Bareilly by another name

Sudhirendar Sharma*

On my first visit to Bareilly** I was keen to locate the street where the elusive pendant (झुमका) may have been dropped, and lost. I am sure no one has ever found it, and nor was it the intention of poet Raja Mehndi Ali Khan. Without doubt Bareilly became synonym with ‘jhumka’. It is a melodious composition झुमका गिरा रे बरेली के बाज़ार में from ‘Mera Saya’ that I am never tired of listening, but this is the one that drives me to think why ‘places’ featured in popular songs. 

Incidentally, Bareilly never figured explicitly again in any song. Jaipur caught poet Rajendra Kishan’s attention in the dance number जयपुर की चोली मँगवा दे रे सइयां in ‘Gehri Chaal’. My sense is that the ‘place’ was not only chosen for rhyme, but generally indicative of the actual availability of the item (चोली) in the Pink City. But Shakeel Badayuni’s लहंगा मंगवा दे मेरे बाबू आज नैनीताल से from film ‘Beti’ has got me wondering if tourist city of Nainital has ever been known for producing and selling ‘lehenga’. 

Most of these lyrics were written for movies made in the 60s and 70s when traveling was a rarity, and when women desired gifts out of such travels. It is a reflection of the gendered desire, manifest in places that could rhyme and suit the screen adaptation of the poetry of the time. Even the popular कजरा मोहब्बत वाला, अंखियो मे ऐसा डाला from ‘Kismet’ is one such by S H Bihari which has दिल्ली शहर का सारा मीना बाज़ार ले के. Incidentally, this song has a reference to झुमका बरेली वाला as well. These popular songs have their remix versions too.

Places have featured in several songs but I am referring here to songs of this kind only. I think it is important to understand the sociology of ‘enticement’ which was woven into, both the script and the lyrics. For some odd reasons, winning the heart of the ‘beloved’ was through material gifts. I consider it somewhat of a fallacy. With times, it doesn’t seem to have changed. Has it?

The king of romantic lyrics Mazrooh Sultanpuri had thought it otherwise. For him, for the beloved it was the ‘return’ of the lover (from travel) more significant than any material gift – बता दूँ क्या लाना, तुम लौट के आ जाना, ये छोटा सा नज़राना पिया याद रखोगे के भूल जाओगे from ‘Pathar Ke Sanam’. I would suggest you to pay attention to well-meaning and reflective lyrics wherein ‘true love’ overruns ‘material desire’. Wish we could curb endless materialistic desires!  

**As I wrote this, there came the news that the Bareilly Development Authority (BDA) has proposed to get ‘jhumka’ identity for the city by installing a replica of this piece of jewellery, 12-14 feet in height and 2.43 metre in diameter, at the entrance of the city.

*Only by preserving the uniqueness of a place, real or imaginary, can the distinct character of cities be restored from the overt homogenization, argues Sudhirendar Sharma.    


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