Finding Irshad: A Google-yuga saga
Blog :My Take by GVK
Date: 4/4/2012 12:27:43 PM
My search for Irshad Panchatan started a couple of years back, with a blog-post – Irshad Mia, where are you ? - about a long-lost coffee-house comrade. We were regulars at New Delhi Janpath coffee house in early 1960s. It has been so long ago that Irshad had remained in my fading memory cells a forgotten folder , waiting to be retrieved.
This was till a couple of years ago when I happened by on TV a familiar face in the telecast of this German movie - Reclaim Your Brain. The face was that of Irshad Panchatan, my coffee-house friend. I couldn’t contain my excitement. Of course, Irshad wasn’t a close pal, but sharing a coffee-house table tied us into a biradari (brotherhood). And then, it has been over 50 years – time lapse of a yuga, after which a re-connect triggers excitement of its own. During our lost decades we drifted away from New Delhi, into our separate work life, and into marriage, family, retirement, and now, ageing . He must be 80 ; I am 73.
We now have the Internet, Facebook, Linked-in and other social networking tools. They weren’t of any help in finding Irshad. Wikipedia entry on him is in German. I blogged about him – Irshad Mia, where are you ? – in the hope that if Irshad or someone who knew of his current whereabouts were to read my piece in DadiNani , he or she would know where to find me. This was my way of sending a message-in-the-bottle, tossed out into cyberspace.
After doing the blog-post I sent the link to another coffee-house friend S P Dutt (NDTV Barkha’s dad), and he forwarded it to his friends. Speedy’s (is how friends call S P Dutt) networking produced a Berlin phone number. As part of the Janpath coffee-house brotherhood Speedy got involved in the search for Irshad. For the next few days the three of us - Speedy (in New Delhi), Sushil Nangia (in London), and I (from Mysore) called Berlin. No response.
Stonewalled by unanswering ringtone from the Berlin phone line, we gave up our search. My wife and I moved base from Mysore to Chennai – this was an year back. Irshad lapsed out of mind, till the other day when DadiNani editor Subodh Mathur e-mailed, saying, your message in the bottle made it to Irshad Mia’s daughter. Rita Sonal Panjatan had left a comment in my blog post – The message in the bottle has reached, I will forward this to my father.
And within the next two days I get a mail from the man himself – ‘Your bottle must have touched so many shores of different planets before it was fished by Rita in a German space shore’. Irshad quoted Firaq to convey his feelings at hearing from someone he didn’t ever think he could - Urdu poets have a couplet for every thing, don’t they.
And then, added Irshad: I was stunned…your message took me back into the 60s, to beautiful days of our meetings at Delhi Coffee House …. Those meetings played a very important role in my life,….am thankful to my Coffee House friends. Their critique helped me become a Pantomime. You, RG Anand and Balraj Komal were my main critical guides. M S Mudder who put me on stage on and on (with whom I’m still in contact) and O P Kohli (died decades ago) who used to do the lights for me…Two years back, moderator of German TV show ‘Weltspiegel’ (World mirror) Navina Sudarum, niece of painter Amrita Sher-Gil, sent me the newspaper cutting relating to Dr.Charles Fabri (The Statesman dance critic), who loved and encouraged me as you also know. It was a lovely and very important time for us all, that we can never forget.
I left India again in 1971….for Europe, where I stayed, as you know, with Ingrid in Berlin, and later, opened a Pantomime School also. But that I closed in 1995 and after some time also stopped performing. Now from time to time I get offers to act in small roles in German TV and Films.
I am eighty and Ingrid is still beautiful and active. Rita, who did her MA from London School of Economics,lives close to us and,like many nowadays, is caught in this ecconomic transition in Europe and still in search of a job.