Sunday, August 24, 2008

Seasons in the Sun - Goodbye my Dear P

It is sobering to know the true value of a moment sometimes. The difference that a mere moment can make to your sense of equilibrium is mortifying. It it gets demonstrated time and again in life, yet nothing prepares us for those moments when they come on. It is only a sense of deja vu that runs through the veins when the mind and body go numb. I ask the same question I have asked many times. Why doesn't nature prepare us for these moments. Why isn't a tolerance hard-wired into our beings? Why does it hurt as much every time?

Shocking News, was the title of the e-mail that peered out from the mail preview window on the google home page. It was morning time, the mad rush and the usual hazaar chores dancing in the head. I had paused by the computer to pick up my charging iPod. Suddenly the whirl paused. Shocking News - looking at the mail I knew that this was not some random forward but real news... and bad news. My heart thumping loud in the chest, I clicked on the link. The wait till the mail loaded seemed to be like eternity... and then it showed up.

"I am not sure if you are aware of this. I have been informed of this tragic news by a friend of Priya Gainneo's. Priya met with an accident last week and passed away."
And there it happened. The moment that shatters your sense of equilibrium. I sat down with a thump, my breakfast, bus all forgotten. Priya Gainneos? Priya? my friend P? Dead?. No this cannot be true. It has to be a mistake, a miscommunication. Priya cannot pass away. Maybe she's met with an accident, is critical, but she has to be still around. Priya... come on, she cannot just go away.
What followed was a whirlpool of emotions shock, anger, denial, sorrow, trying to understand what happened, how it happened, befuddlement at the lack of any information anywhere. Priya had been away from e-groups for a while. But is public memory this short that there would be no mention of hers anywhere? Life on all e-forums seemed to have been conducting itself merrily completely oblivious to this tragedy.

Cyber relationships are such, that your handle to it is nothing but a couple of electronic switches, a couple of bits and bytes in form of of an email id or a profile_id. Phone numbers are exchanged, but seldom used and rarely updated. It is difficult then to accept and come to terms with things like death. It is surreal. The email exists, the profile exists, how can the person be gone? I pinged Priya's email, found her id on Orkut and Facebook and even send friend requests! Hoping from somewhere that a rumour that no one could confirm was false and she would accept the friend request.
But, nothing of that sort obviously happened, gradually as we got in touch with folks from her real life, the truth finally dawned. Priya was truly gone. She had met with an accident. She slipped and fell into the backwaters of Cochin. The same beautiful backwaters that she has promised to show me when I visited Cochin...
Priya! I had been out of touch with her for a while. She had moved on to Hamara Forums and I was consumed by work and real life related activities and seldom went to groups, our days together on SKS were long over. SKS - Sangeet Ke Sitare, a motley online gathering of passionate music lovers that once flourished on Yahoo Groups. Even though it was a forum to discuss music, off-topic conversations thrived in merry abundance. It was a vibrant, warm and friendly group. An easy camaraderie prevailed amongst it's members and unlike most newsgroups people were not just a profile_id with a musical opinion but real people. Most active members on the forum came with their musical Gods and had much fun defending and ribbing each other about their idols. Yours truly was present there with Dev Anand(DA) and SD Burman(SDB) and Priya held the flag high for Asha Bhosle and Noor Jahen(NJ). We teased and pulled each other about our favourites much like school friends rib each other over their crushes. SKS was a fertile ground on which many online friendships took seed.

That fertile ground is now barren land. The old group and the many people that inhabited it have moved on, the group itself has moved on to swankier locales on Orkut. The old SKS on yahoo lies like an old abandoned house, falling apart, desolate, its archives an aching reminder of it's past. A few stragglers post there once in a while, but its glory is long gone.

In a virtual world with virtual friends there are no pictures, letters or real tangible things through which you can seek solace when grieving a death. The only thing that remains are the same bits and bytes stored on some remote server. In my quest to connect to Priya I had no other place to go but to my emails and the SKS archive.

A strange feeling enveloped me when I navigated to SKS. One has been so busy moving ahead, that one barely looked back upon this time. There was a time when I was here everyday, five times a day. Sometimes after every 10 minutes discussing, teasing, fighting, gushing and bonding. The portals of SKS seem to reveal a faint strain of music....a song....Asha Bhosle.

Yehi woh jagah hai, yehi wo fizaayen yehin pe kabhi aap hum ko mile the"

The voices get louder

"Look P, I chose an Asha Bhosle song"
"Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so you have finally realised what good taste is all about" "Only for you P"
"P? P? Priya?"
Priya is gone..... she is only in the archives now.
I type 'Priya' in the archives search box. A bunch of posts come up. mostly from the recent past. I don't find anything I can connect to. Priya loved Noor Jahen (NJ ). I type NJ this time. I get a series of posts talking about New Jersey. Useless. How do I get the key to those days? The archives are vast, navigating through them will get me nowhere. I try again "NJ SDB". I start seeing the posts now, voices start filtering in from the past, I am back to the old SKS....
There seems to be some commotion, a thread titled 'Geeta Dutt Jaimala' has seen a series of Noor jahen uploads from P. When Priya would start uploading NJ songs, she did atleast ten together (and this was from her slow dial-up connection in Cochin)
Me: P dear, what is this, you entice us with a mail titled Geeta Dutt and torture us with NJ? This is taking undue advantage of your moderator position.
Priya: Jealousy the green eyed monster--we all know what would happen to SKS if you took charge..... it would become Do Buddhe.[two old men]
Another thread

Me: Waise.. I am on an SDB sabbatical these days. I will hear anything but you can initiate a session on anyone else you want.
Ok am dispatching some NJ songs at once.

P and I were both Virgos and typical ones at that. We loved our battles of wit. She would rib me incessantly for my interest in two old men (SDB and Dev Anand). "Atleast they are men", I would retort. "P your obsession for two old women is not healthy at all, find your self a male idol" . Ofcourse I love Sachin Tendulakar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, she would protest [any communication with her came with a minimum of 50 exclamation marks]
I had once defended Dev Anand's diminishing charm with the gallant argument. "He is not old, real men don't age, they mature like fine wine". Well that was it. After that Dev Anand came to be christened as "Wine Anand" and thereon referred to as 'Wineji' by P. I navigate to the SKS Photo Folders and see a Album titled 'Wineji'. I never got down to telling Priya that I finally realised my dream of meeting 'Wineji' in Bombay. Neither did I tell her that the 'wine' turned out to be more like 'sour vinegar'. She would have squealed with mirth at that one. "See I told you....". She had gone out of her way to get Dev Anand's rendezvous with Simi Garewal recorded for me by a friend since I could not see it in the US. When I asked her how it was, her answer 'Quite intolerable, but a fan like you still might find some value'. That was P for you.
You know the song that is twirling in my head now P?
We had joy we had fun
we had seasons in the sun
but the wine and the song,
like the seasons have all gone.

Priya always dreamt of meeting her idol Asha Bhosle someday. A dream that went away with her. Maybe she was spared of a great disappointment. After all our idols are humans at the end of the day, they can never live up to the elevated image we fans build in our minds...
Back on SKS, in another thread, Priya and I seem to be making truce on some NJ, SDB battle (now you would ask what our old monk from Tripura has in common with Mallika-e-Tarranum? In the SKS of those days, everything would find a connection.)

Priya: I think SDB and NJ must be laughing over a cup of coffee in the grand place over us dumbos.
Me: NJ and SDB enjoying coffee together! Unimaginable. Not even up there. First.. SDB and coffee is unimaginable then NJ and coffee is unimaginable and then SDB and NJ completely off mark.!
Priya: Oh but then they might sample paan together. That will bond them. And then SDB will compose a tune and NJ will sing it. Oh but Meera may not allow such fraternising with beauties.
Me: P Dear Please do not corrupt my Old Man. Let him be happy running after Kishore in the celestial woods singing 'Jhingala ho'!
Priya : Yeh sab kya hai Ritu? Once someone said DA is not straight and now U say SDB runs after men in woods!!!! People in glass houses should not throw stones. ;)))

aha.. P wins this round. We were such kids. Some more searches, some more posts...There is one post where I am defending P against someone who has attacked her for uploading too many Noor Jahen songs! "I don't generally download the songs she uploads, but she has all right to upload them and it is very generous of her to do so" I defend.
In another post P is defending me. Someone has insinuated that my contribution to SKS is basically begging for songs with a beggar bowl :). "Ritu does ask for songs sometimes but her contribution to SKS is not limited only asking for uploads, even though she likes to write about only particular artists(read DA and SDB), her posts are well-researched"
I chuckle. The only kind of compliments we Virgos can disburse are back-handed ones. We were like peas in a pod in that respect. Priya used to have a comrade-in-arms in Pulkit, another Noor Jahan fan. They were referred to as P & P on SKS. P & P loved to upload NJ songs regularly and every else loved to pull their legs. We have compared NJ to all singers possible during those days. Imagine an evaluation of NJ Vs Geeta Dutt!
I usually called her 'P Dear', especially when we were having our fun moments. I type 'P Dear' in the search. Another few posts come up.

Ganti: The way both of u fight, I wonder if you were sisters in pichla janam. Or maybe saas and bahu :)
Me: Well I like the latter. I would love to be P Dear's Mom in law. ....... P Dear if you had some male idols I would have even adopted whoever you fancied. But the idea of mothering NJ or Asha is so horrific that I shall abdicate from MILship.
Priya : Ya and the thought of having DA as surrogate sasur!!!!! Enough to send one fleeing to a nunnery!

Priya would love to make wall-papers for the SKS Marquee (a couple of them are in the photos section below). She would good-naturedly put up with all the leg pulling regarding her choices of singers and photographs. She had a strongly impish streak. She once got back at Samik for ragging her on NJ, by morphing his photograph with that of Madam Noor Jahan in a 40s style romantic pose. Poor Samik. As a birthday gift, she once sent me morphed pictures of myself with SDB and DA. Her mirth knew no bounds when I fumed that the picture in which she juxtaposed my head on a rotund RD Burman's body was mistaken for a true picture of mine! Knowing how much of an allergy Robin Bhai had for Asha Parekh, she made a nice romantic picture of his with Ms 'Choti-si-Aas' Parekh and labeled it Sharma Na Yoon. I managed to find a couple of those pictures tucked away in a corner of my inbox. They are in the photos section at the bottom of the post. Some of those pictures like the one of NJ and Samik are lost in cyberspace now.
Priya and I used to chat on a lot of non-musical topics and a lot of them on SKS itself. One such topic pops out from a thread.

Priya: Everyone here (In Kerala) thinks I have such outlandish tastes
Me : Don't worry anyone with a music taste like yours will be considered outlandish anywhere. Kerela ho ya US :)
Priya: [continuing, ignoring my barb] They keep asking me, why do you like Hindi songs, are you a North Indian, how silly na?

Despite the barb I understood where she was coming from. We were kindred souls in the respect. Both of us were attracted to a culture and art that was far placed from our immediate context . She a Malayali, whose soul connected with the Punjabi robustness of Noor Jahan and I a Delhite of UP origin who was fascinated with the sweet strains of Bengal. To a certain degree we were both outsiders in our own surroundings and were often niggled for it. For me, given my inherent sense of elitism, all the niggling was water off a duck's back. But she would get hassled sometimes.
We would chat about many things. I was always fascinated with her life in a sprawling colonial bunglow in the beautiful Kerala backwaters and she with all my travelling and the life I lived here. She loved travelling too and was a great animal lover. She had a couple of cats. We always made plans when I would visit her we would explore the backwaters of Cochin and she would visit me in Delhi and we would see the Delhi that Dalrymple wrote about in the 'City of Djinns'. We had a common favourite in William Dalryample. She was doing her PhD in English at that time and had even written to and received a response from Dalyrmple.
She would talk about getting a job and moving into her own little place once her parents retired and she finished her PhD. Later, I was told that she did finish it and got a job as a lecturer in the university.
I search for some more snippets on SKS
We have moved from the old SKS to the new SKS, members are ribbing that we leave the NJ wallpapers behind.
Arunabha: Since we have two SKS's running concurrently, how about all the NJ stuff occupying one forum. In that case, we can safely steer clear of it and carry on at the old one :-) Oh, that some government would ban NJ forums ! :-(
Shakeel: I have a suggestion, if all members of the new group agrees to it. Why don't we change the name of this group to DNA Group?????
D for Dev Anand
N for Noor Jehan
A for Asha Bhonsley

Priya: Or maybe SAND?
But see --remove NJ and the grp will be SAD!!!! :))

Another unrelated thread.

Samik : Its good that Madame P. is back after such a long absence.We were almost tempted to sing: 'P been suna jee '
[it was a joke then, a poignant reality now]

A couple of posts down we discover that P has been missing from SKS for a while because her computer crashed. No, it was not a virus, but ants.
Priya: My Pc is gone for several days--most ridiculous :((( Ants got into my hard disc!!!!! Howbizarre. :(((. .... I found these creatures travelling inside. They laid their eggs in the hard disk.
There is much mirth around the forum on this revelation.

Ajit : "Is it because of the sweet Noor Jahan songs"
Sajjad: It has an opposite effect on my PC. I keepNJ/Saigal's MP3 to keep the bugs away from Rafi collections
Sathya: Generations of ants to come would scarce believe that such a one as Priya existed in flesh blood. Who so generously provided her computer for new generations of ants to spring forth into this world. So what if a little hard disk became non-functional. Look at the larger picture ! You have so nobly, perhaps unconciously, aided in the Cycle of Ant Life to continue.
Priya: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Grrrrrrrr. How could I forget that. Priya loved to er... Grrrrrrr. She used it when she was happy, when she was excited, when she was annoyed and when she lost a point. She had come to be known as 'Ms Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr' on the forum.
I search for 'Grrrrrr'. Many many posts come up. As I had expected all the posts have Priya in her element. I randomly pick one thread. There are peals of laughter going around the group. A little digging in reveals that an earnest post in which Priya was exploring love, marriage and parental decision through the prism of NJ (who else?) and her film Anmol Ghadi, she has made a killer faux pax. Instead of Anmol Ghadi (Priceless watch), she has typed 'Anmol Gadhi (priceless she-donkey). Everyone is rolling over laughing and P is protesting vehemently. The truth is that Atul, aka Atku Miyan has played a trick. Priya had typed it correctly but he changed it just to get some laughs.
Priya: Nahin Nahin....Our creepy friend changed the words. I checked with my sent folder. Catch me doing that to my beloved NJ
Jurm-e-typo ki hamein log saza dete hain
Kaise nadan hai yeh GRRRRR ko hawa dete hain....

P_in Dharam paaji swearing mode baying for Aktu mian's blood ;)

I laugh out loud reading this thread. The fun and camaradarie of SKS spills over with this exchange. Everyone around had their own idiosyncrasies. There was Kiriko Fukuyama a dutch woman who adopted Japan as her home country and loved Indian music. She loved SDB's singing and thought 'Sun Mere Bandhu Re' was 'Ullu Mere Bandhu Re' (I thought Dada was an animal lover she explained), there was Robin Bhai, with his number crunching and wondrous posts on LP and Anand Bakshi, KCP, Sathya, Samik, Ummer, Ganti, Nimmi, Kamaal, Arunabha, Ajit, Pulkit, Satish Uncle, Atku Miyan, Sajjad, Tadatmya, Naresh,..... many different people with their own choices and opinions all bound through a common love for music. And there was Priya ofcourse, funny, witty, generous, nutty, impish and very sweet.
I suddenly snap out of the reverie. The stark reality stares straight in the face. Those days are past, P is gone, she is never going to come back and Grrrrrrr again. It is all over. These archives are nothing but an illusion. The realisation still does not quite seep in somehow. After all how different is it to read the archives today or to have read it when the a post was originally made? You read it then, you read it now. It is not as if you were interacting with a flesh and blood group then and it is not the same now. Everytime you read the archives those times instantly spring to life. Yet it is not the same. It was a different point in time and different 'me' that was there.
Online friendships are such, they have a sinusoidal wave of activity. We get busy with the concerns of our real life and the virtual life takes a back seat and then suddenly out of nowhere the people pop up come back again in your life. Somehow the only feeling I can summon is that Priya has taken a sabbatical. She is still there somewhere floating in the realm of cyberspace, busy with her life but connected. She will be back soon. The ants got my hard disk.. I am not going anywhere... grrrrrrr
P do come back. Do tell me that the ants really got your hard disk. P, please.....


I am putting up some links of a couple of threads from SKS that these reminiscences are culled from (I have taken the liberty to edit and proof read some of the exchanges, to get the gist of the conversation). If you scroll to the bottom of the page you can follow the thread and the various sub-threads it takes.
Thread1, Thread2, Thread3, thread4, thread5, thread6, thread7, thread8
Arunabha's famous snapshot of SKS

Some Pictures

The only pictures of Priya that could be located. If you have any please do share them

[Updated: 09/22/2008 - A small video tribute to Priya was put together by Srinivas Ganti with input from all her friends. You can view it on youTube ]

Tribute to Priya - Video

Here are some of the wall-papers P excelled in creating. Do note, the letting-my-hair-down picture of Asha. I would rib her incessantly about Asha's propensity to wear flashy clothes

The rest are in the archives and can be found here
Here are some of P's naughty tricks.

Sharma Na Yun - Robin Bhai with Asha Parekh

Oh my God.. is there no escape? - Dev Saab with Madsji

Yours Truly with Uncle Dev

Made for each other!

Pyara Parivar - I as Asha's MIL

The wine and the song like the seasons have all gone........
Good-bye to you my trusted friend!



  1. Thanks Ritu.. reading through it brought tears to my eyes.

    Yes I remember the pc and the ants episode.


  2. Ritu a very poignant post...

    Thanks for bringing a nice chronicle of salad days of SKS. Even now when I look at barren SKS -Y , my heart literally bleeds. The sad and so untimely passing away of Priya has made that place even more desolate and bleak place to be in :(

    I have personally, not interacted much with Priya but yet I do intensely feel the twinge - it is so heartbreaking to see a young girl like her ( the only child of her parents) to go in this manner :(

    Life is so uncertain..


  3. Ritu..
    Simply brilliant..
    A misty eyed Anirudha da

  4. All those memories are flooding back.

    ....vo din kahaan gaye mere, sapnon se miiThe, giiton se pyaare....

    Wudn't it be nice if we got those days back, those days when Priya was very much alive.

  5. As I am typing this, a Talat song is playing "Phir Wahi Shaam, Wahi Gham, Wahi Tanhai Hain".

    Jaane Ab Tujhse Mulaakat Kabhi Ho Ke Na Ho...
    Jo Adhoori Rahi Wo Baat Kabhi Ho Ke Na Ho...

    This song basically sums up my feelings as well as everyone at SKS for dear Priya.

    For someone who wants to know what was Sangeet Ke Sitare on Yahoo, either one can go through all the threads or just read your post. Only wish it was not with reference to Priya's unfortunate passing away.

    May her soul rest in peace.

  6. Paaji

    I don't normally post comments - but truly you brought Priya back for us and me in particular- merci beaucoup.


  7. Ritu...Have been reading your blog since yesterday. No words to make a comment. its beautiful..

    Priya would have turned 32 today (Aug 26th). Maybe she's somewhere safe and happy and relishing her bday.

  8. Vineetha,

    I cannot even begin to imagine how you, Sindhu and all her childhood friends must be feeling at this point. I hope her parents have some sort of support system. They are in our minds all the time. Do tell them if you speak to them. Words truly can never convey the true depth of this loss.

    I guess the only way we can hope to feel better is by imagining she would be happy wherever she is. But we all know, it is easier said than done. 32 was not an age to go away.

    Take care!

  9. Thank you everyone who has got in touch with me on email and this post with your remniscences and pictures of Priya. I will be updating the blog with all that in the next day or two and I will also get back to you by email. I apologise for not promptly responding.