Wednesday, December 30, 2015


The last 10 days have been a whirlwind & I could say I was beginning to feel a little rudderless before the journey came to a conclusion and brought me back to Mumbai. I love traveling, but this is one of those junkets I'm so pleased with as well as exhausted by that I'd now rather stay low for a few days and embrace my bed as I've never done before. And yes, probably even (gasp!) do absolutely nothing on the (over-hyped) New Year's Eve. (But as I type this, I'm secretly hoping for some plan to materialise. Heh! I could well be the brand-ambassador for hypocrisy ;)

The 10 day junket began with Ganjing & Tunday ke Kabab in Lucknow, progressed into a cousin's wedding in Delhi and culminated with a visit to extended family in Indore. But I'm getting ahead of myself; more on the wedding & family get-together in one of the next few posts. On a mid-December afternoon, while I was talking nine-to-the-dozen with my co-actor (actually, she did most of the talking. I'm more of a writer), I got a text from my friend Shilpa Rao asking me whether I'd like to guest-perform with her in Lucknow for something called "Ganjing." At first, I was amused by this Chinese sounding activity in Uttar Pradesh and owing to bad network, the clarifications of what it was exactly were hard to come by. I didn't think much of it and over the next few city-hopping days in Udaipur & Varanasi I finally said yes, I'd do it. Anything for a friend. Till this moment, I hadn't bothered to find out what exactly Ganjing was. In retrospect, the self-imposed ignorance was a blessing in disguise, because the experience that followed came as a surprise, and a pleasant one at that!

On the afternoon of 20th December, Shilpa & I flew into Lucknow. A quick lunch later, the organising committee apprised us of the evening's schedule. Some government formalities, fireworks, an interactive drum-circle, hand shadowgraphy by the very talented Amar Sen & Sabyasachi Sen, who I've had the privilege to interact with when I hosted India's Got Talent (called a silhoutte act here & pronounced as sill-ow-tee by the locals; no joke! Find the video of their ad for MP tourism below) and a musical performance would be part of the evening. Previous editions have had a gamut of eye-catching, ear-pleasing & mind-wowing attractions. In this particular edition, Shilpa would be the headliner and I, for lack of a better term, her celebrity guest on a few songs.

Ganjing, as far as I can comprehend can be crudely defined as chilling at Hazratganj in Lucknow. This state-sponsored public entertainment & engagement program was initiated mere 6 months ago. Celebrated every third Sunday of a month, this is now officially called the Ganj Carnival. On this day, a massive chunk of Hazratganj transforms into a pedestrian-only festival space for all-and-sundry to indulge in. In my opinion, such events should become an integral part of the fabric of every town & city in India; logistics & security permitting. Every culture & society must encourage and involve performers as well as the public, and such a melting pot can only lead to a happier, artistically satisfied populace. 

As the evening progressed, we made our way to the venue amidst
tight security, passed barricades & headed backstage. Even though we couldn't see the audience at that point of time, their enthusiasm was very vocal & palpable. It is interesting to meet fans & folks alike in smaller towns & cities where you can get the true measure of your following as well as gauge the insane reach of television. These are places where people have seen you on big shows as well as little projects that even you'd forgotten about. It was also good to have a casual chat with the police-on-duty at the venue; I dread to think how a conversation with them would go on any other regular night ;) An event of such a massive attendance must be tough for them but they get to rightfully enjoy the night as well. Our stage was set bang in the center of Hazratganj and made for an impressive sight. If my words fail me, perhaps these pictures could tell you a better story; people as far as the eye can see, cheers that resonated off the skies and appreciative roars that warmed the cockles of my heart. Oh, and did I forget to mention a footfall of just under a lakh, despite the late hour & dipping mercury?
How the Hazratganj streets look like, leading up to the Ganj Carnival. Pic by Sajal Sharma
Audience as far as the eye can see, cheers & roars for miles around.

Like every government  undertaking, a lot of things left much to be desired & inadequate prep-time provided for meant that neither the band preceding us nor we managed to squeeze a sound check in (and from what I hear, it was a nightmare to have the stage ready in time in the first place). Nevertheless, the sight of people all the way up to the horizon cheering, screaming, singing along is the best mood-elevator, aphrodisiac even! Shilpa started her performance & I could feel the deafening roar of appreciation on each & every song shake the stage up! This obviously had me quivering with excitement to go join her. Unfortunately, a technical snag meant I could do only two songs instead of the planned three but it was well worth it. The two duets? Yaariyaan & one of my all time Vishal-Shekhar-Shilpa favorite, Khuda Jaane. Man, I can never get over that song (the fact that it also has Deepika Padukone in it could have a strong bearing on it)! I could barely hear myself over the crowd as they sang along on every word, every line. Phew! What else can an artiste ask for? Thank you for being there Lucknow & I hope to be back again soon with a longer performance for you :)

It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's.... AUDIENCES numbering just under a lakh! Picture by RJ Preteek

A ringside view. Picture by Naman Singh Bisht
Picture by Meraki Inc.
Once the gig was over, we were immediately whisked away in our vehicle lest the surging crowds overwhelm us. A quick drive later to Aminabad market, we got off the car & greedily rushed into Tunday Kababi. Packed to the rafters, heads started turning, people started getting excited & a palpable hush was evident. The very gentle & sweet owner of Tunday and our friends in Lucknow ushered us into a separate (and new) family section where we could dine in peace. The company, weather, time, preceding events & how hungry you are do affect the delectability of the food on a given day/night. I was here with the close friends I've mentioned in the previous blog post for yet another wedding on an excruciatingly hot summer afternoon a few years ago. This time it was a cold winter night with just a few familiar faces and many, many new ones. Both so different & memorable in their own ways, but of course the food seemed much tastier this time round. 
With my buddy Shilpa Rao, her mom & brother, her band members and Piyush & Meenu from Meraki Inc.

We gorged on galouti kababs (I being the only one trying the beef variant as opposed to everyone's mutton, although there is barely any difference in the flavour of either), parathas, tandoori chicken & mutton korma. We pigged out so much that there was no space left for biryani, but as a wise man once said, there is always space for dessert. And hence, kheer was ordered ;)
Dear Tandoori Chicken, I knew that the moment we'd meet, SPARKS would fly ;)

Mutton Korma

Parathas being made at a brisk pace. Missed trying the orange Sheermal parathas this time. Agli baar...

Koi Kheer Ko Kaise Na Kar Sakta Hai ;)
The mandatory "I AM AT TUNDAYYYYYY" selfie :D

The food was served with brisk enthusiasm & I'm thankful to Tunday Kababi for feeding us famished souls. The meal was topped off with a ginormous meetha paan which was delicious & painful at the same time (painful because the silver/aluminium foil on the paan created a galvanic current every time it came in contact with my saliva & pre-existing silver amalgam restorations. If this sounds Greek to you, it's because it's the Dentist in me talking again. Haha!).

A quick word of appreciation for the team that had Shilpa & me for the Ganj Carnival: the very sweet and recently betrothed Piyush & Meenu and their team at Meraki Inc. I'm sorry I don't remember all the names but thank you for being respectful, affable & protective at the same time. Again, as I've mentioned in my previous post, every subsequent visit to a place teaches you something new about it, and I came back from Lucknow with something new as well as something old & familiar.

Before wrapping up, I'd like to share my new music video Kya Yahi Pyaar Hai with you. It's a beautiful recreative rendition of a classic melody & I hope you like it. Carry it on your lips & in your hearts, and until we meet again in 2016, here's wishing you a very Happy New Year! Stay healthy, stay happy :)


  1. We are delighted to have you in Lucknow!

  2. Thank you Chang for sharing your amazing experience in Lucknow...I could hear the crowd as I was reading this.( that's what great writing dose I suppose)...u are awesome and always remain that way..
    Your fan and friend