Jamuna Kinare Mero Gaon?
I’ve had my nose in Srinath Perur’s If It’s Monday, It Must Be Madurai for the past couple of weeks. I can’t remember the last time I read a book from start to finish, without getting distracted by other books. However, I have a new policy this year — if I’m buying something at the book fair, I want to finish it while the ardour lasts, because who knows how I’ll feel about it in an older, wiser state a few years later?
Perur’s book does not bring up an overt connection between Monday and Madurai; my ignorant self had to go as far as the second page of Google searches upon looking for the title, before hearing of If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. Not one for spoilers (and I say this after having read the Wiki page describing Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity only this morning to decide if I want to read it now), I didn’t look up the film, but I’m quite certain that it is rather different from the book.
If It’s Monday a description of journeys with group travellers in India or with Indians abroad. I’m in the last chapter and I’m writing this now because a wave of Pune nostalgia has washed over me. In this chapter, Perur writes about the Wari — the pilgrimage on foot to Pandharpur. As he describes the dynamics of the groups, the bhakti singing, and the walks accompanying the saints’ palanquins, I’m reminded of my two evenings of the Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav: my main experience of a group cultural event in Maharashtra. Over the years, I’ve wanted to go back, but things don’t always happen on a whim. More than anything, though, I want to experience a mehfil. My go-to on YouTube for this:
Imagine this in real life, now: Pandit Kumar Gandharva, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, and Pandit Vasantrao Deshpande, at Shri Pu La Deshpande’s house. Jamuna and Chandrabhaga. Or a home which cannot be seen or realised, because we don’t know where it is, perhaps because a bit of everywhere feels like home.
And this is why I’ve been hooked to Perur’s book. There are several things I don’t agree with, but then not all of us think alike. The book is written with simplicity and reflects a sense of familiarity nowhere and everywhere at once. Tukaram’s abhangs are home, as are the strings of Uzbekistan. Not being able to move in time and space, to restrict these journeys to our heads, is often painful. The poignancy of Ustad Fareed Ayaz’s words, the tears you see, the Bhairavi you hear, are proof.