Meherbai arranged for an evening of monsoon melodies at the party-room of the Wodehouse Gymkhana over tea and steaming hot assorted pakodas. Her entire Mandli turned up in spite of flooded roads, late trains, traffic jams and the ‘dhoom-dhadakas’ of thunder, streaks of lightning, savage winds and trees swaying like Hawaiian dancers.
Tehmulji Tansen started the evening by singing Diya Jalao. He forgot the second line and sang Dhobi Talao and immediately the lights went off. His wife Tehmina-tendli admonished him, “Whenever the great Tansen sang at the court of Emperor Akbar, the oil-lamps and diyas came-on immediately but in your case, it’s the opposite, electricity chaali jaye as soon as you begin singing! What kind of a singer are you?”
Well, the lights soon came on and so did Cavas Kaka, groggy after a few Parsi pegs to keep him warm on a wet day. Everyone sang, Aya Cavas Jhoom Ke to the tune of Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke. Cavas Kaka could not bear being made fun of and said, “Don’t make jokes and angry me! Mee Cavas Bolto!” to which everyone replied, “Tu Cavas Dolto!!” (you are swaying).
Enough of trying to speak in Marathi – I’ll sing now thought Soli Sample and sang ‘Sawan Ke Baadalo, Unsey Yeh Ja Kaho’ from the film ‘Ratan’. Banoo Batak sang ‘Jhuk Kar Aayi Re Badariya’ from the film ’Bhabhi’. Alamai sang ‘Allah Mehg De, Pani De’ from the film ‘Guide’ while Soonamai sang ‘O Sajana, Barakha Bahaar Aayi’.
The sexy couple, Sohrabji and Sillamai, who just became great-grand-parents at 80 plus, got up and danced and sang ‘Aaj Rapat Jaiyo’ from the film ‘Namak Haram’ and asked the Mandli, ‘Kem Kevo Dance Kidho?” Everyone clapped saying, “More sexier than Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil”, proving that age is only in the mind!
Not to be outdone, another couple, Marukh and Minoo Makori sang and danced to ‘Rim Jhim, Rim Jhim, Room Jhoom, Room Jhoom’ from the film ‘1942 – A Love Story’. Minoo even fell down twice but they somehow completed the dance. A round of applause followed with people remarking that it was comparable to the one done by Manisha Koirala and Anil Kapoor in the film.
Kersi Kajoo-Katli sang ‘Lapak-Japak Tu Aa Re Badarva’ from the old film ‘Boot-Polish’. At 64, Kersi had a pretty good voice, hence everyone said, “Once more” and Kersi obliged by singing some ‘Robindro Shongeet’ in Bengali, based on Rabindra Tagore’s monsoon songs in ‘Megh Raag’.
Meherbai, (trained in Indian Classical Music) sang a few Mira-Ki-Malhaar ragas based on Mirabai’s Bhajans like ‘Main To Prem Divani’ and ‘Maney Cha Kar Rakhoji’. Once more everyone was in raptures, appreciating the grandeur of classical songs. Hence, Meherbai sang brief offshoots of Raag Malhar like Naath, Bhairvi, Soranth, Chaya Gaudgiri and Tauri explaining to the Mandli that divine songs were composed inspired by the monsoon in almost two dozen variations of Raag Malhaar. Everyone was surprised by Meherbai’s knowledge of the Indian Classical Music.
Behram sang the title song from the film ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’ next with ‘Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolege woh barsat ki raat’, but poor Behram was so ‘besura‘ that the audience almost fell asleep till Minocher Mohamad Rafi took charge and beautifully crooned ‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’, the sexy Raveena Tandon number. Of course, Minocher was actually referring to the water-tap at his home which was leaking tip, tip, tip all day and night as the washer had worn out!
Kali’s wife Coomie sang Nutan’s famous ‘’ Kaali Ghatta Chhaye, Mora Jiya Ghabraye’ which was much appreciated. Goolie Google and Vispi WhatsApp, the new entrants to the Mandli, sang and danced to Anu Malik’s ‘On the roof, in the rain’. Cavas Kaka told the couple to go to the roof and dance there like in the film but they refused.
Noshir announced an interval, so that the Mandli members can enjoy some adrak-fudina-ni-chai and garma-garam pakodas. His wife, Nergish said, “Pakoda, pakoda soo boloj? Sounds like Pakardav (Catching-Cook). Bhajiya Bolo!”
“OK dear ‘Bhajiya”, said Noshir, adding, “if I disobey her, gher jainey mahra bhajiya tarai jasey!”
“Arrey, monsoon or no monsoon, Parsi husbands na bhajiya toh barey maas tarai jaye” said Philly the philosopher. He gave some gyan on Kalidasa’s Ritusamhaar written in Sanskrit in which Kalidas painted a royal image of the rains, talking of princely thunderbolts, bows and arrows, stubborn clouds and the army of raindrops descending like a King’s army to infuse new life to parched mother earth.
The atmosphere had become too heavy, so Dolly and her Dolla sprang up to dance to the lovey-dovey Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman number from Kaala Bazaar – ‘Rim Jhim Ke Tarane Lekey Aayi Barsaat’. Dolla would even lean his body on one side and tilt his head and loosen his hands like a rag-doll to imitate Dev Anand. At Mandli’s request, he mimicked some more of Dev Anand’s mannerisms and some more numbers, shaking his head (as though saying yes-yes-yes). He also rattled of a few dialogues from Guide, Tere Mere Sapney and Johny Meera Naam. To end, he said grandly, a la Dev Saheb, ‘Johny mera naam nahi hai’ – the iconic sentence in the movie, if you remember movie-dialogues by heart like Meherbai.
The mandli didn’t get it and said “Nahis-to-vari! Tumara naam toh Dolla hai!”
It was getting late and more wet, windy and dark, so Meherbai and Merwanji gave the finale item. They opened Merwanji’s joonni-poorani umbrella which always turned upside-down to become a ‘kodyu’ when it really rained and sang ‘Pyar Hua, Ikraar Hua Hai, Pyar Se Phir Kyoon Darta Hai Dil’. They tried to outdo Raj Kapoor and Nergis as they exchanged passionate looks to each other-looks that said ‘I can’t live without you’. Their love had become more divine, more spiritual and deeper after fifty-one years of marriage and everyone parted on a happy note after a fantastic evening of monsoon-melodies!