Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The awesome foursome - SANAM rocked Johannesburg

They came. they saw, they conquered!

I must admit whilst driving with my parents to Emperors Palace on Sunday evening for the SANAM concert, I asked myself will the concert meet the expectations of the public and will it be a sold out show. I have watched every SANAM you tube video and I was very impressed with their singing style ever since they hit the music scene a few years ago. Since their first video, I became an ardent fan.  South African audiences though are immune to concerts where artists belt old golden oldies. Newer songs don’t really go down well with the older generation. I wasn’t quite sure if a young boy band would actually appeal to all audiences across the board from the young to the elderly. The show definitely surpassed my expectations totally. I was totally blown away and mesmerized by the sheer versatility and energy of the artists. There was a song for everyone. The younger generation stamped their feet to the new SANAM original songs whilst the elderly enjoyed the golden oldies singing in unison with the incredibly handsome Sanam Puri who is the lead vocalist of the band.
Whilst the God of music, Sonu Nigam cannot be compared to this young boy band due to differences in their musical journey, I seen a lot of Sonu Nigam inside Sanam Puri. He reminded me a lot of a young Sonu Nigam who performed on South African soil for the very first time almost 20 years ago. He exuded the same level of confidence on stage. The audience were enthralled with his warm smile and his eyes that spoke a thousand words.  The show kicked off on a high note with the band singing a few of their original songs. This was followed by an array of golden oldies. No concert can be complete without a few fast paced Bhangra songs that undoubtedly got the audience on their feet. “Joanna give me hope” was one of the songs that got the audience screaming for more. Venky S, Samar Puri and Keshav Dhanraj left me speechless at their musical ability. They played for almost 4 hours effortlessly. As a side thought, Venky S has a beautiful voice and was the support vocalist to Sanam Puri. It is quite evident that the band members are very close to each other as their on stage chemistry was phenomenal.  

As a person who loves observing human behaviour, it was fun watching the audience reacting to the music in different ways. The gentleman in front of me was so drawn into the golden oldie songs that he seemed to be in a trance like state.  I guess the songs brought back sweet memories or it reminded him of a bygone era. Mom couldn’t control herself when they sang her favourite song of all time, Dhama dam mastakalander. As a child, mom use to love singing and this is one song she use to sing all the time with the qawwali actions and all. As for the two gentlemen sitting next to me, they were in a frozen like state and showed no emotion at all, even though everyone were on the edge of their seats whilst the band sang foot tapping bhangra numbers.  In every audience there must be people who are uncouth and uncivilized. I was quite miffed at the hooligan behaviour displayed by the group of middle aged men and women who were sitting behind me. They were sitting on VIP seats but behaved as though they hailed from the streets shouting out rude profanities. There were a few other VIP’s in our row who were quite annoyed with their obscene, trashy behaviour. I guess money can buy you things but it certainly cannot buy you class and elegance. Well done to the band for dealing with the audience in a very graceful and respectful manner. Credit needs to be given to the bands manager, Mr. Ben Kurian Thomas and his entire team for their hard work, effort and dedication in terms of moulding these young artists into power packed internationally acclaimed stars in the future. A big thank you to the event organizers and sponsors for a well put together event!

After the concert my parents and I were afforded the opportunity to meet SANAM, thanks to the bands manager Mr. Ben Kurian Thomas. It was an absolute pleasure meeting Mr. Abhijit Choudhary as well from AIM events!

Dear Ben sir,

Words cannot express my gratitude as well as admiration that I have for you as a person. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to say bahot bahot shukriya for making my parents and I so very happy last night. Thank you so much for honouring and respecting my parents always. I can't tell you how happy mom and dad were to see you again after many years. 
Mom and dad have always told me what a humble, simple and down to earth person you are. After meeting you last night I must acknowledge that there is truth in their words. People like you are a huge inspiration to me. It is this quality within you that has undoubtedly taken you places in life. Good things happen to good people and thus last night SANAM rocked Johannesburg for sure with your support, hard work, dedication and team effort. I am indeed honoured and humbled to be associated with a person of your calibre. Keep up the good work and you should be very proud of yourself, the band and the rest of the team. It is just a pity that you came to SA on a very short work related trip. I do however, request you to stay longer the next time you visit South Africa so that my family and I can extend an invitation for you to be our guest. Please travel safely.Lots of love and regards to SANAM (all band members). Allah hafiz.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Let's embrace rather than disgrace

17 August 2016

So last night I bid my Saudi family farewell. In an hour or two they should be home in Jeddah God willing. They left our home happy and elated at the fact that they were afforded a taste of South African hospitality, yet internally they were emotional, almost in tears. Residing in the Kingdom allowed me to forge priceless relationships and form bonds with people that are much stronger than blood relations. I have been blessed to be a part of the lives of many families who have taken me as their own. I have an adopted family in Malawi, Saudi as well as in Kashmir. When the problems started in Kashmir a few weeks ago, I tried repeatedly to call "papa". His mobile was switched off. I tried and tried but to no avail. I prayed for his safety and wished his family well. Days went by and none of my messages were received either. However, during the early parts of this morning, my phone beeped. In our house it’s pretty normal for the phone to ring after midnight as many of our friends call us at that time of the morning due to the time differences between countries. I was exhausted after a fairly long day but my face beamed bright at receiving his message. He mentioned to me that he is safe and sound now that he has returned to Delhi. My Kashmiri dad resides in Delhi but his extended family reside in the heart of Kashmir. His messages were worrying filled with distress at the current situation in Kashmir. He stated that the aggression enforced by the Indian army against innocent civilians is totally unacceptable and that the media is failing to show this aggression to the world. The people of Kashmir desire to have their own freedom and independence. They do not wish to be a part of India nor Pakistan. The ongoing war and violence in Kashmir is a direct result of the British colonialist’s strategy of divide and rule. They have used this tactic throughout the world to cause anarchy and strife between nations. “Papa” further mentioned that thus far almost 70 people have been killed. With strict curfews in place there were situations where families risked their own lives in order to bury their loved ones residing in another area. With a heavy military presence, movement becomes restricted and fear sets in. My family and I were planning to visit my Kashmiri family in October this year. My Kashmiri dad has asked me to cancel my trip immediately for safety reasons. May God Almighty protect my Kashmiri family and all other families residing in war torn areas from oppression. The one thing I’ve learned having close associations with various cultures is that at the end of it all, we are all simply human beings going through the same trials and tribulations of life. We all have goals and dreams. We all work hard for our families. Hence, it irks me to the core when people generalize and speak ill about an entire nation as a whole. When I decided to move to Saudi Arabia for a brief period of time, members of my own society tried dampening my spirits by stating that the Saudi society is cruel and evil. The Arabs are people of pride and arrogance and yet I know of people within my own society who are corrupt and who walk around with their noses in the air. In every society you get all kinds of people like a packet of liquorice all sorts. Whilst many people out there have spoken ill about Saudis or Arabs in general, I have only received and experienced unconditional love, care and support. Whilst vacationing with my Saudi family in Cape Town together, they made sure that mom cooked them a pot of traditional Indian Biryani and we of course part took in their traditional foods as well. It was quite fascinating to learn that my Saudi sister Deema never ever sat on a camel in her life despite residing in camel land. On the other hand she knew Cape Town inside out making me feel like a foreigner in my own country. The coming together of people and cultures is a beautiful experience and if we all strive to live our lives embracing each other’s cultures, traditions and religions, focusing on similarities rather than pointing out differences, the world will undoubtedly be a far better place to live in.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Rey's yummy bread pudding recipe for a cold winters night

1. Pour 3 cups of milk into a liquidizer

2. Add 3 eggs to the milk

4. Add a half a cup of sugar

5. Blend all the ingredients together

6. Pour mixture into an oven proof
pyrex dish

7. Spread apricot jam onto 3 slices of

8. Cube the bread slices and add to the
liquid mixture in the pyrex dish

9. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut
to the mixture

10. Add 1 level teaspoon of elachi

11. Add 1 level teaspoon nutmeg

12. Add 1 tablespoon of ground
almonds. Beat the mixture slightly
with a hand blender

13. Blob the mixture with 2 tablespoons
of butter
14. Bake at 180 degrees for approximately
45 minutes to an hour until
golden brown. Serve piping hot

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sonu Nigam - my first crush, my mentor, my hero and my inspiration

When satellite television first came to South Africa it was a novelty, an absolute craze that everyone had to have. I can clearly remember the day our DSTV system was installed. There was a sparkle in my eyes and a huge smile on my face. Finally I was able to watch so many channels that pertained to my culture and language. Whilst switching channels for the very first time I came across SAREGAMA on Zee TV. The program was presented by none other than the living legend Sonu Nigamji. For my family and I watching Sonuji on television for the first time was undoubtedly love at first sight. We couldn't get over his cute smile coupled with his boy next door looks, the designer clothing he wore and of course the exemplary character and respect that he portrayed towards his elders. My family and I never missed a SAREGAMA episode. In fact we loved the program so much that we literally recorded each episode. I always dreamt of meeting this living legend and dad use to encourage me to write letters to ZeeTv for his attention in the hope that he would reply. I sent numerous letters but received no replies.But this didn't discourage me at all. I always had hope that one day I will meet this shining star. Anyway, one Saturday morning as we drove towards my grandmother's home, dad switched on Lotus fm only to hear that Sonu Nigam would be performing live in South Africa at the Standard Bank Arena. I was over the moon. Naturally dad arranged for tickets and of course we went to the concert as one big happy family. I can still remember the way Sonu ji danced to his song"TU".After the concert everyone left the venue. I refused to leave until I had a chance to meet him. The MC of the show came up to me and tried pacifying me. He said, ' My dear, give me your CD I will have it autographed for you.' Naturally I obliged. When he returned with the CD that now had my name on it in Sonuji's handwriting I was thrilled but not satisfied. Mom and I wanted to meet him in person. We decided to run back stage with two security guards following us in haste.Nanaji followed us too lolol. Eventually we found the room where Sonuji and his beloved mom were sitting. I knocked on the door and walked into the room. He then signaled for the security to leave us alone.I was a starstruck teenager and couldn't believe that I shared the same space with a living legend. I can never ever forget the proud smile that Sonujis mom had on her face as she watched us engaging in conversation with a son that she adored with all her heart.May her soul rest in peace. After that unforgettable meeting little did I know that my relationship with Sonuji will last for almost 17 years. Not only is he a singer that has been blessed with a golden voice but he has a heart of gold too. Sonuji might be a superstar to the world but to me he is a mentor and an inspiration. I have not met a more humble and down to earth human being ever despite his huge success and fame.He has never forgotten his roots and to him humility is a very important quality that a human being needs to have. He is widely read and has quite an interesting philosophy about life and living. Through him I have seen and understood the many facets of life.Dad always told me that in order to be the best in life you don't need a certificate or a piece of paper. Be like Sonu Nigam. He doesn't need awards to validate that he is the best in the Indian music industry. The world knows that he is undoubtedly the best.My Nana use to be so emotional whenever he heard Sonuji singing. He felt as though the late Rafi Sahab lived inside of him. Sonuji inspires me to be a good human being through his unselfish acts of kindness towards others especially towards the orphaned. I am truly blessed and honoured to be in touch with such an amazing soul. Hence on this day 30 July 2016, I would like to take this opportunity in wishing my first crush, my mentor, my hero and my inspiration a very happy birthday. May God Almighty grant you many, many more years of good health, wealth, peace and prosperity! Ameen.....Love you loads to the moon and beyond!