Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Suraj Kay Saat Andhay Ghoday

Sun's chariot atop Shani Temple at Chandni Chowk, Delhi

Coded on Red Walls

On the peripheral walls on Red Fort and the red walled flyover in front  of it.

Unrelated post: Arundhati's Beast

Cut and Paste Heroines

And while we are are on the subject of Heroines and print technology: A man at Daryaganj showing a neat little cut and paste technique.

Katrina Dolphins

And while we are still in Old Delhi...

Cinema Posterwalla at Daryaganj

June 27, 2011

A trip to Sunday Kitab Market at Daryaganj is always a delight, but this Sunday I was surprised to see a new stall. The kid as the shop told me it has only been there since last couple of weeks. I went thorough the stuff, quite impressed, there were even Raj era letters, Rs.10 a piece. This was obviously just the sample. And the rates are great. Certainly better than what one pays online for such stuff. Hundred rupees for the theater brochure of 'Bombay to Goa' isn't too bad. The kid said he father will be back soon. An old man asked the kid how much for the whole bunch of those old letter. The man said he wants all, how much. The kid started flipping through the album in which the letters were kept, counting under his breath. 'Are you calculating?' The old man looked at me and then at the boy and gave a benevolent.

The father was there when I returned, he introduced himself as Shenky [real name Suleiman] and in the same breath asked me if I had come via Sufi. The kid must have reported but I was a bit confused. Sufi? I am Sufi.

Dilliwalla, Sir.

That rang a bell. He told me that the famous Dilliwalla had bought some rare Satyajit Ray from him and had covered him recently. It had helped him. Already he had sold stuff to five guys in the day who had come all the way from Delhi Cantt.

The collection on sale originally belonged to Shenky's father who collected it all over the years. After his father's death recently, Shenky decided to sell the collection.

He claims to have rare Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, all Amitabh Bachchan,, even Italian and some other overseas stuff. Most averaging around Rs500. All impressive.

A Posterwalla, just past Sablok clinic at Daryaganj. Delhi certainly needed one and what better address for a posterwalla than Daryaganj on Sunday.

Posterwalla's son



All I heard was a heavy Droff somewhere in the background. The distinct sound of a body hitting the ground. As I turned around,  a woman from somewhere inside the womb of an auto-rickshaw shouted out to no one in particular and perhaps to herself, 'Uthao usay!'

After many Sundays, I felt like going out. There had been a nice drizzle in the morning, I felt like going to Chandni Chowk and Daryaganj, at Daryaganj you can make the best bargains when the sky is cloudy and the road is wet. And its narrow, busy lanes remind me of the place where I grew up. I felt like going. I talked a friend into coming along, which turned out to be a good things as I felt like not going soon after I well sold the idea to him with lines: 'you can get your fat M.Tech books real cheap. When were you last there? Twelve years! Too long .'But then I started having second thoughts. It is going to get humid. I can stay here and finish that damn book. It was a good thing that a brought in a friend into the plan as now I couldn't back-out. 

So there I was walking the streets of Chandni Chowk, just having brought out my camera, taking some trial shots, trying to get the settings right, and then there was this sound Droff. In Kashmiri we call this fall Alle Droff , to fall like a bottle gourd. But the word is usually reserved for jest. I turned around to find a man lying on the road in a convoluted arrangement, his head facing away from me. Looking at his green lungi checked in white and brown stripes, and the rickshaw next to his body, it was obvious that a rickshawalla had fallen from the rickshaw. As I looked on, trying to grasp the situation, a thin murmur from the passing crowd reached out to me, I figured no one was going to reach out to the man. I walked back to the place where the man was lying. He could have been sleeping sideways in the middle of the road. He was making no attempt to get up. I turned around to see his  face. A thick line of dark blood had already trickled down from below his ear and onto the road. He wasn't bleeding profusely. It seemed that this thin, dark and middle aged man with a sparse and white stubble only under the chin, had no more blood left to offer the road. He must have fallen from the rickshaw, hitting the asphalt road on the side of his face. But he wasn't convulsing from the injury. His muscles seemed to be in a jam, arms fixed close to his chest, the instinctive response of a body falling, his legs were in a knot, a body not realizing its falls, with those crossed legs he could well have been sitting on his rickshaw. But he was lying on the road, his eyes starting to roll out, body vibrating, like to electricity, and then finally there was foam coming out from his mouth. 

I handed over my camera, which now left like an unnecessary drag around my neck, to my friend. I knew I had to help. The question was how. Till then, I had only seen Sanjeev Kumar out do Jitendra at enacting a Mirgi Ka Dora. Those useless filmwallas. Their Chappals and their Loha. On screen, and even in casually heard anecdotes, it always had a ring of falseness to it. The sacred disease and the earthly cures. 

I rolled the man on his back so that he was now facing the sky and the crowd that gathering and dis-banding. I felt ashamed of the fact that after rolling him over, I had no clue of what next to do. I do only carry useless information in my head. I looked around. Nothing. I had my hands on my hips. I looked at my friend. He wasn't bearing witness for the first time. Only a couple of months back he had told me about some relative of his, a woman, who had had an epileptic seizure in the middle of the havan ceremony meant for 'purifying' his newly built house.  Given the nature of the event, people had given it supernatural interpretation. Demons and spirits, breaking out. He himself was only baffled because when the woman had come to her senses, she claimed she had no recollection of the seizure. A doctor had been called, and my friend had got himself a bit educated about the condition. So now, even as a guy from the crowd, a big burly rickshawalla, who looked like he knew what he was doing, having already acquired a leather chappal from a generous passer-by, was putting a chappal under the nose of the mareez, another guy from the crowd, an old man, advising him to at least turn the shoe the other way, at least not make the mareez smell the sole, at least get the Kada, my friend blurted out,'This does not work. This does not work. He can't breath.' It did seem that the man was struggling to breath. And breathing was all his body was trying to do and struggle against. He breath came with a wheeze.

As I looked with dread at the veins trying to bulge out of the man's neck, a man from a passing rickshaw suggested,'Turn his heads sideways.Let him breath.' The chappal and the chappal people had already moved. I moved the man back in sideway position. As I got up, someone walking along suggested that the man be moved from the middle of road. This theme was picked up by the fresh crop of people who had gathered around. But how to move a man. I looked up. I went down. Circled. Then a young Sardar, who must have been on his way to the famous Gurdrwara nearby, came along and got hold of the man's legs as I caught the man under his shoulders and together we moved the man to the side of the road, back in sideway position. Sardar went on to admonish the people of the man. The rickshawallas protected, 'We don't know him. His rickshaw has no number on it. How can we call his Malik, his owner, if we don't have any number? We don't know him. He will be okay.' 
As Sardarji went on to tell them about Insaniyat, I could see the man's eyes rolling back in, he seemed to be waking up from sleep, he was trying to open his bloodshot eyes wide, his breathing was more rhythmic now. He was going to be okay but was bound to wake-up to searing pain in his head.

Half an hour later, feeling terribly hungry, while finding someplace to eat, I realized my jeans pockmarked with the man's blood, thick at places with unusual redness and at places, stained brown, dirty rain water soaked from the man's hair. It suddenly felt wet too. My friend bought me a Dettol soap. Later, I had Cholay Bhatura and Lassi while facing a wall that had some fancy Sanskrit Shlokas written all over it. Wasn't the the owner of this chain sent to jail for conspiring to kill a tea-stall owner. Kill the thought. Nothing fits. No it all fits. 

Half an hour later, I couldn't even locate the place were it all happened. All was back to normal. We headed over way to Daryaganj on a rickshaw.

Yes, I decided to read a bit about what to do if someone is having an epileptic fit and I had provided something akin to Recovery Position, indeed unobstructed air passage is crucial and no Chappals and Loha do not work.

Led Zeppelin in Bombay, 1972. The 'Slip Disc' Photos.

The exact chronology of events isn't clear. What is known  is that by the end of October 1972, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of British rock band Led Zeppelin, who were not yet the legends that they were eventually going to be, along with their manager Richard Cole had one night walked into a small pub named  'Slip Disc' in Bombay  and before a dazed Indian audience gave an impromptu performance with support from local musicians. The re-telling by these local rock musicians was going to become the primary source of  this lesser known, lesser documented story involving one of the greatest rock band ever. [Check 'One Muggy Night in Mumbai ...'( Published in Times of India Pune, on 7th July, 2001 ) by Nandu Bhende, one of the musicians who performed with the band.]

All evidence suggests that this was in fact their third visit to the city. But for Indian fans of the band, it proved to be the most memorable event. With the easy on-line availability of the band's 'The Bombay Sessions' [ youtube search link], recorded with Indian classical musician during their third trip, there was a renewed interest in details of Led Zeppelin's Indian experience. Interestingly, there are Led Zep biographies out there that mistakenly claim that the tracks with 'Bombay Symphony Orchestra' were recoded in March (during their second trio. That ain't so. Also 'Bombay Symphony Orchestra' comprised of artists like young Ustad Sultan Khan went on to be quite famous in their own right and some were in fact musicians who worked on music for films from Bombay. There was no 'Bombay Symphony Orchestra'.

The two first visited Mumbai after winding up their Japan tour on September 29, 1971. A second visit followed in February 1972 after they were denied entry into Singapore (on account of their long hair) while on their Australia tour. So instead of Singapore they were walking down the roads of Bombay with a camera in hand [video link], capturing the sights (not the sound) of the city.

While on their third trip someday in October ( maybe on 16th) of 1972, staying at Taj Hotel whose discotheque called 'Blow Up' they didn't find to their liking, they decided to hit the town looking for the coolest joint. They found their way to 'Slip Disc', an establishment at Colaba owned by a man named Ramzan who was back them also known in the film circles. Initially, they did have some difficulty getting-in, no one recognized them, but once they did get in, and as the word spread through the city among the fans, the stage was set for an urban legend among Led Zeppelin fans.

The event was hardly covered by the local media. But the event was photographed, and some claim even an audio recording. But three decades later, it seemed, nothing remained. Even memories were getting hazy.

Six months ago, given the nature of my blog, I was contacted by a die-hard Led Zepplin fan who goes with with the name PlanetPage over at official Zep Forum. He had some queries about this legendary event and asked if I had anything on it. It seemed that the Led Zeppelin's night-out at Slip Disc had been captured on camera. There was one photograph available online, a scan uploaded by musician Madhu Dhas featuring Richard Cole, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and another Indian musician named Xerxes Gobhai (bassist for The Human Bondage) and some beer bottles. There was no other evidence. Little authentic information. Fading memories. Busy time-lines. Little responses. And News Journos [someone who was equally involved, his story].

Although I was able to provide little actual help, I found myself following the interesting quest, providing whatever little bits of information I could provide, following as I was curious about how information is created  in private space and distributed in public space. And I wanted to test how difficult a venture like this can be in India. It proved quite tough and frustrating.

All evidence about those photographs pointed to a publication known as Junior Statesman, Indian's first 'Youth Magazine' started started by Desmond Doig and published by The Statesman newspaper starting 1967 and having a run till late 70s. There was an issue of the magazine in  1972 that carried photographs of Led Zeppelin's India gig.

After exhausting all sources and coming up with nothing, PlanetPage went ahead and got in touch with the staff at Statesman who informed that they did have an archive of Junior Statesman. Three months after first hearing from them, and after getting a affirmative from them about existence of 'Slip Disc' snaps, and after negotiating a price, PlanetPage managed to get the elusive photographs which he generously shared with me.

From November 1972 issue of Junior Statesman, here is Led Zeppelin at 'Slip Disc', Bombay.

 It must be mentioned that with time as Bombay changed, 'Slip Disc' went on to evolve into a seedy gay bar by the end of 80s. The article next to these photographs, along with an interview of the band in Bombay, ends with line which has a ring of truth even today:

"Led Zeppelin At Slip Disc" will not read as the gripping headlines of any newspaper nor will it generate any excitement for the underground heads in any other part of the world. But, it will remain, in a special corner of the minds of Zep and their audience-of-an-evening, truly as a happening - a deep, personal, re-affirmation of faith on music.

Update: Here's the interview that they gave to the magazine in Bombay while on this trip:

PlanetPage believes there's more to the story and that there ought to be more photographs, recordings, photographs of band's  stay at Taj. Any help is welcome.



“Sitting outside a brothel in Bombay, during an air raid rehearsal in 1971, using basic recorders to tape street singers –that was what Led Zeppelin was for us. ”

Thanks to Beth came across this quote by Robert Plant published in Times of India dated December 1996 under the article 'The dinosaurs of Rock'. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were in India to attend Channel V Music awards.
Update: Bombay through the camera of Jimmy Page

via (Thanks to PlanetPage!)

that doesn't sound nice

Or that may explain a lot.

Iconography of Protest

Aesthetically, if there was a muse backing them up, instead of Satyagrah it ought to be Andolan. But then this is about stealing iconography of protest . And the only super heroes missing:

Bollywood Posters by Jerry Pinto and Sheena Sippy

Finally got myself a book with lots of pictures. And some readable lines, here and there. 'Bollywood Posters' (2008) is a meditation on things like significance of gun in a heroine's hand, so obvious: reversal of phallic symbolism and castration, the birth of 'A frame', the poor man's practice of 'optimum' use of space in a hand-painted movie poster where the directions seem to be simple: never leave a curve out, create one where there is none, never leave a knife, a gun, a gun-thing-like-knife, a train, a plane, a gorilla, anything that moves the audience out, squeeze it all in even if it distorts the whole picture, the significance of hero showing his back in a poster, he is standing up against the society, the value of 'action' in North India, the runs, the mills, the coming of photoshop generation, the death of poster art, an art now economically inviable. Here it would be fair to say, given the cost of these fat arty books in India, even appreciating art is economically inviable).  After a 66% discount this beauty only cost me about Rs. 495.

The book is divived in various sections based on various themes in alphabetical order. Like 'F' for fantasy, 'R' for romance. That kind of thing. And in between 250 posters we have Jerry Pinto's passionate prose in praise of the art and the processes that created it.

Buy Bollywood Posters from

i know nothing

And so the madness continues.
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