓರ್ವ ರಾಕ್ಷಸ, ತಪ್ಪಲ್ಲ ಆದರೆ ಅದುವೆ ಊಹೆಗು ಮೀರಿದ ಸಾಹಸ Nanna gelbodu annuta nindanu orva raksasa, Tappalla adare aduve uhegu mirida sahasa An evil man will face me thinking to defeat me, It is not wrong, but it’s a dare beyond imagination.
[Chorus] ಅನಿಸುತ್ತೆ, ಬಂದ ಹಾದಿಗೆ ರಚಿಸಲು ಹೊಸದೇ ಶಾಸನ, ಮೆರೆಯಲಿ ಗಗನದಲಿ ನಿಮ್ಮದೆ ಲಾಂಛನ Anisutte, banda hadige racisalu hosade sasana, Mereyali gaganadali nimmade lanchana It’s evident, has come here to write new rules, and to take your pride to the sky.
[Chorus] ಯುದ್ಧ ಮಾಡಬೇಕು ಓದಬಾರದು, ಕಟುಕರ ಮುಂದೆ ಭಗವದ್ಗೀತೆ Yuddha madabeku odabaradu, Katukara munde bhagavadgite Let’s fight the war and let’s not preach Bhagavat Geeta in front of butchers.
Okay, I had previously written about the plight of the Kannada movie industry and its literary bankruptcy, especially the lyrical value it brings to the table. You can consider this post is in continuation of that.