Over the years, I have realised that no matter whatever else I do, teaching is what keeps me ticking. I started teaching primary school children donkey’s years ago since the time I was in high school. This exercise made me realise that teaching made a…
S RADHA PRATHI, SEP 18 2018, 23:25PM IST UPDATED: SEP 18 2018, 23:26PM IST
When my music teacher taught me the Sargam when I was a mere child, she had asked me to visualize them as a set of steps, which I had to ascend and descend. Just like the steps, the musical notes would remain static in their designated places and if I needed access over them, I had to reach out to them. She probably said it just once and may have said it to put across the point, but somehow the image has remained with me ever since. I have always imagined that each step represented a Swara. I would step, skip, linger or bounce over them in accordance to the lessons taught. Thus I practiced Sarali varase, Genti varase, Dhatu varase and Alankaras mentally when I paced and hopped up and down the stairs without particularly going up or down. All the jumping left me breathless especially when I tried going through them in the second and third speed. Not to mention, that I would be reprimanded for being so very restless. Now I find it amazing that I had not divulged what was going on in my mind or explained all the ascending and descending. Though the exhausting exercise did not impact the quality of my singing then, I learned the basic difference between constants and variables at an impressionable age. I was able to understand the distinct distances between musical notes which helped me hone my skills as the years passed. However what fascinates me to this day is the fact that whenever I catch myself alone on a staircase, I immediately assign them the Sargam in a raga that catches my fancy at that point of time and hum a pattern of notes in my mind and step accordingly. In other words, I can never go past a set of stairs without thinking of music.
Interestingly, it was my music teacher who had helped me understand Algebra several years before it was introduced to me in school when she explained the concept of octaves in music. She said in passing (again) that the first note of the Sargam determined the placements of the other Swaras. Whenever, I had to find the value of “x”, in an equation, I could not help thinking of it as the “Aadhar Shadja”. Learning sets and drawing Venn diagrams was cake walk to me in school because I had been taught about complete octaves which paved way to mini ragas with a few notes, the similarities and differences in the notes between ragas which made them distinct . I could not shake off music when I was taught the concept of 360 degrees around a point which can be segmented. I was well aware of the raga chart akin to a pie chart into the 72 major ragas were segmented. Sums to be solved on Permutations and combinations seemed easier when I converted marbles or balloons into musical notes. I have never been able to overcome the sense of déjà vu in the mathematics classes.
When I reflect over the deep seated influence on thinking that my music teacher had over me besides helping me to learn music I realise that teachers do have the knack of influencing you for eternity!
“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day” said Thoreau. I wondered whether the philosopher would make such statements if the time machine relocated him in Namma Bengaluru today. With the ongoing building boom and transport in progress, it is impossible to walk on our streets unless one is preparing for an obstacle race! One could always walk in a park, but there are so few and eventually it encourages more talking than walking.
So, I decided to walk on my terrace. The silver linings were multiple. I did not have to spruce up or look for company besides I did not have to hurry home quickly in case of a sudden shower or an emergency.
So, the following morning, well before the crack of dawn, I splashed some water on the face and passed a comb through my hair and climbed the stairs. The open space seemed to welcome me with dim lighting crisscrossing from the tall buildings and streets alongside. The almost moist fresh air stung my lungs.
Within no time I felt like the “Solitary Reaper” albeit in altered situation and sizes till the dark grey skies gave way to a deep blue as sunlight seemed to be seeping through unnoticed crevices in the skies. Flocks of birds flew across, as the hidden Koel cooed away relentlessly. The silhouettes of the trees revealed their varied verdant hues as they gently allowed daylight pass through them. As the skies grew into a lighter shade, the street dogs shook themselves ready to face another day in their canine life.
Even as the skies brightened and the smells and the sounds of the street came alive, the curtains came down on the magic of morning. It was time to exit from the theatre of the universe and step into the reality of everyday life.
As I looked down upon the mounds of debris and building material stacked along the street, the paperboy zoomed round the corner and tossed the daily news up multiple bulls’ eyes without a single miss. The flower seller and the Soppu boy who could not bear to be left behind made an appearance by announcing their wares even as the milkman tinkled into the scenario. Soon fitness freaks flocked from different directions and hurried along to burn their calories as if in competition with the dog walkers who strained at the leashes. The pious ones who helped themselves furtively to flowers from our garden were oblivious to the fact that they were being watched from above.
As I descended the stairs reluctantly, I looked up at the now azure firmament and made a silent promise to keep my date every single day to receive my daily dose of “blessing”.
The other day, I watched an interesting documentary on the life of nomads who live in the desert region. They were answering several questions regarding their history, demography and relevance of their lifestyle to a keen interviewer. When the next phase of the show began, the group was asked what they thought about random subjects. Their treasury of knowledge oscillated between the absurd and the astute. For instance some of them did not know the name of the region where they had camped; but seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of the natural resources of the land like where to find water and supplies for their caravan. They hardly cared that their kids were not going to school. Yet they seemed to have been made of grey cells all over. They were able to tell the time and weather without any contraption; they reeled off a dozen home remedies ranging from a bad cold to scorpion bites. They seemed to know a repertoire of words from a series of languages including English, useful for their survival. The tribe did not bother about lack of potable water or sanitation facilities, but were perfectly capable of optimizing what came their way without obstructing or polluting their environment. In other words they epitomized the concept of wild wanderers to the core!
Then there was a query on lord Ganesha. The interviewer called upon an elderly woman in the group and asked her why she thought the lord was pot bellied. Pat, came the answer; “Because, he has the earth in his stomach.” Even as the eyes of questioner lolled with disbelief, a slow and deliberate explanation as if to a child followed. The lord protected the world by placing it in his stomach; it was but natural that the round world bulged over his middle. I mulled over the outlandish answer. For a while it appeared as if the lady had reduced sublime to the ridiculous.
Then, I was reminded of Thomas Paine who once said, “The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related that it is difficult to class them separately, one step above the sublime makes the ridiculous and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.” The words which had seemed like a cryptic code to me until then suddenly came alive.
I was able to appreciate their interpretation of the deity despite appearing different. It was pretty much on the lines of what the devout would say, about the lord protecting the universe. In retrospection I realized that their set of life skills and knowledge albeit different were on par, perhaps even superior to the so called civilized society.
I had the privilege to handcraft the jewellery and the accessories of goddess Sree Vasavi Kanyaka Parameshwari using Kundan stones, pearls and mirrors. The idol in the sanctum sanctorum has been adorned with the same on Friday, the 9th of February 2018.
10th February 2017, Friday
Today the goddess is wearing a quilled dress.
Paper Quilling has come a long way from the Renaissance period in Italy and France to the craft classes of school children across the globe.
The art which involves rolling strips of paper and pinching them to shape ranges from the simple to the complicated has been employed to adorn the goddess.
These days, I cannot resist chuckling to myself when I pass a police station in Namma Bengaluru. The billboard in the premises triggers me into a muted convulsion. The writing in Kannada says, “There are chain thieves around. Beware of them.”
When I saw the impressive board for the first time, I read it aloud to my curious friend who could not read the lingo. Almost immediately, the driver of the auto in which we were travelling chimed in and said that truer words could not have been spoken. He added that the board spoke of the thieves ‘within’ the premises, including the catchers and the caught. His unexpected sarcastic wisecrack had us in splits.
Soon he turned serious and reeled out a dozen instances of chain snatching incidents which met their Waterloo in the area earmarked for public security. Although we were amused, we could not discount the earnestness that we detected in his voice.
We realised that the men in khaki largely fail to inspire respect in the general public. We were reminded of a family anecdote. When one of my uncles was selected by the police department to join as a sub-inspector, my straightforward grandfather categorically threatened to disown him, if he did take up the job.
We in the sub-continent seem to have little or no faith in our law and order system. That explains the reams of jokes on pot bellied policemen and their wayward ways. Our movies invariably picturise them rushing in the last leg of the climax and nabbing the culprits after the hero has bashed them up.
Recently, a news report in Deccan Herald published a story about 10 boys from Bihar, who worked as shoeshine boys in Kolkata. The boys had inadvertently come across a treasure chest which fell off a van belonging to a bank. They divided the spoils amongst themselves and went back to their native places, only to be nabbed by the long arm of the police and that too within a matter of a few days.
This incident is proof of the fact that our police system is perfectly capable of doing its duty efficiently in double-quick time. Perhaps, they were empowered to do so because there was no interference from political or financially sound circles. May be they did it because the perpetrators would not grease their palms. No matter what the reason, the mission was accomplished, truly and well. The incident holds mirror to the general opinion of the common man about our police.
Conversely, we as a nation also look up to upright officers like Kiran Bedi or H T Sangliana as the totem pole of integrity and duty consciousness. May their tribe increase!
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 Ã©lan 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.”