Day 94: Arunachal Pradesh – Lyrical notes from the field

“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.” – Kahlil Gibran

The above lines describe me and my tenure with ASER Centre so far, having travelled to some unbelievably beautiful and challenging places within India. A constant companion in these travels is music. I always carry my iPod and have a large playlist of songs from different genres to suit the mood. However, during my recent travels by road through three districts of Arunachal Pradesh, I was unable to use my iPod as the road conditions are extremely bad in the state. Let’s say that the iPod was not made for rough and bumpy journeys. Thus I had no choice but to listen to the music being played by the taxi driver in their stereos.

In Arunachal Pradesh, what should take four hours by road takes up to 12 hours, provided there are no landslides or accidents. Tarred roads are rare and during the rainy season, which is when I went there first, the road was all but a strip of slushy and slippery mixture of mud sand and stones. Simple tombstones dot the corners of the roads in remembrance of those who lost their lives fighting or in an accident. Siting in the front of the shared Sumo taxis, the view of the vehicle ahead of me, skidding every few minutes towards the valley was, well, quite discomforting especially when the song being played in the background had lyrics like,

Aadmi musafir hai aata hai jaata hai

Aate jaate raste me yade chhod jaata hai

(Man is a traveller, he comes and goes
In his travels he leaves behind memories.)

Another one went,

Yeh duniyaa yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahi,

Kisko sunaaoo. haal dil-e-beqaraar kaa?
Bujhtaa huaa chiraagh hoo apne mazaar kaa

(This world and these people are not for me
Whom should I tell the state of my restless heart?
I am the extinguished flame of my own mausoleum)

If what Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”, is true, then what these drivers felt was not at all reassuring!

I did try and request that the songs be changed to something peppier. They would comply and play a song or two upon my request but then again songs of love gone sour, lover gone away and songs of general disinterest in life due to heartbreak would take over. Once, my apprehension on listening to a song while the bus climbed up a broken road at night prompted me to offer to plug from my playlist but unfortunately, it did not find much favour with the driver! So as the driver maneuvered the bus on the edges of winding roads, I listened to the lament of a jilted lover claiming how unfair and worthless his life was.

Accha sila diya tune pyar ka, Yaar ne hi loot liya ghar yaar ka

Jo rachaye hai tune hath mehendi se, Woh mehendi nahi hai
Mere dil ka khoon hai

(Great is the reward that you have given me for my love, A lover has squandered the home of her lover
The henna that is applied in our hands, Is not henna
It is blood from my heart)

I did ask some of the drivers as to why their choice of music leaned towards the tragic. They laughed and said that the soft and gentle beats of these “dard bhare geet” or songs full of pain, helped them de-stress. Knowing how difficult it is to drive on these roads, I understood.

So, in the company of gloomy songs, I learnt to savour the dreamy landscapes, the colourful people and the freshness of the air after all,

Aadmi musafir hai, Aata hai, jaata hai….
By Nandita Banerjee,ASER Centre, New Delhi

All views expressed in this post are the author’s personal views