Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Striking the perfect chord

I have always been overwhelmed and touched by music (Most people are, for that matterJ). It leaves a very deep impression on me and touches my heart in a way that nothing else can. When I listen to an exceptional musical performance, I feel a wave of inexplicable bliss surge through my being and it stays with me for long after.

I still remember a superb rendition of A.R Rahman’s version of Vande Matharam at a cultural fest while I was in school. That team had won the first prize while ours won the second.   We had a reputation and track record of bagging the first prize wherever we went but yet, this time we slipped to second, the reason being the sheer power in the other team’s performance. I remember being moved to tears and my hair standing on end as I listened to their perfect and powerful presentation. I have a lot of memories related to these kind of awe inspiring performances – Krisnamurthy’s rendition of the ‘Sahara’ song from the Shivaji movie (This was in an episode of Airtel super singer junior. He won the title that year), the school  senior music team’s mind blowing and ever winning performances , every single concert of the Ranjani -Gayathri duo and  Sikkil Gurucharan (they are renowned carnatic musicians) ..

The euphoria is at its best when you watch it live. I have several recorded pieces of all my favourite stalwarts in carnatic music and I enjoy listening to them too. But the experience of sitting in an auditorium that has perfect acoustics and witnessing the spontaneity of both the performers and audience is unparalleled. 

And when it comes to classical music, creativity and spontaneity reign supreme. Many times, the main singer and the accompanying artists would be meeting each other for the first time! Yet, when they begin to perform, they so seamlessly blend into one single unit to give such a soulful and power packed extempore performance.(Of course, it takes years and years of rigorous training, listening and practice to be able to pull a stupendous stunt like that!). The way the violinist predicts an impending sangathi, the skillful hands of the mridangam artist giving those perfectly placed touches and each one in the troupe enjoying and appreciating the other person’s knowledge and skill is a sight to see and a very elevating experience.The best part of the year for me is the later half of December, when the music festival is on at Chennai. I tirelessly go on a concert spree to listen to all my favourite artists. Each concert is such a huge learning and it leaves me with so much of joy and satisfaction.

The experience of giving a performance is no lesser. My sis and I give carnatic music concerts and we really enjoy the hours of planning and practice, the countdown to d-day, the final touches and the performance itself. Not to mention changes in plans mid air!! Sis has this uncanny ability to judge the mood of the audience. So, abrupt changes in the song list are a regular feature. In our initial days, this used to infuriate me so much that I sometimes flatly refused, much to her dismay. Imagine people sitting eagerly waiting for the next song to begin and we playing a silent tug of war. My grandfather who was also our guru used to play the violin for us and how irritated he would get by those hushed up discussions!! Post the concert, we used to get hounded with ‘What on earth do you both discuss so much on stage!!’ Little would people know that a mini war between a desperate sis and a stubborn me was onJ. Later on, I realised that this is part of the game and an essential one at that and sis has less trouble nowadays. But then I cover up at times too. When those inevitable bloopers like forgetting lyrics for a newly learnt song or clashes (when I start the next line while she repeats the previous) happen, she just throws her hands up!! I am the one who always covers up and evens out the slip as un-noticeably as possible. All this thamasha apart, the pleasure that we derive out of singing, the wonderful feeling of watching the audience enjoy and ask for their favourite numbers and that look of pride that used to shine on thatha’s face is simply unsurpassable. Every concert continues to be a very fulfilling and a great learning experience.

While I was in school and college too, I used to thoroughly enjoy the team work that went into each of the performances and competitions. We used to feel above the world every time we won and made the school proud. We all mutually acknowledged each other’s talents and played to our strengths so well. The solo performances that I did and prizes that I won for them had their own thrill too, but the joy was always multi fold when we won as a team. And this is another special trait of this art. It unites people by its magical touch. It strikes a beautiful chord of oneness. 

Music is an expression of divinity itself. It could be in any form or genre. But if you are able to sync seamlessly into it while you listen, sing or play an instrument, then you have found a precious gift in life. To experience that oneness with the notes that resound out of the voice or instrument makes you reach the state of perfect unity with all of creation for those few moments. To be able to enjoy and appreciate this art is verily a blessing from above that has been bestowed on humanity. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Independence Day

It has been 65 years since we broke free from foreign rule. We certainly have managed to uphold the democratic system that was established then, impressively. Yes we have a hundred shortcomings. But still, I remain proud of this ancient and great nation of ours that has always been a storehouse of wisdom and knowledge, both worldly and spiritual.  And considering the fact that we have no dearth in terms of ability, it is my heartfelt wish that we put all that we have to proper use and shine forth as a beacon light among nations.

Looking at all the poisonous weeds that infest our country, I feel change is required at the level of the individual as much as it is required at the level of society, governing bodies and support systems.

First of all, as a country, we have unwanted norms for every possible sphere in life – ‘best’ fields of education, ‘respectable’ occupations, ‘right time’ for each stage in life. We are hopeless conformists. We have a big group of people who criticize the cream of our students going abroad to toil in foreign lands. But tell me, do we as a nation foster and encourage innovation like they do in other countries? Forget the nation, will the family of that brilliant student encourage him/her to do research in a field that he/she is passionate about in spite of the fact that returns may be delayed?
We are so scared of taking risks. We will walk only those paths that have been cleared up, swept and mopped clean with sign posts put up every meter. We want to be safe even if it means doing something we totally detest or find unbearably boring. God created every human being as a unique sculpture of his. Each one has certain inherent abilities. In the overall plan that he drew for the world, he ensured he sowed the seeds for a nice wholesome picture by creating people with different abilities so that every avenue of life on earth is taken care of. And here we are, working right against it, making clones of that ‘acceptable’ shape thus destroying the unique pieces. And this is precisely the reason why most of us work for foreign firms, for, we do not allow our own people to take a risk of starting one. We want to be safe all the time.

The other major problem that we have is the largely self centred lives that we live. That, according to me is a major reason for the disparity in living conditions of the people. We can see slums lurking around every posh area in the city. The posh area remains posh or gets posher. But the slum remains down in the dumps. The majority of our country lives in the villages. We, in the cities are busy populating the roads with the best international brands of cars and flooding our markets with the latest gadgets from around the world while the majority in the villages do not even have clean drinking water. Only the metro cities getting better and better can in no way compensate for the impoverished millions. India will still remain backward as long as the people in the villages suffer for basic necessities. Maybe we can think beyond enriching our lives and think about doing our bit to make life better for these people who are the very heart and soul of this country. We could educate their children, spread awareness about basic health and hygiene or help train them vocationally.  

Next comes the media. That great power house which has such a wide reach but is hell bent on spreading negativity as much as it can. The media has a huge responsibility for it bombards the people with ideas. They condition our thinking and suggest opinions for us to hold in life. That being the case, imagine the damage they are doing to this nation by thoughtlessly spreading negativity!! How much of interest they take in digging into a celebrity’s personal life!! If they could show just half of that in highlighting the good things that still do happen in our country, they will be taking a major step in bringing this country forward. How many of us know about the mammoth village projects done by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva organisation? Or about the two super speciality hospitals where world class medical care is given completely free of cost to everyone in need who enters its portals. (There are many other such instances in our country. I am talking about the one I know. You can read more about it here) It is very sad that the powerhouse which provides our people with information and plays such a huge role in shaping their thought process gives absolutely no thought to the damage they are doing. I am amazed by this open show of social irresponsibility.

There is a big endless list in wait if we want to pursue the problems that plague our country. But what I want to bring to light is that first step that we as individuals have to take. We need to come out of our conditioned thinking and re-evaluate it. We have to start living not just for ourselves, but for the people around us too. We must shun the negativity that is thrown at us in the form of news and seek and take to heart only the ones that are worthy of our attention.

To me, India will become truly independent, the day the question of ‘engineer or doctor’ ceases to be put to a child that has barely learnt to talk, the day we take conscious efforts to bring up the people around us as well, the day we start shunning negativity that abounds around us thereby forcing the ‘systems’ that spread it to change their ways. For my country to change, I have to change first. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Book Reviews

I had written about Two Books that I picked up to read along with promises of reviews ‘very soon’ :) Here they are, at last .. So read on and pick them to pursue if they interest you.

 Krishna Krishna -By Indira Parthasarathy

There is this inexplicable feeling of elevation along with a strange sense of peace that comes over you when you realise that all that happens in life is a very well planned work of art done by an unseen prodigious hand and you just need to flow along. Have you ever felt it? Reading this book gives you that feeling from the beginning to the end. For, that realisation is an invisible thread that runs through the book connecting the various events.

'Krishna Krishna', as the name suggests tells the story of Lord Krishna. The celestial sage Naradha assumes the role of the narrator. The author has not strictly followed chronology while narrating the pranks of the charming blue child, the awe inspiring miraculous deeds that the adolescent boy so casually performs and events that unfold the adult Krishna’s political genius. Of course, the divinity of Krishna is either latent or expressed throughout the story. 

The author has given a lot of contemporary connotations to the historic events and ideas. He puts forth the idea that the dictates of ‘Dharma’ are not written in stone but are relative based on time and circumstances. The fact that everything that surrounds us is a reflection of all that lies within us is also very beautifully brought out.

However, one must have read the complete story of the Mahabharatha to be able to understand and enjoy this book. Introductions to events and characters are not given in all instances. I would recommend this book to everyone who has a liking for this crown jewel among epics. And if you have not yet read the Mahabharatha, I exhort you to take it up. I assure you that it will outshine any saga that you have ever read or going to read. It will also enable you to read its bountiful related literature that would open up your mind to so many dimensions and ideas about human life. I would suggest the book written by C.Rajagopalachari for the first timers. This epic is timeless in the real sense of it. It is verily a gem of our country. Do not miss it!

How I braved Anu Aunty & co-founded a million dollar company – By Varun Agarwal

This is one of the best books I have ever read!!  ‘How I braved Anu Aunty & co-founded a million dollar company’ is the real life story of a young and successful entrepreneur, Varun Agarwal. The book traces the fast paced and interesting journey of Varun and his friend as they transform a business idea that was born during one of their get togethers at a pub into a million dollar company! It also chronicles how Varun fights against the tide of family expectations, societal pressure personified as the pesky Anu aunty (who takes it upon herself to ‘set him right’ and get him to take up a job) and all those inevitable problems that you face when you want to pursue your dreams and do the unconventional. The book will prove to be a very good guidance for people who want to start their own business venture. The author pauses his narration every now and then to give very useful pointers to people who are on their entrepreneurial journey or about to embark on one.

The story is pretty slow in the beginning and builds momentum as Varun’s dreams gradually start seeing the light of the day to become absolutely racy towards the later half making the book unputdownable. The narration keeps you so engrossed that you can actually feel all the ups and downs along with the author. Varun’s description of those ‘wah moments’ in the evolution of his business makes us feel the same exhilaration. The story is well rounded with all the typical ingredients of a youngster’s life – dreams, friendship, love, disagreements, parents and ... Anu aunties!!! Though Anu aunty is a character that features in the book, she is represented as a symbol of all the roadblocks in the form of societal pressure and discouragement that one faces while chasing his/her dreams. The book highlights how much of a conformist we are as a country and how shamelessly we are up against allowing people to follow their heart if it is not in sync with the set down norms.

The author has very good language. But the dialogues of the aunties that feature in the book are unbearably dashed with colloquial slang of ‘What ya’,’Come ya’ and ill placed usages of ‘only’ and ‘like’. The book also abounds with usage of swear words. But considering the good aspects that clearly out do these pain points(for me), I will still say it was one superb read!!  Well done Varun!!

Do grab a copy and enjoy the heartening journey of a youngster who fights every odd to realise his dream. Believe me, at the end, you will be left feeling the exhilaration of having achieved your own.

Friday, 3 August 2012

‘The Event’ versus ‘The Aftermath’

This is a question that needs to be pondered in every human mind. Which is more important? The event or its aftermath? Sometimes we are so obsessed with certain events that we do not sit back and think of the consequences. History abounds with wars. But at the end of each, when the devastating consequences come to light, every one including the initiator is left wondering why it was fought in the first place. As a race, we seem to be obsessed with ‘events’. We want certain things to simply happen. Higher Studies, getting a job, marriage, children, moving to a foreign land.. Do we really take the time to think if we are taking a wise decision in each case?

More often than not, these decisions are a result of either herd mentality or societal pressures. Everyone is doing an MBA, so I have to do it too. Everyone is into IT. So let me jump in too. Marriage is a razor that hangs above the head of every youngster along with a sand clock timer. Tell me, if I make a wrong choice and end up having a miserable or unhappy or discontent life, will the fact that the ‘event’ has happened still make everyone happy? If I land up in a job that kills me with pressure or where I have to do something I completely detest, the fact that I do hold a job is no consolation.

So why are we so obsessed with only the events with little or no thought to the aftermath. Why do we rave for them to happen? We take an entire day to walk into so many shops to buy a dress that we like. We do endless research when we want to buy an expensive gadget. We wait for months if a product we want is out of stock. When so much of patience and thought can go into these trivial things in life, then how much of forethought should go into our life deciding moves!!   

There are certain aspects of life which literally hold the key to our happiness. These are steps which once taken cannot be retracted. They can make or mar your life. These are often those decisions that have to be taken while we are at those proverbial crossroads.Which stream of education to choose, which career path to take, the job that pays more or the job that makes you happy, choice of life partner, entry into parenthood .. When we do encounter them, let us think and take decisions that will truly make us happy. We must not hurry into one of the roads because the audience to our lives are watching like a hawk or because someone standing behind is prodding us to move forward. The aftermath is much more important than the event. Your designation with XYZ company is in no way a return for an intolerable boss who makes life miserable. A marital status will in no way compensate for an incompatible partner.   

Your mind and heart will tell you when to move ahead and most importantly which road to take. Now that should be the only reason for you to take that step forward. That is the only trigger that justifies the event. And I can vouch that the aftermath in these cases will turn out to be in your favour. Only you know what can truly make you happy. Do not allow anyone to dictate that to you in life. No one can tell you what ‘should’ make you happy, for no one can feel from inside you!! That is something only you can do. Nothing in the world is worth making these decisions if they are not heartfelt - neither society nor people around nor socially acceptable norms.