My friend Sudha’s visit to town coincides with the Krishnakriti Art Festival and so this past week has been a whirl of sensory experiences replete with food, drink, music and an extravagant visual feast – all very well in their own place but together manage to leave me sleep-deprived and not a little stunned. All this has also gripped me with a desire to blog about it, so I shall in exhausting detail.
The first of the Kalakriti events was a play based on Mahashweta Devi’s short story Stan Dayini. The play was called Choli ke peeche kya hai and it began by playing the entire song – all six-odd minutes of it – with one actor keeping beat (or rather following it, because his rhythm was a bit off) with cymbals and the rest of the cast all wandering in and out of stage looking meaningful. I muttered to Shweta that they were going to spoil this song for us and that is almost what happened. Pretentious drivel! We saw the play through to the gory end and removed to Kamat next door to calm our nerves, where tasteful coffee and tasteless jokes set us to rights.
I missed the jazz concert the next day but went instead to dinner at Barbeque Nation, and I was completely delighted with it. Kebabs are the speciality here and the fun part is each table at Barbeque Nation comes with a hollow centre which is cleverly designed to hold a brazier. The kebabs are brought and you can cook them as you please, choosing from herbed and flavoured oils, and garlic butter. Rs 400 includes all the grills you can eat as well as a nice buffet. Wasteful you would say, seeing as I am vegetarian, but they had five vegetarian kebabs for us types and I appreciated the thoughtfulness.
Hyderabad cannot pretend to a winter but the chill in the air makes you glad of sitting around warmth and eating hot food. We staggered out and meandered towards Taj Deccan, not because we were hungry, I assure you, but merely to uphold a long-held tradition of midnight tea.
I was determined to go to the Kalakriti event on Thursday. I have a special fondness for folk music and the Manganiyars of Rajasthan I admire very much. Even had they just lined up to sing in a sedate row I would’ve considered it a high treat but this was something special. Called The Manganiyar Seduction, this was music propped by such drama as to be astounding. As we settled in the open-air auditorium at Taramati Baradari, the set drew all eyes. A tall four-tiered affair with 36 cubicles, each box curtained with scarlet cloth, each box lined with golden bulbs.
It began quietly. A small box at the left corner was revealed and highlighted, and a diminutive musician on the sarangi drew his bow across string to set tone and mood. Slowly gathering force, other curtains were parted and voices joined in, as did sarangis, harmoniums, kamanchas, dhols, morchings… it was spectacular. They sang sufiana kalaam drawing from Bulle Shah, wove in and out of other pieces all in one fine, continuous, well-coordinated piece. The lights dipped and grew bright, highlighting now this box, and now that row as artists had their say in the amalgam. How talented these musicians are, how mature and sound their grounding in their art! Is this what Rajasthan is like? Minstrels hidden behind every sand dune? I want.
Taramati Baradari is a goodish distance from where I live but it is a gorgeous place. There was another reason that made going all that way worthwhile – a tea place called Finjaan, where they serve 36 varieties of tea. Very elegant it was and I chose an infusion of rose buds, a delicate tasting drink that made me feel very regal. We had stopped at Finjaan before we went to the concert, and as I listened to the Manganiyars, a faint waft of roses clung to me, as if there was still something more the evening brought out for me.
Yesterday, a reading of poetry by Ranjit Hoskote – he deals image-rich, musing phrases with a light hand. We missed the introduction, alas – mea culpa, I was caught up with work and Shweta, who keeps me waiting nine times out of ten, muttered at me all the way there and back.
Dinner then at Aromas of China – jasmine tea, some fabulous crisped vegetable starters in pepper-garlic sauce, butter noodles, gently flavoured clay pot rice, potatoes and corn in some sweetish sauce and for dessert, date pancakes and mango jelly pudding.
That is all.