Sunday, September 28, 2014


In his address to the United Nations, PM Modi yesterday suggested we have an International Yoga Day. The idea is still trending on twitter and I added my mite by linking to a couple of things Sadhguru has said about yoga.

(Oh, wait, why don't I link to it here? The Isha Foundation Blog has a section called Yoga and Meditation and there is super stuff there - on why yoga, the technology, the lineage, the technique, why the the nitty-gritties matter, the approach, what's wrong with the way it's approached, taught and practiced these days.... in fact, everything you wanted to know about yoga.)

I am, of course, a neo-convert to yoga and consequently rather fanatical about it. It has worked magnificently for me - the kriyas and Hatha yoga together keep me so well lubricated in body-mind-spirit, that one day without feels like I haven't bathed. But this is now.

When I was initiated in 2011, some time after, I met a close childhood friend who had been doing and teaching Hatha Yoga for years. And for all her enthusiasms, Pri hadn't infected us with the passion and now suddenly I seemed to be advocating it to HER and I think she was a bit nonplussed. We were meeting after a gap of a year or two, and she said, "I didn't realise you were this much into yoga." I told her, in a burst of candour, "I'm not into yoga, per se; I'm into this man. If he asks me to stare at my big toe, I will." That was why I went into yoga - because my Guru said it would help me, it would help him help me.

But seriously, I think it is time to bring it back. With due respect, for the right reasons, with the right attitude. Enough, I think, of sidelining of this heritage. We need to reclaim it before this knowledge disappears altogether, before the links evaporate in the harsh climate of cynicism and neglect.

PS. It is a pity to have to add a disclaimer but perhaps I should say my views are not about right-wing Hindutva. It's not a religious thing, it's not about Hindu Chauvinism. Yoga is the path this land's heritage shows us towards higher consciousness and it works for ALL human beings.


*From Adi Shankara's Bhaja Govindam:
Yogaratova bhogaratova
Sangaratova sangaviheenah
Yasya brahmani ramate chittam
Nandati nandati nandatyeva

By way of yoga, or by way of bhoga, through the path of discipline or the way of pleasure, in company or without... somehow make it. It doesn’t matter how; the important thing is you get there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


It has been a prosaic day. It started with some hint of grumpy impatience, but I reined that in. Since I had errands anyway, I sought additional help from the shops – a couple of new garments and choosing of incense sticks for the upcoming celebrations of Dasara lifted my spirits. But otherwise, so ho-hum, so neither here nor there. I spoke to my sister briefly on the phone and we shocked each other by having nothing to say.

Sadhguru said once, “If you die of excitement, it’s all right. Such a magnificent creation and you die of boredom – that’s a crime.” I see and take his point. Mea culpa. There is nothing wrong with the world. Just, the chemical soup I am today isn’t making it easy.

I used to be very fond of worry-stones at one point and had started quite a collection. Now I don’t know if it’s true but new age lore claims that crystals possess a host of healing properties. There was one stone, and one power attributed to it, that I’ve always wished upon: Jade, it is said, opens the wearer to perceiving greater beauty. Isn’t that fabulous?

That’s what I need today – a touch of Jade. Or perhaps I should bring out the big guns. Darken the room, pull back the curtains to let in the night, and let some Bageshri sweeten the air.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Mukammal jahaan

It is almost time, I hear, for the next season of Coke Studio – the material is ready even if the airing is postponed indefinitely due to the political turmoil in Pakistan.

Mixed feelings. I wish the new team well but I expect, I fear that they cannot match the genius of Rohail Hyatt. Nothing lasts forever and I am happy that the end of CS as propelled by this man tapered down not due to a dilution of music or integrity but other circumstances. So easily it might have happened, as it all too often has, that corruption seeped into the show. It didn’t here and that heartens me considerably.

Anyone who followed and listened to the previous season will know that Hyatt took Season 6 to a new level altogether. Hitherto, these had been studio sessions – not entirely jam sessions – but well-rehearsed, well-constructed pieces that were recorded all together. This brought a remarkable synergy to the music and I was a bit doubtful when Season 6 started with the concept of recording disparate strains in various locations that would be later put together on the console. What would the difference be then between Coke Studio and, say, AR Rahman or any number of Bollywood composers who take this structuralistic approach as well?

I had reckoned without Rohail Hyatt. In Season 5, he had experimented briefly with the idea with Koi labda. With the band Symt laying out the overall mood and theme but leaving preplanned room for an insert, Hyatt had Sanam Marvi record an aside later. This was so neatly integrated with the main recording as to appear seamless. Technicalities apart, the song is sheer pleasure, and one of my enduring favourites.

Season 6 went international. Serbia and Italy provided entire orchestras, and individual musicians from Nepal, Turkey, Bangladesh, Morocco and Norway were roped in for small accents and airs. So then these were songs that were created between some overall controlling vision and the fluidity of so many inputs – the lyric and the tune were the choice of the singer, the basic voice recording was made, sent to the orchestras who then clothed them with sounds of their choosing. (The relish, the delight that coursed through these video conferences was palpable and very contagious.) At the end, I imagine it was Hyatt who put the song together – muting out whole tracks, adding here a touch of flute from the Bangla artiste, here inserting the finishing chords from the heavenly Oud. Inordinate attention seems to have been paid to every sound, every note on these songs – the result is a set of polished pieces that will endure any number of listens. The synergy that I feared would go missing was very much there, but in a different way. What was once smooth was now textured, interpretations were unusual, listeners found something old, something new... Parts of the experience were somehow meta – ‘is this how the Serbian brass section sees this tune?!’

With Rohail Hyatt leaving, he will obviously take this work aesthetic with him – for, unless they are very evolved and supremely devoted to their craft, the new team will want to bring themselves in. They will want to change, assert, leave their stamp. Already the website has been shorn of its archives – I tried to find credits for Season 6 and couldn’t.

Nevertheless I am excited. New energy, a new way of doing things, a new season.

The title is from Nida Fazli's sher:
Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahaan nahin milta
Kahin zameen toh kahin aasmaan nahin milta

कभी किसी को मुक्कम्मल जहाँ नहीं मिलता
कहीं ज़मीं तो कहीं आसमां नहीं मिलता

No one has ever achieved a complete perfect world,
Here the earth eludes us, there heaven

In Koi labda, Symt uses this as ground, expressing the inadequacies of our lives.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Distance la moonu moonu...

...moonu colour-u white-u!

So this dashami of the shukla paksha in the month of Bhadrapada, I caught the moon through some romantic coconut fronds. Lovely, no?!