She’s 74, going on 75…, I hummed, rephrasing the Sound of Music song, as I celebrated Aunty’s birthday last Thursday.

What was originally supposed to be yet another simple, straightforward day with early morning shower and chanting of our respective japams, turned out to be celebration par excellence in a different style. Shanthy, Aunty’s youngest sister, also in the same housing complex called up: “Akka (Didi), you and Athimbar (Jijaji) are coming to our house for lunch. Just confirm North or South?” she asked matter-of-factly giving her sister the option only to choose the type of food.

“Athimbar is taking shower. I will get back to you,” Aunty responded. “No way. It’s your birthday and you decide,” Shanthy’s tone got a little firmer, suggesting her Didi to be assertive. Younger generation, after all. “OK, North Indian,” Aunty confirmed.

Shanthy prepared a delicious lunch, and ordered some from Melting Pot, her favourite restaurant. Lunch was followed by card and board games, with the customary different interpretations of rules as it suited one. At 5 pm the session ended with coffee, and we left with the parting remarks, ‘I think we should meet more often, occasion or no occasion.”

In the pre-Covid days, the Moorthy Clan (named after Aunty’s father, consisting of six sisters, one brother, their families and grandchildren) would meet in one house and indulge in merry-making with lunch, gupshup, Anthakshari  (all languages permitted). Invariably, the Jigini duo would take the cake with their excellent collection of Hindi songs and good rendering ability. The Banaswadi duo would make a close second with Ramani preferring ‘only Rafi or Kishore’ songs, and Uma unleashing Bengali songs from Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chatterjee’s movies.

Now the two young couple – both on the last leg of their ‘younger-generation’ status – the Malleswaram duo and the Kanakpura duo. Malleswaran guy, Aunty’s one and only brother, is a push-model and needs to be goaded. And his wife is content to give him background support with humming, which she does well. Kanakpura sister is a late starter, and her husband prefers Kannada songs. In the early stages of our get-together, I mistook his rendering for rehearsing it in prose – no, it was his final rendition.

Alas, nowadays it is all confined to WhatsApp messages and greetings – no get-together. Nonetheless, in order not to let the spirit of celebration die, I prepared an audio clipping, singing to the best of my poor ability just one stanza each of select old Hindi-movie songs. Befitting the occasion, I chose Chandni Raat as my theme.  Yes, that was my way of greeting Aunty on her birthday.

While sharing it with my group, I could equally visualize their possible reactions. But I was prepared. The Jigini sister-in-law was sure to say openly, Chhadi Jawani Budde nu. Or, an upgraded version, Buddi godi, lal lagam.

The Banaswadi s-i-l would shout from one end of the kitchen to her hubby in the other end of the living room. “…Enna, see what your Sundaram Athimbar has done. At 82, instead of chanting slokas on Akka’s birthday, here he is humming romantic songs of 1950s and 1960s.”

And the Malleswaram b-i-l’s wife? Although there is none else at home, she would prefer to whisper into his ears: “It’s too late to change Athimbar. That which cannot be cured, must be endured.” She firmly believes that Deewaron ko bhi kaan hota hai.

Regardless of these and other possible reactions, I went ahead and shared the audio with them. Here the songs:

Ye raat ye Chandni phir kaha

Sun ja dil ki dastan

 

Yeh raat bheegi bheegi,

Yeh masth fizaye

Utha dheere dheere

Woh chand pyara pyara

 

Yeh raat ye fizaye

Phir aye ya na aye

Aao shamma bhuja ke

Hum aaj dil jalaye

 

Oh neend na mujh ko aaye

Dil mera ghabaraae

Chup ke chup ke koi aake

Soya pyaar jagaaye

 

Na ye chand hoga

Na tare rahenge

Magar hum hamesa

Tumara rahenge – Whether you reciprocate or not.

 

Just a minute. I think I hear some humming from the kitchen. Let me stretch my ears to get more of it…. Yes, I get it.

 

Sau saal pehle mujhe tum se pyar tha

Aaj bhi hai, aur kal bhi rahega

 

Tumhara pyaar chahiye

Mujhe jeene ke liye

 

That makes my day, my lady.

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Sundaram Venkatesh

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