The intervening period between the two festivals is the most joyous for any school-going boy: one holiday has ended and another is about to begin. And if the school-going boy happens to be an adolescent, nothing stokes the freshly-acquired attraction towards the opposite sex more than the evening, autumn air.
So there I was, back home in time to follow the routine: study for a while, watch the 8.30 pm news on Doordarshan while having dinner, watch the succeeding serial (those days they were worth it), study for some more time, and go to sleep.
The TV was switched on. Those days the top news was necessarily about the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka: "10 Indian soldiers killed", "3 Indian soldiers killed", "5 Indian soldiers killed"... after a point it became routine. But the death of Indian soldiers had to be priority, so even on the evening of October 13, 1987, the first headline was about the IPKF operations. The subsequent headlines were about politics and this and that, and finally: "Playback singer Kishore Kumar is no more."
Air was sucked out of my lungs. How can Kishore Kumar ever die? Only a few months ago, I had seen him in Kanpur. He had come to the city, as the guest of the Indian Air Force, to perform at the Green Park Stadium. My parents thought there would be stampede at the stadium, and that their favourite son might die, so they didn't let me go (I would never forgive them for that), but they had no reason to stop me from going to the nearby Air Force ground, where Kishore Kumar was being felicitated the evening before the show.
A local orchestra (belonging to Prashant Chatterjee, about who I've written in a recent post) was belting out popular Kishore Kumar songs while the singer himself was sitting in the front row of the audience along with wife Leena and sons Amit and Sumit. After a while, as a consolation to the crowd that had gathered, Amit came to the stage and sang a couple of songs, Yaad aa rahi hai and Yeh Bombay sheher haadson ka sheher hai.
Then the compere announced that Kishoreda would himself come to the stage. I could not believe my eyes. I felt what a sadhu would feel upon sighting God after 15 years of meditation. Kishore Kumar, dressed in a maroon kurta-pyjama, announced that he would sing Zindagi ek safar hai suhana... (Andaaz). One had expected him to only sing, but he danced as he sang -- a man who had had two heart attacks. After he finished the song, the compere came to get the mike but Kishoreda turned him away: "Nahin, ab mujhe mood mein aane dijiye (now let me get into the mood)." Then he went on to sing Main hoon jhumroo and, along with his son, Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge (the original he had sung with Manna Dey).
I vowed that evening that once I start earning, I would go to Bombay to watch a Kishore Kumar nite. But the dream came crashing within months. Same thing happened with my other idol, R.D. Burman. He came to Kanpur in 1991, the year I had lost the last of my classmates to various engineering colleges and was branded a "bad student" by my utterly middle-class parents, who now wanted me to study even harder. But I silently told them "Fuck you" by spending my time with India Today and Indian Express and Sunday and Society instead of the Brilliant Tutorials course material. Anyway, I missed R.D. And he died within two years. Another dream dashed.
I took my revenge shortly after by filling up my rack with cassettes of Kishore Kumar and Pancham. A lot of those cassettes remain at home, serving to activate the tear glands of my mother. I have, meanwhile, switched over to CDs.