From Art to Heart


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/646739/from-art-heart.html

Denizens of Namma Bengaluru are treated to dollops of street art every now and then. More recently, the painting of a swimming pool in and around a large pothole captured a lot of attention. The painting seemed to come alive when somebody captured a realistic snapshot of a random pedestrian trying to step in gingerly into the painted waters holding the bars of the ladder and uploaded it onto social media.

The picture sent me on a nostalgic trip down the busy streets of our city a couple of decades ago. Just about every Saturday, a couple of kids would appear at around 4 pm with brooms and fine brushes. They would clean up a patch of the ground measuring the size of a small carpet. An hour later, their master would come and quickly draw the border lines without using any instrument. Charcoal powder or white rangoli powder would be evenly spread on the floor. Then the master would draw another border around it.

Within a matter of an hour, he would be going round and round drawing the outline. Gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon would emerge magically as he deftly coloured and gilded their ornaments. Once done, he would rest on the platform with his young companions, waiting for the footfalls to linger there. The public would offer prayers and place a coin carefully along the demarked borders before proceeding.

For kids like us, it happened to be the staple weekend all-round exposure to the arts, culture and resourcefulness. No one, except an occasional gust of wind or a spell of rains, would disturb the work of art till it earned bread for its creators until the next weekend.

These artists, though torn apart by time and space have managed to strike a chord and have warmed the hearts of many who have been exposed to their works. They have managed to make us not only appreciate their work but also reflect on it, even if only momentarily. These artists who unleash their creativity with confidence and élan silently remind us how a piece of fine art can warm the cockles of our heart and ruminate on matters beyond the mundane. They serve soups to our souls and hence it becomes our moral responsibility to sustain them and their art. For art is long and life is short!

Perhaps, this is what Khalil Gibran’s meant when he said:

“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players – buy of their gifts also.

And that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.”

What is in a Name eh?


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/638300/whats-name-eh.html

I quite marvel and also agree with everything William Shakespeare penned with the exception of one celebrated line. I always have a feeling that if he had just about peeked into our subcontinent, he would have certainly refrained from making a grand statement about the redundancy of names. It is obvious he was innocent about our penchant for a thousand names for most of our deities. The less important gods and goddesses who did not merit the haloed Sahasranama were assigned at least a 108 names.

The abundant populace of our country, who wished not to be left behind, traditionally gave a minimum of two names and a maximum of five names to their wards. The wards are named after the personal favourites in the pantheon, the family god, elders in the family, role models and even movie stars — sometimes complete with their respective surnames. Then, parents come up with an official name based on the horoscope or numerology hoping to realise all their dreams from the child bearing the lucky name.

At the end of all this exercise, each member in the family and neighbourhood comes up with a tacky pet name for the infant which almost always sticks for a lifetime. As if these names were not enough, children always invariably attract nicknames through schooling and college life. The girls, mostly, take the surname of their husband post marriage and are often renamed after the nuptials to match their spouses name.

Such being the case, when the police come for verifying details given in the passport application form, nine on ten people whose names have been given as referral will have to be apprised about the “official name” or the quintessential “daak naam,” especially if you happen to be of Bengali or Oriya origin. Then there is the other category of people who create aliases for their creative works, social media and international work desks.

As if these were not enough, our birth certificate, mark sheet, PAN card, bank account, Aadhar card and other documents sometimes have variations of the official name, and we Indians know such anomalies are a part and parcel of our lives. In fact, there is an entrepreneurial money-spinning industry out there which helps people to correct personal  data in the documents that matter, so that they reflect uniformity!

But how was the Bard to know all this when he wrote, “What is in a name? A rose called by any other name would smell as sweet!”

Serendipity in Seri


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/629585/serendipity-seri.html

Once, a couple of us were walking through a boulder-strewn path in the Himalayas. What began as a light drizzle at the head of our trek turned into a steady shower. There was no going back, because the tents we left behind were being dismantled.

While they could be erected again with a little effort , a couple of early birds in our group had already forged ahead an hour ago. We could not possibly leave them in the lurch by staying back. So, we decided to brave the inclement weather towards Seri Valley — our destination.

The obstacle-riddled path appeared to be more challenging when we had to cross a moraine, some newly formed streams and a little stretch of ice. The continuous rain and the dipping temperature proved to be quite a menace.

A slip here and a fall there amid wiping the water off the spectacles slowed me down. Benumbed hands failed to feel the little icicles falling all over and around us. The colourful and beautiful flowers that bordered our path at times had to be sadly ignored because personal comfort appeared to be more important than “stopping by to smell the flowers.”

Conversation almost came to a standstill with exceptions when we had to seek one another’s help. Gusts of cold wind blew about; we trudged along cold, wet and hungry. When it became increasingly difficult, we sighted a frail little open yellow tent among the rocks. Our escort prompted us to seek shelter there till the storm passed.

We found a lone shepherd huddled in blankets in the tiny tent. He ushered us in without a word. He shared his humble bed and let us use it, though we were drenched to our very bones. Just when I thought that his cup of mercy had overflowed, he allowed us to build a fire with his precious little stock of firewood.

A couple of hours passed. He answered our many queries but asked no questions of us. His body language did not display resentment, so we stayed on. The rains subsided. It was time to move on. We thanked him profusely for the hospitality. He nodded and asked us to reach our camp before the next spell of rains set in.

Some experiences in life do have a wonderful way of tweaking our path and make us reflect on existential questions. He seemed to be the essence of Sanghajeevi (social being) for Lokasangraha (betterment of the world). I simply could not stop thinking of experiencing serendipity in the wilderness.

Empowered by Powerlessness


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/614907/empowered-powerlessness.html

When Namma Bengaluru decided to keep its temperatures soaring, little did it know that it was uniting the denizens of the city in some way. It had all of us whining endlessly besides prompting us to collectively pray for the rains. The pleased heavens opened up with a hail storm one evening.
Once the initial rejoicing set in, kaput went the transformer. The area was shrouded in the dim fading light of dusk.

Alternative power solutions lit up the homes, offices and shops within seconds. The skies cleared up for the night. Several hours passed. There was no sign of electricity. Complaints were lodged more frantically when the batteries running the show began exhausting. The sporadic showers had escalated the heat indoors. Premises that opened doors even for a moment were invaded by motley insects which decided to plague our homes post rains.

The horribly hot night passed without electricity. The next morning dawned ushering in new problems. We did not have access to water as motor pumps were lying dead without power. Communication was cut off since most cell phones could not be charged. Making breakfast seemed a nightmare to people who heavily depended on toasters, microwaves and juicers.

As daylight enveloped the layout, people who had barely acknowledged one another started speaking in one voice. The limited resources were put to best use. Water, food and cell phones were used judiciously on the basis of priority. A team of people went to the local power station to learn about the actual cause of delay. They found out that the electricians were not lazing around, but had been working on various poles overnight. It was just that the ratio of men was hopelessly low to the number of repairs that they had to make.

A few more powerless (pun intended) hours lapsed. The refrigerators were raided and salvaged food was put to good use. Water tankers were hired to supply water. The children were rallied around and sent off to a movie to keep them cool, well-fed and out of the way. Finally, power was restored late afternoon.

The 20 hours of power cut, which seemed to be a nightmare to live through, was actually an eye opener of sorts. For starters, it revealed how helpless we were without electricity. But more importantly, it helped us renew ties with our neighbourhood on common grounds and appreciate the value of men whose expertise we think is available to us at our beck and call. The power cut which we thought had made us powerless had actually empowered us.

Spirit of Survival


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/599151/spirit-survival.html

One winter morning, I entered the service verandah of our home in the wee hours of dawn. I picked up the little footstool which happened to be in the way only to drop it instantaneously. I had felt something cold, pokey and wet. I was too shocked even to shriek. I switched on the lights and examined my fingers which held the stool.

There were a few short, white and thick strands sticking to my hands. I clapped them off and then peered at the stool. Many more white strands were jutting out of its sides. When I felt reassured that no tiny feet were moving, I knocked the stool down to get a better view of the creature. The inner joints of the stool revealed several such white filaments. This time, I dared to bang hard on the outside of the stool to tease out the clinging life. When a few tossed out, a little observation revealed that these white strand-like structures were attached to a miniscule brown bead.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that the creepy creatures were actually ragi sprouts. Only a couple of days ago, I had sunned some ragi on the terrace. The grains had scattered, and some of them had settled in the little nooks and crannies of the inside of the stool which had been left upturned. The stool had later been placed in the service verandah, where it must have come in contact with moisture. Mother Nature had helped the seeds to germinate.

The mystery was solved. I felt extremely relieved and ecstatic to have been a part of this surreal experience. When the family awoke one by one, they were regaled with the tale. Amid much mirth, I recalled one of the earliest stories of Enid Blyton. Amelia Jane, the naughty doll, had strung a few acorns and worn it as a necklace quite to the annoyance of the others in the play area. Once she happened to  drench in the rain. The acorns which soaked up the water started sprouting; shocking the blue-eyed Amelia out of her wits. This was one of my favourite stories and little did I realise that the incident would play out later on in my own life in such an unexpected way.

Once the novelty of the incident wore out, I reflected on it. Sometimes some exotic hybrid varieties of seeds refuse to come to life despite being provided exhaustive, simulated native conditions, but here were these seeds striving to survive against all odds. This is true of people, too. Some people are cushioned by every possible support and luxury in life, but barely manage to turn the corner whereas the ones who have the spirit of life not only survive but also thrive despite everybody and everything!

Memory Vs Photographs


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/595945/photographs-vs-memory.html

Even as I saw the zillionth person clicking pictures or selfies and sharing them relentlessly, I inadvertently stepped into my personal realm of nostalgia. I remember that we did the most enjoyable things around our homes and with our families, but they were rarely photographed. Every evening, my metre-long tresses would be braided into a plait, and a tassel (kuchchu) would mark the end of it.

Long strings of jasmine buds would be woven around it. Once, a special day was earmarked for me to wear a moggina jade (a readymade pad with jasmine buds and an occasional rose fit on the back of the head and the plait). This red-lettered day was preceded by elaborate preparations.

My mom sourced fresh mehendi leaves, ground them into a fine paste, and applied it on my palms and feet before the event. The following morning, I was given a traditional oil bath and the fumes of frankincense were waved over my drying hair to perfume it. Then, I wore the traditional silk skirt, some pieces of antique jewellery, and got ready to get my hair braided and wear moggina jade. After receiving glowing compliments from all our guests, I was relieved of the same with equal care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise while it lasted, and have ruminated on it many times over.

As the years rolled by, I used to feel a little vexed with my parents for not having photographed me in my moment of crowning glory. I would be tersely told that the enjoyment was the reward, while photographing it would have amounted to merely documenting it. Their explanation used to irk me all the more because it sounded like a lame excuse for not having thought of it.

I entertained uncharitable thoughts about their miserliness until one day, when a family friend began showing us her holiday album.

The pictures were glossy and beautiful, but the smiling lady who was ever-present in all of them had little memory of the place or its distinction, or even the names of the other members of the group, because she was always grooming herself to look good in the shots.

It was then that I understood the meaning of what I had been told. A photograph of my long braid would have merely retained the visual. I might have been happy and proud of the picture, but might have relegated it to an album and put it away safely.

However, the fact that it was not photographed possibly preserved the memory of the smells and sounds associated with the event.

Surprisingly, quite a few of them who had seen me enjoying my moment in the sun also seem to remember it quite well, and have since shared it with their spouses and children.

It happened long ago. Few people wielded the camera then. Yet, special moments of the privileged were captured on camera. Since they were far and few, they attained the status of precious family and national heirlooms. Today, technology has made photographing a cake walk. However, we must remember that if we spend all the time behind the lens, we may not have memories attached to them when we look at them at a later date. Let us not miss the woods for the trees.

Brace Yourself For The Post Party Syndrome


http://ww

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/589106/brace-yourself-post-party-syndrome.html

Calm after the storm

The two-faced Roman god Janus is ready to usher in the new year, while earthlings are partying hard. What many of us do not know is that we are working ourselves into as state of frenzy in the name of unwinding. This is true of those who organise parties as well as those who attend them.

A lot of meticulous planning, precious time and hard-earned money is ploughed into these events by hoteliers and owners of restaurants, bars and pubs besides individuals. Painstakingly decorating the party space, arranging enough food and drinks to go around and organising entertainment programmes takes several months of hard work and networking. Needless to say, this puts a great strain on their nerves.

It’s easy to assume that the party hoppers are a jolly lot, but that is far from the truth. They, for their part, are stressed about what to wear, whose company to seek, how to fit in at the party and get home safely afterwards.

Back to the grind

While all the music, dancing and socialising is fun while it lasts, the morning after generally brings along a hangover or worse, depression and loneliness. The post-party syndrome can encapsulate a lot of issues. You might feel lazy, fatigued and reluctant to get on with your work and normal routine. The late nights, gorging on calorie-rich food and aerated or alcoholic drinks can take a toll on the intestines and the liver. The lack of sleep will affect your cognitive function.

While none of these are reasons to pass on the merriment, by taking a few smart measures, you can save yourself from the physical and emotional stress that is likely to bog you down.

Catch up on some sleep every now and then so that you’re not caught yawning in company during the party. Loss of sleep can be telling on the countenance and general health of the individual in the long run. You would do well to have plenty of salad, fruits and juices during the day to offset the heavy food that you might eat at night.

Following an exercise regime will help you burn off the calories you gained binge-eating and drinking over the past few weeks. It is wise to keep tab on the amount of liquor that you consume in order to avoid embarrassment, untoward incidents and accidents.

The emptiness you’re left with

Psychologists point out that people who throw or attend many parties could experience a sense of loss, emotional numbness and anxiety once the gala time is over. This usually happens because they might have run into people whom they no longer care for or simply wish to avoid. They might have lost track of important days in all the frenzy. Even as they pretend to be happy and confident, they might be upset and despondent.

Putting the past behind and learning to live in the moment is the way to deal with these painful emotions. New year parties are, after all, about ringing out the old and ringing in the new. When you run into someone you dislike or have complicated emotions for, flash an affable smile, offer a kind word and move on. Try to forgive and forget for your own peace of mind.

You must understand that anything that brings you happiness must be good and genuine for it to last long. Refrain from hypocrisy and try to be earnest in terms of behaviour and attitude. Good manners and courteous behaviour has never killed anyone. A dollop of unadulterated enthusiasm can spread chirpiness and good cheer all around.

If you think your emotional wounds are still raw or that you may not be able to handle nasty surprises, pre-empt the guest list. If it is not to your liking, excuse yourself from attending the party. This can save you a lot of trouble and unpleasantness.

The most telling sign of the post-party syndrome is the lacuna created by the sudden lack of activity, which could lead to boredom, frustration and irritability.

Once you understand that parties are for enjoyment, socialising and rejuvenating your spirits, you can spend the days after the party organising contact numbers and addresses for future use. You can redeem your promise about keeping in touch by sending flowers or cards to renew your friendship with those you like.

If you hear of good or bad things happening to those you care for, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and get talking. An unexpected friendly gesture can not only cheer them up but will also make you feel happy. Once you learn the art of coping with the post-party syndrome, you will find yourself looking forward to more such good times!