Monday, January 31, 2005

Things to do

I was asked the other day who my current list of heartthrobs included. Stumped, I veered to Hindi filmdom and came up with Zayed Khan (!) who I like but c'mon!

Whyever didn't I say Phil Keoghan? Ok, he isn’t as much heartthrob as he is hero to me but he’s so so so cool, he shoulda been there. The man's an absolute inspiration. His mantra, of course, is do it NOW, live each day as if it's your last. Besides, he's sexy as hell.

Making life lists is so prat-like but I did, several several years ago. Small and big things, some details, some points that defined my attitudes, some life-encompassing stuff – about a 100-odd items in all. I hardly ever go and look it up but the list sits there in my dusty cupboard, gathering energy.
And I find myself living out that list, quite without knowing how.

Why did I start off on that? Because Phil Keoghan makes life lists – not quite so nerdy is it now?! He’s of the race that knows Joseph, no two ways.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

I did say... of shoes

Almost every shop in Hyderabad is having a sale, and the crazed masses are thronging. Upto 50% off at Pantaloons and flat 50 off at Mochi's. Got two pairs of shoes for Rs 940 tee hee.
Also bought body glitter thingy and am dying to use it.
Long live the hunter-gatherer.

Muddat hui hai...

Humko unse kya matlab, unko kya garaz 'Faiyyaz'
Tarq-e-ishq kar baithe hum to ik zamaane se

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so

Why am I blogging so much? I create the account several months ago, trickle, trickle, mostly because I feel I must (Yes, I can feel ‘obligated’ to a web page – I’m that weird). Suddenly the flood gates open and three posts in a day?!
Truth is, Shweta’s away and mum’s paying me no attention at all – she’s too busy mugging some badly written lessons on Kohlberg and his ‘Heinz dilemma’ that illustrates stages in moral development.

(Note: Bring your coffee, long post ahead)

Which brings me to something I read yesterday. I was helping mum with this lesson and tried to access some literature that discussed it better than her notes. The Heinz dilemma ends with the assumption that at the ultimate stages of moral development, your motivation for doing something or not is based on a universal ethical principle. Attempts to define this universal principle led to this:

Right is defined by the decision of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to logical comprehensiveness, universality and consistency. These principles are abstract and ethical and are not concrete moral rules like the Ten Commandments. At heart, these are universal principles of justice, of the reciprocity and equality of human rights, and of respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons.

Ok, I thought, fair enough. But what came next shocked and repelled me.

I’ve always held loyalty high as a virtue. Its absence is not necessarily a vice but it’s opposite, betrayal, to me is really, really low. Reminds me of that great episode in Angel (what layers Joss Whedon and his writers invested Angel with!) where Lilah is taunting Wesley with having betrayed Angel. She shows him Dante’s vision of The Inferno, the descending concentric circles and nine levels of sin. At the bottom, encased in ice, the worst place in hell is reserved for betrayers, and the worst sinner of all, Judas Iscariot the one who betrayed Jesus.

The Kohlberg article continued:

Our conscience is not an infallible guide to behaviour because it works according to the principles we have adopted. Moreover, who or what determines these universal principles?
A vivid illustration of our conscience not being an infallible guide is the story of the Sawi people of New Guinea (now called Irian Jaya). In the early 1960s, they were cannibals. In Sawi legend, their heroes weren't those who took the greatest number of heads, but those who were the most deceitful in befriending their victims before taking their heads. Friendship before betrayal would not prick their conscience because treachery was an ideal. So when missionaries, Don and Carol Richardson told them the story of Christ's life, who do you think was the real hero to the Sawi people?

You got it! Judas Iscariot.


Hasti apni habaab ki si hai

I'm running into the Sufis everywhere these days - every which way I turn.
Shweta brought home this recording of live performances at Jahaan-e-Khusrau, 2002. Abida Parveen singing (for a full elaborate hour) Hazrat Shah Niyaz's Man na manam na man manam -- I am not, yet, I am. Oh why do I not live in Delhi!

A few months ago, I read a book called Refugees from Paradise by Anuradha Majumdar. Lots of mysticism and she writes about the Bauls - wandering minstrels in Bengal and thereabouts who sound like they have much in common with the sufiana sarmasts. Loved that book too.

And this morning, I found this in the ghazal book Radha Aunty gave me:
Khud fana hoke zaat mein milna
Ye tamasha habaab mein dekha

Give me a sign, God.

Like the dervishes

Am tripping tripping tripping on Rabbi Shergill's Bulla ki jaana maen kaun.
Love the voice, love the beat, love the treatment. Love it, love it,
love it.

The sufis live on! Glory be!
Bulleh Shah is my new god.

Na maen shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Na maen aabi na maen khaki
Na maen aatish na maen paun

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla shah! khadda hai kaun

Blows me away!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Remembering Shakti

Remember Shakti played in Hyderabad yesterday. Well, honestly I don't - remember them, that is, and shocked a couple of people by asking John McLaughlin who? But I had heard a little of Zakir Hussain and U Shrinivas and more than I liked of Shankar Mahadevan. So I went.

Honestly, I was disappointed. As I have been telling anyone who asked, the ensemble was considerably less than the sum of its parts. It wasn't 'composed' fusion music as much as a fun jamming session that worked in places and didn't in others.
In fact, the two pieces that were composed - Lotus Feet and Maya (Shrinivas' composition) were magnificent. The percussionists took a back seat, as they sometimes must, and Shrinivas and McLaughlin held sway. Aah, music with silences is the best music of all and they succeeded with those pieces.

I sometimes feel annoyed when superior artistes pander to mediocre crowds, giving them gimmicky flourishes and showy displays of technique. But yesterday brought a pang of sympathy. What are they to do? After all, even if you can't quite call them entertainers, they are nevertheless performers. What can they do if an audience sits on its hands after a pensive, deeply-felt piece and breaks into thunderous applause in the middle of a fast paced routine they could execute in their sleep?

Kawal and soul searching

We went to Kawal wildlife sanctuary earlier this month. It was supposed to have been a birding trip, but turned out somewhat more rounded. Kawal is in Adilabad district, Andhra Pradesh. Nearly 900 sq km and supposed to be one of the best sanctuaries in the state. I hadn't heard of it before Imran told me about it.

Imran is one of the founders of Hyticos - Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society. Together with his brother Asif, Pranay and another partner, they've decided to do their bit for the Tiger and in particular this sanctuary.

Kawal faces all the usual challenges - deforestation, degradation, encroachments, pressure from usage by forest dwellers, the timber robbers, poachers, and of course, high-up babus who insist on building wide roads that cut a swathe through pristine forests and make it easier for all the above... .
On the other hand, Kawal has 20 tigers! A little statistic that tells the story of the blood, sweat and toil put in by foot soldier conservationists who have struggled, year after year to keep that number constant and perhaps, going up. People who have doggedly worked at preserving the tiger's habitat, keeping it supplied with water, boars and sambars.. in short, making sure the forests are healthy.

We laughed but it was actually a little sad.
Any newcomer to the forest trail is invariably surprised at the inordinate delight experienced trackers show when they come across scat. It is more than a pile of shit, however - it is EVIDENCE. That the animal in question exists, that it passed this way not so long ago, and that is eating enough to, well.. shit. Also of course, the microscope will reveal far more details about the animal's health and habits.
Imran and Asif knew there was a tigress and her cubs in the area we were walking through. Still, when we found tiger scat freshly fallen (not above two days old, they said), their joy knew no bounds. They reverently wrapped it in leaves, disregarded wrinkled noses and bore it triumphantly away.

The Hyticos guys are passionate about their project, which is good to see. Their convictions, however, have a ring of desperation about them - there's the panic of the newly-alerted. They have something vitally important to say, and inevitably there's anger and frustration that no one will listen. It seemed to me like the high road to emotional burnout. I could never sustain such emotions and be effective - not for very long anyway.
In contrast, there was Waheed saab. The Divisional Forest Officer in charge of one part of the Kawal forests, he has served the Tiger in various sanctuaries for several decades now. A committed and extremely well informed man, he juggles bureaucracy, the needs of the people from whom he must protect the forests and the forests themselves.
He gave us hope with his attitude. Not cynical, not negative, not strident, not bitter. Cautiously hopeful and completely willing to do anything and everything in his power. Not attached to results (being a part of the lumberous government, he can't afford to be!) but is still willing to try. He works with the system, around it and in spite of it.
It was a lesson in letting go without giving up.