Monday, January 24, 2011

In gratitude...

If faith compels one to be a believer then I'm a believer, a firm believer in the voice of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi - the voice I grew up listening to, the voice that is eternally sublime, spiritual and soulful. The voice that evoked the divine in me - an evocation that left me in a trance. And of course, the voice that remains immortal, timeless and matchless. Filled with positive energy of the Sun, molded by the undulating waves of the rivers and softened by the calming moonlit evenings, this voice was a part of my everyday - especially my mornings - relaxing and peaceful, filling me with renewed energy and new hope to get started afresh.

Especially, Panditji's devotional music had everything that one could possibly look for. When I was confused it gave me direction, when I was disturbed I sought solace, when I wanted to give up it helped me persevere.
Listening to Panditji is a purifying experience. Like a tonic for the mind, it strengthens and purges at the same time - the raagas rendered by him in the form of khayals, bhajans and other compositions. Be it the devotional jaya jagadishwari mata saraswati or jo bhaje hari ko sadaa or  madhukar shyam hamaare chor or several of the similar numbers. I used to love the way he pronounces my name in madhukar shyam... I used to feel honoured when I heard him sing man har liyo madhuri moorat - the enchantingly magical quality of rendering it. Or the listening pleasure from the supremely divine Dasa keertanas in Kannada- Bhagyada lakshmi baaramma and Karuniso ranga karuniso.... that are my all time favorites.

It was an emotionally disturbing day since I heard the news about Panditji's demise. Back home from office, I waited for the news on Doordarshan especially Kannada and Marathi channels to catch a glimpse of his 'last' appearance. Then, listened to the albums that I usually hear in the morning. Then, quickly put together all the cassettes and CDs to 'secure' the precious memories. Then, listened to Babul mora naihar chooto jaye and with a heavy heart watched the opening sequence of the popular mile sur mera tumhara... that was being beamed on all TV channels.

Today this voice is silenced! But it will continue to live for ever, as long as there are believers on the earth, for art is immortal and so is faith. Panditji, I shall remain grateful that you are a part of my life!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Songs on the theme of maajhi - a thing of the past?

Let me admit once again, I'm a diehard fan of old Hindi movie songs and I shall remain so forever - seeking refuge in them in my highs and lows. While the lyrics guide and advise me, the music soothes me and the voice of the singer takes me to a different level! And what if the actor is my favorite - then I transcend into a different world. On one such late evening, I happened to listen to some songs - coincidentally some of them had references to maajhi, the symbolic saviour in most of the Hindi songs. I felt like recollecting all the songs I know with this theme and here they are. I hope you enjoy listening and viewing them as much as I did.

O re maajhi...mere saajan hai us paar... it is one of the classsics from S.D. Burman (from the movie Bandini) that set me thinking about the beautiful compositions on maajhi – the boatsman or yachtsman who sails a boat. The river flows steadily and the tranquil waves add to the mystical quality of this scene. The maajhi is the quintessential bard who sings eternal truths, sends inspirational messages and helps us cross the hurdles. Most maajhi songs are based in Bengali ethos, with remakes of popular Bangla folk songs.
Let’s take the song, Maajhi naiya dhoonde kinara, from the movie Uphaar.
Interestingly, like we see in this song, maajhi is rarely the protagonist in the movie or a participant in the events, he’s usually an objective onlooker, plays a crucial role when the male or female protagonist is caught in some problem. The songs indirectly express the thought processes of the protagonist rather impersonally giving advice, sharing knowledge on the significance of the event or the critical moment in their journey.
The song O maajhi re...apna kinaara nadiya ke dhaara hai from the movie (Khushboo, music R D Burman, lyrics Gulzar) is profoundly reflective in mood. The symbolism is obvious where life is compared to a journey in a boat - we neet to sail through it smoothly, reach the other end and not get caught midstream. Majhi ensures that the boat reaches safely and it is not left midstream or majhdhaar.
In songs like O maajhi chal... (from the movie Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke.. sung by Mohd.Rafi  - lyrics by Anand Bakshi  and music by Lakshmikanth Pyarelal)  and Nadiya chale chale re dhaara  (from the movie Safar) we get to see the motivational aspects of a journey in a boat, the river that flows, the metaphor of waves, the undulating moments of life and so on.

Door hai kinara (from the movie Saudagar sung by Manna Dey, music and lyrics by Ravindra Jain) is about the difficult times in one’s life and how one should face them. How we should have a balanced outlook and carry on or even have a never-say-die attitude.
Though Chingari koi bhadke, to saawan use bujhaaye (from the movie Amar Prem) is not directly addressed to the maajhi the beautiful picturization of this song lends it a distinct identity.  The lyrics bring out several ironies of life as we can see in these lines Majdhaar mein naiyyaa doobe, to majhee paar lagaaye, maajhee jo naaw duboye use kaun bachaaye? And we start questionning on the same lines! The impact of the lyrics is hypnotic when they are sung by Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Manna Dey.
 In fact, most of the maajhi songs evoke a benign feeling, almost equating the role of the ordinary boatsman to the role of the almighty in guiding, steering, leading and saving us from trouble.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This was my third rajyotsava (state formation day) in Karnataka in the last four years. It was my niece Maansi’s birthday in the last week of October.  Bangalore was chill with continuous drizzle and fog all over because of the cyclonic weather.  We packed our bags and started for Mysore without any clear itinerary. On top of our mind was the Mysore Palace which we wanted to Shreya to see, since she is reading about the kings in her history classes. The palace was extremely crowded with the post-Dussera vacation and tourists. Hence we decided to skip it. Instead, we moved on to the Karanji lake and spent some time watching the birds.

The evening was spent at Chittaranjan Palace Hotel (The Green Hotel). The gardens were tastefully lit up and everywhere we could smell the sweet scented flowers. Our over night stay at this hotel was pleasant and enjoyable.  The morning was spent photographing the colourful flowers – the end-of-the-season Zinnias , bright red Exoras and lillies were a sight to behold! The rooms were nice and cozy and decorated with ethnic paintings.
Next morning we drove to Nagarhole National Park. The refreshing drive amidst the green forest led us to a resort amidst coffee plantations in Coorg region. But we did not plan to stay at the resort so did not bother about accommodation. The sad part of the trip was there was no good eatery anywhere close to the park! We managed to get some rice and rotis at a small joint. We returned to the park in the afternoon for a safari ride and what a ride it was! The rickety bus was not only noisy but also gave us the experience of a jungle roller coaster, rattling all the way. Just imagine, with so much noise which animal would dare to come close and give us its ‘darshan’. The park seemed more like a deer park with hundreds of them all around. We did not get to spot many animals. Perhaps, if we entered the park from the Kabini, the experience would have been a better one.

A visit to Pochampally village

Pochampally is the land of exotic  Ikkat weaves and the historic Bhudaan movement.  This was an unplanned long drive with family on a Sunday. My Alto must have felt good to cross the city limits and feel the freshness of nature as we touched the highways. Pochampally is 50 kms from Hyderabad; driving on the busy Vijayawada highway was quite a thrill! The village is surrounded by scenic hills lending it a picturesque look.
As we entered the village, I felt excited about  meeting some weavers and spending some time with them. I drove past the narrow lanes of their colonies and found that almost all the houses were locked.  Then we got to know that they had come to the city since it was a Sunday. So we couldn’t meet any of them. Then we headed towards the APTDC guest house and found that the staff was ill-equipped with information about the place. In fact, the entire guest house and museum complex was deserted. However, we caught a glimpse of the lake while driving; the lake didn’t seem to have been maintained properly.
Later, we wanted to try our luck with the Handloom park. Even the park was closed. The security person told us that the best time to visit Pochampally is on a week-day! Added to these disappointments, we could not find any good eatery on the main road. So we ended up buying some stuff from a ‘mithai bhandar’ for the return to the city.
The trip would not have been so bad if the government's initiatives were well-thought out to promote eco-tourism on weekends too! Pochampally has tremendous potential for eco-tourism, hope it is optimized well for creating awareness about our weavers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pigeons – pests? nightmare?
Forget about all the romantic associations with this winged creature. Songs like kabutar jaa, jaa or the more recent masakali, masakali… must be for people who haven’t seen what a pain these apparently innocuous birds can actually be. Over the past one year or so, the open spaces between our flats have become home for these pests. I never imagined that the design of our flats (with no common walls) could actually land us in trouble with several birds perched on the most unimaginable spots – windowsills, drain pipes, balconies, AC units. 

Because of this menace, my flat is deprived of good ventilation. The doors and windows need to be closed all the time because leaving them open would mean inviting them to create more nuisance and dirty the place. The only way to keep away these birds would be covering the balconies with a mesh. And I don’t think I accept this as the solution, perhaps when all else fails, I might consider meshing it up.

But till then, I wanted to try other ways to shoo them away. Once I saw a note put up on the notice board of our apartments. It suggested a natural and harmless way of keeping away the pigeons. The idea was to keep some chillies, pepper and cinnamon in a plate where the birds usually perch. I followed the instructions only to find that the next minute the plate in which I kept the stuff and its contents were thrown down promptly by the birds. Next, my domestic help told me that she would catch at least one of them and then take it far away and leave it there. I thought this was a rather hurtful method so did not encourage her. But, one day she actually caught one of them and put it in a bag and carried it away. Her idea was that this would make other get scared and stop them from entering our house. Sadly, this didn’t work either! Now what? The other day I had left the bedroom window open and went to have my bath. When I was came out I was taken aback…there was a pigeon pecking on the neatly ironed dress which was on the bed. And when they enter inside they can be anywhere – on the cupboard, on the fan, on the paintings – how menacing! what a nightmare!

I was reminded of the “Durbar Hall” of the Kothi Women’s College where I studied. It had hundreds of pigeons. During our exams the pigeons would become such a nuisance - it was common to see pigeons dirtying the exam papers and making us rewrite on a fresh page!
A visit to Ramoji Film City (RFC)
The first time I visited Ramoji Film City was in 2000 and now, my second visit was exactly after 10 years. This time I went with my team in the office. Last time I accompanied my relatives from Bangalore who were here for my brother’s wedding reception.
We had a pleasant ride in the Tata Winger hired for this trip – taking pictures and having fun, good occasion for team bonding. The Vijayawada highway is one of the busy roads, especially with several district buses entering and leaving the city. The picturesque location  where the largest film city in the world is located, is a sight to behold as you enter the hotel Sitara. We had booked the Sitara entire day package for our tour. It included the bus rides, lunch, fun and games and snacks.

RFC has several gardens based on themes that are landscaped and maintained to perfection…the replica of Moghul gardens, the Japanese gardens or the maze…There are caves, interesting ‘sculptures’, statuettes etc. These would form the natural setting for picturizing a typical Indian film song. The sets take you to a world of make-believe where every structure transforms itself into a ‘real’ building or a setting when the camera rolls and the director says “Action!” You have the college, the jail, the airport, the railway station and whatever is needed for the scene.
The “Movie Magic” was the best part of the tour. I liked it because it conveys in an interesting and simple way the complex process of movie making for a lay person. The demo includes a ‘live’ movie making with some volunteers who bring out the importance of different aspects like light, sound, editing, sound mixing in making a movie. It is also like paying a tribute to those thousands who work behind the scenes while the main actors enjoy the stardom as it were. Once the movie process is demystified, you have a display of stunts performed by professionals.
Other attractions include the 4D theatre, the scary house, the fun and rides for kids etc. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of your favourite star in the shoot. 
The mirror as seen in some Hindi movie songs
I felt like keying down some random notes, when I thought over the imagery of mirror or aaina in some memorable songs. Often seen as a metaphor for reflection, I guess there may be many songs that refer to the many facets of aaina - existential and philosophical - literal and figurative. Here are some I could think of:
Kyaa koi nai baat nazar aati hai hum mein
Aainaa hamen dekh ke hairaan saa kyon hai
(Last two lines from the song "Seene mein jalan aakhon mein toofan sa kyon hai...")
From the movie: Gaman ( lyrics- Sharyar, music - Jaidev, singer -Suresh Wadkar)
Such beautiful lyrics have become a thing of the past...Let me try translating them...Is there something new about me? The mirror and I - we both are the same, but why is it that the mirror is surprised looking at me? Some lyrical compositions, like this one, are difficult to translate as they do not retain the essence of the original, lose the magic. Perhaps, the newness in me is because of the way I look today. But, I couldn't have changed so much that the mirror finds me so very different. Now, lyrics from another song:
Aaina wohi reheta hai Chehere badal jaate hain
Aakhon mein rukte nahin jo aansoo nikal jaate hain
From the movie: Shalimar
How true! The mirror remains the same, and we change - mind, body and soul. We really change or we wear masks - a mask for every occasion. I looked back and pondered, "how often do I look into the mirror? how much time do I spend in front of the mirror?" Not more than few seconds in a day! In fact, the only time I get to see myself in the mirror is when I'm in the lift of my apartment that has mirrors on three sides. 
Does the mirror remember I how used to look earlier? Then why does it ask me for my 'previous' face as described beautifully in the lyrics below:
Aaina mujhse meri peheli si surat maange
Mere apne mere hone ki nishani maange
From the movie: Daddy (Singer- Talat Aziz)
Is that the reason my mirror finds something strange in me. It has seen me grow up and seen me go through changes at various stages of my life. Why does the mirror feel startled looking at me? Certainly not because of the way I look! For, I've looked more or less the same always. Is it because of my expression? Is it because of the things I've forgotten? Is it because of the things I remember? Which previous 'image' of mine is the mirror trying to match? How does the mirror remember so many of my them?
Isn't mirror a chronicler of  life - imprinting all the events as it were!