In the Karwan e Mohabbat bus in which we traveled for a month we would often sing songs. This one time, the Brothers from Vidya Jyoti College were singing the song, “Mandir masjid girja ghar mein baant liya bhagwan ko,” a song I learned at school and one of the most beautiful compositions I have heard. But the boys weren’t singing it in tune, I thought. “Friends, please sing it in tune,” I said but they seemed to not care. That happens a lot. I have often heard different versions of the song at different gatherings, protest meetings, peace walks and marches, in my 15 years of social activism.
When the Karwan reached Ahmedabad, we were joined by Charul Bharwada & Vinay Mahajan, singer and activist duo, Founders, Loknaad Foundation. At the peace meeting they sang some of their beautiful soul stirring songs of soil, tribal, forests, people’s struggle, human rights. Songs like, We The People, Tum Zinda Ho, Pyar Ka Shamma, Zindabad, and more.
Later, in a casual chit chat with Mr Mahajan, I asked him about his work, his musical journey, when did he start, whether they have any album recorded. In his most humble tone he told me about his jouney, “I am not really a singer, I mean I used to sing in college, who doesn’t? But I am not trained in music. In IIM, I just started writing about what I felt, starting from Mandir Masjid, which I wrote when I met Anand Patwardhan, and then more songs like…,”
“Wait a minute what? Mandir – Masjid, you mean Mandir masjid girja ghar mein baant liya bhagwan ko that song?” I interrupted him in astonishment.
“Yes!” he replied with a humble smile.
It was an extraordinary moment for me to meet the man who had composed the song which I grew up with as India’s social activism anthem. A song I first learned in school and came across countless time in the last three decades, a song I thought so timeless, perhaps written over hundreds of years ago, one of those urban folk songs whose roots were unknown.
A video shot by me, sound quality is regretted
Written and composed by Vinay Mahajan in 1985, after meeting film maker Anand Patwardhan, the song have spread across India inspiring millions of youth, students, social activists, civil societies for over three decades and is today a legend. Few would hardly know who composed the song but almost everybody has heard the song somewhere or the other. The song went viral from Ahmadabad and spread all over India within few months, at a time when there was no technology available to record and share instantly. Understandably as it traveled through word of mouth, the tune changed and today there are multiple versions of the song available on YouTube.
Mahajan was later joined by his partner in life and activism, Charul Bharwada and they founded the Loknaad Foundation. Together they have penned and performed soul stirring music on various human rights issues each of which have gone on to be clarion calls, signature songs for each issue. The words from their songs on ‘right to information’, ‘right to work’, have been used the government of India in their various initiatives, painted on walls, used in text books, often without their permission of, without even informing them.
Hum Log, We The People, the Constitution song by Charul and Vinay
Does the copyright violation worry him? “Not really, I penned it and gave it away, and it had reached far and wide and met it purpose,” said Mahajan. This one time, I was in a tribal village in Madhya Pradesh attending a village meeting. At the end of the program, a group of tribal women wanted to sing a song. It was our song on right to information. They didn’t even know it was written by us. They sang in their own way, mixed with tribal tunes, we applauded. That day I got my greatest reward.”
As did I with when I requested him to hum a few lines of the legendary song, Mandir – Masjid.
Charul and Vinay, are in Delhi performing their songs. You must hear them live.
7 pm, Saturday, 28th October,
Central Park, Connaught Place