Where do you go when the enormity of a crisis hits you and others around you, or when what seemed like blissful solitude becomes an aching loneliness?
There are times when the blues call for energetic tunes – that is when you hit Latin Dance Party Night. Or Unlimited Chill if you’re pensive but not particularly troubled.
But there are also times when you need music as well as poetry, something that echoes your deepest feelings and anxieties. Music to take comfort in, and words to live by.
Here’s my playlist, not comprehensive by any stretch in terms of form, genre or language.
To begin with, Mohammed Rafi, excelling per usual in this call for the mind to quiet down and be patient, from Chitralekha.
Best to avoid the featured beverage and instead imbibe the spirit of the song – stop struggling because there is only so much that you can control.
Scored by Roshan, the lyrics are by beloved poet Sahir Ludhianvi. The song is as much for the faithful as for those who might reach out to an abstract, ineffable power simply because the crisis at hand is beyond comprehension.
Part lullaby and part therapy, AR Rahman’s Sooha Saha for the film Highway is a song I keep going to when the pining for family and friends gets too much and screen time and phone calls just won’t cut it. It might bring on some tears but sometimes a good melancholy tune can be strangely restorative.
This one has the touch of a grandmother’s soft cotton saris and a good friend’s arm around your shoulder.
I cannot get over this love song, written by Habba Khatoon, the great sixteenth-century Kashmiri poet, and sung by the formidable Vibha Saraf for the Amazon Prime Video web series Made in Heaven.
It has the depth of the river and the hush of the night it speaks of, and is exactly what you need if your heart is frayed by love, longing and distance.
The craving for solitude is not uncommon, and often, it is a means to an end – to be able to reflect deeply, or in spiritual practice, to be able to get closer to and unite with the divine.
Few songs express the pain of striving for solace, of not quite getting there, better than Kun Faya Kan, one of Rahman’s Sufi gems, from Rockstar.
Come fill this emptiness, the devotee implores, this house is empty with you. The yearning gets more intense, but the chant-like cadence in the song is calming rather than frenetic.
And I am always moved by the end where the devotee pleads for freedom from the self – because how can you perceive the self if you cannot separate from it?
“Ab mujhko bhi ho deedar mera; Kar de mujhe mujh se hi riha.”
This is for those days when questions about life and living greet you as you wake up and follow you everywhere.
So much has been put on hold – journeys, hopes and dreams. Many have had their lives upended already. In the black hole of the crisis, the future will have to be re-imagined, and when the eye of the storm passes, old struggles will have to be renewed even as new challenges emerge.
On the long road ahead and on clinging to hope, here’s RD Burman and Javed Akhtar from 1942: A Love Story.
And a final call to keep the faith, composed by Salim-Sulaiman and sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali, from the film Dor.
For a mellower version, check out this unplugged cover by Jonita Gandhi.