Archives for the month of: October, 2013

A silent murti
Watches over me as
I feel the turbulence draw near
Dark clouds i am calling
With my inner staff

The dinner guests, they sense
The tempest drawing near
With loving concern they clear the way
For my heart to reappear

As I sit in this well arranged home
With no one here
The murti and I witness my fear.

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Awakening to a hidden rose,

a garden flowers from deep within.

Sensuous fragrance perfumes her deepest core,

ruffling myriad petals, in blissful contours!

Pleasured under vast, expansive skies,

their bodies, a seamless shoreline,

kissed by an infinite ocean,

upon granular rims.

Boundaries and bunds, broken in,

hewn by the winds of love,

making music from deep within.

Having offered yet another post on our blog, this afternoon, I fell into deep melancholy. I pondered, why does one write page upon page in beautifully crafted journals, until one’s ink runs dry? Who will read these writings ? Is there anyone eagerly waiting to read this next leaf of penned observations? How does one look at indifference with soft, loving eyes? Why does one share one’s artistic work, into this infinite, dark, gaping, hungry, hollow void of silent, cyber space? Then again, who is really hungry, gaping or hollow?

At that very moment, the image of my friend, the She-spider, residing upon the bark of the Gulmohar tree flashed before my eyes. I found myself recapitulating her lifestyle, over the past two months. I had met her quite accidentally. I perceived her to be a mystic, seated in impeccable stillness upon the bark of the huge Gulmohar tree in our garden. Her stance, her features, reminded me of an ancient yogi. Ash-laden, and frail, she appeared to be penancing through eternity. Until one morning, I was shocked to see her web abandoned. Cleverly camouflaged upon the bark, she seemed to be sunbathing. A few days later, I was repulsed to witness her carnivorous nature, as she sucked the juice out of a passing worm. Having returned to the pink of health, she returned to her silvery nest of eggs. Two weeks later, when I returned home from out of town, I found her nest torn and dangling. Cloaked in tranquility, she had returned to her usual sunbathing spot. I heaved a sigh of disappointment for having missed the hatching of her army of Spiderlings. However, today, when I walked towards her, I was amazed to see her seated in stillness, for a second cycle, upon a freshly spun silvery web! With her eight delicate limbs, spread out in elegance, she is silence and wisdom, personified.

It dawned upon me, that as writers and artists, we, too, are like this She-Spider. One fine day, we most unexpectedly weave our silvery web; cocoon our ideas in it’s shimmering warmth; we spin page upon page, with fine silvery thread; and then one day, our nest miraculously births an army of Spiderlings into this universe. These tiny offsprings, may go seen, or unseen. But, in completing the cycle of birth, we fulfil our calling, as writers and artists. In time, we grow to become indifferent to passing admirers, critics, and indifference. We awaken to the insight that our writing is a calling, prompted by a higher voice, which is in alignment with a divine mystical source.

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I offer you now a poem, in the words of the great mystic poet of all times, Jallaludin Rumi ~

‘My love, you are closer to me than myself,

You shine through my eyes,

Your light is brighter than the moon,

Step into the garden,

So all the flowers, even the tall poplar,

Can kneel before your beauty,

Let your voice silence the lily,

Famous for its hundred tongues.’

Unplugged we lay

upon soft brown grain,

Fine silvery auras

woven in fragility …

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“Why is your voice shaking?” he asks her, this stunningly beautiful young woman, dressed in a traditional sari. It is a music class and she is his student. Even as she ponders the question, he tells her, using words as well as gestures, that sexual intercourse could cause the voice to shake. She is too stunned to respond, or, even to call her husband, who would be equally concerned by this. Her husband’s music lesson with this Teacher had always preceded her own. Sensing her vulnerability, he says, that he will also speak to her husband. When husband and wife, share a moment, on the following day, she discovers that the Teacher’s discourse on sexual intercourse had been reserved for her alone, in the privacy of their class. Something felt terribly inappropriate.

And yet she continued to learn music from him. Every few days, at the beginning of their music lesson, he would casually remark, “Why is your voice shaking?”. She would go pale and feel a rage at the insinuation, at what appeared to be an insidious game, behind the question. Until one morning, after he had taxed her for not hitting the notes right, she choked, tears streamed from her eyes, and she was unable to sing anymore. He panicked and asked her, to go find her husband. The class ended and somehow that day, even to her husband, she couldn’t fully express, the cause of her distress. But then, she was introspective by nature, and her intuition told her, that she must face this beast, and overcome it. With her husband by her side, she visited the home of her Teacher and spoke to him of the cause of her choking up, of how affected she had been, by his words, on the subject of sexual intercourse. In the presence of her husband, and in the face of such a genuine and open confrontation, the Teacher looked trapped and feigned loss of memory, for a moment. He looked towards the door, furtively, to ensure, that neither his own wife, or, his daughter, were overhearing all this. Then, somewhat reassured by her husband’s calm demeanour, and her own apparent vulnerability, he posited once again, that the human voice does shake for a couple of days, after intercourse. He admitted that it was something his own teachers had only hinted at. It was in their culture, not to talk about such things, explicitly. “Why then had he been so crudely suggestive with her?” she thought. While appearing helpless and vulnerable, she reminded him of the ethics of the renowned institution he came from, which encouraged a certain dress code, discipline and culture. मर्यादा – Maryada (respectful restraint) and संप्रदाय – Sampradaya (a living stream of tradition) were the hallmarks of that Institution. He was simply being frank, he said, because of his sense of belonging, and the privileged relationship he enjoyed with her. She replied that she too was now being frank, with a little help, from her husband. Citing the example of Swami Vivekananda and the constant testing to which he put his own great Master, Sri Ramakrishna, she said that while it was her nature to be a sincere student, her Teacher too must prove, to be worthy of the respect he received from her. Had she not walked away, time and again, from mediocrities and those lacking in culture!

She reminded him that she was a married woman. Unlike those who weren’t in a conjugal, loving, relationship, she valued the togetherness she enjoyed with her husband. The Teacher had once said that there was no music, without श्रुति – Shruti. That without Shruti, it was not music, but simply noise. In recollection of this, she boldly affirmed now, “Our love for each other, our togetherness, is our श्रुति – Shruti. This is absolutely clear to the both of us. We are learning to sing, for the joy of music, for our togetherness, in our love for each other, and for God. Anybody, or, any situation, that takes us away from this oneness, has no place in our lives, and is shown the door, out of our lives”. Her husband was beside her, one with her, in feeling and in expression, translating for the Teacher’s benefit, his wife’s words, whenever he felt they hadn’t been properly understood.

“I am jealous of you as a couple”, the Teacher said, in a rather unusual, high pitched, voice. “You are both interested in learning music and in singing together. It is something I’ve wanted in my life. My wife has never been interested in learning music”. An awkward silence followed.

Feeling the need to ease the growing tension, he assumed an air of nonchalance and smiling slightly, told her that she needn’t take his words this seriously. That the connection between sexual intercourse and a shaky voice, was more true for men than for women, albeit, not really true, for all men. Practice, he claimed, was the panacea for everything. He advised now, that no matter what he said, she should only follow whatever she found to be true, in her own experience. He himself, despite his own Teacher’s instruction, continued to have a good time with his wife. Both husband and wife listened to him, with indulgence. Believing now, that he had cleared the air, he ventured into yet another territory. Taking the example of a rather famous female singer, he said, that she had never given birth to children, making the point, that having children, was bad for a Mother’s voice. At which point, the husband piped up, “We have three children”. This left the Teacher, with just one solution to offer his luckless students. “Practice!” he said. “With practise, you can overcome any situation and rise to great heights in music”.

They had told him that they would be away for a while and that they would call him, on their return. If and when they did return, would they return to a music lesson with him?

At night, when dreams grow tall,
In that land without the usual laws,
I’ll fall, without moving an inch,
And I’ll fly, even without wings,
With a truth, free to change its shape,
Unbridled, by the hours of the night.

But now, I wake every morning,
To a song, that seems to truly belong,
To the land behind my closed eyelids.
How then do I hear it now, when
My eyes flutter, to the light of dawn?
Perhaps it’s the sound of a dream,
Seeping, into a new day’s light.

There are things I carry into the night,
Of all that goes on, during this day.
I wonder what it is that transformed
All that was dark, into joyous light.

Behind the mortuary van,
just a few vehicles behind,
I think of all that I’ve built,
and ever called my own.
The traffic is, as yet, slow.
It’s red at every intersection.
I’m enjoying this drive, buying,
and selling on my cell phone,
dealing in my own merchandise,
of my loves, hates and indifference.
I’m only trying to cheat Death,
when it’s call should come,
by staying engaged, my line busy.
I look up to see that I’m still driving.
Now, right behind, the mortuary van.

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A Living Stream of Tradition

On Sunday afternoon, October the 20th, the rains washed the festive streets of Chennai. Sitting cozily, inside the cool, mini-hall of Narada Gana Sabha, I witnessed the true meaning of संप्रदाय : Sampradaya. Four exhuberant classical dancers, the senior alumni of Kalakshetra, shared their insights about devoted teachers, and visionaries like Smt. Rukmini Devi, Sarada Mami, and others. They spoke about संप्रदाय, a living stream of tradition that has flown through the veins of each classical dancer, who graduates from this renowned institution. In their golden seventies, Smt. Ambika Buch, Smt. Kala Ramesh Rao, Smt. Shanta Dhananjayan, and Smt. Savitri Jagannath Rao, recollected their student life in Kalakshetra. Dancing, and demonstrating the nuances of this unique, living tradition, they glowed with radiance and joy. Bedecked in beautiful orange, magenta, green, ochre, and gold Kanjeevaram silk sarees, I admired their deep sense of fraternity.

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An expanse of vastness,

Down pours of grace

She shivers distraught,

Under resplendent fate!

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Yesterday, the maddened winds burst open the evening gloom with thrashing rain. This morning, a tranquil, grey haze, veils the coastal town of Morattandi. Looking out of my studio window, I witness a stillness in the garden. It is as if, all of nature is soaked with calmness, and patience. Stepping outdoors, I’m ambushed by an oblique sliver of silvery thread, cutting across my eyes. Gliding downward, at its far end, is an extraordinary Arachnae, stunning in both color and form! Like an expert parachuter, it lands gracefully upon the granular terrain beneath. Disappearing in a flash, into the wet wilderness beyond, it’s restless temperament, contrasts the stillness all around!