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People Need Love

October 14, 2013

In the USA, Paul Robeson made a soul-stirring rendering of Ol’ Man River (Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Kern) in 1928. It had lyrics which were from the movie Show Boat, and were not politically correct euphemisms, Negroes working and Whites enjoying. Robeson did use the bass solo over the years, and the lyrics changed to  politically correct terms. But it did stir a generation.

Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights March of a couple of hundred thousand blacks (and non-black sympathisers) in Washington in 1962. Though President Kennedy was scared to death of violence of the sort that was taking place in Alabama and elsewhere, and had virtually brought Washington, DC, to a state of siege, they marched singing We Shall Overcome without any violence. Martin Luther King  was afraid to start with, but the message of Mahatma Gandhi had reached him and he could say, “We are not afraid,” in a positive way.

The Civil Rights movement did improve things.

Nearer home, I was once told by my father that his friends wanted to create3 a spoof of Ulloor Paramesara Iyer’s Uma Keralam with their own spoofed version called Kothakelam, about old social conditions  with verses like

Namboorar undu rasiche
Mattullor kandu rasiche

(Namoothiris enjoyed, feasting,
Others enjoyed watching).

And of course, I am told about Kodungalloor Kunjikuttan Thampuran who apparently wrote a book called Thuppal Kolambi (Spittoon) (I have not read it) that depicted all things that should not be done. Usually, they could bot be spoken of.

Bhupen Hazarika built a career (Gonga, boicho kano?, Megh Thom thom kore, etc) out of such sentiments as represented the spirit of Ol’ Man River and became the darling of the leftist crowd in India. Later in the seventies we enjoyed Karen Karpenter singing, what else?, Sing.

Sing a song
Let the world sing along
Make it simple to last your whole life long.
Sing of good things, not bad
Sing of happy, not sad

We sang. Sing for you and for me.

Just sing.

The idea of the establishment protecting its young and culture from the violence, terror and the language of the undesirable neighbourhoods did become unfashionable, though political speech must not change. Why not call a spade, a spade? Why not let the pain and frustration and violence and bad words come out?

The rapper had no censor watching him, and my son’s generation has grown up hearing it all, seeing it all… But have they achived anything better than bringing the language out into the open? Does it make better to sing of good things?

I had these thoughts today when I came across a Youtube video of the karaoke version of Abba’s People Need Love. Why not let groups play the video and sing good words?

Tailpiece: It would appear that the Bombay rag (that is the word I like to use about similar media including several TV channels) DNA has headlines about cyclone Phailin that scream : First, the Anxiety, then the Anticlimax. It must have been an anticlimax to see there was not much of loss of life or destruction.

Why not say: First, the Anxiety, then the Relief (or Acievement, or something positive, that some things worked?)

Tailpiece 2: My wife and I were discussing the Ratnagarh temple stampede.

Whenever and wherever in India we are in a queue, we find people physically pushing from behind. Why? Such behaviour does create problems.

If the physical pushing were an analogue of other behaviour, Indians must have become the most competitive of all the world’s people.


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  1. Induchoodan permalink

    It is high time people are made to believe that temple is situated in their hearts only. There is no need to crowd around a badly sculptured piece of stone made dirty with ghee and milk ablutions. Imagine how much the country could save on unnecessary expenditure and save precious lives. The only losers will be the priestly class who in any case are the parasites of the society making a living by spreading superstition.

    A deeper analysis of our religion has led me to the conclusion that it lacks ethical basis. It is more based on magical concepts. The idea of pooja itself is closer to black magic. The Upanishadic idea of God as the universal soul binding everybody together has been lost in the conventional religion. The priestly class wanted to base it on the magical elements so that they would have a central role in the system and wield power on that basis. This may be the reason why our social commitment is so primitive. We have to restructure our religion on ethical foundations. But where do we start ?

  2. g.n.setty permalink

    I agree with you…Gandhi visited Kali temple in Calcutta a year or so after arriving in India,may be 1916.Blood was dripping on the foot steps of the temple after the daily sacrifice of goats by the devotees and the Sadhus were just oblivious to this flow of blood as well as the surrounding filth.That was Gandhi’s last trip to a religious place.He was for a higher God that was in human beings around him.He showed serving people is the highest form of service to God.My own : take care of people in your family first,then the outer family and friends,then the wider society if you still have stamina and resources.Brahmins put every thing upside down : Brahmin by birth instead of by scholarship,learning and achievement.Now rituals are more important,everywhere including India, than our country we NEVER followed Gandhi..yes,we worship him but don’t follow the life ( amount of food he ate ( he used to count the carbs ! –decades before it became fashionable—what he ate,when he got up,his daily activities,his devotion to truth,him not following / observing any religious ritual ) he led.

  3. Girish Kumar permalink

    Dear Soman,
    It is not that we indians have suddenly become very competitive. It is just that we do not respect others’ rights, a total lack of civic sense. We just push and shove and somehow get what we can and the hell with the rest.

  4. Balagopala Kurup permalink

    Brilliant (as always), Soman. Indu, people may need props befoe they rise to a higher level of understanding. At that stage, lamps, idols and offerings of flower, sandal etc do help. Music however continues to be a universal shortcut to inner peace and tranquility.

  5. We have learnt to stop at the red signal – most often – if you are likely to be fined, and if the fine hurts you, and if you are likely to be hit, and that hurts you. And when the lights turn green, we honk and honk and try to move through wherever we can push through. Other people exist only to come in your way!

  6. R.Ravindran Menon permalink

    There is an age old saying that Love makes the world go round.All of us do need love in our lives to make life meaningful and happy.To my mind, caring for your loved ones,friends and neighbours is the starting point for creating an atmosphere of love in our lives. By being sympathetic to people in society who are less fortunate than us or who are undergoing some kind of pain or sorrow and extending a helping hand wherever and whenever possible is a facet of love that must permeate to all sections of society. It is only then that we will have harmony and peace in society. It is also said that the love we give returns to us in double measure from various sources.

  7. The civil rights movement did make a lot of changes. But economic stratification has possibly hardened and upward mobility impossible irrespective of color. On an aside, Tupac is a rapper who sang very positively. His mother had been in the black panthers. But I see geography limiting choices and homes for many in the US. If you are born in the countryside, you don’t get a good education or if you do go to college it is tough to stay through it when city kids party it up and survive through drugs and drinking. I know of a young black man who got into Harvard med school and decided to junk it because he thought he could keep costs low staying on in Florida for Pre-med. He almost flunked and is dialing down his ambition. Why? Partly the peer group. if he had gone to Harvard maybe he’d have been fine. Broken homes, a bad neighborhood, drugs… All these have resulted in many African Americans and even poor white people struggling to have hope.
    Life isn’t easy. For anyone. But it is worthwhile only because of other people you care about and who care about you. BTW, not sure if it is credible, but i’ve read that “The Carpenters” were promoted partly as an attempt to stem popularity of anti-establishment hippie favorites.

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