Thursday, December 13, 2007

Then play on

Another valued tape gone. I have a considerable number from the dark ages when there were only magnetic tapes, and now my player is eating them and I’m faced weekly with a tangled wreck of what once used to be lovely music. It was Amjad Ali Khan’s Bhimpalasi last week, a leisurely evocative double-sided exposition that used to part of my travelling collection. Today it was Mian Tansen torn to shreds, quite beyond patchwork.

I’m struggling to digitise my tapes. I’ve found some excellent lessons online which seem doable if only I could discover why, after making all the connections I’m supposed to make, the output doesn’t pour out of my system’s speakers. The alternative is to take them all to a new-fangled electronics wala, which means some effort, time and money.

Then there is the dilemma. Should I indeed carry over all this – about 500 tapes – into the future? Or resolve to buy only digital music from here on and let these go? All these Mehdi Hassans, these Nusrats, the only version of ‘Nit Khair Mangan’ I have?
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bismillah Khan, Prabhakar Karekar.
Noor Jahan, Farida Khanum, Nayyara Noor.
My grandfather’s collection: MD Ramanathan, TV Sankaranarayanan, Maharajapuram Santhanam. Kadri Gopalnath and U Srinivas.

Even writing this makes up my mind for me. It would be criminal, I think, to not at least try. I find the task daunting: the very idea of lugging these over, deciding how to sort and lump them… still, let us put it down in my list of things to do.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

From all I’ve said…

…let them not seek to find who I've been.*

My sister was at the computer today with some yellow web pages open on her desktop, and she said to me, somewhat regretfully, that when she had time on her hands and in search of something to read, she went to my blog – not to the current pages but the archives. She was in fact saying, this used to be a better blog.

It is quite true, of course. I have known this for a while, indeed realised it while it the slide was occurring, but I quite lacked the mind to force it. My posts then were spontaneous, more honest, more generous. I was not afraid to be quotidian, trivial or silly. But then, you see, I was not expecting to be read. Or at least not by anyone outside my family, one cousin and a few friends. What done me in was the audience, the unexpected audience. People I didn’t know, or worse, people I did. There is a paranoid, secretive streak in me and I held back, became more formal, more stilted and wrote only one of the half dozen posts that sprang to mind.

Also as I read more blogs myself, I saw no point in repeating sentiments or making points others had already made so well, or lower myself to be yet another voice in the clamouring crowd. What I had to say would have to be distinct or otherwise, very strongly felt. I feel now that this “sitting in the stalls” was unwise. What did it matter, after all?

A blog, a personal blog, is more than the sum of its posts. If it is written honestly and there are discerning readers, there is very little that can stay hidden – prejudices, leanings, irrationalities, inconsistencies all are laid bare. The best blogs of this sort are those that tell you what the writer is about; by including her moods and varying attitudes, the range of her swings, they tell you in essence the best as well as the worst of her. The mosaic of posts can introduce you to a person that you couldn’t possibly discover through several social encounters. If a blog can do that, I’d count it a success. Sadly, however much I like some posts, I must say this is not quite the blog it could have been.

Does this sound like an epitaph? No, there’s some writing in me yet. With infrequent updates and boring-as-all-hell posts we have driven off more than half our readership, hopefully taking with it all the ghostly readers who make me uncomfortable. Anew, we can pretend that there is no one around but us friends and now we may be cosy.

*What can one say that a poet can’t say better? This is from a
much-loved one by Cavafy:

From all I've done and all I've said
let them not seek to find who I've been.
An obstacle stood and transformed
my acts and way of my life.
An obstacle stood and stopped me
many a time as I was going to speak.
My most unobserved acts,
and my writings the most covert --
thence only they will feel me.
But mayhap it is not worth to spend
this much care and this much effort to know me.
For -- in the more perfect society --
someone else like me created
will certainly appear and freely act.
~Constantine Cavafy