Sumant Vashi is an NRI. He is 72 years old, and has a special name as ‘Dadu‘. He carries two outstanding hobbies with him, first of collecting old songs. So far, he has collected over such 30,000 songs, which is an unbelievable figure. But his years of hard work made it possible. Photography is also his great hobby and so far have clicked over 40,000 photographs.
Speakbindas: Tell us about you. Where do you basically belong to and about your education?
Full Name: Sumantrai Kalidas Vashi, Anavil Brahmin (Morarji Desai wala…). Birthplace: Small Village name Khakhawada, Taluke Gandevi, Dist. Valsad, in 1937. Primary Education: Dhamadachha, Ta. Gandevi.
Family: Mother passed away when I was 8 years. Father worked as a Knitting Master in Amdavad. One younger brother who is an engineer is living in Baroda.
My high school (11th Standard) education completed in New Education High school, Ahmedabad in 1954 with first class marks (S.S.C.E ). As the Mill Industry in Ahmedabad was at its golden era, my father decided for me to finish the DTM degree in R.C. Technical School, but I failed in First year and joined Arts Faculty in newly opened St. Xavier’s college, Mirzapur in High school Building in Morning classes. Late Shri Chimanbhai Patel (Ex. Gujarat Chief Minister) was our Economics Professor. He used to ride on a ladies style bicycle to come to the college!!
In 1957 I joined “Post & Telegraph” Department, and began as a Telephone operator in Talod (Dist. Sabarkantha). That time there was no electricity in the villages. It was a surprising era; the pay scale was around Rs 60.00 + Rs 40.00 D.A. and extra perks was Rs. 10.00 per month, less Rs. 6.00 deduction for pension amount!!! Shocking enough, the kerosene in a new container was about Rs 3.00 with a free delivery to our home, the milk was 4 annas (25 Naye Paise) a pound (450 gms).
The total expenses for full month, with a room partner was about Rs 48.00 only, just Unbelievable comparing today. I also worked at Bawla and Dholka, Telephone Exchanges. Then got married in 1959, have 2 daughters and a son with 5 grands. Now they are all settled down here in US. I can hear them saying that they miss India very often.
During late 1960s, Banking Industries was looking for suitable candidates with good family background, and I did get an opportunity for an interview. It was taken in Dholka, and I passed (“nailed it”, American lingo) with 100%. So, I joined ‘The Bank of Baroda Ltd.’, Amdavad in June 1963. It was beginning of a new chapter in my life. The starting salary there was Rs. 100.00 (I think it was stipend) for 12 months being under graduate. After that regular pay (Rs.135.00 P.M.) started. I worked at same Bank as a clerk/officer and in Managerial category upto 1995 faithfully. Working places varied from Amdavad, Nadiad and Surat. I was lucky enough to stay in Gujarat unlike other Bank personnel who were transferred to many remote states to work. In Nov. 1993 I came to USA, and found suitable atmosphere to suit my nature and to adjust with my family, except can’t drive here, a little snag. I was 56 years young man when I came to this country far apart from home. I resigned from Bank in August 1995. The time is going fast, living in our good and bad days. Is it very long self introduction? Hope it’s not boring.
Speakbindas: We have heard that you have a very huge collection of old songs? Tell us about it, how it started, and so far how many songs you have collected?
Sumant Vashi: This collection was started from the era of an audio cassette in 1969. The practice was well grown from hearing and watching uncounted movies from the school bunks (Gapchi).
The interest in music also showed me the way to play musical instruments like Harmonium, Bulbul Tarang (Tysocoto), Harmonica (with whelping tunes)/ Mouth Organ. I tried Violin also, which I found little difficult to learn.
Until now I have full interest in all type of music including playing instrumental and any genre of music. As on today these collection of songs has reached to a no. more than 30,000, which includes many varieties!
My heartily intention is to collect the old very old songs. Most likely you can find the rarest songs in my collection. In addition, family members and other find it very interesting that this huge collection is very well edited, categorized in a “PALM SIZE” MP3 PLAYER (mine has 120 GB capacity), and no it’s not an apple/Mac iPod which everyone else in here are crazy for. In this collection all files names are sorted Singer wise, Film wise, Song wise, Instrumentals, Classical, Golden Era, Devotional, English Music, Gujarati etc.
There are subfolders in these categories too. It is kind of difficult for me to describe this material on paper except you see in person. This entire collection was made from various websites, CD purchased from local market in Ahmedabad, Baroda, and friend’s collection, but well organized by me. I should confess that nearly less than 20% of these songs may be repetitive due to many inevitable reasons.
Speakbindas : Who are your favorite singers and share with your Top 10 favorite songs.
Sumant Vashi: Personally (or politically) I don’t like to judge the great singers. I believe, nobody gets a chance to sing if they are not great. In school time the daily Morning Prayer was done by two girls of my class. I used to think that they are great singers at that time, because I couldn’t sing in melody. Also I could not rank top 10 songs, as I have in my favorite song files total “195 songs” as my favorite songs. Just to say one song is from RUDALEE “Juthhi muthhi mitwa Sawan bole..” touches my heart at any time.
Speakbindas : Also you have a great flair for photography? How many photographs you have so far taken? And which areas you cover for the same?
The other hobbies for me are
1. Photography: Nearly 40,000 digital pictures are stored in my computer. I think each one is remarkable and includes family, travel (India and other Countries) and events photographs. The ABC (American Broadcasting Corp) local News Channel has also relayed one of my picture in their morning news.. Some of them are well edited with the help of many different softwares.
2. Old coins: This is a hobby for me. I think they must be not less than 500 to 600, and some of them are more than 100 years old.
3. Postal Stamps: A very huge collection, although it is common worldwide hobby, it is also with me, but very difficult to sort out, no time to take the utmost care of them which I should take.
4. Traveling: I have visited more than 12 states in USA, Canada, Mexico ( 3 times and one was in the CRUISE) and once to Malaysia .
===== I have a good fortune to say “Life is beautiful….” =====
Speakbindas : When did you migrate to USA? How is the Indian culture there?
Sumant Vashi : I am here since November 1993. Here in case of Indian culture, I have observed it as “DEKHADO” .(S H O W O F F) among each other. Trying to find different life on weekends (saturday, Sunday & Holidays) from daily routines of hard work with high stress jobs. According to me to save our culture, here we kill our culture too. And as I understand, there is no doubt that in case of India, it’s a similar issue. Other thing I like to mention is Gujju-Americans are either educated or working satisfactorily in corporate world (mainly younger crowd), or work/own different kind of stores, and motels. Compare to other north or South Indian culture, they are doing better in many areas.
Speakbindas: How often do you visit India? And what things you do during your visit?
Sumant Vashi: After my departure in 1993, I have visited India four times. Mostly to find old songs, meet friends and relatives and visit couple of religious places since Shrimati insist. Majority of the time I’ve found myself on streets (Gandhi Road, Relief Road etc), taking pictures or looking for things for old time’s sake, and wondering to mostly everything going around.
Speakbindas : What are you hobbies? Your favorite food, and Favorite movies?Sumant Vashi: Watching TV, spending many hours on computer, surfing various websites to find old Hindi songs. I have no selection for food,any thing Chale-Fave, but do not prefer spicy stuff. Only eat at lunch time in afternoon, and rest of the meal is “Milk and Cereal”.
Speakbindas : Anything else you would like to add.
Sumant Vashi : I have been gone under angioplasty three times, but I am still working hard (mentally and physically) as much as I can. My son calls me “magajmari wala Dadu”. Daily routine with many different activities keeps me young and energetic.
Speakbindas : Your special message to your fans and Speakbindas readers.
Sumant Vashi : As Swami Ramakrishna Paramhans said.
“Mango to malshe” You wish and you will get it,
“Shodho to jadshe” Try to find and you will find it,
“Khatkhatavo to ughadshe” Just knock it and it will open.
Dadu na Gurudev Dutta >>>>>12th April 2009.
Below are some of the photographs clicked by Sumant Vashi.