Stories from the Mystic land

Into the lands where folk music brings a thousand of travelers along in a quiet night, telling them stories of mystics under a canopy of a thousand stars, breathing into them the spirit and soul of the divine by invoking, chanting and connecting the two beings into one.

On a fine Sunday night, I walked silently towards the Madras Race Club, the cars were aligned perfectly and people that were walking in looked like they had all come in, to forgo the world and enjoy the calling of soulful music and stories that artisans bring with the soil they have toiled from at Ruhaniyat, a music fest that connects the soul

While I quietly took my seat, the aroma of incense that burned throughout quietened the brain chattering and the view of the trees that were lit up beautifully amongst the open sky was a perfect set up for the mood.

It was then that Prahlad Singh Tippanya and group that hailed all the way from Madhya Pradesh brought stories and songs of Kabir that opened my eye.Kabir’s Doha is something that we’re very accustomed to learning in the school curriculum but it is sheer magic to make people sing along and yet the lessons remain forever with the music.

The song that is filled the air with folk music where Kabir says

Oh, passenger awaken your soul, you’ve been asleep all this while, First, you were asleep in your mother’s womb, then you came out and when your family cradled you with love, you forgot to awaken the second time. The third, where you remained old yet your soul didn’t thirst for awakening and while on your deathbed you long to awaken but can’t.

Kachra Khan, the artist from the manganiar community from Rajasthan brought his song alive with the tale of Baba Bulesha. The song goes such that Baba Bulesha is from the Sayeed community, a higher cast that didn’t believe in distinguishing any community or person by class or caste and very often would mingle with the poor. His father on seeing his son’s traits was furious and gave him a good beating only then the words of wisdom fell from his mouth

“If by rotating a mala or bead, I would find god, I would find the largest bead,” to which he added that Just because one sits in a mosque doesn’t mean one finds god, only your true dedication will invoke the spirit and connect you even higher. When Baba Bulesha’s father heard him utter these profound lines he understood the very meaning and they both danced in ecstasy.

These very stories were told by the folk artists who are known for their great skill in the art of keeping stories from one generation to the next to bring a sense of awakening in a very material world, these enigmatic thoughts are mainly to sit back and ponder about especially in a world where we try to find peace outside rather than finding peace within.

Next came the spellbinding Qawwali session with Chand Nizami from Delhi who made the entire audience clap and their power packed performance with a  high throttle of voice and the high notes, just the right kind, to involve the audience along was a charm that the group left us with. They sang many qawwalis including Chaap Tilak. I met the artists backstage personally to thank them and on asking the amount of time one spends on practice, the young one in the group said at least 6 hours on a regular basis, but what’s more interesting is I found them so very humble and down to earth despite their astounding performance on stage.

There was an Indo-African fusion with Mamadou Diabate, from Africa with Kachra Khan and P. Nandakumar from Kerala, all different levels of percussion with songs that were on rains and a traditional song mouthed by the village community in Rajasthan an ode to Mehendi.  One could observe all different kinds of music and percussion yet united by the beat. Rakesh Bhatt and group from Uttarakhand were just as brilliant as the other artists with their mystical music traditions to transcend and communicate with the unknown

I was left spellbound by the amount of sheer music that made me want to dance, live the moment and even sing along, but what I loved best was to sit back and retrospect the true meaning of life in a different perspective. Wisdom from the saints, music that speaks volumes even without words and brilliant artists who know how to weave music and wisdom into a brilliant piece of art. I was exhilarated coming to this music fest, the journey of the simple yet extraordinary was put together by Banyan Tree events who curate such fests across India.

I left a lot happier, I was grinning ear to ear. As I walked back towards the corridor I saw a mirror placed in the center and as I walked towards it, I thought to myself perhaps the very meaning of life, music and love are to understand oneself and know the depths of who we really are, we are as we see the world to be.

Filling the Void

Is life all about filling that void with things, people and experiences or is it to let the void be without being too emotional about it.

The empty page on my computer and the arrow just blinking at me, pretty much like my life, I felt. The clock reminding me of the how unproductive I’ve been professionally and personally and the continuous battle with my mind and the heart. After much thought, I finally managed to muster up some courage to take a personal break from the nuisances of mundane life.

Tickets booked, bags packed and filled with dreams to my very first personal break in a new city, Coimbatore. After a few hours in the freezing compartment of the chugging train where I was fed to the brim and fell asleep quite so often, I almost fell like a toddler living his life.

Passengers scurrying about on their journey with bags of all sizes, some, peering ahead with full speed nudging others, while some coolly walking out. Platforms and train stations were places abuzz of full action of people, moments and off course home coming during festive seasons.

It’s quite an irony being in the city, which doesn’t feel a tad bit different that the one you’re home to but since it’s a break, I’m exploring, walking and finding nooks and corners reeking the smell of books at discounted price. Hunting for a space where I can lighten up may be even get inspired or bring a purpose back to my life. But maybe we say things and complicate them or we certainly feel things will bring our old passion and pull out that old character from a closet of characters stored up within you but you don’t end up finding anything.

You walk you juggle you misinterpret you struggle you pull you push you fight to bring drama to life. And all this happens when you decide to travel hoping it may bring back the unknown part of yourself back to life. The coffee feels a little cold while you contemplate life and invigorate it piece by piece as if by doing so it’ll somehow go back to being what it used to be.

Clearly the past doesn’t divulge into the present, streets look the same yet the change so much it’s hard to accept when you look at them. Clearly we’re not discussing streets here we’re talking about ghost towns. The only difference between things was and things now are probably the world of our vivid imaginations that are full of warm fuzzy feelings that you want to feel again but all in vain.

Perhaps what we take we must leave behind and the doors that we open must be closed isn’t this life after all an act of filling the void with things and then slowly things making you emptier with a bigger void.

Musings from a Kitchen Counter

So I read a book last night. I slept through peacefully and when the gentle rays of the sunshine poured into the room through the clean white sheets and onto my face. I wanted to get up, but my mind was playing on.

“More sleep, I just need a few minutes under the covers,” while my head was having a tantrum by itself “Aren’t we old enough now to literally wake up and start adulting?”

Between the covers and in my head, the fight was on between a few extra minutes of sleep and waking up to cook scrumptious lunch

Eventually, I threw the covers, stepped into my mom’s shoes and headed straight towards the kitchen. My eyes were bloodshot because of the extended social media scrolling, that either by habit or choice I got accustomed to.

I turned on the burner, splatted oil onto the pan and then went in garlic, onions, chilies and that smell that wafted the air was heavenly. I was preparing a special sauce for my soya and on the other end I was washing, cutting, microwaving the veggies and preparing a scrumptious lunch that I had pledged to cook in the morning.

My mind was wavering, I was obviously off my WIFI and for good reasons. My music playlist was blaring from my phone and I was actually busy in the humdrum of the kitchen. I literally had no clue how time passed or how I managed and not just managed won multitasking in the morning.  My mom is an expert at it, while I’m barely scratching the surface when it comes to fabulous cooking.

I realized one thing with this, if I wouldn’t have made the choice to cook I wouldn’t have achieved anything. I would have slept a little longer may be with my thoughts a buzz. Also, since the Wifi was off, no attention went there, I peacefully did all my tasks and only while having my favorite cheese omelet I gladly turned it on. The online world wasn’t missing me anyway.

To the Oddball

Among the cheesiest compliments, pout-a-licious selfies, embellished sarees draped perfectly along with matching jewelry, best-dressed community, who prod at themselves, and then there is me in a corner.

I feel like somehow I’ve surpassed the selfies, have no interest in dressing extravagantly for any occasion and mostly aloof, lost in my buzz of thoughts far away,  can easily claim to be the oddball of the family.

Social gatherings tire me, forget the urge to shop, just getting into a shopping mall is an anxiety filled ride by itself. Is there a feeling? Am I the only one?

After all, I’ve seen, sometimes, things really get to me. It’s an easy to pass off phase but then suddenly that feeling that maybe because I’m not good enough, people don’t hang with me becomes a huge deal, the feeling becomes overwhelming like it is today.

It seems a bit weird because it’s really been a while I’ve been feeling this way. Utterly non-existent entity, I can classify it into. More like if I were dead or alive it wouldn’t matter, anyway it frankly doesn’t because the world moves with or without you.

Sometimes, its really good until the world caves in, the problem looks a wee bit bigger than the solution and the only way out of this labyrinth is to totally avoid it

We’re the lonesomes, the one that ends up going alone to concerts, we don’t hesitate to eat solo, we’re those that feel absolutely lonely in a room full of crowd. We’re those who can be introverted extroverts at times. There are moments where we feel invisible and there are moments we smirk, pout and move along.

 

 

 

Does your best friend become subtle in the plot of your life ?

“The truth is, some relationships are supposed to last forever, and some are only supposed to last a few days. That’s the way life is.”
― Sophie Kinsella

A chick-lit book that I read first, I could easily dot the changes from one series to the other in terms of relationships. The phase of friendship kept changing and slowly had me wondering  Does this really happen? Does your best friend become a subtle character in the plot of your life?

From strangers, acquaintance to friends, best friends, and the character ever so slowly has a disappearing trait.

No one can actually remain the same, so then why do we expect it to? Why do we long a memory from school holding a mango icecream stick with a close friend on a humid afternoon or the time when everything was laughed at and being silly was a huge thing.

Why do we still linger on memories? Are they keeping the ghosts alive or they’re merely the tonic we live on?

When I first experienced it over a book, I wanted to write back to the author about the change in phases of the relationship between two close friends but I could easily relate to it as I grew up.

Either priorities shuffled or they found new friends with similar tastes leaving you feeling that you’ve stepped into an unknown territory. Experiences became so strange that what was once suitable to your palette became hard to even chew on.

At the end of the day, there will be phases you’ll feel utterly lost or find nothing in common after years, but that’s how life progresses doesn’t it?

Why is fidgeting good & my take on the fidget spinner

New toy on the block has everybody obsessing over the fact that it would help people calm their anxiety and ease them up mentally. Is that statement true? We’ll figure that out.

How many times have you worked a normal day without fidgeting, well I for sure can’t. I keep fidgeting with the cap of a gel pen or flipping the bottles

When things got boring and we really needed our brain to concentrate on bringing new juices to the table, we started fidgeting either with pencils, pens or even had the shaky leg syndrome.

What science does has to do with fidgeting?

A study published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that shifting, shaking and moving on your seat may help reduce the connection between sitting and mortality. Long periods of sitting each day, a mainstay of office life, are associated with several adverse health effects, including earlier death.

Why are Fidget toys, making news?

Fidget toys initially started with the invention of the fidget cube with sensory buttons that could help people with anxiety focus better with its switches and movements with its clicks. Next came the wave of fidget spinners, small ball bearing device that one can rotate with the fingers. Now both of these were targeted at people with ADHD or Anxiety issues, but their claims were a bit overblown.

My Take on the Fidget spinner

Years Ago there was a spinner, it was Beyblade as I clearly recall it. Having that prestigious toy with its sharp edges meant to battle it out with another Beyblade partner. I remember my baby brother having it and having those tournaments to see which one gets the winning title until it obviously passed and then came the era of fidget spinners.

A friend had ordered this toy online and on a Saturday afternoon, while I was typing away, I got my hands on this miniature. Initially, it felt right and then I questioned if it was actually intended to help people focus and assist people with anxiety. This is a simple toy that once you obtain your hands on you wouldn’t want it to end. Throw in some fancy colors, lights or add a Bluetooth device to it and it becomes all the rage.

Ever since I  got my hands on it, I’ve become addicted to it which was killing my productive time. I was on it for almost about three hours. Even though it’s satisfying with its uber cool sensory moves, I highly doubt about the focus bit.

When you’re bored and are having one those creativity blocks you could give this a try, especially at that boring desk space this toy can act like a paperweight and help you think out of the box in your free time.

 

A whiff of therapy

They held secrets known to many bygones of the ancient era. The Egyptians began processing the lotus flower blooming across the Nile river, preserving the essence of the oil in alabaster, a material known to seal and preserve.

Alabaster, a material made of precious stone found in Israel textured like the marble but delicate and known to seal fragrances, an expensive piece of a kind known for its symbolism in the Bible & Quran.

This Jar till date hold tales, secrets and aroma of the ancient era, these jars are still existing in the by lanes of the Egypt market sometimes holding ecstatic scents.

The Egyptians knew how to mix their cosmetics with it, oils were brought applied into their cosmetic uses, fragrance of remote origins, flowers, stem, roots, barks and the essence all preserved in a air locked jar.

Enter into a holy shrine filled with tea lights burning dimly and you’ll notice the light smell of incense wafting the air, a tradition which was passed on symbolizing that the prayers would reach the divine with the aroma. With good odor comes purity and the feeling of holy.

The discovery that led to the boom of aroma was that an explosion in the factory helped Rene Maurice, a French chemist discovers the healing properties of lavender as he applied it to a burn on his hand, and then this lead to more research on how these bottled essential oils could be used to treat burns, skin infections and wounds for soldiers during World War 1 and by 1950’s this aromatherapy was used by many.

When I was at school, I hopped to a store with mum and glanced on the oil section, I would inhale some or look dotingly at the back cover of the packaged produce. There were many kinds essential oils, aroma oils and mood oils. I did not pick lavender on the first go, I wanted to take a whiff of what I was going to buy and use, hence from thereon my experiments with aroma began, if I’ve ever felt like I needed to let things just happen and let it go I would use this either as a bath oil or a few drops in my scarf would do the trick.

Fragrances are a personal affair if you ask me. What might please you may not please the next person so it’s important to judge buying either on a sample or you could look at the ailments you are wanting to treat like say insomnia or so.

There are days when you want to bask in your space, light a tea candle in the yellow colored diffuser and listen to some classical music, that’s what I do when I need my quiet time to reflect and let things go.

Ever applied a particular perfume and it became your favorite, if a fragrance makes you feel great, well, that’s aroma working for you, however, this is only bordered to clothes when its perfumes and the same principle is applied to all your fragrant soaps, toothpaste etc.

The cue for buying oils is in the frequent products you use, if you like the mint smell of the soap then you could try peppermint. If your mood is down you have a couple of oils that can be mood enhancers keep your senses open and you’ll find your right kind.

Whimsical tales of the past

Whenever I see kids on a summer vacation, it fondly helps me drown in mine. That feeling of having an entire month to myself, either to dip my fingers into different shades of paint or get those flavored ice lollies in the blistering heat at my grandmothers place.

The part which leads to travelling all the way to Mumbai to meet my grand-mum meant carrying a bag worth of music (cassettes) to go with my Walkman and extra batteries, it was a delight to carry new music which was picked from an actual music store. A book or two, a bag of munchies along with a cooler filled with cold water.

Watching the mornings drift into the noon and spill into beautiful evenings, the lush greenery, the cows at the farm or simply watching the moving scenes from the window with my eyes glued outside. The games were brought from the vendor in the train to pass that long journey which included buying all in one game set, which included snakes and ladders, ludo and chess. This also meant making new friends in the same compartment while the dice rolled. The long stops at which the train hauled meant sampling different food from a different state and oily fingers with street food. It was a different story to tell by itself

The journey was a agog with experiences and arriving onto my final destination meant a lot more fun, new friends, playing new games. The time when cousins would gang up and have delicious mangoes together, it felt like we were having our own mini summer party.

Playing by the tank, which had a fortress like set up where your gang could gather to play yet another interesting game or setting that very own summer tents within the house, where we spoke for hours about the most mundane things that hardly come to my mind now. The stationery shopping that seemed to always make me grin the smell of new books, new pencils and erasers with that distinct sweet smell.

The favorite ice-cream shop my mum used to take me to savor  litchi ice cream, it was a perfect summer treat and the strolls filled with hawkers and the most interesting things one could find. The wind playing with my hair in the evenings by the beach or the colors that you’d get to choose to have on a crushed iced filled with sugar syrup.

And as I’ve grown through the years the realities have changed, so have the cousins that I grew up with. The shops have changed, the summers, they don’t look the same but those little streets filled with books and the smell of parched paper makes my heart flutter with joy. I don’t expect, I let life give me surprises and in most profound ways when you take a stroll and accidentally bump into hawkers selling second hand book or stationery or a scoop of that tender coconut that makes you happy on a dull day makes up for it.

 

 

 

 

Striking a chord

I was at home on a lazy quiet Sunday, the freshly brewed filter coffee lying on the table along with a bunch of papers. Either by habit or choice, I plucked one and skimmed through the lifestyle section for the movie recommends, and my lazy eye caught the advert ‘Splendor of Masters” which bore a photo of  Ustad Rashid Khan. I went over the same with a disbelief, it was a dream to actually see this artist perform live and here was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss.

I was first introduced to his singing when I watched an episode of Coke Studio, usually music moves people than the artist, but in this particular episode the way the chorus was being sung was just out of the cosmos. I clearly hadn’t seen/heard anything like it before until I walked into a room full of prestigious Carnatic musicians who were all waiting for the curtains to unfold at Splendor of Masters, a musical fest hosted by Banyan Tree events.

The room became quiet, the lights slowly faded in the auditorium and curtains moved, and gave way to the sounds, some very touching sounds from the Sarangi (Saar- summary) and ang meaning (different forms). It was a delight to watch masters dribble in their poetry-inducing musical notes while letting the vocals take the main stage.

I was amused at the Mr. Shubhankar Banerjee, who was lost in trance playing the tabla, Mr. Vinay Mishra plays the harmonium at his pace and Murad Ali on the Sarangi, which added a supreme touch to the Hindustani Classical Night. It was as if the musicians were in a trance themselves, lost in a world of notes and symphonies and Ustad Rashid Khan with his supreme base voice and throw of words and the audience in full applauds.

The song verse talks about the importance of a mentor, a teacher

“Without the mentor, there is no knowledge or wisdom, like how without the sun there is no day, without the tuning or raga there is no music the same way without the mentor there is no wisdom.”

And how true was the wisdom that came along with a set of different notes and ragas explaining the importance of a guide, a guru and hitting the right notes to make the senses open up and take note.

I was a little apprehensive at first been exposed to this genre of Hindustani Classical. I’ve walked into a great deal of Indian fusion music festivals and loved it, but here I was merely getting exposed to a new genre of music that I had paid no mind to earlier and slowly flowing in tune with it. Also the amount of understanding one requires to appreciate this genre is humongous. Just seeing Ustad Rashid Khan perform on stage and getting to meet the artist in person was a dream come true for me, but simply watching him be a pro at what he does by simply raising the bar a whole lot more.