Friday, December 15, 2017

Dheera sameere...

Very so often random browsing of the internet and youtubing is a fairly useless occupation, yielding an hour's entertainment perhaps but very little of enduring quality. But today I've hit upon a sublime album called Tranquility by L Subramaniam. Five ragas, all creations of the master violinist himself.

On Wynk Music, if you have access to it:

I am not blown away but rather, wafted away on calm, scented breezes.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Taking it slow

My life tends to alternate between intense activity and luxurious nothingness. I enjoy both immensely.

After a whirlwind three months during which I went on the Rally for Rivers, went off on a birding trip to Africa, came back to get the house painted and overhauled, we are now in the easy phase. And I’m taking the time to catch up on a K-drama I’ve put away to savour at just such a time as this.

The Descendants of the Sun is everything they said it would be. Of course, with a mere 16 episodes, it will be consumed in one satisfying three-day binge. Bingewatchers believe that sleep is for the weak, and so it seems – the next episode at 3.00 in the morning, or a few hours of shuteye... it is so easy to hit ‘play’. However, this time, I’m determined to stretch it out. So an epi at a time... breaks in between, and I haven’t subsisted on sandwiches and bananas, or left my father to procure his meals from the local curry point. But still seven episodes have zoomed by and I would be there right now, avidly drinking in the eighth but there’s a power cut and this blog gets an emergency update.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Travelling light

Part of the frenetic time we've been having is because we got our house painted, while, of course, living in it. That sounds like a pain, and it was. We shifted everything out from one room into the next, and then back again, trying to fit everything back into barely dry cupboards, and trying at the same time to cull and limit what went back into those dark caverns.

Some decisions were easy. Some stuff from the attics that we had only seen the last time we painted the house - clearly they had to go. So we threw away, gave away, sold away masses of things - old tables, vessels, a cooker, steel cylinders, dubious ceiling fans, a couple of metal trunks... paring down to strictly what is needed.

People who need to shift homes occasionally have it easier - there is only so much you can carry and you tend to focus on the essentials. But when you live in the same house as we've done for close to four decades, you don't even realise how much stuff you gather, even if it's only bags that will someday be "useful".

We're still cleaning up but there's light at the end of the tunnel -- and a lighter house at the end of it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Full throttle

एक लम्हे में सिमट आया है सदियों का सफर
ज़िन्दगी तेज़ बोहत तेज़ चली हो जैसे

That is how it feels. Life is whizzing past - a new thing every day, every week, every fortnight... a month seems like an age for all the stuff that has happened through it. The themes change. Colours, drapes, scenery... entire concepts. The complexion of each phase is different, the focus varies... and I am trying through it all to stay on an even keel... not rising and dipping with the ebb and flow of events.

It becomes somewhat easy to discern in such a state that things happen, that they come and go as I stay constant.

बाज़ीचा-ए-अत्फाल है दुनिया मेरे आगे
होता है शब-ओ-रोज़ तमाशा मेरे आगे

I never appreciated that sher so well before.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Bharatam, Mahabharatam!

Now listening to a superb Vrindavani Sarang by Pt Venkatesh Kumar, and it's lulling me into something approaching rest.

For otherwise, this last month has gone leaving me running very fast and gasping for breath. I was on the Rally for Rivers for a couple of weeks and even after I got off, I was so much with the convoy in spirit, there was an uncomfortable feeling of still being in movement... coupled with the even more disconcerting conviction that 'real life' was happening elsewhere. That's new because usually for me, where I am is where the universe is centered.

But the Rally has been accomplished, well-accomplished. A good start and it seems we'll be able to bring back our rivers after all into their former mighty glory.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rally ho!

So I'm off.

Ever since my Sadhguru announced that he would be undertaking a massive nation wide rally to save our rivers, I have been wanting to go with. Rivers, travel along the length of my sacred land and my Master's presence... could you imagine a more appealing prospect?

It seemed difficult but when he wishes it, difficulties fall away.

I'm about to join the rally in Coimbatore. It's going to be crazy. And crazy-fun!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A dose of blue-green

On this day of incessant rain, I watched this little gem of an anime, The Garden of Words.
Life was beautiful, but it is a little more beautiful now.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Velliangiri diary

I’ve said before how much I like to spend a little time here, at the foothills of the scenic Velliangiri in the windy season. I’m lucky to be summoned here again and what a glorious time it is!

We’ve not had too much rain in these parts the past couple of years. The green hills had been showing brown and farmers were worried. But we’ve made a promising start this time. A couple of days of howling winds, gray days with intermittent drizzle and perpetually misted hilltops... the slopes are slowly turning emerald. Straight from my balcony, at about four or maybe five kilometres as the crow flies, is a hill stream and waterfall. It had slowed to a trickle but now it has turned frothy white again. Occasionally, when the wind dies down, you can hear the water thunder down onto the rocks below. The stream that flows through the ashram is swelling.


The gales howled so much the other day, I became a little fraught. Door hinges strained to hold their own and the walls felt constantly under siege. How long could mere brick and mortar hold out against such purpose? If not today, or this week, but sometime, something would give! 
I leaned out of the window to feel the wind on my face and found that the peacocks in the valley were having a wind bath too. They each had taken fence to perch on, and they sat all braced and hunched up, enjoying the drama of the gusts.


Wildlife sightings are very possible here, and ever since my sister saw a leopard in the valley before us, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled. Even so, it was a casual scan last week that yielded a gray presence push through the scrub. A lone tusker wound his way through the jungle, revealing only the trunk here, the body there as he walked towards the water. Barely two minutes and he was gone.

I spied three wild boar babies scurrying in the bush a few days ago, and today, a black-naped hare came out into a clearing to give himself a thorough wash in the pale morning sunlight. He would start every now and then, turning his long ears to the sound that had alarmed him, but it turned out to be nothing. He stayed so long, I even dropped my binoculars to go and get myself something to drink.


I remember once wringing my hands over my urban life, wishing for a forest full of trees to love. The trees here are not old, but the tree jasmines (the fast growing Akasha Malli - Millingtonia hortensis) that line our perimeter are very friendly indeed. My Sadhguru loves them and although they obscure the view of the hills from the windows sometimes, I cannot resent them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Sahore Bāhubali!

Haha, just had to, you know! I’ve been fangirling Bāhubali all of April. I watched the first part again last week for purposes of revision and I’m off to see it at last! (So late, but my pre-booking hopes for ‘first day, first show’ fell through).

I absolutely loved the first part, and I have such admiration for this entire team for their commitment and attention to detail. Every frame storyboarded, every character thought through, the world marvellously detailed and then, there is SS Rajamouli’s sense of human drama. That kind of involvement shows through, and it gets communicated... no wonder it’s one of our biggest films.

This haiku by James Chessing is just perfect.

it begins...
a galaxy of dust motes
in the projector's beam

Monday, April 24, 2017

Drenched by Hallyu

So, I’m engulfed by Hallyu. This is the Korean Wave that has taken grip of so many parts of the world, and why not? Why ever not? 

I had read about K-dramas a few months ago and the incredible following they were beginning to have in India. Even K-pop, although that’s not quite my thing, has a cult following. I was intrigued but I hadn’t looked further.

Earlier this month, I had some time and a binge watch was due. Was it to be the next season of Suits? Or the Pakistani drama Besharam that I’ve been saving up? Netflix suggested a few Asian dramas and after a little research, I settled for Playful Kiss. So charming! I loved the experience, and have lost my heart to the hero Baek Seung Jo.

There is a rich world out there. I’ve since watched a Taiwanese drama, there seem to be quite a few Japanese offerings and I’m eager to sink my teeth into the iconic Boys over Flowers and later perhaps, Descendents of the Sun.

As it happens, I’m a prime candidate for this sort of addiction. I’m obsessive, I love television, I’m a sucker for romance and I like to sample different cultures. There’s next to nothing on the Saas-Bahu scene and this is just perfect.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Heave ho!

keep this
toss that
~Carolyn Hall

Clearly, it’s time for spring cleaning. I didn’t know but sometimes, I get a nudge. Or like now, a prod.

I have been wanting to declutter my room. The bed takes up too much room, and significance. Under the bed, I have... why, yes, stuff. So yesterday, the cots went. And I have been wringing my hands all morning over the stuff that used to lie under them. Music Cassettes.

A particularly clingy form of the past, these tapes. Old selves sticking to us like small bits of sticky tape that won’t let go unless they cling somewhere else. These boxes – some six of them – were the refined lot. We threw out a much bigger haul a few years ago but these were the precious ones.

Children today will never understand the trouble we went to to acquire our music. We couldn’t buy everything we liked. When friends and relatives had tapes we wanted, they were borrowed and copied. I remember standing two tape recorders face to face, switching off fans and other whirring machines, closing doors and imposing strict silence, while one machine played and the other recorded. Then technology improved, and we got our double-deckers that recorded internally. I made collections for Shweta, for myself... some filmi, some ghazals, a lot of classical music and qawwalis.

This morning, I hunkered down to paw through them and shook my head again over the whimsical coot I used to be. Never truly artistic but I liked pretty things. And I went to work at it with quite a lot of enthusiasm, even if no great talent. The album covers for my favourite music were never good enough for the ambience they created within me, so I would go about trying to creating the right ones. I had a bag full of greeting cards, which I would cut to size and fit into the covers. They had to match. Afternoon ragas got afternoon light and lazy pastoral scenes. Ghazals got flowers, bowers, peacocks; Talat Mehmood got a mountain and a river... and Lata Sings Ghalib got a royal, gold Mughal motif.

A few years ago, we bought a music player that was also a music ripper. I could play my tapes on it and it would store a digitised version on a USB drive. This was a god-send, and I managed to prioritise my ‘save-first’ music and convert something like a 100 cassettes of music before the player started to misbehave. I’d exhausted my drive and that’s how that stayed. Unless I got that fixed, these half a dozen boxes were just lying there, waiting for me to do something about them.

I considered it deeply. And then came to the conclusion that I would have to let them go. I might have changed my mind, but the raddiwala came right away to take the newspapers and I knew it was time. In compassionate silence, he paid me Rs 3/kg: Rs 54 for 18kg of music cassettes.
And oh, they were priceless.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Zindagi Gulzar Hai

I have been afflicted, these past two-three days, with Seeker's Gravitas - a typical seriousness that overtakes sadhakas when there are earnest and weighted down by the lack of instant, perceivable, quantifiable and claimable success. The whole thing is a contradiction in terms. If you can really see, there is no one left to claim the credit. And if there is indeed someone clamouring to breast the ribbon, then you're playing some other game altogether. I get it.

But as the the Wise Man promptly asks: Who is it that Gets It?

There is only one word in response to that: BAH!

So let us put that aside for just a bit and strive for another tack. A simpler one - to be like this dog here in this haiku. A Labrador, no less. The darlingest breed to my eyes... innocent, life-loving... temperament completely lacking in malice or ill-will. Brown heart-melting eyes and large hearts.
Today, I will follow this dog's lead... bound along the streets of life and stop only to smell the roses.

sunset stroll...
the Labrador’s nose streaked
with pollen
~Maria Steyn

Friday, February 10, 2017

Fighting sleep

Summer doldrums—
  a fly buzzes into
 the beagle's yawn
-Edward Zuk

Because that's the mood I'm in.

It's not yet summer, though it feels like it. But I would yawn if I were a beagle (or even if I weren't). And I would buzz right into anything like a cavern if I were a fly.

And talking of that, you get to see a video of this puppy who's got an extraordinary sense of responsibility in her duties as a guard dog.

Sheetal out.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Just about OK



Almost duty-bound, I went yesterday to see OK Jaanu – which brings up the versions I’ve seen of the movie up to three. Did I like it quite that much? I suppose I did, to be so curious about how they had treated the Hindi remake.

It was not surprising but still disappointing to me when OK Jaanu didn’t ‘take’ in the Hindi market. It is, after all, only the thousandth time that something good, even special, from the South has been difficult to translate into Hindi.

What was the problem with this film? It is easy to blame the lead pair, Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor. And a bit unfair. They were just in a project that was being repotted without due process.

I found Tara ‘off’ in Jaanu – she didn’t ring true... this is not how Tara Agnihotri from Kanpur would behave... what was cute in Tamil was bizarre and tangential in Hindi. Perhaps it's because Mani Ratnam is so steeped in the Tamil way, and his own stamp is so distinct but not so easily conveyed outside the culture.

Baradwaj Rangan makes an incisive point here on why Hindi remakes of Mani Ratnam’s films don’t work. He says, “There is an air of alienation when a Tamilian moves to a “north Indian” city – when Mouna Raagam’s Divya moves to Delhi, when Nayakan’s Velu flees to Mumbai, or even when Guru’s protagonist moves to Mumbai... He’s an outsider. And this outsider-ness – this non-Bombay-ness – adds a layer of subtext to the drama.”

He is so right. That is why it didn’t seem at all odd that Nitya Menen’s Tara would wave to a strange young man she didn’t know and laboriously signal him her phone number - he was a friend of a friend, and he was Tamilian from back home, here in Big Bombay, trying to make his way through just like she was. She knew his sort and in the comfort of that knowledge, he was familiar. But why would Tara from Kanpur?

Shraddha Kapoor is just too much of a “nice girl” to play the quirky character right. Miscast, perhaps. I thought Roy Kapur was better, but not quite anything approaching Dulquer Salman. Dulquer and the incandescent Nitya Menen pitched their characters perfectly: layers of irreverent flippancy over throbbing intensity.

In rewriting and re-imagining the film, Shaad Ali hasn’t gone even half as far as he should have. He should have rewritten so many aspects – the first meeting, the second meeting... Adi’s missing two days... and unforgivably the Hindi version deletes two crucial scenes that brought the story to an emotional boil.

Naseeruddin Shah, however, plays his part far more warmly than Prakash Raj did and Leela Samson was even better this time round. And I loved Chal na kuch karte hain.
Oh well.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fursat ke raat din*

It has been a fairly hectic fortnight, one way and the other. Sadhana has been somewhat time and energy-consuming – at least compared to the pace I tend to keep.

So today, quite consciously, has been relaxed. A nothing-day. I ate a lunch of masala oats and salad, washed up conscientiously, which left me feeling virtuous. This winter afternoon, the surroundings are quietish but for a land-mower in the distance. I have been sitting at the balcony door, sprawled out in the accommodative bean bag, doing nothing more strenuous than reaching for the binoculars when a bird happens into my ambit. My rules don’t permit me to haul myself out and totter up to the railing even... even if the passerine in question happens to dart below the view span.

My window of opportunity
In this desultory manner, I have spied white-headed babblers, house sparrows, bee-eaters, sunbirds, sundry LBJs, a white bellied drongo and bounding squirrels. The sparrow in particular flitted within view for several minutes, and therefore, I watched him for as long as he stayed. Shweta’s excellent binoculars allows for a 16x zoom, which is handy indeed if you can find a stable prop for the elbows.

Every now and then, I swing the lens towards a small clearing in the thicket. This is a bit like dropping your keys on a moonlit night and then looking for them only in patches where the light falls. But silly or not, this brown patch draws my attention because this was where Shweta fortuitously saw a leopard once, sauntering majestically into her binoculared field of vision.

There is a Brown Wood Owl that comes to this spot but I haven’t seen it yet. And no elephants either, this visit. But the thing that is most exciting about this perch, as, I daresay, with life, is that it teems with possibilities.

* The title of this post is from Ghalib's sher:
jee dhoondta hai fir wahi fursat ke raat din
baiTHe  rahain  tasavvur-e-jaanaan  kiye  hue

जी ढूंढता है फिर वही फुर्सत के रात दिन
बैठे रहें तसव्वुर ए जानां किये हुए

The heart seeks again those days and nights of restfulness,
Once more, simply sitting, contemplating the beloved