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Ek Tera Sahara … the early years
By T.M. Anantharaman
BANGALORE: As I approach a ripe old age of largely inconsequential and routine living, memories have begun playing tricks. This morning I woke up at around 4.30 a.m. as against my usual 5.30 a.m. and, for no earthly reason, a ditty I had heard years ago as a young boy of 10 or 11 began to haunt me. “Ek tera sahara, ek tera sahara, dil thoduk duniya mein …..” That was in 1946 and I was in Karachi then. I remember there was partition tension in the air. But those of us who were awaiting the morrow lived in peace with one another even while the song “ek tera sahara, ek tera sahara, dil …” used to blare from the music shop in the corner of the street down where we used to live in the city.

I remember two things about Ramsami Gaadi Gatha - the vast ground in front of our house which we had made our second home choosing to spend most of our free time playing football or cricket or cycling on the ground or just congregating with friends to ‘gupshup’ about the day’s events in the neighbourhood. The other is the song “ek tera sahara, ek tera sahara, dil thoduke duniya mein….”, which was heard frequently in the shops down the street or blaring over the loudspeakers at some marriage functions.

Ethos of the times
The melody reflected the ethos of the times in which we lived….in fear and anticipation of unknown dangers around the corners. But as youngsters, of course, we never worried too much about what the morrow would bring and simply let go ourselves into humming along the words “Ek tera sahara. Ek tera sahara. Dil thoduke Duniya mein…..” The tune was catchy and the words were simple and easily utterable. In retrospect, this is possibly the reason why after nearly more than six decades I still recall with vividness those pre-partition days and the song serves as a link to those tension-riddled times. But the melody of “ek tera sahara….” gave us courage to face the uncertain future with confidence, if not courage. Yes confidence we had but not much of courage because we sold most of our belongings, including my precious bicycle to neighbours for a song!

Readying to shift
We were getting ready to shift to Bombay, and I still remember our journey by ship to Bombay from Karachi. We were packed liked sardines in the lower deck, an under-hold in the ship’s bottom area. I still remember the stench of human sweat and vomiting in the bottom hold and how I used to run up the stairs to get to the upper deck for a breath of fresh air, away from the stench in our hold. But even while we were in the bottom hold or when I was up in the upper deck I would croon the lines “ek tera sahara, ek tera sahara, duniya mein…” For the life of me, I can’t understand why these lines I still recall and cherish even though I have no clue as to who has sung the original ditty.

Was it by Noor Jahan or by Shamsad Begum?
I think it was by Noor Jahan or Shamsad Begum but I am not sure. What is important, however, is that the music held me in thrall in my early years of teenage and even now I like to occasionally hum the lines. My efforts to find out the lyrics of the full song and the person who had sung it so well have failed. I have left behind my childhood days in the St. Patricks School in Karachi and my home ground in Ramsami Ghadi Gatha but the memories of “ek tera sahara, ek tera sahara dil thoduke duniya mein…” still haunt me. And I must say I enjoy the haunting melody because it propels me back to those innocent pre-partition days in Karachi. Long live “ek tera sahara, ek tera sahara dil thoduke duniya mein….” To me, it is simply memorable.

The transition from “ek tera sahara, ek tara sahara…..” to “Asai mukham marandu pochche” is equally memorable because this Bharatiyar song holds pride of place in my musical lexicon. This was the one I sang in a school competition and won the first prize. I am eternally grateful to my aunt (athanga, in fact) Smt. Rajam for taking me under her charge to prepare me for the competition and teaching me the first Bharatiyar song which I will never forget nor will I the raga on which she taught me this lovely poem viz Jaunpuri. Incredible as Bharatiyar, Jaunpuri and me.

It may sound, I won the competition in the school, singing “Asai mugam marundu pochche” in Jaunpuri raga because for the judges’ panel it sounded totally different from that of some 30 other children; all of them singing “Kannan piranthan engal kannan piranthan” in, I think, raga Kunthalavarali. Imagine if you are a judge of a competition and you had perforce to listen to many children singing the same song in the same tune, in the same monotonous fashion and suddenly you hear someone sing in a pleasingly different raga, a different song! That would automatically make you sit up and take notice and that was exactly what happened at the first and only music competition in which I participated. The judges were unanimous in awarding me the first prize – a small silver cup which I kept as my personal treasure for a long, long time. I will always remember fondly Rajam athanga and the raga Jaunpuri and the Baratthiar song “Aasai mugam marandu pochche”with great fondness and relish.

The transition from “Ek tera sahara” to “Asai mugam marundu pochche” is a long journey, musically memorable. Once I was exposed to the beauty of a Carnatic raga like Jaunpuri, it was not long before I pursued with vigour my leanings towards music both in Carnatic classical mode and those found in films of Hindi and Tamil.

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