Thursday, November 25, 2010

The leaf, the martyr and 26/11

I walked through the grass
I walked through the mire
I walked o'er tree and bough high
I walked to get to you.

I looked up at the clouds
Seeking direction as they dispersed
I let the wind whisper in my vein
As I walked to get to you.

For many I wander without aim
My gait meanders without goal
But there is solace in this journey of mine
For I know I walk to get to you.

I see many in my trudge
Some touch with me with tenderness
Caressing my aged skin they ask me fondly
Who it is that I walk to.

I smile and gently ease out
knowing my day is not done
I trust myself to the breeze
As it walks me to my destination.

Upon the ashes of a fallen soldier I
rest my wrinkled self I let the gray
shroud me I embrace the life that once was
I have finally walked to you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A tribute.

It seems the yearning to write hits me only after 12:00. AM that is. Eyes droopy. Eyelids weighing a ton ... sleep beckoneth, crooneth, and wooeth. This post though, is not about me. And it is that, that is keeping the nidraadhineta* at bay.

Sometime in September or late August, I had spoken with Padmasree Guru Gangadhar Pradhan - the legend amongst Odissi exponents, and Guru par excellence. Wanting to be part of the 2011 Konark Dance festival, I had called, written to them asking for details, email-IDs, whatever it was that they could give me, about the fest.

When I dialed for the first time, an old voice answered the phone. Old yes, but I could tell that it hadn't lost all of its vigour. There was still that timbre of energy in there. I rattled off statements and questions - where I was calling from, who I was, and what it was that I was calling for. The Voice heard all my queries, and said that he'd have to ask his son to get back to me.

I would not say that time stopped, or that I was awash with the feeling of being hit head-on by a truck of magnanimous proportions, no I wouldn't say that. But I did pause. It had sunk in that this was no clerical persona I was talking to, no sir. It was THE Man himself. The Founder, ladies and gentlemen of the Konark Dance Festival.

There are times in life when you feel about as small as the Qutub Minar, and as gigantic as a fire-ant, all in the space of one tiny moment. That moment, was then.

Awed, humbled, 'acutely-aware-that-my-eyebrows-had-left-my-face-and-were-in-my-hair' and the realization that if I did not say something other than 'Oh', and 'OOOOh' soon, I would pity myself very much indeed - all of this was happening in that teeny-tiny time frame.

I offered my respectful namaskaaras to him as best as I could over the cellphone (- sometimes all the technology in the world is not enough eh?). When I told him about myself, Guruji explained how solo dancers might not work on the huge stage of the Konark Dance Festival ... explained how applications had to be received well in advance ... and somewhere down the line he went into a 'Yes, ... Gangadhar Pradhan is a dreamer ... he is a doer ... that is why he started this festival .... that is why he has put his life into it ... but I'm old now ... others are managing it well ... '; and I quote verbatim. Our conversation lasted for probably 7-10 minutes.

When I put the phone down .... it was with mixed feelings. I knew I couldn't apply as a solo artist for the KDF, but on the other hand, I had spoken to an artist ... and not just any artist ... one of the best there ever was. And somehow in this gargantuan expanse of space that we all occupy, intertwined with consciousness that is both universal and personal - I heard a fistful of heartfelt sentences spoken by a great master.

Today I read that he had passed away recently.
A twinge of sadness tempered with a keen sense of 'of the many many people that he met and spoke with, I was there too ... if only was a couple of minutes' - these permeate my thoughts right now.

The Mahabharata says that an individual stays in heaven as long as someone on earth remembers them and their good deeds. Once, the memory of that person's deeds fades away, the said individual takes birth again, and another cycle begins.

What can I say Guruji - you are going to be in heaven for a VERY long time.

To dream and to do. You've taught me this. May dance always be with you.

*Nidraadhineta - The deity who presides over sleep. A reference to this may be found in the Chandi Saptasati - a treatise dedicated to the Goddess Durga, which praises Her as the Cause of all activities in the universe, including NidrA or sleep.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A birthday, a niece, dance, and a trip.

Its 12:25 AM. I really want to sleep. Somehow, I've picked this ungodly hour to do a blog post. Its been long. Really really long since I blogged last. But why now? What can I say, we artists are whimsical. We do what we want to do, when we want to do. I have heard people complain that artists can be difficult to handle. I wonder why.

A lot of things have been happening to me, I'm happy to say. Dance, cooking, veena, SPICMACAY at UVA - its keeping me busy to say the least. There was a time when the non-availability of tasks to do (when I'd just arrived in the USA) used to create borderline depression. Now, the jam-packed schedule has begun to shoulder that responsibility.

But between the chaos of an having hundred different things to do, all wrestling to get to the top of your mental priority list; and the deafening quiet of cerebral cells dwindling away in the night of idleness, I'd prefer the former. So yes, I'm enjoying my time with all the attempts at tearing at my hair. :D If you've read my blog posts before, you will realize that I tend to put a verbose spin to many of my stories. I assure you that it is exactly that, that I'm doing right now. So do not waver O brave one. Read on.

I recently returned from my trip to Philadelphia for a performance at the Norristown Dance Fest. It was most satisfying. :) The event was organized well, and I got to catch up with a million friends and relatives. I spent my birthday there (29th Aug - now now, no years will be mentioned :D), with my darling niece Sriya, and her parents (my cousin Sridhar and his wife Srividya). Of course, the availability of two people within the same four walls bearing the same name became cause for a lot of leg-pulling. And my husband who possesses the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out any potential for poor jokes, pounced on the situation like a hungry Jack Russel on a bowl of kibble. :D

I feel I've to say a few words about my little niece - mere aankhon ka taara :D. You might think that that is a bit of an exaggeration considering that we stayed at their place only for a couple of days. But she is such a cutie, such a little ray of joy that I feel completely justified in giving the whole taara comment. At this point, I wish her and her family the best of everything, all the time:). (I'm in a very aaseesulu*-giving mood right now- as PG Wodehouse would say, the milk of human kindness floweth in my veins at the moment :D).

I visited my Veena teacher in NJ (she had come visiting) and brought back a veena. The whole trip was a testament to that popular greeting ' kshemanga velli laabhanga randi' **. Good times, to sum it all up. And so it is with hope and happiness that I step into a new year. Tomorrow I might be in the thick of a mid-life crisis, but today, I'm good. Yep.

Post script for the non-telugus
* good wishes
** Go safely and come back profitably (my translation is not as poetic as the original. But it'll have to do.)

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Out of titles. Just read on, will ya?

Happy new year to that meagre section of the world's populous who happen to read my blog. May the year bring everyone happiness, peace, prosperity yadda yadda yadda ... and now to the main point of my blog.

These days a lot of philosophical, vedantic, bordering_on_mid_life_crisis questions have been arising in my mind. And so I turn, as usual, to books for the required solace. I present to you now a passage from the book that has captivated me currently.

"...And all the bridges over rivers were destroyed and boats forbidden to ply, and the trenches (around the city) were spiked with poles at the bottom. And the land around the city for full two miles were rendered uneven, and holes and pits were dug thereon and combustibles were secreted below the surface. Our fort, O sinless one, is naturally strong and well-defended and filled with all kinds of weapons! And in consequence of the preparations made, our city was more prepared than ever to meet the foe..."

The city that's being talked about here : Dwaravati or Dwaraka
Speaker of the words : Sri Krishna
Speaking to : King Yudhishtira, the Just
The Book : Mahabharata

If I'm not mistaken, that emboldened line in the passage I think refers to a landmine. A bloody l.a.n.d.m.i.n.e. Mentioned in a book that dates as far back as 3100 B.C. Wow. WOW. If you thought Jules Verne writing about the submarine a good god-knows-how-many-years-before-the-thing-actually-got-invented was fascinating, what would you think of this? And the fortifications mentioned in the book are amazing down to the very last detail. Trenches dug, well stocked food and water supplies for the soldiers, cannons, bullets (yes, bullets), and get this - every soldier paid in gold and no soldier or his family left unpaid or dissatisfied. The Indian government would do well to take a leaf out of this book and increase the paychecks of the its defense forces eh?

To summarize :
3100 B.C.
Sense of security? Check.
Good governance? Check.
Prosperity and happiness all around? Check.
People's faith in their rulers? Check.

2010 A.D - An advanced world.
Check's bounced.


A second observation. Sri Krishna who many believe to be the incarnation of Sri Maha Vishnu, was Himself the head of that city. All He had to do was just think that Dwaraka was to be safe, and it would have been. But no, even He with all His Almighty-ness had to work to keep that city safe. He did not, and neither did His citizens think that just 'coz the mighty Krishna a.k.a MahaVishnu was their protector, they could just sit and do nothing and leave it all to Him. They defended their city with all the necessary safety mechanisms in place. This despite knowing very well that the ruler of that city was none other than the Lord Supreme Himself! Great lesson to be learnt eh? No matter who you are, you still got to work.

While reading the M, a thought crossed my mind about that other epic, my personal fav - the Ramayana. So this is my theory.

In the Kali yuga, the Srimad Ramayana, in my humble opinion, works better for every individual than the Mahabharatha.The Sri R was in fact, probably written more for the Kali yuga than any other. Think about it. The Mahabharata introduces the concept of gray in human nature, while the Ramayana is mostly black or white. When gray comes in, it takes a person of extremely clear vision (the likes of which include Sri Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa Himself) to do the morally right thing.

The Ramayana one the other hand, is quite straightforward in its morals, no confusion there at all. Be a good son, be a good wife, a good brother, father, basically be a good person, but when something bad happens, don't chicken out saying 'All is god's will' but get off your b*** and do the thing that you need to do to make it right. The Mahabharata also gets that point across but well, as I said, in the splashes of black, white and gray thrown at you, one takes time. That's my take at least.

Another point is that the Mahabharata raises a lot of questions. Too many questions. And sometimes, those that aren't very comfortable in nature either. If you keep up the reading, you'll find your answers, but if you give up, those bugging questions will just take root and colour your opinion of the epic. And your thoughts of everything else too.

At the end of the day though, I really do think that the ancient epics of India are the most gyaan-giving books that one can ever find. In the guise of millions of characters, in the garb of wonderful stories, they teach you to be what you need to be, to get to where one eventually wants to go. They let you question, and they will provide you with the answers. Just don't stop mulling over what you've read and just keep reading.

In an India that is fast developing/westernizing/rapidly-marching-ahead-and-in-the-process--perhaps-loosing-its-core-traditions-and-value-systems(?), these ancient beacons of light I think provide a sense of grounding. And sanity.

All in all, here's to my reading many many more books this year. Not to mention blogging about them. :)