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A wide range of fans for one song!

A very different review of ‘O Duniya Ke Rakhwale” by Dr. Vasudha Theertharam and Gan Sharma.

This review is the result of collaboration between two fans of the great Rafi saab who met very recently over the Internet. Although this song is perhaps one of Rafi saab’s most reviewed, the reviewers bring a unique perspective to the song. They hope Rafi fans all over the world will enjoy it.

Dr. Vasudha lives in Bangalore, India, and Gan lives in Toronto, Canada

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi

Naushad Ali saab recalls reading in a newspaper that a man, sentenced to be hanged until dead, was asked what his last wish was. We always thought that this last wish was just an over-romanticised element in movies; however, it seems that this incident actually took place. The normal request, under these tragic circumstances, is either for a favourite food or a drink. Occasionally, it may be a request to meet a beloved; but more often, it is a priest that the condemned man asks for. The staunchest atheist, it is said, becomes God-fearing on his deathbed; when the end is near, the desire to bribe the Almighty is at its peak.Â

However, this man asked for none of these things. We try and imagine Naushad saab’s state of mind, his emotions, as he reads through what the man actually asks for – that he is allowed to listen to “O duniya ke rakhwale, sun dard bare mere naale; jeewan apna wapas lele, jeewan dene wale“. Can you, for a moment, put yourself in Naushad saab’s place as you read these lines, “the condemned man asked to be played this song”? Wouldn’t it be part satisfying, and yet, part frightening? Naushad saab does not say what he felt when he read that his creation was the last wish of a dying man.

Let’s consider another true story. A young ten-year old girl, curled up in a sofa, is listening to “O Duniya Ke Rakhwale“, which her father has just put on. Quietly, and without too much fanfare, the song has a very deep impression on her. Suddenly, she turns to her father and asks, ‘Papa, what does “naale” mean?’ From the moment she learns the meaning, the “ruhaaniyat” of the song sneaks into her innocent mind, entering layer by layer, and gets secretly embedded in an alcove of her memory. Rafi the sculptor succeeds in engraving the sentiments of the song in the chambers of her heart.

Even as a child, she wonders about the dual aspect of life that Shakeel Badayuni saab brings out with his immortal lyrics. Why is it, she thinks, does God create life with such opposites, where every up has a down, every left a right, every love a hate, every smile a tear? She is mesmerized by those beautiful words:

aas niraash ke do rangonse -duniyaan tu ne sajaayee,
naiyya sang toofan banaya, milan ke saath judayee

Listen to O Duniya Ke Rakhwale

Little did she know that nature works in strange ways; that ten year-old girl was being given a lesson in what she later describes thus: “the whole essence of the song is encapsulated in the two words – good and evil – which are the two sides of a coin, which always go hand in hand; always waging war against each other”.

One of the happiest moments of her life was the birth of her son; but she could not help remembering that tough, tough lesson that Shakeel saab, Naushad saab, and Rafi saab had taught her when she was ten: that pride and joy of hers, that son, was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.

Today, even that child, beautiful in every respect, but challenged by this debilitating condition, is a fan of this song too!! “Amma, Bhagwan”, he says, and his mother plays this song for him. He loves this song and never has enough of it. Euphoria is writ large on his otherwise expressionless face when he listens to this song, bearing testimony to the fact that he has embraced this religion called “Duniya ke Rakhwaale“.  “Three good Muslims”, she says, “came together to produce a beautiful homage to ‘bhagwan’. My son seems to have captured that spirit – he knows that the love of God is non-denominational”. And she’s very, very proud of him.

So, friends, there you have it. Three fans of this beautiful song – a condemned man consigned to the gallows, an innocent ten-year old girl, and a beautiful boy suffering from Down’s Syndrome. What is it, in that song, that made people from every walk of life feel so deeply touched?

Naushad himself gives us some clues.

He goes on to talk about Rafi singing this immortal song. It was probably a myth, he said, that Rafi vomited blood when he finished singing it. He had heard the rumour himself, but he didn’t see it, and Rafi saab himself never mentioned anything to Naushad about it. We too think it must have been a romantic story started by an uncommitted fan! One who was not facing the gallows – a man who was would not be frivolous with the facts.

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi


Undoubtedly, Rafi saab took the song very seriously. A man known to be able to bring out the essence of a song in its first rendering, he nevertheless practiced this song for “fifteen, twenty days”, as Naushad states it. It is also true that Rafi saab was unable to sing for a while after the recording of this song; he had lost his voice, for Naushad decided to use Rafi’s range to go as high as possible. We didn’t know this,  Naushad saab recorded this song again, after a long time, and this time, Rafi touched even higher notes than the first time. “Do sur oopar”, said Naushad.Â

Vasudha (one of the joint authors of this review) had occasion to hear Mohd Rafi saab sing this revised version. The emphasis was on ‘Mahal udas aur galiyaan sooni.’ When we were discussing it, she said, “Gan, It was ethereal. The ups and downs, the varied notes and oh! the mellifluous rendition of this one line enraptured the audience in a frenzy that words cannot express.. The audience went berserk;  cheering him  every time he paused and sang ‘Mahal udas re’.”

 “Ai mausiki tu cheez hai aisi sadabahaar
Milta hai jiss se dil ko sukoon, rooh ko karaar“.

Such an artist was Mohd Rafi.

So, this song from Baiju Bawra, which has, amongst its thousands of fans, its own music director, a man hanged at the gallows, a ten-year old, wide-eyed girl, and a boy with Down syndrome, came to be called “Duniya Ke Rakhwale”.

Shakeel captured the essential philosophical maxim that strife is caused when we are caught in a world of opposites; that true freedom comes only when one can transcend them. Look at the richness of his metaphor while he makes this point (and the authors apologize for repeating this verse again, but now in a different context):

aas niraash ke do rango se duniya toone sajayee
naiya sang toofaan banaya, milan ke saath judaayi

(Hope and disappointment are the two colours You used to decorate this world;
along with the boat You made the hurricane too; along with union, separation).

The protagonist of the song is confused; he has drowned in a sea of consternation. Familiar objects get transformed, he has nowhere to turn. Rafi  gives voice to this frustration as only he can:

aag bani saawan ki barkha phool bane angaare
naagan ban gayi raat suhaani patthar ban gaye taare
sab toot chuke hain sahaare
ho jeevan apna waapas le le jeevan dene waale
o duniya ke rakhwaale

The genius of Naushad comes at that point in the song when he changes the tempo of the song to signify the transition from frustration to resignation, and the strident tone gives way to something close to softness and melody here:

mahal udaas aur galiyaa suni chup chup hain deewaare
dil kya ujada duniya ujadi, ruth gayi hain bahaare
hum jeevan kaise gujaare
ho mandir girtaa fir ban jata dil ko kaun sambhaale

May that dead prisoner’s soul rest in peace.
May that girl learn the joys and pains of motherhood with grace.
May that child with Down’s Syndrome live a beautiful life.
May Rafi’s fans live on; may his yaad live on for generations to come.

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88 Blog Comments to “A wide range of fans for one song!”

  1. Girish says:

    When I met Rafi Saab in 1979 I had asked him about this song and he denied all the rumors about him coughing up blood after recording it.

  2. Gan Sharma says:

    Dear Dr. Khaja Aliuddin Saab,

    I did read your urdu article: thank you. I have left a comment for that article.

    Thank you very much sir.

  3. khaja Aliuddin,MD says:

    Janab Gan Sharma Saheb,
    Thanks for your response. I want to bring something to your attention that our legend’s “maadari zaban” was Punjabi, but his urdu pronunciation was superb. This is very unique charectaristic.
    I want you to read one of my article in urdu, on Rafi Sahab, in July 2008 in this beautiful forum.
    With regards to all rafi lovers,
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  4. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Ashok saab,

    Thank you so very much! Ashok saab, if someone like you can take the time to acknowledge us, then it would be important to take the time to thank you. We (Vasudha and Gan) would consider that more important than even writing another review…but, yet, we will do exactly that. Shortly!!

  5. Ashok Parekh says:

    after about 50 messages (leaving Vasudhaji & Mohanji’s individual replies to each and every mailer) of praise, there is hardly anything remaining to write further. indeed, these three muslim farishtey – rafissab, naushadsaab and shakeel badayunisaab) have blessed us all with their voice, words and music.

    i have purposefully not addressed this mail to vasudhaji and mohanji so that they can devote their valuable time in writing such wonderful posts and to learn Urud language instead of acknowledge and reply to incessant flow of posts from us, rafisaab’s ardent fans.

    with warm regards

  6. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Ravishankar saar,

    A hundred thanks!

    Vasudha and Mohan

  7. Gan Sharma says:

    Dr. Khaja saab,



    Must share this with you. I was born and raised in Calcutta, so I know Bengali fairly well. I am a Tamilian, but my wife is from Bihar; born and raised in Bombay / Delhi. After we got married, we used to listen to Rafi’s songs, and she used to pause the player after evey line and explain the meaning. That’s how my Hindi / Urdu improved – to the point where I can speak, read and write Hindi with ease, although with a faint accent.

    We lived in Oman for a while, where my wife learned the Arabic script – she was the one who encouraged me to learn Urdu, since I love Urdu poetry so much. She is going to learn along with me, and since she knows the Arabic script well, she can learn the nastaliq script more easily than I can, but I’m determined to learn it!!

    Thanks for your good luck wishes!

  8. Gan Sharma says:

    Dear Anwar Saab,

    Many thanks for your kind words, and your offer for occasional help. I am very much obliged. I am writing separately to you to tell you the books I’ve ordered. Your comments will be much appreciated!!

    Thank you once again!

  9. khaja Aliuddin,MD says:

    Janab Gan Sharma Saheb,
    Jab urdu ki baath nikli hai to aapki khidmath me do piyare sher arz hai:
    “Hum bhi urdu pe naaz karte hain
    yeh hamari zaban hai piyare” _ Gopal Mittal
    “Urdu hai jiska naam hum jante hain Daagh
    sare jahan me dhoom hamari zaban ki hai _ Daagh
    wish you good luck,
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

  10. Anwar-ul-Haque says:

    Dear Gan Sharma ji,

    Great spirit!!! I have really no words for your great attitude towards learning. I am very inspired by you.

    Urdu is also my favourite language and I have good skill of its writing and speaking. I will be more than happy, if I can help you for learning this great language.

    Please feel free to contact me on my below e-mail address, if you found any difficulty.

    Many thanks.


  11. S.Ravishankar says:

    Dear Ganapatiavargale, and Vasudha avare,
    After reading the review of this lovely song, that describes everything in such detail, what can an ignorant man like me say? Kudos to both of you for having done a great job. Looking forward to some more reviews of some of the finest songs of Rafi Saab.

  12. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Ramesh saab,

    Our heartfelt thanks. The honour of being your friend is ours indeed!!!

  13. Gan Sharma says:

    Dear Ashar Hafeez saab,

    Thank you very pointing out the correct pronuctiation for the Urdu word “phir”. You know, Ashar saab, one of my greatest regrets is that I did not learn Urdu – my mother tongue is Tamil. Urdu is a king’s language, a language designed for poetry. After reading your comment, I decided, at the age of fifty, to dedicate myself to learn Urdu properly. I researched online, and have found a book to learn the script and have also bought a Urdu-English dictionary with proper pronunciation.

    I cannot guarantee I will be successful, but I can guarantee that I will die trying!!

    Warm regards,


  14. Anwar-ul-Haque says:

    ref. to post # 31,

    Respected A. S. Murty ji,

    Your both ideas are really great and I am also in favour of them. Any reward / prize for best article will motivate many to write more. Your second idea is even better; publishing of a journel / magazine for good articles and its circulation will be very very beneficial.

    By the way, if there would be any prize for comments, then my vote would be for your comment indeed.

    Many thanks for such great comment on a very great article.



    dearest daktar behnaa and my dearest gan ganapathy mohan pyaare

    have down loaded your article in a hurry. shall post comments after going through it. its great to be a friend to such luminaries as the two of you.

    keep it up and awaiting many more such heart stopping reviews.

    rafisahab tussi great ho – jai ho jai ho jai ho – rafi sahab.

    ramesh on the sly.

  16. Ashar Hafeez says:

    many thanks for posting this article about O DUNYA KY RAKHWALY. i have a request that please when writing URDU, write it the way we speak it. like in the article, you wrote “fir” instead of “phir”
    i am a big fan of Rafi sahib and i listen to his songs very deaply as i think he gives a massege in every word he says. i have not listened any other singer giving life to words as he does. in Urdu one can say, Lafzoon ka Utaar Charhao sirf rafi sahib ko aata hai.
    i also found some of his interviews on Youtube, i am amazed that when he speaks , hardly any voice comes out of his throat, and his Urdu was like a pure punjabi speaker, but when he sings, Allah Allah, he was the perfect and is perfect.

  17. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Rohini ji,

    many thanks for your kind words. happy to know that our review brought back some memories – a very important function of any song!!

    thanks again!!

  18. Ganesh says:

    (For KK Site, I wrote there)
    Hi Debjyoti and bapan and other Kishorda fans, Your God, Guru and etc is very quit after December 2008 there is no article on your site from last December, there was only 8 articles in 2008, why do you people compare Kishoreda with Rafi Saab, see on Rafi site you can’t count there articles and comments by his fans, this is great fact if you accept or not it shows each and every thing of reality, popularity and quality, and above all the real fact is that Kshoreda was also a nice singer, in their period they were good friends but people like you made it ………
    Plz don’t waste your time on comment pick a pen and try to write a very good article on KK your favourite site is waiting for that…….

  19. Rohini Dinesh says:

    Dear Dr. Vasudha and Mr. Gan Sharma,

    Your review has touched a chord in my heart. It has opened the floodgates of memory for me…Dr. Vasudha, I too was a young, innocent girl, maybe about the same age as you were, when the strains of this song first fell upon my ears. Those memories came rushing back to me when I read your touching review.
    Kudos to the two of you on a great job!

  20. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Utthara,

    Ab kya bataein? You write this marvelous review of a haunting Rafi song, which is matchless, but you excelled even that in the praise of our article…which it nowhere near your write-up. Utthara, you’re the best.

  21. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Nagesh,

    Hum kya bataaen, dost…..tussi great ho. Your generosity in praise is only matched by the generosity of your spirit. WE BOTH THANK YOU!

  22. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Sandeep Nadkarni ji,

    Many thanks for the very kind words, and for pointing out some additional information…that Rafi saab was just 28 when he recorded this song speaks of his God-given genius and his innate goodness. Thank you once again

  23. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Jay Iyer saab,

    Thank you for your very kind words!! Much appreciated.

  24. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear unknow,

    You are so right….there may be many religions, but religious thought and fervour are non-denominational. Goodness is a universal quality, and we all know that Rafi saab was an example of goodness right through his life. This is the goodness that allows someone like Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza to write the cript for a serial like the Mahabarata!!!

    We believe that listening to Rafi saab and trying to emulate his goodness is enough….there’s no need for anything else.

    Thank you for your kind words.

  25. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Devraj ji,

    Many thanks for your very kind words….couldn’t agree more that this is a song for all times, all seasons!!

  26. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Suman ji,

    You’re so right: there isn’t a person in this world who hasn’t experienced the pain and happiness of what’s expressed in that line you’ve quoted. Thanks for your very kind words….you’ve made our day!!

  27. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Vinatha,

    Thank you so very much…yes, isn’t it amazing that because of Rafi saab’s legacy, we make new friends all the time!!

  28. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Vinit,

    Thank you so much….much appreciated!!

  29. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Bina,

    Whenever you write, a gentle kindness shines through that makes what you say even more important than what you’re writing about.

    Thanks for a most wonderful comment; we both thank you, dddiiiiilllll se, as you’d say!

  30. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear malavika,

    Our heartfelt thanks for your warm compliments!! And thanks for sharing your thoughts….this is getting better and better!!

  31. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Siva ji,

    Thanks for your very kind words, and yes! great suggestion. Both of us would love to have an original (cleaned up) recording of this song that we can preserve for ever!!

  32. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Bijoor saab,

    That was lavish praise indeed!! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The additional information is great, one of us (Gan) has certainly not heard this song in the wee hours of the morning, but we will!!

    Once again, thank you.

  33. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Sal,

    Thank you so much for the very kind words, we appreciate it!

  34. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Narayan saab,

    Vasudha and Gan thank you so much for your words of encouragement – considering the leadership you’ve shown in keeping us Rafi fans together, this is a small effort on our part. Thank you again.

  35. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Sudhir ji,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for your kind words…much appreciated.

  36. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Ashish Pradhan ji,

    Thanks so much for the kind words, and for the additional anecdote!! You have enriched the enjoyment of this song even further – thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!

  37. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Dear Anoop,

    Thanks for such a lavish compliment. We’ll continue to write, as long as you continue to sing Rafi saab’s romantic numbers like you do!! You da best, sir!!

    Vasudha and Gan

  38. Vasudha and Gan says:

    Pravin Hirani ji,

    Many thanks for your kind words….glad it brought back fresh memories of this great song!!

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