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Dear Daddy

Image and Narrative contributed by Rakesh Anand Bakshi, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Legendary lyricist Anand Bakshi left us eighteen years ago on this day. His son Rakesh Bakshi pens an intimate and personal tribute…

I do not believe you have gone away. No. I am not delusional! I see and hear you so often … when I switch on FM Radio, invariably it’s your lyrics that I hear. It’s the same with the innumerable TV shows: countless singing and dancing talent-hunt shows serenade the viewers with a song that was born in the unfathomable depths of your mind.

After you left in 2002, I met hordes of fans, and even people you had worked with, who told me things about your songs that I was not aware of. At times I felt embarrassed, though I was always proud of you, to be called your son, because I feared people would wonder ‘what sort of son does not know about the range of his father’s body of work!’

So, in an attempt to discover the songwriter ‘Anand Bakshi’, I decided to explore. I dived first into the ‘press cuttings’ file you had meticulously maintained. I was soon to discover it was dated from the very first article on you that had appeared in 1958, which had your name as the songwriter. It carried a black-and-white poster of your first film, Bhalaa Aadmi. How lovely to find it tucked-in that file, like a mother tucks-in her baby to sleep on a cold winter evening, warm and safe.

I do not believe you have gone away. No. I am not delusional! I see and hear you so often … when I switch on FM Radio, invariably it’s your lyrics that I hear.
I began to read the press articles chronologically, because that’s how you had filed them. Not even one paper cutting was out of place. From that, I graduated to your personal diaries, and discovered how much more you had loved us, more than what you had or could have displayed. It was a culture thing, maybe, I realized, not showing your love for your family by way of ‘hugs and kisses’ and ‘I love you-s’. If you had remained aloof most of the day, it was only because your soul was seeking solitude. I probably read too much into your being along in your room with just Mummy for companionable silence most of the time. Even though you were always there when we had a question, when we had a dream, when they came true, or when they crashed. You were always there, Daddy, always, though in silence. It was I who was blind to you.

Though I wrote the first draft of your biography, stories from your life and songs, within three months of you embarking on your eternal travel, it took me years to get over the ‘shameful’ feeling that I did not really know ‘Anand Bakshi’ as well as so many others did, in spite of living within you and with you. So, maybe that is why I began a group on Facebook that could help me discover ‘Anand Bakshi’ through your songs and those your fans love; your fans who were such a significant link for this son to his daddy who was a lyricist! And then there were your handwritten diaries and notes, kept meticulously over five decades, and of course your corpus of songs.
It’s now I realize it’s enough to have known you as a father, as Daddy. I need not have known you as a ‘geetkar’. Life will invariably give me an opportunity to discover that too.
Only then did I realize that there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of in not knowing ‘Anand Bakshi’. A son can probably know his father just as his ‘daddy’; that’s how we siblings addressed you … we were primarily your ‘children’ and more concerned with our daily needs and dreams, rather than which song you wrote, why and for whom. It’s now I realize it’s enough to have known you as a father, as Daddy. I need not have known you as a ‘geetkar’. Life will invariably give me an opportunity to discover that too.

There were so many things you advised me not to do. Of course, I did not listen, and needless to say, you were proved correct. There were many things I did not want to do, which you advised me to, even scolding me, and you were proved correct again. Before you left, I had casually mentioned ‘I want to make a documentary on you, or maybe someone should write a book on you…’ And you had replied, ‘Mere jaane ke baad, pehle apna khud ka kuch karna, mere liye kuch bhi karne se pehle. Maine apni zindagi jee li, tum pehle apni zindagi jiyo, apne sapne poore karo, mere barey main sochne se pehle. Aur apne sapne poore karne mein, apni maa aur apne bhai ko bhool nahin jaana. Aur apni beheno ko bhi.’ (After I am gone, do something on your own, before doing anything for me. I have lived my life. You have to live yours, fulfil your dreams. And in living your dreams, never forget your brother, your mother and your sisters.)
Before you left, I had casually mentioned ‘I want to make a documentary on you, or maybe someone should write a book on you…’ And you had replied, ‘Mere jaane ke baad, pehle apna khud ka kuch karna, mere liye kuch bhi karne se pehle. Maine apni zindagi jee li, tum pehle apni zindagi jiyo"
That’s one advice of yours I took to heart. I waited for my own first book Directors’ Diaries 1 as an author to be ‘contracted’, before I sent the first draft of my book about you to a publisher. I remember the editor at the publishing house enthusiastically asking me, ‘Have you written anything on your father, Anand Bakshi…?’ I told him about what you advised me: achieve something of your own before doing anything on my name. The editor understood and respected my view, and never inquired about your book until I broached the topic with him once I had the faith that my own book would see the light of day.

You spent a lifetime creating work no one can really put a value on. In this world many people we meet are constantly putting a value on our worth, evaluating us for how we dress, what car we drive, where we stay, our annual holiday destinations. Following your example, I decided to do something no one can possibly put a value on, ever. Because I was constantly being compared to your achievements. Which seem impossible to me to measure up to. I founded Bicycle Angels, a non-profit social initiative, with the help of my friends, some acquaintances and a few strangers. 

Through this initiative, we attempt to help underprivileged people who depend on a bicycle for their livelihood. For example, the egg seller, the pav wallah, the milkman who never delayed his delivery to our house, the newspaper vendor, the electrician, the amazing postman or courier guys, and so on. We help them service their old bicycles, or get them new or old ones if they have none, or replace their old weathered bicycle with a new one, and often we make them contribute towards the purchase too, as a nearly equal partner. 
Can anyone really put a value of how these countless people benefit from our collective the initiative? Just like your songs, which of course are a league apart from our humble efforts. It is you who inspired me, when you told me of an old Chinese saying.
Can anyone really put a value of how these countless people benefit from our collective the initiative? Just like your songs, which of course are a league apart from our humble efforts. It is you who inspired me, when you told me of an old Chinese saying. I still remember you reading out quotes you loved from your favourite Readers’ Digest, wearing your thick-rimmed glasses, chewing paan. ‘If you feed a man a plate of rice, you feed him a meal. If you teach him to grow rice you feed him forever.’ 

As I grow older and come to understand a little more about you, I find a lot of similarities between us. Just like you did, I too often feel defeated, I often feel vulnerable. That’s not to deny I often feel loved and inspired too. Things that you so casually said keep me going in such moments of despair. One: ‘I am a being of divine light. I have within me all that the universe has to offer. It’s up to me to take what I want when I want.’ And, ‘There is something inside me greater than my circumstances, superior to all situations of life.’ And to keep our pride in check you had said, ‘Always be humble for what you achieve. Humne dekhe hain bade bade, gir jaate hain khade khade (I have seen the mighty fall – the bigger they are, the harder they fall).’
And to keep our pride in check you had said, ‘Always be humble for what you achieve. Humne dekhe hain bade bade, gir jaate hain khade khade (I have seen the mighty fall – the bigger they are, the harder they fall).’
I never analysed your writing while you were ‘home’ with all of us, and now with the benefit of a little more maturity I can say, your depth of poetic temperament made you see things with such intensity of feeling and force of imagination that you could create some never-heard-before expressions even with repetitive situations. In the variety of your work lies an Absolute Experience. The philosopher Henri Bergson said, ‘“I” is something that appears to overflow every part of our body, passing beyond it in space as well as in time.’ And like Bergson, I too believe that ‘I’ can be termed as our soul, a force at work invisibly. ‘I’, which seeks to accomplish the functions of the body and go beyond it, and the body creatively evolving ‘I’ in the process. ‘I’ having the ability to surpass itself, to give everything it has and then something more. I believe that ‘Anand Bakshi’ embodies the soul that has the ability to give of itself more than it contains. This belief became the basis of my admiration of you as a lyricist, and my effort towards publishing a book on your story and songs. After having discovered and rediscovered your lyrics post your ‘I’, your soul, having fulfilled its purpose on Earth.
I believe that ‘Anand Bakshi’ embodies the soul that has the ability to give of itself more than it contains. This belief became the basis of my admiration of you as a lyricist, and my effort towards publishing a book on your story and songs.
A parting shout-out for us?

When Mom passed away in 2008, I happened to hear your song ‘Chitthi Na Koi Sandesh’ from Dushman:

Ek Aah Bharee Hogi
Humne Na Sunee Hogi
Jaate Jaate Tumne
Aawaz Toh Di Hogi
Har Waqt Yehi Hai Gham
Us Waqt Kahan Thay Hum
Kahan Tum Chale Gaye


I wonder, whenever this song plays, ‘Did Mom and you give us a shout-out just before steeping away from our horizon?’ Some questions are best left unanswered. You left your mark on my heart and life, Dad, I miss you and wish we had said our final goodbyes. 

Har Cheez Pe Ashkoon Se
Likha Hai Tumhara Naam
Ye Raste Ghar Galiyaan
Tumhe Kar Na Sakee Salaam


Daddy, you lived with some fears and anxiety in spite of your innate grit and courage. Your journey from Royal Indian Navy and Indian Army fauji Bakhshi Anand Prakash Vaid to geetkaar Anand Bakshi inspires me to remind myself when I face challenges, ‘Mera andruni hausla meri bahari mushkilon se zyaada taaqatwar hai.’ (My willpower is stronger than any challenge life has to offer.) Moreover, what you said in 2002, a few weeks before you departed, is as inspiring, ‘The best news is that I am alive. And they say this feeling is the happiest of all!’

After you left, I wrote this to announce your Chautha/Prayer Meet:

Dear dad,
As long as there is poetry
Long as there is memory
You live amongst us all.
You leave behind footprints
On the canvas of life
Sands of time
And in our heart.


A musical note or chord lasts only a few seconds, yet its impact is felt long after it’s over. Whenever I hear your songs play, it is yet another chitthi and sandesh from you for me and your listeners.

Dad, thank you for these … what kept you going keeps me going too; and yes, thank you for giving us the financial and emotional stability which we have even today. I love you. Sorry, I could not express this to you in so many ways that you had wanted me to. You left without waiting for me to mature to realize my folly.
 

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