15 January, 2013

Pi's Lullaby and The Crab Mentality !

(Pic courtesy : blog.hansacequity.com via Google)

A few days back came the news that Pi’s Lullaby (lyrics by Bombay Jayashri and sung by her as well) has been nominated for an Oscar.  Right on its heels, the very next day we had the Irayimman Thampi Trust alleging that Jayashri has done nothing but translate lines from the old Malayalam lullaby Omanathinkal kidaavo. 

We Indians are mighty good at this.  The Crab Mentality, I mean.  Crab Mentality is the story of a bunch of crabs in a bucket or a pot or a crate.  They are all pretty much on the same level playing field until some crabs decide that they are going to try and escape.  They cling on to the sides, find ways and means to try and scale the walls to climb over the edge of the pot or bucket they are in, in an attempt to break free.  What do the other crabs in the pot do ?  Despite the knowledge that they too could attempt to escape captivity, the other crabs instead, try and pull down these crabs that have made an escape attempt in the first place.  They simply pull them back to the bottom of the pot/bucket. 

Precisely what we see happen many a times around us.  In my humble opinion, this is precisely what is happening to Bombay Jayashri over Pi’s lullaby too.  Also the fact that the Iriyamman Thampi Trust is doing nothing more than trying to gain some extra publicity by piggy backing on the success of Pi’s lullaby. 

Indian society, among many other societies, has always taken pride in defining modes of conduct and how people should be categorized and how within a given category people are expected to behave and perform their “given” roles.  The ancient caste system is a perfect example.  People are simply expected to adhere to the given customs and traditions, people are expected to do what society expects they should be doing.   Hardly, if any thought at all is given to personal aspirations and to the fact that moulds are meant to be broken at some time.  The Indian society has never ever taken kindly to the “set moulds” being broken.

Some people dare to – pretty much like the crabs that try to escape captivity.  They seek freedom of expression, they do not stop at what is already on their plate, their creativity, their need exceeds the “usual”, they believe in going that extra mile (or those extra five miles, for that matter), they believe in reaching for the sky, they believe in reaching for the sun in the hope that they reach, they attain that pinnacle some day.  Bottom line being simple : they try !!  For every single person that aspires to have dreams, for each person that believes in trying and giving it their best and then some, for every person that tries to break the “set mould”, there are scores of other crabs at the bottom of the basket whose only intention and only function is to pull the more enterprising ones down.

Do tunes not get “borrowed” in Bollywood ?  Oh ! Plenty !!  Why tunes – sometimes the whole storyline is copied,  at other times one movie is probably a mix of three or four other movies which had been released earlier on. 

In this case, in my opinion, this Trust does not have a case whatsoever.  Look at and compare the lyrics :

The lyrics of the Malayalam lullaby and Pi’s lullaby are right here, with credit given to the original sources. 

Omanathinkal Kidaavo 
(translation by A. H. Fox Strangways in The Music of Hindoostan via Wikipedia)

Is this sweet baby
The bright crescent's moon, or the charming flower of the lotus ?
The honey in a flower, or the lustre of the full moon ?
A pure coral gem, or the pleasant chatter of parrots ?
A dancing peacock, or a sweet singing bird ?
A bouncing young deer, or a bright shining swan ?
A treasure from God, or the pet parrot in the hands of Isvari ?
The tender leaf of the kalpa tree, or the fruit of my tree of fortune ?
A golden casket to enclose the jewel of my love ?
Nectar in my sight, or a light to dispel darkness ?
The seed of my climbing fame, or a never-fading bright pearl ?
The brilliance of the sun to dispel all the gloom of misery ?
The Vedas in a casket, or the melodious vina ?
The lovely blossom put forth by the stout branch of my tree of enjoyment ?
A cluster of pichaka buds, or sugar-candy sweet on the tongue ?
The fragrance of musk, the beat of all good ?
A breeze laden with the scent of flowers, or the essence of purest gold ?
A bowl of fresh milk, or of sweet smelling rose-water ?
The field of all virtue, or an abode of all duty ?
A cup of thirst-quenching cold water, or a sheltering shade ?
A never-failing mallika flower, or my own stored up wealth ?
The auspicious object of my gaze, or my most precious jewel ?
A steam of virtuous beauty, or an image of the youthful Krishna ?
The bright forehead mark of the goddess Lakshmi ?
Or, by the mercy of Padmanabha, is it the source of my future happiness ?
Is it, in this beautiful form, an Avatar of Krishna Himself ?

Pi’s Lullaby (English Translation)

My dear one, the jewel of my eye,
Sleep my dear precious one.

You are the peacock, the dancing peacock,
You are the koel, the singing koel,
You are the moon, light of the moon,
You are the eyelid, dreams that wait on the eyelids.


You are the flower, nectar of the flower
You are the fruit, sweetness of the fruit.


How many similarities do you see ?

India is a country in which many different languages have thrived, do thrive and flourish.  Each state (well, almost) has its own language and there has always been a constant “my language is better than your language” attitude that has existed and persisted in India, through the ages.

Words that refer to the moon is common in many lullabies found across India.  The moon does paint a rather lovely picture of the night and I guess this is the reasoning behind drawing a parallel between the moon and the dark night.  Words like Kanne, Kanmaniye, nectar, honey, flowers etc are rather generic when it comes to lullabies simply because across any state in India, these are terms of endearment.  Simple as that !  To say that this is plagiarism is like one pharmaceutical company going after another pharmaceutical company for the use of words like Paracetamol or Acetaminophen on their tablet strips.  
Many companies use these – again because they are common and generic.

Why does the Trust not go after all the lullabies then, all over India ?  If they allege that Pi’s lullaby is nothing but a translation, there would be scores of lullabies they can claim as “theirs” or as having originated from Iriyamman Thampi’s poetic creations.

As far as Bombay Jayashri goes, she’s earned her place and respect among musicians all over India and given her talent and the passion that she has for music, it is only right that her talent be recognized worldwide.  It has finally happened for her and among the best things people can do right now is to leave her alone and let her do what she does best – compose, sing and create beautiful music that brings peace, calm and joy to peoples minds and hearts – from now on, not just in India but worldwide as well.

The crabs that dare to climb, the crabs that yearn to reach for the sky – let them climb out of the basket, let them bask in the warmth and sunshine of glory, for, they’ve earned it – every single step of the way.

10 voice(s) said so:

Pinksocks said...

Thought seconded and salute to fact that you pulled out the lyrics. Actually the crab syndrome has caught up everywhere and we are stuck in a situation where not even one of the lot gets a chance to shine.

Sandeep said...

Crab syndrome or not. It seems she is certainly under 'omanathinkal kidavo's influence'.

compare the lyrics:
KaNNe, KaNmaNiye KaNNurangai ponne Mayilo,
thogai mayilo, Kuyilo, koovum kuyilo Nilavo,
Nilavin oLiyo Imaiyo, Imaiyin kanavo
Rararo…Rararo… Rararo…Rararo… Malaro,
malarin amudho, Kaniyo,
senkaniyin suvaiyo Rararo…Rararo… •
Mayilo, thogai mayilo (Bombay Jayashri )

( Are you the dancing peacock) •

Chanchadiyadum Mayilo ( Sri.Irayimman Thampi)

( Are you the dancing peacock?) •
Kuyilo, koovum kuyilo (BJ) (Are you the singing cuckoo bird?) •

Mrudu panchamam padum kuyilo (Sri.Thampi)

(Are you the cuckoo who sings “panchamam”) •

Nilavo, Nilavin oLiyo (BJ) ( Are you the moonlight?) •

Pari poornendu thante nilavo (Sr.Thampi) ( Are you the light of the full moon?) •

Malaro, malarin amudho (BJ) (Are you the flower, the nectar in the flower?) •

Nalla komala thamara poovo, poovil niranja madhuvo ( Irayimman Thampi)

(Are you the lotus flower? And the nectar in the flower?

Me! In words said...

While I second you on the crab mentality thing, I also feel that piggy backing on another's success is an irritating trait as well - When somebody of Indian origin does something with themselves abroad, their success suddenly becomes an Indian success - Sunitha Williams and her space journeys, Slum dog millionaire and more.

Gauri said...

@ Me!In words - true. There is a tendency to claim someone's success as "India's success". Have noticed it many times and it does get my goat too.

@ Sandeep : Like I said before, these terms are some that you will come across in lullabies across the country. To call that plagiarism is extreme, i.m.o.

@ Pinksocks : The Crab Mentality has always been around. Hoping there will be more crabs that "get away".

Swati Raman Garg said...

kudos to your efforts lady.. i found d lullaby very soothing.. but i have heard her since childhood, and can just feel nice that she got such a recognition... not that this is her best...

Just Like That said...

In the theatre, it did remind us of omana thingal kidavo... but it was a nice memory.... malayalam and tamil have similar words, and we could relate to the song, especially, since we've sung it to Ag :-)
I LOVE both the lullabies, it 's soooo soothing- both of them.

Jandy said...

I guess she should have just given credit to her inspiration from the original lullaby. there's no way we should not give her her due though. That's plain mean, or in your words, plain crab!

Uma said...

I loved the lullaby and am happy to see Jayashree getting recognised for the work. Sad to hear about this controversy.

Nimue said...

so true !
Its sad that a person has to fight for even well deserved and well due respect and fame with hundreds who have nothing but say a few words ..

Jay Singh said...

Hi Gauri,

Indeed, a very valid analogy drawn between the crabs and other singers in our country.

I simply don't understand why does anyone want to point fingers or criticize anyone just to prove their point. We Indians are very deft at pulling each other's legs. This phenomenon is commonplace in corporate life as well as political life.

Such behavior portrays our country in a bad spirit. I sincerely hope we learn to be more appreciative of our fellow Indians and human beings.


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