Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Every International Day sets me thinking and the International Women's Day on March 8was no exception. The opinion that our land celebrates every facet of life seems to be ignored and the new celebratory days are now gaining in acceptance. It was therefore surprising to note that a leading English daily recalled the importance of the festival of Navarathri or Dussehra in this context and drove home the point that the potent force of this festival was greater in celebrating womanhood rather than any other occasion. Reflect and you will notice that for a whole fortnight the entire nation bows to the feminine idol which assumes different forms for each day. Genders are swept in the background and gaiety replaces any differences.

The traditional days take care to include every sector of the society. Imagine today a educated, liberated woman walking with devotion to the doorsteps of devadasis to seek some clay to make an idol. Let alone for this purpose will any person just walk to the doorstep of the devadasi just to enquire about her welfare? This is probably the reason the traditions were built in such a manner with elaborate rituals in place and the fabrication of legends. In the Panchatantra, Vishnu Sarma reveals that the students have to be classified and persons who fail to understand the concepts need to be educated through stories. Therefore, the bulk of us fall under this category who fail to appreciate concepts but are happy to adhere to rituals and treaditions.

Reverting to the issue of celebrating womanhood, Indian men have done wonders. The sculptures at the temples is one while the temple celebrating the dancing abilities of Queen Shanthala immortalised by King Vishnuvardhana would inspire any hard core chauvinist to pay obeisance to the royal couple as well as the sculptor. The mausoleusm of Mumtax Mahal is never referred to as such instead it is celebrated as a wonder of the world and is an acknowledged to be a pilgrim centre for any loved ones. The Chola queen mother who spent time to construct several Shiva linga temples said to number 1008 inspired the Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore. He goes on to give her the credit for his monolithic endeavour. These are not myths but substantiated by history.

In every rite or ritual the woman is the one who is given the place of pre-eminence. To drive home this point, Sage Vashistha questions Rama as to how he intends performing the Yagna without Sita. All take pleasure in pointing out that he performed the same with the presence of a statue. He may have done so but the fact remains that he had to request the sage to find a way out. Even at that point the issue that he had to concede to have a statue of Sita is not recognised. In today's parlance imagine a minister or a person of status to reconcile to this fact and acknowledge it in public and all one could expect is a debate 24X7 with a host of panelists. Why do we miss the salient issues? Why do we fail to learn from them?

Go back in time. Matha is the first God. Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Every auspiscious rite requires a woman. A single man is considered inauspicious while the kanya as well as the married woman are considered auspicious. Much is made about the status of a widow without realising the widower is not considered in any manner for any ritual including his own funeral. Of the five elements, the major ones of earth and water are considered as feminine. Only air accounts for masculine in the immediate vicinity. Sisterhood is celebrated in all faiths in India. The responsibility of safeguarding the sister is with the brother, the provider of food and shelter is the father, brother, husband or son. Over a period of time these fine lines have been altered. Women have taken the roles of men. A man wins a war is not much of consequence as much of the valour of a woman who even ventured to wage a battle.

Women, arise and awake. Follow the great Anasuya who commanded respect rather than demanding it. She showed the world her power by demonstrating on no less than the Trinity. This legend is not to cast aspersions on the Trinity or to uphold the chastity of Anasuya but to re inforce the fact that conviction in principles can lead to commanding respect which needs to be earned not demanded or beseeched. Now should we have a rethink on all our legislations which promote the idea of being a weakling or backward rather than the old principle of empowering oneself.

Loud thinking for the benefit of brainstorming!!!!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Of late I have been receiving a lot of mails which preach me on the way to lead life. I had begun to wonder whether the people around me had come to the conclusion that I was one among those abysmal failures who failed to appreciate the value of life. However, moments later as I noticed the number of email ids to which these mails had been forwarded to before it landed in my inbox confirmed to me that these fears were unfounded. But then it was material enough for me to muse over. Therefore I thought I would share some in my blog.

One of them read as under:

First I was dying to finish my high school to start college,
And then I was dying to finish college to start working
Then I was dying to marry and have children
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough
so I could go back to work
but then I was dying to retire
and now I am dying and suddenly realize
I forgot to live

At first shot it looked wonderful philosophy. Similar mails on how to remain happy and contented are plenty in circulation. Read between the lines and don't you think the man who penned it has lived his life in full zest always shifting his goalpost farther and raising the bar. Contentment is one thing and achievement is another. Zest for living should essentially mean the thirst for achieving something more. The change from trying to achieve something personally to taking on responsibilities is another growth area. Then comes the life lived for others' priorities which gives more satisfaction than one's own. Imagine the happiness on the child's face at the sight of a lollipop which could not be achieved by earning millions of dollars. Therefore, I believe this man who penned these lines lived life to maximum levels.

Another cute mail came along on the issue of temper. Undoubtedly, people who know me well are prone to tell that I am very patient until tested. But once tested there is no holds barred. This mail spoke of a young boy who was advised by his father to drive a nail into a fence each time he lost his temper. Soon a day came when the boy had no occasion to drive a nail since he had not lost his temper. Then the father advised him to pull out a nail on each day he did not lose his temper. Soon all the nails had been removed. The father then shows the holes caused on the fence which cannot be mended. However, does it mean that we should never lose temper. My understanding is that as long as affection and love can bring in the bushels there would be no reason for acrimony. But if you deal with irrational and incorrigible people who presume that patience is more a weakness than a strength then it may be necessary to display anger. Similarly, anger built into oneself is more dangerous. It causes holes in yourself which is worse than the holes that may be caused in relationships with others. A tete a tete after reading the mail with the sender of the mail later I handed out an assurance that it would be a subject matter of one of my blogs and here it is.

Another mail read as under:

There was
a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving friend. He was always
there for her.. She told her friend, 'If I could only see
the world, I will marry you.'
One day,
someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages
came off, she was able to see everything, including her
He asked
her,'Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?' The
girl looked at her friend and saw that he was blind. The
sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn't expected
that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life
led her to refuse to marry him.
friend left in tears and days later wrote a note to her
saying: 'Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before
they were yours, they were mine.'
This is
how the human brain often works when our status changes.
Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who
was always by their side in the most painful situations.
Life Is a
before you say an unkind word - Think of someone who can't
you complain about the taste of your food - Think of someone
who has nothing to eat.
you complain about your husband or wife - Think of someone
who's crying out to GOD for a companion.
before you complain about life - Think of someone who went
too early to heaven.
whining about the distance you drive Think of someone who
walks the same distance with their feet.
And when
you are tired and complain about your job - Think of the
unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your
And when
depressing thoughts seem to get you down - Put a smile on
your face and think: you're alive and still

The piece was riveting at the stage when the friend discloses that the eyes which were once his was now hers. Many events happen around the world where the act of kindness is not noticed. In many cases people do not wish to understand or acknowledge the acts of kindness. In fact the mail would have been even better had the girl reprimanded the boy saying he was foolish to have donated both his eyes or claimed that he was pulling a fast one.

Will we regain our humanitarian credentials?

Friday, March 5, 2010


A soothing lullaby is the first warm sound that a new born recognises without fear. As days pass, the appreciation of sound moves to more typical melodies and the youth is said to be the fountainhead for music. We recognise the sounds of various animals and birds. In fact, a good singer is termed a cuckoo or a nightingale. Familiar words. Who has not heard the names of Lata Mangeshkat, Sarojini Naidu or Subbulakshmi?

Emotions are also linked with music. In fact we have as many as seventy two melakartha ragas in Carnatic music which are segregated in a defined manner to appreciated the navarasas. Similarly, the Thaat in Hindusthani music is the paradigm of the various ragas if this genre of classical music in India. In fact, the most appreciable one in both the scales is the one of happiness. It is probably the reason that anything that brings happiness when related is termed as music to one's ears. Striking a jaring note would render the entire music no more to termed as music. Every note in its place is the essence of music.

Music has no barriers has been established time and again. In one of the legends it is said that a poet once told a king that the writ of the king ran only within his kingdom while that of the poet or an artiste would be universal. On this count it was argued that the artiste has a greater persona in comparison to a ruler. Tansen and Baiju Bawara are heroes in their respective realms and the legends about their musical prowess can leave one spell bound. If the legend leaves us spell bound then what would be the power of the recitals makes one feel despondent that a treasure of music has been lost to be savoured during a lifetime.

India is home to classical, folk, light and fusion musice amongst many other genre of music. We also revel in the jugalbandis of the same genre and between two different genres of music. The healthy rivalry in itself can destress any individual and provide the much needed balm to the frayed nerves. But the thirst for refreshing music is so high that we are enamoured by the symphonies of the western world. People in South India marvel at the capability of their beloved Illayaraja or A R Rahman in posting a symphony.

Organised and well rehearsed symphonies are enchanting. But how would one feel if a symphony of accomplished musicians and lesser mortals were to perform in a synchronised manner on a single stage with not even a full fledged dress rehearsal. This is not a feat that is imagined nor is it a fantasy. Recollect the month of December and January of every year. A small village Thiruvaiyar in Tamil Nadu was home to the famed musician Thyagaraja. He is worshipped as one of the trinity of Carnatic music. No musician in Carnatic music ever misses a pilgrimage to the ancestral homes of the trinity of Carnatic music. Apparently the devotion of Thyagaraja to his favourite Lord Rama was sought to be outdone by the devotees of Thyagaraja. They therefore decided to celebrate their devotion by holding a Aradhana. This Aradhana is a congregation of all vocalists and instrumentalists who render at the Pancharathna keerthana compositions. The rendering is nothing such sort of symphony. It is astounding that this confluence of the musicians who congregate once in a year render in such flawless cohesion that should astound any person who has a reasonable understanding of the nuances of classical music. A similar feat is also performed in honour of Purandaradasa who is revered as Father of Carnatic music. These two symphonies are outstanding examples of concerts in unison.

Today, we watch several music reality shows, listen to verious FM channels, use the MP3 players or Ipods but the essence is the same that we are all unconsciously tuned to the musical soul. The poem Solitary Reaper of William Wordsworth is one which subtly glorifies the power of music. No narrative would do justice to the poem's lyrica and hence I choose to reproduce the same.

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass !
Reaping and singing by herself ;
Stop here, or gently pass !
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain ;
O listen ! for the vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands :
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings ? –
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago :
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day ?
Some natural sorry, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again ?

Whate’er the theme, the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending ;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending ; –
I listened, motionless and still ;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

This is the feeling one gets when we listen to the translations of the various lyrics on different programmes. A prominent flutist conducted a show on television which analysed the various ragas used in film songs. This has been carried forward in another programme which has two artistes. One recites a song from classical music and another one from folk to film music based in the same raga to drive home the point that music in each form is as appealing as another.

Therapy apart music is an inherent part of all life and will outlive any soul. But why the petty debate as to which music is better. Could we not savour all kinds of music? Am I striking a musical note or a jarring note is for the raaders of this blog to decide.