Young writer and critic/ a principal by profession/ His “Janki pul” became very popular/ Blogs by the same name
Listening to Baleshwar in those days was considered a shame in self-proclaimed educated families such as ours. He was the singer of workers, daily wagers, farmers and cowherds.
Those days boys from school and college who wore bell bottoms or had sideburns would be terrified of Daroga Baijnath Singh. That’s because if he saw someone’s pants flare, he would cut them up with a pair of scissors, would tonsure another who had sideburns. At such a time, I got to hear a song:
“Babua padhe jala Patna Howrah Mail mein gayi jawani tel mein na”.
A few days later when I went to my maternal grandmother’s play flaunting the latest styled pant and shirt, a distant uncle of mine remarked:
“Ghar mein baap chuawe tadi, beta cricket ke khiladi
Lulla naam kiya hai zero number fail mein na”.
This was my first introduction to Baleshwar’s songs. But it was a long time later I found out that the singer’s name was Baleshwar. I got a better introduction to the singer when a man called Vikal Das came to my mausi’s house to work in the fields. He would regularly come after a good dose of cannabis with the priest of the temple and would sing to us kids while we’d sun ourselves in the weak winter sun. Yesterday while reading an obituary to him written by Nirupam ji in “Mohalla”, I was reminded of another song by him:
“Patna sheher mein ghume du nataniya
Mohe hari ke lal
Kale lal gal pe godanva
More hari ke lal”
Remembering the last line made me so wistful – “Oonchi atariya se boli chapariya, Azamgarh Baleshwar badnaam, more hari ke lal”. It also made me realize how great Baleshwar was. Listening to Baleshwar in those days was considered a shame in self-proclaimed educated families such as ours. He was the singer of workers, daily wagers, farmers and cowherds. We had a Philips two-band radio at home. When dadi would want to make workers work without paying them, she’d tell us to play songs for all. I would pick up a T-series cassette, which had “Best of Baleshwar’ written on it and play it. Dadi would get busy making Godan tea brought from Gola Sah’s shop and the workers would chop off a tree for kindle, take grains to the granary while listening to these songs. All in the name of tea and Baleshwar.
Maybe that was the reason I also started to listen to Baleshwar gradually. When Bofors scam had just been unearthed, this song would bring a lot of relief:
“Nayi dilli wala gorka jhooth bolela
Hero bambai wala lanka jhooth bolela”
There was nothing extra in the song but we felt is suggested what lies (“jhooth”) were being talked about. When I went to Delhi and stayed at Hindu College’s hostel, I realized there were other boys like me who has Baleshwar’s cassette. Those songs would work as making us emigrants bond. When other boys in the hostel would listen to Bob Dylan and Phil Collins, we’d listen to Baleshwar and be happy we had a singer like him. They would listen to English songs only to stand apart.
God knows where that cassette went and where that unity of emigrants. We became so “educated” that the distance with Bhojpuri and its songs increased.
Honestly, I had forgotten Baleshwar. I had assumed he had died. Thank god for Bhojpuri channels such as ETV Bihar and Mahua, which would mention him through various programs and let us know that he was alive. But when I read about his death yesterday, I realised a culture and a way of tradition had ended with him. This tradition had reached the farms and heartlands before bazaars were created. It had also reached that part of my life and his songs made my heart tick. (Courtesy: Mohalla live)