Thursday, January 29, 2009

Much music at Dover Lane-Part I

We spent four nights with very erratic sleep patterns, as we were attending selected parts of Kolkata's famous Dover Lane Music Conference. This is usually scheduled in the third week of January every year. This year the weekend was more or less perfect for the festival, starting on the 22nd, with 23rd Jan a holiday for Netaji's birthday, and closing on the 25th, with the Republic Day holiday after the final night of music. So ideally you can stay up for four nights of music, and sleep all day to make up for it! We couldn't quite do that, but did try to rest as much as possible whenever we could.
The Dover Lane conference is huge. It is held at Nazrul Manch, an open air stadium which is covered with canvas for the event. We were trying to guess the capacity- it looked like about two thousand plus seats, but I'm not too sure. The entire event has a fairground atmosphere outside- there are stalls selling hot and cold drinks, cakes, sandwiches, patties and pizzas, Chinese food, and biryani, as well as some dealing in electronic musical instruments, and at least three stalls selling classical music audio CDs. The funniest of all is hearing the chai-wala calling outside in between performances, when the amplification is off! Quite a contrast between his cries and the sound of the maestros! Some people come dressed in their concert going finery, others, like me, dress for comfort, as the Jauary nights can get cold. Warm track pants and a sweatshirt, thick socks and a thick shawl were comfortable gear!
The SRE and I were very selective this year. We knew that all-nighters would be too much for both of us. So on the night of the 22nd we left home at around 2 a.m(the road was delightfully empty at that hour) , and listened to Malini Rajurkar singing a khayal (we missed hearing the name of the raga), a ragamala, and a delightful tappa in Raga Kafi. She has a rich and powerful voice. She is a singer I have heard on the radio quite often, but had never seen before either on TV or in person. Her performance was followed by a santoor recital by the master himself, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. Apart from the haunting strains of the instrument, Panditji himself is captivating, with a cloud of grey curls framing elfin, delicate features. By six a.m., though, I was falling asleep in my chair, despite having partaken of sundry refreshments, so we drove home and collapsed into bed. I have absolutely no recollection of what he played, unfortunately, apart from it being lovely. The next night we heard part of a scintillating sarod recital by Alam Khan, who is the son of the legendary Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. We didn't know this when we heard him, and were rather impressed that a person with an American accent could play the sarod so beautifully. (Yes, we are shallow like that.)
He was followed by the vocalist Veena Sahasrabuddhe, who started her performance with a khayal in Raga Jog. Although she sang beautifully, as always, the amplification was jarring in the higher octaves. Given that by 4 a.m I was desperately sleepy, I have forgotten what she sang next, by I do remember that her last piece was the famous 'ghat ghat mein panchhi bolta' composition by Sant Kabir. Somehow the tabla amplification was also too loud, which made it jarring in places. We went home, wondering whether we were really cut out for all this late night business, and not even thinking of waiting for the final performance by Ajoy Chakraborty, whom I have heard before and whose singing I really do appreciate. The mind and body were just too jangled to have enjoyed his music.
All misgivings about the wisdom of attending all night concerts were totally swept away on the third day of the conference. We woke up around 2.30 a.m., reached the hall in time to hear Shahid Parvez playing what I can only call a rollicking finale! It was almost a rockshow with a strong folk element to it, if that makes any kind of sense. Once again, I am clueless about what he was playing.
The next performers made me vow to attend as many of their concerts as I possibly ever could- the fabulous Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra. They describe themselves as two bodies with a single soul, and for that soul, music is worship. Rajan ji announced that they would start their puja with Raga Bilaskhani Todi, which I love. The vilambit bandish they sang was truly beautiful-' Barni na jaaye chhavi Bihari tihaari.' They also sang a taraaana after the drut, and followed this with a tribute to Durga. The finale was a Kabir bhajan "Karley singaar" which gave us both gooseflesh. We left the hall in high spirits, willing to mortify the flesh some more to hear such awesome singers again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little One

The little dog celebrated his first birthday today. The kids in the colony love him, and come over every afternoon to take him out to play with them.
Instead of the four who had declared that they would come for his birthday, a dozen landed up, bearing gifts of balls and toys suitable for a one year old dog! More party fare was promptly organised.

The birthday boy a couple of weeks ago.

A cake had been made for Poco Loco as well, because sibling rivalry does exist.

That furry bundle is about to 'cut' the cake.

There's been a dog in my daughter's home for at least six years now. The family does celebrate the dogs' birthdays, but very quietly. Such a party is unprecedented for the dogs, till now.
Our popular little Chotu really takes the (birthday) cake!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Things I've never been able to understand-IV

When the term 'rani' is so sweet and appealing, why, in the same domestic context, does 'maharani' become an insult?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Silly Tale: The Princess

The man and the woman were staying overnight at a hotel. He was on a business trip, and she had been visiting friends in the same city. They decided to spend the last night of their stay there in the five star hotel the company had booked for him. Since this was a somewhat impulsive decision, they stayed in his standard room with twin beds, rather than getting the room changed to one with a double bed.
Since they'd been apart for some days, they cuddled up in one bed until she felt cramped, and too near the source of the loud snores emitted by her man. She moved to the other bed, and soon fell asleep.
In the morning, though, she was exhausted from a largely sleepless night. 'They call this a five star hotel,' she grumbled. 'The bedsheet wasn't pure cotton- it's all bumpy with pilling. I couldn't sleep a wink.' She checked the sheets on his bed. 'Not fair. Your bed had cotton sheets.'

He examined her sheet closely. It had the characteristic tiny 'pills' that polyester often generates. He laughed, 'After all these years I finally realise that I'm married to a princess.'

' Why am I suddenly a princess?' (Rather grumpily)

' Remember the story of the princess and the pea- she couldn't sleep because there was one pea underneath twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. And you couldn't sleep because of these tiny irregularities. That makes you a princess'.

Ah well. When she was a tiny child she'd always wanted to be a princess. Better late than never!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Animal Within

Violence of any kind is something that distresses me immensely. I know all too well that it lurks not far below the surface in most of us, barring a few highly evolved souls, who have gone beyond rage and violence. Such rare beings seem to exude Love in its most universal sense, a reflection of true godliness. The Mad Momma has written a chilling account of domestic violence here, and though I do not believe that counter-violence is a fitting revenge, her post catalysed a discussion in my home on the violence all around us .

And of course the SRE had to come up with a poem about this distressing aspect of the human condition. Here goes:

Aadmi Aadmi

Har taraf nafrat, chalo sochein samjhein:
Aadmi aadmi se nafrat kartaa kyon hai?

Zameen jaydaad ka jhagda har baar to nahin hota.
Mera mazhab terey mazhab se alag hai,
Na maine dekha hai na tooney, per mera khuda terey khuda se ooncha hai.

Aadmi aadmi se nafrat karta kyon hai?

Mera sach sach hai, baakee sab kahaani,
Merey dard ke aagey, sab kuchh paani.

Aadmi aadmi se nafrat karta kyon hai?.

Jo main sochoon sab sahee, jo main kahoon sab sunein aur karein.
Hum raja, tum praja, jo chaahe sazaa de dein

Aadmi aadmi se nafrat karta kyon hai?

Nafrat se nafrat janam leti hai yeh suntaa aya hoon.
Pyar ke evaz main bhi nafrat ka ambar milta hai ye bhi jaana

Aadmi aadmi se nafrat karta kyon hai?

Lakh tatola to yeh jaana, sadiyon se merey andar
Insaan kee rooh ka pyasaa ek khunkhaar jaanwar hai
Us janwar se peecha chudaon kaise?
Apne andar kee nafrat ko mitaoan kaise?

Ab janaa ki aadmi aadmi se nafrat kartaa kyon hai.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Eighty six years old

My father was eighty six last week, on the 26th of December. The last year has not been very kind to him, especially his five month sojourn in Delhi during the period in which I was recovering from typhoid and also visited Oz. When he was leaving for the airport he had managed to traverse the distance from his bed to the elevator and thence to the car with the help of his trusty walker. On his return he was wheeled in on my computer chair, and he now barely manages a step or two before his legs collapse under him. Sadly, his eyesight has deteriorated even further, and so he manages to read far less than formerly. He has also been hearing sounds that disturb him a great deal. After several attempts at trying to figure out what was disturbing him, I realized that he was probably hearing sounds inside his head. Our GP suggested the name of a psychiatrist who was willing to make home visits, and this kind gentleman spent ample time trying to assess the situation. He has prescribed certain medicines which are helping my father sleep better, but have not yet got rid of the auditory hallucinations. My father is still amazingly stoic, and was pleased to learn that the psychiatrist found his memory and general alertness excellent for his age. He is still gentle and courteous, and bears his myriad infirmities without complaint. The home nurse seems to be genuinely fond of him, and tends to his needs with tenderness and devotion, God bless her.

This birthday was celebrated with prayers, sung rather tunelessly by moi. Dad was always the one who led our singing as he was most familiar with the bhajans, but now he hasn't the strength.
I'd made a favourite dish of his for lunch, chosen from his now very limited menu of foods that he can manage to chew and digest , followed by kheer (payasam) which both he and my mother enjoyed thoroughly. My mother was going in for cataract surgery the following morning, so she was being subjected to intermittent dosing with preparatory eyedrops. She celebrated Dad's birthday by generously tipping the maid and the home nurse.

The ravages of time are hard to bear and hard to witness, but they seem impervious against Dad's indomitable spirit. I cannot wish him many more years of this difficult life. But I do pray that however long he lives, he continues to find the small joys that still make his life worth living.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I've been sitting on a pile of awards (three feels like a pile) for a while now, and so shall start programming this year with some uncharacteristic (I hope) trumpet blowing! I have received this award from Usha, Noon, Banno, Mamma Mia Me a Mamma, Mumbaigirl, Kiran and Sue! I have met only a couple of them in real life, but they are all people whose warmth and friendship I value a great deal. Thank you all, dear friends.

"This award is given to a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

Some blogs are written with such warmth and openness, that you feel that the writer is a friend. It gives me great pleasure to pass on this award to the following bloggers:

Bird's Eye View
Desi Girl

"Some bloggers give us Hope. They are bloggers who care, for ALL THE CITIZENS of this World. These bloggers can see above the generalizations of Caste, Community, Religion, Language, Region, Race and National boundaries. They are the hope of our UNITY IN DIVERSITY."

Thank you, Indian Home Maker- I am truly honoured.
I would like to pass this award on to
Mitali Saran
The Mad Momma
(Most names link to a particular post. Some have also written other related posts)

Thanks, Mandira and Mampi. It's really wonderful to be told your blog is cool, especially when you are on the wrong side of fifty! I think both of them have very cool blogs too. I'm spreading the coolth a bit further, by passing this on to the following bloggers:

maidinmalaysia, whom I discovered recently and enjoy thoroughly!
a muser, whose posts are not very frequent, but each one is a joy to read.
amrita at Indiequill takes blogging to a different dimension of cool.
chandni comes across to me as young, warm, spunky, opinionated: all of which make her blog warm and cool at the same time!
itchingtowrite writes not only about her delightful twins, but practically anything under the sun that happens to interest her.
just like that is back after what seemed like a long break. Hope you keep posting frequently this year!
kbpm makes the mundane totally magical- that's how cool she is!

Now to get back to blogging!