Monday, November 29, 2010

Folk Seduction

An audio and visual seduction – by Manganiyars – a hitherto unknown group of musicians from Rajasthan. And the setting perfect – against the backdrop of Purana Qila – just the beginning of winter season, slight chill as you walked inside the gates for an open air performance. Flower rangoli with diyas welcomed, the scent of rose and marigold petals setting the mood for the evening to unfold.
As we walked towards the performance area, the stage came in view - a vibrant red setup that looked like stacked matchboxes of rows and columns – the colour traditionally Indian while the set idea borrowed from Amsterdam. An east-west fusion indeed!
The sun went down, and the first notes of music came from one of the musicians seated in the cubicle framed by a row of yellow bulbs – the show began. The silence descended on the crowd – it was a crowd of music lovers – no VIPs to wait and welcome – the evening dedicated to music sans speeches.
It was unlike any other musical performances I have ever seen – the musicians could not see each other because of the stage setup, hence, could not communicate through hand or eye movements, each had to know not only its part but of others as well, and a perfect coordination between musicians and technicians ensured the magic of light and sound.
The crescendo of vocals in a chorus of well-lighted windows turned to darkness with a single dhol musician highlighted in his own singular window, while at other time a well-orchestrated instrumental performance gave way to a solitary singer in the folk tune.
The similarity between Abida Parvin and the likes and the Manganiyars ended at their choice of song performed on – the Bulle Shah and the fact that both performances enthrall audiences albeit in a different way. While Abida’s performance is primarily vocal in her own signature style, the Manganiyars have their own interpretation and create a sound which alternates between vocals and instrumentals – the sound straight from the heart of India – as it would have been centuries ago. In pristine white kurta and dhotis with the Rajasthani trademark pagdis, they ensure that the tradition lives on – bringing it out of the desserts to not only urban India but to the world beyond, courtesy Roysten Abel.
The music was raw, the voices untrained and yet they mesmerised, switching between vocals of Bulle Shah and the tones of Rajasthani instrumentals. And too soon, the 67 minutes ended giving way to the formal piece of the evening – an unveiling of The Manganiyar Seduction LP and CD by Amarrass Records, and then a tribute to their mentor. And in the end, came the encore, this time a Krishna bhajan by Meera – a far cry from Bulle Shah but still from the same land of Rajashthan – while they continued the seduction of souls!

24 hours after and still in seduction,
November 28, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nature’s Fury or Beauty

One day, while I was travelling back home from office, I was awed by the kaleidoscope of clouds on NH8. Dense clouds that seemed to land on the highway, sky in various hues of grey and white, the buildings on either side of the highway had an eerie colour of blue and grey. As we travelled further towards Delhi, the panorama continued with lightening striking out of the dense clouds.

As we entered Delhi, this panorama turned into a nightmare, with bumper-to-bumper traffic, choked drains, hassled traffic police with no signals working and to top it all, uprooted trees blocking the traffic. And the magic of monsoon disappeared even before it could really begin.
The tension of commuters reflected in the nature’s temper as it continued to rain heavily while clouds thundered and lightening continued to strike. And we remained the mute spectators.

So was it nature’s way of reminding us that while we race against time continuously, we need to take out time to stop and appreciate the colours of nature, its dynamism and beauty.

In belief that Nature’s fury is also it beauty,
July, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shadow of the clouds

How often did our answers in social studies/ geography in school started with – “India is an agricultural country…”? And today in this mall-infested culture and service industry syndrome, we have all but forgotten this little general knowledge info that India is the 2nd largest country in terms of farm produce and still employs 52% of the workforce and happens to still retain the honour of largest economic sector in terms of GDP in Indian economy. And the only time we think about agriculture is when the Met department predicts of bad monsoon or the prices of vegetables and fruits hit the roof, which is a pretty common occurrence…

Its while flying over the North Indian Gangetic plains of the country, one sees the variation of the season on the agricultural land. The dry parched soil of the summers gives way to lush green water-logged paddy fields of monsoon to the ripe golden wheat waiting to be harvested towards the end of winter season – makes one realize that inspite of all modernism we still are an agricultural country. And if anyone has observed from the plane, the shadow of the clouds on the land is truly beautiful, creating a dhoop-chhaaon effect, the droplets of the rain bearing clouds hitting the windows when the plane passes below them.

And as the agriculture economy struggles with the shadow of clouds and no rains, the technology and the innovations that drive the way of life in modern cities desperately need to be harnessed to reach to the last man in this country. It is not only about mobile phone, internet and cable TV that spells technology, it is about better yield crops, deploying natural resources to create new resources that help farmers, using technology to get the farmer to the buyer and thereby eliminating the middle man and many other innovations that will help Indian economy to truly be the super power. And honestly, the way Indian population is growing, we need to be able to produce food for ourselves and our future generations.

Under the shadow of clouds waiting for rains,
July 7, 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lost and Found

Front page news headline few days back in all leading newspapers – Lost and found: Rahul Gandhi’s mobile phone. Amidst all the news on honour killings, Maoists attacks, deaths in Kashmir, drought and flood in various parts of the country – this story found its way on the front page. And only because the owner of the phone is a Gandhi!

Having lost a phone and with it all data and memories of 4 years in it, I feel nothing but compassion. However, I did not have the luxury of getting my phone back. And as various reports show, there are hundreds of phones that get lost every year, and few get lucky to get them back. Inspite of the fact that all telecom companies and the mobile companies say that having an IMEI number helps getting the phone back.

Will the security machinery move all roadblocks to search for a common man’s phone? Does CCTV cameras work at all places where they are installed? Will the recordings ever be checked to trace the culprit? The answer is NO. And that’s why we are scared of filing a FIR; do not have the patience of making multiple visits to the courts or police station – as the results are not encouraging enough. Nothing against the person per se – but when I loose the mobile phone, my story does not end like a fairy tale, it does not get printed even on Page 11 of a newspaper as a headline news: Lost and Found!

A person who has lost her phone,
July 1, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homemade luxury vs readymade convenience

10 years back when I made the journey from Banaras to Bombay, the cultural shock I experienced was not only in the way the city was, but in small little things as well. Things like the snacks at home or the woolen clothes… Sounds strange to lot many people, but the way of world sounded strange to me then.
I saw households where all one ate came from the market packaged in a polythene wrapping, from morning breakfast to snacks like samosa, bhujiya, pakoras, sweets and their accompaniments like chutney, sauces or achar. All these things were homemade till I left home! I also shopped and ate them, but the home taste was missing. And after so many years, I still rely on home made snacks vs the readymade things available in the market – each home vacation (or someone coming from home) ends with huge dabbas of favourite snacks being carried in the luggage.
And similar is the story with woolen clothes, I did not own a single piece of machine made woolen piece till 6 years back, everything I had was hand-knitted – single knit, double knit pure wool – by my Masi. Every winter started with the discussion on the list for the season – is it going to be a regular sweater, or a shawl, or a cap or if she is in a really generous mood – a long coat. And then came the colours and the design – crochet or knit, cable or straight. And last winter, I went back to those hand-knotted sweaters again, matching them with the hand-knitted shawls, my favourite being an old double-knit cardigan in burnt orange which was my Mother’s and then handed over to me – the warmth of the sweater could not parallel any layers of readymade stuff – or was it the warmth of love?
And so, I continue to live with the cultural shock at my own terms – home made snacks and hand-knitted sweaters. There is more such small stuff wherein I prefer the homemade luxury (inspite of the hard work and long gestation period) vs the readymade convenience of buying from the market.

Maybe more on this later,
June 23, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Epics retold

In the age when TV had still not come to every house and there were hardly any movies for children and computers were still long time away from the Indian shores, there grew a generation on mythological stories either told by the grand-parents or through Amar Chitra Kathas.

If one had the luxurious life of living with the grandparents, the stories were told and re-told without any boredom, by the storyteller or the audience. And of course, we eagerly waited for the new edition of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) - with their beautiful illustrations and stories that took us to the fantasy land - Disneyland was too far off.

Once we moved to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys age, and later on, Mills and Boon or the Archie comics, these mythological stories seemed so old, outdated or unfashionable to a large audience. And there was a time I thought that this art of storytelling was all gone! Looked like the GenNext will not have the opportunity to know these stories - will not know the story behind why we celebrate Dussehra or Diwali, the significance of Winter Solstice or Uttarayana or the story of burning Holika a day before Holi. However, the focus on India and the Indian growth story helped the child film makers or more specifically, cartoon film makers to take up a subject from ACK and retell the story through digital medium. And so we see those stories on Ganesha, Krishna, Ramayana and Mahabharata - with aniamtion and sound effects to the kids who cannot visualize a life without TV or internet.

And these stories are being retold, for a mature grown-up audience with a modern twist. Last one month has seen the release of two movies - Rajneeti and Raavan - loosely based on Mahabharata and Ramayan respectively - one telling the story of Indian politics and another of a dacoit (or whatever) in a far off jungle in India. One wonders that these stories are much more than just fairly tales - they are as relevant to understand human psyche in modern world as they were centuries ago. So many films have plots that seem to be inspired from the many stories within Mahabharata, Gurcharan Das's latest book is based on characters from the great epic, these epics seem to find a connect and a context in our modern lives as well. And I really feel that there are many layers in these epics that when revealed can help us understand ourselves better.

In search of inner self,


June 22, 2010

A lesson in marketing

Long before the McDonalds and Pizza Hut came to India, Delhi had already witnessed a fast-food revolution through the famous south Indian chain - Sagar Ratna. And its owner, Jayaram Banan can still be seen everyday at his Defence Colony Branch.
Though one sees him every day greeting his regular patrons by name, it was a pleasant surprise yesterday to see him at the entrance at the peak hour, dinner time Sunday evening. While his armed security guards stayed a little away so as not to intimidate customers, Mr Banan was his humble self - guiding and manning the large crowd.
Was this his way of getting back to the basics of customer marketing, or getting to the grass roots from where he started? Since all who throng the outlet would not have recognised its owner, for people like me who do it was a humbling experience, a lesson ... of whatever the work you do, how you do it and perceive it shows your dignity!
A Learner,
June 21, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

First Words

This is not about re-living my life or reminiscing my experiences ... this is about letting my thoughts come out. Letting me talk about things in general, to talk about 1000 things around me, under this sky or around the world that I have a view on. And believe me, I have A view on many things, issues or topics.
As these first words come out in the digital space, I hope I will be articulate enough to put my thoughts in words, words that I hope will be lucid enough to convey what I think.

This is me,
June 20, 2010