Archives for the month of: February, 2016

Astad Deboo, a magician, a sorcerer, a poet, a muse!

It is an evening buzzing with life, breath, and humid dew, before the unveiling of the unseen, unheard, the unfathomable. I am drawn to drape in vibrant, vermillion, and white muslin silk, fired up from within, after a meal with the artist, a day earlier. I am led to take a center seat, an uninterrupted view, of the dimly lit stage. A soft, golden glow illumines the compassionate face of Rukmini Devi alongside idols of the Devi and Nataraja. Well-groomed students of dance, sit cross-legged on the floor ahead of me. I drop inward. Feeling the energy around me, and within.

At the scheduled hour, the bells begin to toll, and in the silence and resonance, a row of sculpturesque, bodies shimmer, in a haze of soft light. The bells toll at an interval, laying me gently inside a trance. Some begin to move forward, while the central figure is cloaked in flowing streams of fluid fabric, holding a fulcrum of silent energy. He moves into the center of the large, riverbed. There is orderliness in the rippling waves of life around him. The blooming, the blossoming, is tender, is unpredictable, is beauty in motion and rhythm. I feel inspired. I feel open. I feel a tingling sensation of life and dance, mirrored in my body and breath.

The river-scape is flowing, ever changing, thinning into an expanse of nothingness. Dropping me into an endless void of peace and tranquility, only to be jolted awake to receive the throb of one thundering heartbeat, multiplying into several. I break open further, the reverberating beats reveal delightful lily pads, crawling with crocodiles, digesting life with ease, rising and ebbing waves of energy, liquid and splashing, making me wet inside out, outside in. I close my eyes, reveling the wetness. The silence, returns. From the dark void, now appears, an indigo-blue being, with a shimmering, ornate, blood moon delicately woven on the back, illumining the dark night ocean. This being is quiet, playful, mysterious, alluring, with silken streams, swirling from the limbs. She dances, He celebrates, He beckons inward, She reveals her scrolls of calligraphic poetry. I listen to their music and movement, as He and She swirl, entwined in the love. For a brief moment, their veil lifts, blinding these eyes by their dazzling, silver skin. I gasp! I return to the sparkling space of magic and wonder, recollecting the poem of a Sufi Mystic, Rumi,  ‘To my eyes, lovers touching are folded wings in a beautiful prayer.’

They arrive. Luminous symbols in their hands, with vibrant, red, woolen tails. The red tails and gold symbols swirl and spin, like dancing leaves twirling down in autumn. A being now appears in sunset orange, quick witted, with a penetrating gaze, glancing at the minutest details, in all those who dare look into those hazy eyes. The rhythms, movements, and swirls, gather momentum with an orange sunrise, as mountain goats and rice fields of the East, meet the wild, dark, mendicants from far away lands. Eastern, delicate sinuous, yellow mountain men, meet the music of the dark skinned, muscled, meat eating, loud men, from the land of the wild beasts and great hunts!

Enters into this, a being, like a dark tornado, with gilded edges. This tornado is steady in its gait, its fierceness tamed, commanding worship. The delicate, mountain men offer their spirals into those darkening, swelling and ebbing edges of the towering tornado, and then disappear back into their homes with humility. With the last man gone, the winds halt unexpectedly, revealing the ugly face of Satan screaming aloud in his Jaguar tongue.

Into the void, is a halting, an unsettling scratching, of the otherworldly sort.

From this emptying, appears a being dressed in virgin white, holding two, ivory conch shells to his mouth. His deep breath enters into the conch, enveloping us with a circular sound, neutralizing the resonance of the Jaguar tongue, and allowing clouds of milk-white light to float down the serpentine river bend. A soft mist of clouds, crackle upon the golden dry riverbed. Moistening it slowly. Allowing tiny beads of dew to unite with others. These droplets quench the thirsty, invisible life, running through the unseen depths of parched riverbeds.

And a brook begins its joyful gurgle ~ ~ ~



Last night, we saw the Marathi film, ‘नटसम्राट, Natasamrat’. 

After watching this movie, I remembered a moment from my childhood, when we stayed in an apartment complex. One of our neighbours, had his frail, bent, old mother, living with him. She was always dressed in the traditional, nine-yard saree. Perhaps, she had dementia due to her old age, as I don’t recall her communicate to us like a normal grand-mother would. This old lady, freely lay in their living room on a wooden cot by the window. Occasionally, she would stand up, and urinate, just like a cow, in the middle of this large room, where we played inside our imaginative, magical worlds. Then her grandchildren, who were my friends, would call out to their mother, without any shame or embarrassment, saying, “Grandmother is peeing in the hall, Mother !” Without a word of irritation, their mother would then come and clean the floor, or the carpet that lay in the center of the room, and perhaps, also took the old lady to change into a fresh sari. This was such a normal act that as children we didn’t give any further attention to such a happening. It was common to see elders and ailments, be part of our homes, and death, like birth, too was part of this evolution, when most of us lived together, under one roof. And so, we continued to play, unperturbed, in the same space. None of us, embarrassed, our hearts fuelling up with more tenderness and compassion. Their hall often had a faint urine smell, but everybody was fine with it, as grandmother’s well being mattered and they all loved her unconditionally through all her stages of old age. I have internalised this image in the deep recesses of my mind. 

Today, in just two decades, times have changed dramatically. I observe a boldness of expression inside of me. Time and again, I go within, to see if my heart remains as compassionate and loving, despite it all. Last night, watching, and listening to all the fine and poetic Marathi literature, through this movie, ‘Natasamrat’, leaves most of us shaken. We find ourselves deeply introspecting and reflecting on all the relationships in our lives with a renewed, understanding of compassion and love. It leaves us inspired with revived feelings of love and understanding for our parents, and all our loved ones. 

Good theatre, art and music, have incredible power to heal and transform human beings for the better. It is good to see this film also with sensitive English subtitles, allowing non-Maharashtrians too, to enjoy the deep literature of Shri. Kusumagraj.