Childhood is a time of innocence. But like many things, it is fleeting. Before you know it, you are an adolescent, and soon, you are being told you need to 'grow up' and be 'responsible'. When do you 'grow up' exactly? What is the defining line that cuts you off from your childhood and defines you (even to yourself) as a young man or woman? Technically, I suppose by the time you reach the 20s, you are an adult. At least, that is the point when your elders are telling you, 'You're supposedly an adult; why don't you do ----?' The very next moment, the same elders are telling you, 'Tum abhi bachche/bachchi ho. Buzurgon ka kaha maano.' (Of course, that is when they want you to do something you have no interest whatsoever in doing.)
For me, 'growing up' suddenly hit very close to home when my eldest niece got married last year. I mean, what the heck? I still remember her as the wriggly baby in my arms! I had just begun college then, myself. She is grown up? When did that happen? What next? My nephews will follow suit soon, then my other niece... and then, my own children? (Oh, gosh! My kids! The younger one is only eight! But in the time it takes me to blink, I will turn around and see a strapping young man standing next to me, and I will wonder the same thing - where did my baby go?) How time flies!
Those first steps into adolescence, and later, young adulthood, are exhilarating. Scary, but exciting. Suddenly, there is a brand new world out there to explore. A world where you are not under your parents' shadows. a world where everything is new and shiny and wonderful, a world where darkness and shadows lurk, but they are so far beyond your ken that you do not stop to think of it, a life in which you are immortal.
It is the age when you test boundaries, both yours and that of your parents; it is the age when you quest for an identity that is more than just that of being your parent's offspring; the age when you need to rebel against uniformity to express your individuality (and never mind if that 'individuality' is part of a different uniform)... It is the age when the new feelings come beckoning and even you don't quite know what you feel...
If you look at Hindi films, there were many situations when the person feels that their childhood is being left behind. (It is interesting that all the songs on my list were sung by women. That raises the question: don't men feel the same angst? There is often a longing for those more innocent times that are now lost in the mists of the past, coupled with a nervous anticipation of what life has to offer.
So, dedicated to everyone who either remembers their own travels through those confusing, conflicting, rebellious, bitter-sweet, happy-sad times, and to those who are in, or about to step into that twilight world between the carefree days of childhood and sedate 'responsible' adulthood, here are some of the songs that probably express what you may have felt, are feeling, or will feel some day...
1. Sapne suhane ladak pan ke (Bees Saal Baad/1962) Lata Mangeshkar / Hemant Kumar-Shakeel Badayuni
Dreams of her youth are just beckoning beyond the vales, yet she realises that she is prey to conflicting emotions. As her feelings yo-yo between happiness and desolation, ostensibly uncontrolled, she wishes for the less-complicated years of her childhood.
Ghabraake akela manwa, main leke jawaani haari
Kaise kate ye din uljhan ke, koi laa de zamaane woh bachpan ke
Waheeda Rehman is suitably bubbly and chulbuli in the picturisation of this song, and is definitely struck by an uncontrollable coyness in the middle. The hero is watching, taking a moment to free himself from the worry of wondering whether he is going to be the next murder victim.
(Anyone else notice that,a great majority of songs such as these are sung in the great outdoors, usually in the hills; two, there has to be a lamb or kid or two gambolling around, and three, they will usually find some water to girlishly splash around?)
2. Ja ja ja mere bachpan (Junglee /1961) Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar-Jaikishen - Hasrat Jaipuri
Hills and dales? Check. Livestock? Check. Chulbuli-ness? Check. Jokes apart, Rajkumari (Saira Banu) has just been informed by her loving father that she is of an age when he should be thinking of her marriage. She, practical girl that she is, is bidding goodbye to her childhood. It is interesting that even as she bids it to hide somewhere, she is aware that a storm awaits her. Ye safar hai ab mushkil, aane ko hai toofan... is adolescence/early youth really that conflicted?
Unlike the preceding song, however, she is perfectly happy with the impending changes, because she is aware of her own changing desires...
Mera aanchal mere bas ka baahar hua
Mujhko lekar udaa, aasmaan chhoo liya
Ja ja ja mere bachpan, kahin jaake chhup naadaanYe safar hai ab mushkil, aane ko hai toofan
3. Kya yahi jawani hai (Chaand/1944) Zeenat Begum / Husnlal-Bhagatram - Qamar Jalalabadi
Our third heroine, Begum Para, has no such issues clouding the matter at hand. She is just surprised that this is what it means to cross over into that hallowed age - This is it? one can imagine her thinking. Heck, life is beautiful! And so is she. No doubts there, at all. Why ask anyone else? Her mirror tells her so.
Main gairon se kyun poochoon, aaina jo kehta hai
Tu husn ki rani hai, kya yahi jawani hai
It is, in fact, a celebration of her youth. And she has only one thing to say to both her vanishing childhood and her coming youth:
Jaate hue bachpan se, aate hue yauvan se
Donon se main kehti hoon
Ye dil ki meri ye duniya
Ab kaise basaani hai
4. Bachpan o bachpan (Mem Didi) Lata Mangeshkar / Salil Choudhary - Shailendra
Tanuja's Rita, unlike the others, is searching for her childhood in this sweetly-told tale of a spinster aunt, her schoolgirl niece, and two crusty bachelors. She has looked for her childhood inside her house, she has searched for it in the town and the forest - she wants to know where it has hidden itself, without so much as a by-your-leave. For, the world as she knew it, is changing.
Jis din se tu gaya hai
Ye din machal raha hai
Duniya hai kuch ajab si
Sab kuchch badal raha hai
5. Dil ka ladakpan shuru ho gaya (Ek Raat/1967) Usha Khanna / Usha Khanna - Anjaan
Simi Garewal is probably better known as talk-show host than as an actress. But she did appear sporadically in a few movies here and there, since her very westernised demeanour did not fit the traditional 'heroine' roles. Of course, like everyone else, she needs hills and dales to frolic in, whilst singing about her impending adulthood. Except that the poor woman had to drive out of the city before she could find the aforesaid locales. (She is also probably the sort of driver you do not want behind the steering wheel of a car.) Her vanishing childhood is not very deeply mourned, but yes, it is unfaithful, leaving her at the crossroads of life. So, once she reaches the hills without killing anyone (not for lack of trying), she sings:
Woh masoom rishte sabhi tod ke
Meri zindagi ka ye rukh mod ke
Kahan kho gaya bewafa bachpanaMujhe is ajab mod pe chhod ke
6. Bachpan ke yaad dheere dheere (Shaheed/1948) Lalita Deulkar / Ghulam Haider - Qamar Jalalabadi
Kamini Kaushal, at least, is straightforward. The memories of her childhood friend have deepened into love now that they are meeting as young adults, and she hopes that he feels the same way. After all, it is not her fault...
Dil mein muhobbat aayi jawaani ke saath saath
Meri dil ki nagri pyar ka sansar ban gayiBachpan ki yaad dheere dheere pyar ban gayi...
If he doesn't fall in love with her, it will not be for want of trying.
7. Bachpan ke din bhi kya din the (Sujata/1959) Geeta Dutt - Asha Bhosle / SD Burman - Majrooh Sultanpuri
There is a plaintive note to the emotions expressed here. Bachpan ke din bhi kya din the... Life was so much more carefree then. There is regret expressed for what is lost, for what will never be again...
Kabhi roye to aap hi hans diye hum
Chhote chhote khushi, chhote chhote vo gham
Haay kya din the, vo bhi kya din the
Bachpan ke din bhi kya din the
Udte phirte titli banke...
Nostalgia? Yet, she (Shashilkala) is the daughter of the house, loved and pampered. On the other hand, her adopted sister (Nutan), beti jaisi, who, despite her amorphous relationship with her mother, hums her happiness at being alive!
These girls are not bidding goodbye to childhood or welcoming youth as much as they are celebrating it. There is such life, such zest for living, such sheer happiness that one cannot help smiling along with the bevy of girls, who crowd the road on their bicycles. And Nutan, glorious, smiling Nutan, wishes for a compatible person to share the experience.
Manzil pe aaye koi naina milaye koi
Bhar de ye ulfat ki jholiyaan
There is an expressed wish for love, for happiness, for someone (several someones) who will fill their lives with the colour of love.
Kheton pe chhayi jawaaniyan
Patton pe likhi kahaaniyan
Phoolon ki daal jaise rangeen roomal koi
De-de humein bhi nishaaniyaan...
If Rajkumari in Junglee wanted her childhood to go away, never to return, then, Roopa (Vyjayanthimala) is begging her childhood to stay, but unfortunately, her childhood is just a visitor, and has to leave. But like the others, she too is prey to many different emotions, and they are driving her mad.
Kar de na mujhe paagal
Mere natkhat armaanWhy is it that she suddenly feels shy? Or needs to hide from the world? Whom can she talk to, now that her childhood is gone? Can't it stay?
Apart from the conflicting emotions, this heroine is also infested with insomnia. And sudden shyness. All symptoms of the age? Hmm...
10. Panchchi banoo udte phiroon (Chori Chori / 1957) Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar-Jaikishen - Shailendra
Like Banke panchchi gaaye pyar ka tarana, this song too is a celebration of life in the present. It is also so much more. It is a celebration of happiness, of breaking away from what is considered 'proper', of being able to live life her own way, unencumbered by restrictions.
Ho mere jeevan mein chamka savera
Ho mita dil se woh gham ka andhera
Ho hare kheton mein gaaye koi lehra
Ho dil par kisi ka na pehra
Rang bahaaron ne bhara apne jeevan mein
Aaj main azaad hoon duniya ke chaman mein...
I must confess to being slightly befuddled by these songs, actually. I do not recollect being so conflicted when I was a teenager, or wanting my childhood to go away or return - I definitely wasn't afraid of growing up. (Now whether I've actually 'grown up' is a question I refuse to answer on grounds that it will incriminate me.) Of the songs that I eventually selected, Panchchi banoo udte phiroon is closest to the way I felt about my late adolescence and early twenties - that sense of being free...
So ends my list, but surely there are other songs? Which song would you say best describes this stage of your life? What would you add? Why?