“The time has come mon fe apache,
Fe find one girl and to get marry,
But listen when me talk tell everybody,
Me wanna Arranged Marriage from me Mum and Daddy”
These are the lyrics from the song “Arranged Marriage” by Apache Indian from the Album “No Reservations”, released in the early 1990’s. An awesome song– that had taken the country and the then nascent Indian pop industry by storm. This song was not on the lips of many, but on the “hmmmm hmmm” and “lalala lalala’” of many – that is part of humming from many but not many were able to sing it. The reason? The lyrics were a tad complicated. The video was also popular with the “ragamuffin like a shaan” seated on his chair like a king and beautiful Indian ladies with sarees draped around their bodies did mesmerizing dance sequences.
I happened to accidentally see this song on TV when the options for channels were few and cable TV channel was just on the verge of explosion. Something in me stirred a wish to hear it on my two speaker tape recorder – commonly called “deck” during my growing up times. I borrowed the cassette from one of my friends– Deepesh Golatkar in my apartment complex and happened to take it home and played the cassette on my deck in full volume. The thing with cassettes and deck is that – its not simple to play the song you want per your wish as in the case of an MP3 player, discman or on youtube. You have control to listen to the first song on either side of a music cassette and if that’s not the hit number, you end up rewinding/ fastforwarding the cassette till you find your favourite song. This is because there is no other option in a cassette – but to serially play the songs one after the other in a sequence. Over a period of time I happened to correctly know when my song would be played and I had a sense of pride about it.
Listening to the cassette umpteen times and having the lyrics book with me further helped me to hum along and sing along with Apache. Though initially difficult, I over a period of time mastered the entire song by rote as it was almost in my DNA now – listening to it 10/15 times a day, famously abusing the “Play”,”Pause”, “forward” and “rewind” buttons of my deck much to the rage of my folks around who usually like to maintain things with the highest degree of care. I could remember it better than any other Sanskrit Subhashitmala’s or any such of my academic requirements! The only challenge then was to master the energy, ability to hold tone and breadth and have the accent right by eating away some words with the accent to make it stylish. I happened to do that over a time. Over a period of time, I was able to sing the song without using the lyrics book and by holding my breath for a pretty decent time! Yippe – a rapper was born!
Though over a period of time I expanded my portfolio to singing “Dil Dhadake”, “Aage Aage Ladki peeche main hoo sayana” by Baba Sehgal , “Here comes the hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze and finally “Boombastic” by Shaggy (including the nasal “ummm umm”) with my broken vocal voice – I still owe a lot to Apache. Transformed from a guy who was low on self confidence to interact with people and especially people of the opposite sex, good on academics, well verse to converse in Marathi, Tamil and Hindi than English and boring to be with. Transformed to – a guy who worked on growing confidence in interactions with people (though the interaction with opposite sex was still low on confidence if they are from my school / classes), had a good flow of English and more importantly – who could pep up a party/ picnic or environment with his vocals.
The final meant a lot to me as I was able to shed a lot of inhibitions about myself and get out of my shell and be talked about and welcomed and egged to sing songs. Though at times the audience gave reactions from “wow he is too good” to “what the f&^%*” to “ok now get on..when are you gonna end?” in words and over gestures, i still tried to stay self-motivated to complete singing the entire song I knew. It didn’t matter if some didn’t like the song / me or the way I sang it. I wanted to just complete it with one motivation that some part of it atleast may hit a chord with them. Even if it didn’t – it helped me to feel accepted in the groups I was and feel better about myself, which was something I needed desperately as I was neither good in sports (which I am still not!) nor arts ( I flunked the drawing elementary exams by the way – as Mr. Smart Pants tried to use crayons in the final exam for a real life painting which is like trying to take water from the Niagara by holding a spoon in front of it with your hands) – basically good at nothing apart from academics (even hear I hovered between the 2nd and 10th rank in the first 10 years of schooling life). I may have attracted some envy from peers for my “Apache” antics as I may call it – but when I look back I was being the Apache just to get myself feel better about me and nothing else.
Be it the picnics organized by our group from our apartment complex to “Malshej Ghat” or other places, get togethers on our terrace for New Years, in school or in my coaching classes – the “Apache” was a hit. Unfortunately the only regret is that it could never woo me a girlfriend – the ones I secretly eyed and wished! But again – if a guy can’t speak for 2 cents with confidence to opposite sex – it would remain a dream further on for some more years. No regrets though – things have their own charm in your growing up years. The “Apache” bought me more fame and confidence to me than I could ever imagine in my limited circle of influence.
The icing on the cake was my first singing in public – in front of a crowd of 100 odd if I remember it right. That is when I volunteered to sing in the nearby pandal for Ganesh Utsav. Mumbai is famous for celebrating the “Ganesh Utsav” – which is a 11 day long event of festive activities. Temporary make shift tents (called pandals) come up in various corners of the city hosting the Elephant Headed “Vignaharta” (Destroyer of Obstacles) or Lord Ganesh. There are fun and events organized apart from the prayers to the Lord, to have inclusion of people from all strata of society and ages. In one of these events - Solo Singing competition - I had enrolled to sing “Arranged Marriage” – and as usual was the last one to give my nomination. There was a pre-screening, where I had to sing in front of 3-4 people who were more like deciding authorities to see if I can sing on stage. Though their appearance branded them to look like bullies – I was able to soften them with the rap. Now when i look back, maybe it was exotic for them too. They had nominations from people singing Nursery Rhymes, a short Marathi song, patriotic songs or hindi film songs. The “Apache” was a welcome addition!
The jeans jacket is now up my shoulders and I am ready to be called onto stage, eagerly waiting for all other people to complete their turn singing and wooing the audience. Finally I was the last one – and not called on stage. Shit! What the heck! The butterflies in my stomach seeing the large crowd , mixture of claps and abuses for other singers wanted me to run away. Saner part of my mind told me – “Bro, now that you are here, as well give it to them. You are the Apache. Remember!”. Just as the Master of Ceremonies was to announce the end of the session – one guy who was 4 feet 6 inches walked up to him in the crowd and told in Marathi: “Maza naav dila hota. Bolavla nahee. Ata gana mhanu ka?” (in English this means – I had given my name. Wasn’t called. Can I sing my song now?). He told “Oh sorry, see the mistake”. He looked at the audience and said on mike in Marathi: “Ata sadar karit aahet baal gayak Deepak Chandrasekaran je gaatil Apache Indian” ( Now presenting young singer Deepak Chandrasekaran who would sing “Apache Indian”). My stomach was rumbling louder than the churning of the Arabian Seas in Mumbai at that moment. After the initial dash of welcome applause dashed down, I began. Being a first time with mike, maybe I held it too close to my mouth – could feel that from the effect my voice initially had on the loudspeakers. Over a period of few seconds, brought it at the right distance and sang “The time has come mon fe apache, Fe find one girl and to get marry….”When I finished the song, the applause was thunderous – or I would like to believe so. Because even if it wasn’t – I had broken my internal barriers and turned the “Donn Raja who wants a princess”! Phew – what a walk down memory lane!
The rapper was born - who is now alive but the rap is now restricted to listening than spewing it out short of breath from my mouth. Occasionally i do sing in the shower or with wife, family or close friends.
This post is in gratitude to Apache Indian, Dipesh Golatkar (for the cassette), my family, friends, well wishers and the Ganesh Pandal (Bal Mitra Mandal in Mulund East) who gave me so much of encouragement that instilled self confidence and self belief in me!