This year’s Gandhi Jayanti is special. Remembering Mahatma Gandhi as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Father of the Nation is indeed significant. As one was planning to write a tribute, a poem by a Pakistani school student [now in college] Syeda Rumana Mehdi was found appropriate. It was published earlier in The Peace Gong, an Indian children’s newspaper by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Foundation. As today is also observed by the United Nations in Gandhi ji’s honour as International Day of Nonviolence, let’s remember our Father of the Nation. Rumana’s angst, faith in peace, non violence and muse are given pronounced articulation in this poem titled, “A Positive Power”
A Positive Power
By Syeda Rumana Mehdi
“There is anger in me,
There is a thirst for revenge,
There is a desire to kill,
There is also a wish for peace,
There is a yearning to end war,
Without shedding blood,
There is a passion to save lives,
Without losing any,
There is a dream,
To start life anew,
With tales of forgiveness,
With lore of happiness,
Throw a rock at me,
And I wont hit you back,
I'll give you a second chance,
I've embarked on a journey,
The journey of Gandhi,
The voyage of Mandela,
I seek to forgive,
And hope to forget,
Come to me,
Not with weapons,
But with a sinful heart,
Which we'll together,
Cleanse of all the filth,
Your body is as pure as mine,
Every drop of blood is sacred,
No heart is meant to be broken,
For all our hearts beat,
In the same rhythm,
There is no place for hate,
There is no place for vengeance,
There is no place to lose humanity,
But there is still some place,
To find yourself,
Today, I call out to all killers,
Who perpetrated genocides,
Today, I call out to all potential killers,
Who might kill me for what I've to say,
Today, I call out to all scholars of non-violence,
Who saw Mandela in prison for 27 years,
Who saw Gandhi give up his life for his principles,
Who saw Martin Luther King's dream,
Through their own eyes,
Who stood with Rosa Parks*,
When she refused to stand up,
Let's come together,
To create power,
A positive force,
A healing potion,
With the blessings of non-violence”.
[*Rosa Parks is considered the ‘’ First Lady of Civil Rights’’ and the ‘’Mother of the Freedom Movement’’ by the U S Congress. She spearheaded the 381 day Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 ,one of the pioneering civil rights movements.]
A PIONEER PASSES AWAY
It was with great sorrow that one heard the passing away of an old colleague and the renowned Hockey commentator Jasdev Singh last week. Jasdev, indeed was the pioneer of hockey, nay Hindi commentary on All India Radio [AIR] and later on Doordarshan. Hailing from the Pink City of Jaipur, Jasdev Singh joined AIR as an announcer in the 1950s. Jasdev once said that, it was the legendary radio commentator Melville De Mello’s marathon commentary on Mahatma Gandhi’s last journey that motivated him to join radio and fulfill his dream of doing commentary like De Mello. The teenager that Jasdev was then in Jaipur was so influenced by the deep baritone voice, vocabulary, style and being the ‘eyes’ of the listeners influenced him tremendously and made the ace English commentator his role model.
But language was a barrier. English was still the preferred choice of professionals, bureaucrats and even Congress politicians. All important programmes, documentaries and running commentaries on national events like the Republic Day or important sports fixtures were in English; regional languages and even the national language of Hindi were not treated on par. Jasdev was proficient in both Hindi and Urdu and the credit for pioneering Hindi sports commentary is almost entirely his.
Jasdev specialized in hockey commentary on radio and was fortunate enough to move to Delhi. To be noticed and acknowledged. He was extremely hardworking and dedicated. Probably a streak he inherited from his role model Melville De Mello. He would go to the location even before the venue was ready for the event and observe everything. He would pour over books to cull out authentic information.
We were colleagues during the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi and later in Akashwani Bhavan where he was Director, Sports. A couple of years after the Asiad, he was promoted as Deputy Director General and was posted in Doordarshan. It was a few years after one left broadcasting in 1987 that our paths crossed again, generally in Rajpath during the Republic Day Parade. He exhibited his characteristic warmth as we exchanged pleasantries and spoke about his son Gurdev.
Once there was a call from Jasdev; he wanted to share with me about the launch of his autobiography, “Mein Jasdev Singh Bol Raha Hun”. In jest I told him that with my proficiency in Hindi, it would take months to read his book! He actually used to make fun of my Hindi. “ Ar re Angrez, you don’t have to read it, kuch reviews arrange karo”. I said I would try. I told a senior journalist friend who wanted me to send Jasdev with his book to the newspaper office. Jasdev went there in the afternoon and the next day there was a half a page article with a beaming Jasdev holding his autobiography! The book “Mein Jasdev Singh Bol Raha hun” is highly readable and would be a very good resource for any aspiring Hindi commentator.
In 2011 a few days after one joined the Sikkim Central University in Gangtok there was a major event where well known achievers were invited to share their experiences. When I was asked to take my seat in the front row, I had a look at the huge stage where some of the speakers were already seated before the commencement of the programme. Low and behold, there was Jasdev in his trade mark blue shirt, red turban and a blazer. The moment he noticed me he almost jumped out of the stage, came and hugged me. In his typical style he asked, “Thomas, tu idhar kya karte ho”? Till the programme formally commenced we were engaged in a nostalgic chat. When the programme started and his turn came to speak, he almost embarrassed me with praises!
That evening we had a long discussion. He spoke animatedly about the art of running commentary. He said, he became successful because of his passion and hard work. How does he speak as fast or even faster than the hockey ball during a raid on the opponent’s goal post? He replied that his passion and single-minded attention help him to do that. He added that a commentator has to keep up the tempo of the event by speeding up or slowing down or with modulation of voice, little pauses, and emphasis on words; his ‘lekin’ or but added to the dramatic impact of his commentary.
How does he ooze so much of fervor and patriotism when he does the commentary of the Republic Day Parade or Independence Day from the Red Fort? Or control his emotions during the last journeys of Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri or Rajiv Gandhi? One even taunted him for almost weeping when India beat Pakistan in either an Asian Games or the Olympics finals. He answered that unlike many new commentators who tend to read out from a prepared script, he always spoke extempore; You have to speak from your heart and not from a script to sound authentic and natural, he added.
One picked up some techniques from him for describing a scene or an action. Unlike the Republic Day Parade which is full of action and movements, the Independence Day event at the Red Fort has limited action but a fantastic locale for description. Jasdev’s technique was to speak about the historicity of the Red Fort and the surrounding areas. Like Jasdev, one also did research to speak about the microcosm of an inclusive India in and around the Red Fort. There is the historic Juma Masjid, the Jain or Lal Mandir[ also known as Urdu Mandir], The Gauri Shankar Mandir, Gurudwara Sis Ganj, the Fatehpuri Masjid and the old Baptist Church. Jasdev called it a commentator’s delight to describe them.
Jasdev used to say that as someone who grew up during the colonial days and entered adulthood and further in an independent, democratic nation there is no need to pretend to be patriotic; it comes naturally from the heart.
He has a number of unique records to his credit as a radio/ TV commentator – 6 Asian Games, 9 Olympics, 8 World Cup Hockey, innumerable Republic Days Parades, Independence Days, major cricket and tennis fixtures and so on. The nation and the world recognized this pioneer of Hindi running commentary on AIR and Doordarshan. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1985 and Padma Bhushan in 2008. To cap it all, the Olympic Movement bestowed on him the coveted Olympic Order, the only Indian to have won it! We would miss his salutation-“Mein Jasdev Singh Bol Raha Hun”… The nation of course will always remember you Jasdev!