Music heals just as cricket unites. While the latter teaches brotherhood and bonhomie, the former enables one to befriend oneself, by bridging the invisible but yawning gap between heart and mind, on the one hand, the soul on the other. As I write this piece, a soulful voice from the late 1990s is singing in the background. Maqsood Mehmood Ali, who likes to call himself Lucky Ali, while ‘hoping that he is lucky’ [cf. an old TV interview].
Raaste hi raaste hain, hai yeh kaisa safar… dhoondti hai jisko nazrein, jaane hai woh kidhar [There are just never-ending paths, what kind of a journey is this? Where is that I am looking for so eagerly?].
This is about the ‘journey’ aspect of life. Life is predominantly about journeys, a collection of fluid experiences and lessons learnt from those one is destined to meet [karmic relationships, if one may — har zamane mein aate rahenge, yeh kyun inkaar karein?] just as it is largely about pain.
Destinations en route are often illusions, just as happiness is fleeting, or as restlessness is inherent in human hearts — lagta nahin dil mera yahaan, mujhe jaane do wahaan [I am not happy here, please let me go where my heart wishes to], or kaisa bhi safar dil bada besabar [No matter what the journey, the heart is restless] — diluting the joy of reaching a destination, or for some unforeseen and unforeseeable reason, the destination turns out to be wrong — sochke kya nikle te, yeh kya hum kar gaye [I had something in mind, but ended up doing something else] — beckoning man to leaving it in the past and keep trudging on. This may happen when one suddenly realises that one’s calling in life is something else — neurosurgeons give up their high-paying jobs to become monks, a nuclear physicist I know gave up her PhD in nuclear physics and enrolled for a degree in medicine at the age of 35, as she realised that she wanted to heal the world — not hold the power to hurt it. It is like Job from the Genesis, in the desert, seeking something which he himself is not aware of.
LISTEN. IT NEED NOT BE ZERO-SUM
Sunoh and Sifar. Two of the six studio albums, Lucky Ali released, his first two in 1996 and 1998, respectively. Of all the feathers in his cap, the two stand out, especially for this writer, fresh in 2020, as they were when I first chanced upon them.
They hark back to the years when one was yearning for a compassionate ear [Sunoh] and struggling on rung Zero [Sifar] on the ladder of life and career. The lyrics infused tremendous hope, the heart and soul vibrating in resonance with the guitar strings in the background. Girke sambhalta hoon, phir bhi kuch karta hoon, deri aur doori mein sochta nahin… [I fall down, get up and try again; I do not bother about delays and distances], I recall, was the oxygen which kept me going, when even the lemons hurled at me by life were too rotten for me to make lemonade]. I recall having translated the songs [which are in Urdu/Hindi] to English [ensuring that the lines rhymed] and sending them to Sony Music and receiving an autographed picture card of Lucky Ali’s in return by post, with a ‘Thank You.’
Barson ki doori ko milke hum saat mithayenge… [We will traverse the long distance together]. Indeed, when one sets a goal and starts off on it, all alone, unable to convince anyone ‘like-minded’ to accompany them, one seeks internal motivation and starts off on the path — dil, aise na samajhna ki tu hai akela, mushkil mod sahi/nahin [O my heart, do not think you are alone, even though it seems so, for it is not as difficult as you think] — before the universe sympathises and rewards the wayfarer with a companion, a soulmate, a friend, and suddenly the long journey becomes a pleasant adventure and challenges feel more welcome — saat guzar jaaye har ik lamha bhi aisa dildaar mile [Just seeking a companion who would make every moment of the journey ahead memorable].
Now, whether one wishes to interpret this romantically, or otherwise, it talks about the indisputable fact that one cannot be an island. Seek and you shall find, knock and the doors will be opened to you — milegi, milegi manzil, chalke kahin door [You will reach your destination, keep walking…]; or, hain yaqeen dil mein, subah aayegi zaroor [I trust from the bottom of my heart, that there will be a dawn].
It is this faith in the miraculous, the trust in a supreme power to build, after breaking, that Lucky Ali tries to infuse in the hearts and minds of listeners, while appealing to them on a deep spiritual level. His invocation to the Supreme Lord in Sunoh — … Dono jahaan ka tu hai ujala rab, toone hai humko paala [You are the light of the world, God, you are the one who is sustaining us], reconciling monotheistic religion with the polytheistic Nature worship [Vedic religion, or even paganism of yore, if the latter is understood for what it really is, and not for what the early Christians made it out to be] effortlessly. Most of the songs incorporate Nature – clouds, rain, wind, flora, the welkin, birds, hills and mountains – what with the approach being central to one’s spiritual existence.
Listening to some songs from Sunoh and Sifar again and again, is like hypnotising oneself into a trance-centric positive thinking, ascending the ladder of metaphysics and seeking communion with the divine, to get what one pines for on terra firma.
There was that opening song from the movie Sur — a lonely heart calling out to the universe to help it to find true love. Introspecting and asking itself and the life it is sustaining by pumping blood unfailingly round the clock, what it sought from life – Jaane kya dhoondta hai, ey mera dil, tujko kya chahiye zindagi? [What is it that you are seeking, my heart… what is it that you want, life?] A process which all readers are certainly familiar with. A song may have a romantic appeal to it, but depending on one’s station in life, one could change the leitmotif and let the adapted message sink in.
YOU’RE LUCKY. WE’RE LUCKY
Lucky Ali… I do not know if you are convinced about being lucky, but let me say that we all are, to have gotten the opportunity to listen to your soulful voice, time and again… to counter pain, to look ahead with hope and positivity, and to keep on keeping on… as you also seemed to have done in your life and career. Detached devotion to tasks at hand. Treasuring memories in the process and letting them feed into and inspire creative work as you have moved on into your 60s.
To dil, kyun na milke rahe, waqt rahe na sadaa, yuh guzar jayegaa….reh jayengi yaadein, do baatein, jab chala jayega.[So, my dear heart, let us cooperate…time will fly past, and it will be only memories and some words which will remain, after we depart] H W Longfellow wrote about leaving behind footprints on the sands of time. Here, we can talk about leaving behind heart-prints… not on the ‘sands of time’ as they would be effaced by the tidal waters, but rather on the ‘bedrock of eternity.’
As Lucky Ali has wished, ‘Reh jaoon sabke dil mein dil ko basaakar, ik aisi neeyat hain meri.’ [My desire is to create a space for myself in the hearts of the people of the world]. All of us could entertain such a wish…and make the world a much better place — better when we exit it, compared to what it was when we made our destined entry.[Lucky Ali. Photo, Courtesy: BIOGRAPHIA]