Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Night Shift

I have just returned from one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Since 8 pm last night, I have been an audience to an all night concert on Indian Classical music and dance. As the last strain of Pandit Jasraj's rendition of Bhairavi fades away, my eyes are misty with sleep, but somewhere inside I am excited enough to run a marathon.

The event was organised by the Uttarpara Sangeet Chakra and we were lucky enough to get guest passes, which guaranteed us cushioned seats in the front row. Those at the back in ordinary chairs weren't disappointed. After all, we had braved the chill to come here for music alone and no obstacles were going to stand in the way.

The evening started with Raag Bageshri presented by Pandit Jagdish Prasad, who hails from Madhya Pradesh. Most appropriate choice; after all Baageshri is the raag to sing at night. Pandit Ji enchanted us with his mellifluous voice and lengthy taans that were executed with apparent effortlessness.

Following him at midnight was Pandit Chitresh Das who is a renowned Kathak exponent. He lives, teaches and performs mainly in North America now. For the layman, this was a great learning experience, as Pandit Ji recited bols (drawing similarities to mathematics with Kathak) and danced along. We were privileged to watch his enactment of Dushyant and Shakuntala's first meeting in the forest. Also on the list was his famous 'Train' performance, where he never fails to thrill the crowds with his simulation of the movement of a train starting from one station, speeding, moving on a bridge and then slowing down at the platform of the next station before screeching to a halt. All this - achieved with a pair of ghungroos and two feet. Needless to say, I was spellbound.

At 2 A.M Ustad Pervez Sheikh performed on the sitar. The silence in the early hours of the morning was invaded by the brilliant tunes that he conjured continuously for two hours. The reticent Ustad, unlike the earlier performers did not utter a word during his entire stay, but his music said it all.

Finally at 4 A.M when Pandit Jasraj made his appearance, we knew that this was going to be a night to remember. Pandit Jasraj performed the Bhairav and the only word I have for it is 'perfect'. Pandit Ji said that music brings us closer to God and in keeping with his dictum; all his kheyals were based on spiritual themes like Radha Krishna, Mahadeva etc. His final rendition was an ode to Maa Kali in Bhairavi and had the audience (including my parents) in tears.

It is difficult to put in words what we felt out there. This is an experience that cannot be shared vicariously. From my personal view, this was the first time that I attended an all night concert and from the way it has been, 'Yeh Dil Maange More'. Every performance was an epitome of perfection in its own way and I do not have a better way to describe it. I shall never forget touching Pandit Jasraj's feet after the show and getting his blessings. I also noticed that in all the performances, the troupe accompanying the maestro was so deeply immersed in the music that they were oblivious to what was happening elsewhere. Their eyes said that they had reached nirvana and we were watching from outside. As Professor Dumbledore put it, music is probably the only magic that needs no charms or enchantment.

Maybe just a bit of love......

Friday, January 13, 2006

Jai Bajrang Bali Ki!!!!

Tuesdays always bring back a flood of good old memories. They remind me of the time spent in Delhi trying to acquire a college degree. Of the sunny winter afternoons spent eating oranges in the park, slowly fading away to dusk and then melting into starry skies when the chill set in. Of the sound of silence that stood defeated by the bells ringing merrily in all the temples. Of the bright lights and merry laughter that greeted us on our way to the mandir as we walked faster to beat the cold. Of Pummy’s famous ‘dahi-bhalla’ and ‘paapri-chat’ that lured us after
puja got over. Tuesday always spelt Hanuman Ji!

I recall scurrying home from college, making sure that nothing would stand between me and the weekly trip to the mandir. Like Bollywood characters, we would discard our jeans for the sedate salwar-kameez to appease our gods. We would spend a few minutes in Arti while the Hanuman Chalisa was chanted. As the priest finished
offering our ‘puja’, we would watch with bated breadth. What used to happen next still brings a thrill to me.

For the uninitiated, all sweet shops in Delhi prepare peda and boondi on Tuesdays for Hanuman Ji's worship, and the neighboring ‘Aggarwal Sweets’ is still the best in the business. It is perhaps travesty of the highest order to covet the offering that is meant for God, but the flesh was proven weak time and time and again. Those piping hot,grape size boondis, bright orange in color, dripping in sugar syrup had us drooling over. We often purchased half-a-kilo, and dieting plans (if any) were thrown to the nearest passing cyclone. When the priest returned our offering, a mad rush would set in and we would start chomping on the boondis even before we got home. The mandir was located in the middle of the B-block market and we would often encounter neighbors and friends outside. It pained us to share the boondis but we masked it with a smile. Little street urchins would wait outside the mandir, pestering us for ‘prasad’. Sometimes, we ignored them, sometimes we relented.

Last Tuesday, as our bus passed rumbled by a Hanuman Mandir on Strand Road, I saw a priest distributing boondis to passer-bys. Most people did not care to take. Amidst the noisy traffic and smoke on a busy road, there was no place for hungry street urchins, or college girls in salwar suits. The sound of the circular rail nearby and
the horn of buses drowned the bells. There were just a few devotees inside the mandir and the dim lights were depressing. Sitting in the bus, I could only watch helplessly, while nostalgia like a throbbing pain swelled within.

How to wake up at 6:30 and leave home by 7:15 - Tips from the Expert.

Valuable suggestions from the one who has been there done it.

5:30 -Ignore Alarm. Do not put on snooze.
6:00 - Ignore Father and Mother's polite requests to vacate bed.
6:15 - Ignore Father and Mother's stern requests to vacate bed.
6:30 -Repond to Mother's threat to throw you out with the bed sheet.
6:35 -Find another room to sleep
6:40 -Find Mother wanting to remove bed cover in that room too.
6:45:00 -Start brushing teeth.
6:45:30 -Stop brushing teeth.
7:00 -Stagger out of bathroom, vital essentials completed.
7:05 -Finally decide to wear the yellow outfit.
7:10:00 -Allow Mother to stash spoonfuls of food while putting on dress.
7:12 -Allow Mother to stash spoonfuls of food while combing hair.
7:14 -Gather bag, mobile, water bottle, lunch box, dupatta and socks and with mouth full of food, hound out of the house.
7:15 -Sit in the car, wave to Mother, arrange bag, arrange dupatta, ignore driver's startled looks.
7:20 - Ready to step on to the train in full glory.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Now that ten days have gone down the line, I am finally convinced that we are safely cocooned in 2006 and that there is no going back to the year that was. New Years have always been a time of confusion for me. Adding a year to the date is always difficult given that you have been doing it differently for the past three hundred and sixty-five days. I take my time to clear the confusion amidst the New Year resolutions, and the parties and the cakes and year-end T.V shows. Apologies for being the tube-light but I always console myself by saying that were it not for us tube-lights the world would appreciate the bright sparks or disparage the fused bulbs.

I have my pet set of resolutions that I have been making for the past as-old-as-I-am minus eight years. This New Year, my newest resolution is to get rid of them. And what better way to do it than post it out here for the world to read and ridicule. So watch out for here I come:
  1. Topping the list every year is my intention to look like Kate Moss by December 31st, so that I can get into that skimpy little top I purchased in a moment of optimism, but never was able to fit into. I promise to give the ‘roshogolla’ a miss, look the other way when ‘gulab jamuns’ are served and say a big NO to Cadbury’s Perk with extra crunch. I promise to wake up at five every morning and spend an hour in fruitful exercise. When I find myself weighing five kilograms more every December, I hang my head in shame promising to make amends the following year. Not any more, from now onwards, I shall not watch my weight, my weight shall watch me.
  2. Coming a close second is resolving the eternal fight between my ego and my id. My ego is of the opinion that unless a girl is always on her toes, she will turn into somebody’s girl friend by December 31st.
    So, my ego says that ‘thou shall strive to survive another year from the onslaught of potential boy friends’
    My id is a little lazy. By June sufficiently aroused, my id makes fun of my ego ‘Thou shall succeed in restraining thyself only when a potential boyfriend appears on the scene’.
    Ego: Refer to Resolution #1
    Id: You think men are going to keep running behind you as soon as you lose weight????
    Ego: Haven't you heard of Bridget Jones ?
    Id: Let’s challenge you to drop your guard for a month and see if it wins you the attention of anybody.
    The argument continues. Well, I don’t know who wins but fact is that status quo is maintained on 31st December year after year after year. So why keep fighting?
  3. And this is the one that I would hate to give up. Will I finally succumb to the lure of hair colour? Splurged all over magazines, television and bill-boards, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor and Andie McDowell urge you to get rid of that ‘boring black hair’ and give copper, burgundy and purple a try. When I see my friends coloring their hair blonde the temptation is almost irresistible. This year I refuse to think about it anymore. Surely with earthquakes, train accidents, drought and explosions there are better things a girl could think of than what pigmentation her hair should assume.
  4. Finally I have started taking guitar classes. Every year I resolve to take Raam Pyaare – my dashing young Spanish guitar a little more seriously. I love the bruises on the fingers of my left hand that are formed by pressing metal strings. They used to be on probation, but they are becoming permanent now. I am, as promised, taking classes and RP is getting his due, so chuck goes the resolution.
  5. When I started getting pocket money, I promised myself that I would buy a book every month. Sadly, I was too busy spending it on other things. Now that I have finally managed keep my promise, the publishing industry must be silently blessing me, my Mother must be silently praying that a little more space may miraculously appear in the cupboard for the books and my friends who want to borrow from me must be silently praying that I read faster.

So what will 2006 hold for me, my friends, for the people I have never met and for the world that is ravaged by disaster and destruction? Only time will tell. But if I were to make a sincere resolution it would be that we learn to love one another and live in peaceful harmony.