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'Dholak': The pulse beat of our festivities
It is difficult to imagine any north Indian festivity without the dholak. It provides the folksy beat in festivals like Holi, wedding ceremonies and vibrant Punjabi 'bhangras'. Since childhood, I remember our family having a dholak.

Before every occasion, the dholak was taken out, warmed up and then its strings were fine-tuned to the player's satisfaction. Even when family and friends came over, the'dholak' was taken out. Our rich repertoire of folk songs provides a suitable song for every merry making occasion.

Time was, when we saw silent movies, as sound recording for movies had still not arrived. And that is where the humble 'dholak' played a very vital part. In front of the screen, one or two 'dholakwalas' used to provide the sound effects. Particularly for battle scenes or dance sequences.

In our marriage ceremonies like 'mehndi' and 'sangeet', singing folk songs for teasing the bride and the bridegroom, would be in-laws, bhabhis and dewars is a must.

With Holi around the corner, we were keen to get our 'dholak' repaired. The fun of throwing colour on each other, teasing and boisterousness of Holi, is supplanted by singing songs on dholak like,'Rang Barse, Bheege Chunar Wali …' or 'Kanha Barsaane Mein Aa Ja Io.' In Mumbai, it was difficult to find somebody who would repair our dholak. But luckily, last week while returning from my morning walk, I was glad to spot a man playing dholak and slinging many big and small ones around him. A resident of nearby Thane, the man's name was Iqbal and he hailed from Lucknow.

I asked him, if his daily income was enough to run a family or was his business seasonal. To my surprise, he said that his daily routine income was enough. Most of his sales were near temples or whenever a wedding was celebrated in the slums. His maximum sales, of course, were during the period starting with the Ganapati festival and ending with Navaratri. His small 'damroos' were much demanded by Shiva devotees.

During this period, whenever a Ganapati or a Devi idol is brought home or to a public 'pandal', many dholak players precede the deity. Similarly, when the idol is taken for 'visarjan', dholakplayers precede all the way to the river bank or a lake.

I asked Iqbal, whether he would repair our dholak. He agreed and came home with me. He was carrying all the repair material. In an hour Iqbal had repaired our dholak. It is people like Iqbal, who keep the pulse beat of our festivities going!

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