Thursday, December 11, 2008

A post script to the Mumbai attacks...

Much has been talked and written about the terrible attacks on Mumbai just two weeks ago... And the pain that has been felt by us all is actually indescribable, to say the least... However, here's another point of view:

My 8 year old nephew has been hearing the word 'terrorists' and 'bomb blasts' for the past some time now. He was asking us about who terrorists were, why were they coming to Mumbai only and was concerned as to what they wanted. In our attempt to placate the young mind, we just said they are 'bad' people who hurt others and destroy... and that they are not just coming to Mumbai, but all over India. Which got him wondering more and asking us, 'but why our country only?'... and in all his innocence he answered his own question, "Of course it is because they don't have a country as beautiful as ours and are also jealous, so they want to take it over and because they can't they are trying to destroy it".

We then tried giving him a peek in the future by saying that these bad people who are coming are also making people living here one rotten apple makes the entire pile rotten adage... To which he confidently replied, "So What? There are so many lakhs of good people in India, that even if some become bad, there are more who are good and will overcome them." His view about his country is so clear- no matter what, his country is the best. It is a view that many of us as adults lack.

It's such a beautiful viewpoint- if we see it from the point of the children of this country- who are not totally aware of the acute gravity of what happened, the politics or the aftermath attached with it...but know in their heart that their country is wonderful and good will always prevail.

If we see the larger picture truly and have this unequivocal love and pride for India that comes from within, and the positivity that no harm can ever happen as long as we are all there together ... The future of India is definitely secure, no matter what.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Son(s) of the soil?

“If Raj is arrested, entire Maharashtra will be set on fire!”

The above statement was made by none other than Raj Thackeray, in lieu with his imminent arrest. And I felt real sad on hearing these words... I mean, how can a person who has been born and brought up in this state and calls himself a 'Marathi manoos' who is fighting for 'his people', even think of burning down the home that reared him?

When buses, vehicles, shops in Maharashtra are burnt, who suffers and pays for them? ... the Marathi manoos.
When people are terrorised to stay at home, and all shops and infrastructure shuts down, who suffers?...the Marathi manoos.
When an airline is told it won't be allowed to ply in Mumbai city because it has sacked its employees, there are others who suffer along with the already suffering employees... the Marathi manoos also.

Don't these guys understand the simple basics? The 'Marathi manoos' they are fighting for is the one who's going to suffer at the end of it all. So what are we fighting for? And who and why are we supporting this?

Destroying public life and property is not the answer to anything. Any wrong action in this state will affect its local people first. And this means all who live in Maharashtra- the Maharashtrians. Relegating to violence is only dividing the Marathi manoos against each other, leave aside other communities and languages. It's a shame...

Speaking of locals...there is another view to this story. The Railway authorities knew that such a issue of beating up would surely happen if the exams would take place without keeping the LOCALS in mind. The same has happened earlier in the past. Then why was history allowed to repeat???

And I also fail to understand the other factor of this entire series of events is that in many states, something similar has happened, wherein non-locals have been discriminated against and also at times been assaulted. Why have there been no actions taken against these politicians? I read a comment on the Indian Express site..." I don't understand why Raj T. is facing all the ire. After all he is doing what all his contemporary politicians were doing. Although he is doing it with a difference. Today Mr. Lalu Yadav is saying Raj is mental case. What was he when Biharis were facing the wrath of people of Jharkhand just because they were Biharis. He was enjoying the fruits of division of Bihar.This is the outcome of caste-based politics. Lets face it." At the end of this all- its only politics. So who suffers really?... We, the people.

And finally a question? I'm asking this because I am really unaware of the legalities... Can they really arrest Raj Thackeray because members of his party beat up people? He was not there physically or overseeing it, nor has he given the orders for it. I was just thinking this aloud... if Congress workers act the same at any point, will either Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sharad Pawar or Sonia Gandhi be arrested because they are leading those people?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Many layers,
different realms.
Through time,
and the sublime
... I discover.

Text and pic (c) D.Athale, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ganpati Bappa Morya!!!

Since we moved to Pune, we've installed a permanent Ganpati idol at home, and every year I make a small idol that we pray to and submerge (in a bucket outside the door). Being environment conscious, our Ganpati idols have always been 'green' and made of clay, wheat flour,etc. This year, we have consciously decided to use all the 'raddi' (old newspapers) and make a recyled Ganpati.

The only thing used in this Ganpati, apart from the newspapers and a little bit of water, is glue to stick the various parts. We have made many of these to give out to our guests who come home for the darshan.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Nag Panchami- a custom or threat?

Today, there will be many litres of milk thrown away, and many snakes caught, hurt and probably killed too. Because, today is Nag Panchami, a day where people superstitiously believe that snakes must be appeased by making them drink milk. More so, forcing those poor creatures to 'drink' milk.

My bai (maid) was proudly telling me how she poured a litre of milk into a snake's hole in the earth and lit up some agarbattis, and how the snake will no longer come near her house, after she has done so.[Obviously not, that poor snake must have drowned in that milk or must have escaped from a milk-curdling experience!]

I was furious with her and tried explaining that snakes do NOT drink milk, and that most of them are caught, have their mouths stitched up so they cannot retaliate and then are made to 'drink' the milk. And the only way a snake does 'smell' its environment, is through its tongue, which is kept free whilst the rest of its mouth is stitched up. So the act of drinking milk is merely the snake trying to understand its predicament and situation.

Unfortunately, even though she did understand, she also thought I was crazy to defend the snakes and laughed at me. Which means, the next year the same story will be repeated.

This festival is not just about snakes being harmed, its also about so much of milk going waste! In a country that is facing huge agricultural and resource crisis, what right do we have to waste food like this?

And oh yes, the High Court did ask the State Government to intervene as several PILs have been lodged against this practice. But the Government is yet to reply. Bloody shame!

And yet, no one is really ashamed. Why?

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Attended the 7th Ruhaniyat festival of Sufi and Mystic Music. It was the finale of the entire series, which ended in Pune. I had been awaiting this event for months, having heard of it from a friend, and once there, I was not disappointed, luckily. I say 'luckily' because I have often eagerly looked forward to some event, and when it does take place eventually, it leaves a taste of tad disappointment.

Well, anyway, the Ruhaniyat (which means 'soulfulness') is a wonderful example of encouraging and sharing music from all over India, and now, the world too. One is exposed to different kinds of music, musicians, instruments and sounds. And if you close your eyes, like the lady in front of us was doing, or move your body to the beat of the music, like me, you would be taken to another realm far away from here, where your senses no longer differentiate the sex or the caste/religion of the person who's singing or playing, but they (your senses) mingle as if this music is their own, taken from your own soul. Heavenly will be a small word for this feeling.

Ruhaniyat began with the traditional artisans of Maharashtra, locals for people of Pune. The group of
Varkaris* led by Chandrakant Udawant from Satara, sang Abhangs - devotional songs of Lord Vithhal in the traditional language of Marathi. He started off with 'Jaya jaya ramkrishna hari', went on to sing 'Roop pahata lochani', a kirtan and concluded with an Abhang of Saint Tukaram.

[* Varkaris = The Varkari sampraday (religious movement) is so called because the followers travel hundreds of miles to the holy town of Pandharpur on foot, every year on the Ekadashi (11th day by lunar calendar) in the Hindu calendar month of Ashad (sometime in July). A pilgrimage is also made on Kartik Ekadashi (which falls sometime in November). This pilgrimage is called vari in the Marathi language and thus one who performs it in the 'Bhapath of devotion is a varkari. The Varkari tradition has made all-pervading impact on the life of the common people of Maharashtra for six hundred years (from 13th century to 18th century). The Varkari has looked upon God as the Ultimate Truth and has ascertained grades of values in social life The sect has accepted ultimate equality among men. It lays stress on values such as individual sacrifice, forgiveness, simplicity, overcoming passions, peaceful co-existence, compassion, non-violence, love, humility in social life. The last point is illustrated by Varkaris prostrating in front of each other because everybody is "Brahma". ]The Varkaris were followed a troupe led by Hafeeza Begum from Assam. And they sang Sufi songs, which sounded real sweet after the initial 'harshness' of songs of the Marathis. And what was extremely beautiful was the sound of the flute, lilting up amidst the silence. And accompanying the songs at times, was just the sound of fingers clicking and hands clapping. This performance was in some way poetic because of its simplicity and lovely melody.

Latif Bolat (the above two snaps) from Turkey played the traditional Turkish stringed instrument "baglama." He sang some traditional Turkish compositions and recited poems too. I must admit I did not understand a word, nor realised when one composition began or ended as he was playing continuosly. But for the compere, Nandini Mahesh's wonderful translations and talks in between, I would've been lost.

I must talk of the compere here too. She introduced the musicians with some wonderful poetic lines of her own, while translating their works. For example, " A life is like a house... it grows, withers and collapses, with time." She also gave a brief introduction to each of the musicians. When it was time of the Manganiyars* from Rajasthan to play, Nandini also talked about their instruments to a small story of Rani Bhatiyani, who has blessed this community to always be the best musicians as long as their community survives. The music of the Manganiyars borders on the classical with a touch of Sufism. The singers have mastery in playing various instruments like Khamaycha (the bowl-shaped, short-necked bowed lute), Murli (a big flute), Surnai (big bass flute), the Afgoza (double flute), the Morchhang (Jewish harp) and the Kartaal (The kartaal comprises two pairs of concussion plaques, one pair held in each hand. The playing technique is extremely virtuosic and involves very rapid, castanet-like rhythms.)
The Khamaycha can be played only by the Manganiyars, and we were lucky to have with us on stage, one of the most respected and senior members of the Manganiyars - Chanan Khan- who was playing the Khamaycha (the man on the left of the singer).
He was also requested to sing part of the Rani Bhatiyani story, who committed Sati for her true love, the brother of her husband.

*A small community in neighbouring Rajasthan presents an example of communal bonhomie. The Manganiyars, a singers community from western Rajasthan, are Muslims by birth but are closely linked for generations to both Muslims and Hindu families for their livelihood. Whatever be the occasion at their jajmaan's house, the Manganiyars are there with appropriate song and music, greatly influenced by Sindhi sufi pirs, singing mystical verses and invoking the Hindu gods. Be it a wedding, a birth in the family, a change of season, a festival or even celebrating the valour of the warriors, the Manganiyars are called to compose and sing for which they are paid handsomely though in different ways. Their songs describe the life of the people of the land.

The Rajasthanis played in two parts. The first was a Hindu type of music, with Mahesaram as the main singer. Then after the break, they came back with Sawan Khan as the main singer. If you notice the man on the extreme left, in the second part he plays the Kartaal and look at him move!

But the person who I was totally mesmerised by was Parvathy Baul. She hails from West Bengal and is an 'initiated' Baul and one of the very few women Bauls*, as was disclosed by Nandini. Parvathy seemed this relatively young and a petite, energetic woman who I felt was completely unfettered in her singing. It was as if she and the music were really one, and the melody sprang from her soul. All the previous musicians and singers, to me, seemed formal by way of their 'education in music'. But Parvathy seemed like a natural. It was as if she was born to sing and didn't know what else to do. She played the ektara (one-stringed Baul instrument), duggi (clay drum) and wore the nupur (anklet) that sounded like bells. And with her high voice that never needed a mike, saffron robes and singing and dancing, she seemed like Meera conversing with the Lord Krishna, so into her music she was.

*Bauls (Bengali: বাউল) are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal, which comprises Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. Bauls constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition used as a vehicle to express Baul thought. Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many different streams to the sect, but their membership mainly consists of Vaisnavite Hindus and Sufi Muslims.They can be often identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments, like the ektara. Though Bauls comprise only a small fraction of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable. In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO. The origin of the word is Baul is debated. It has been suggested that it comes either from Sanskrit batul, meaning divinely inspired insanity or byakul, meaning fervently eager.

Parvathy sang three songs. All wonderful. The first song was on the bird Chatak*, which is Lalan Fakir's song Chatak swabhav ni hole- the Chatak never changes, followed by Apon mukher phook- a lovely song, and Kaala - a description of Radha's last thought as she walks towards Yamuna.

* Chatak- A bird that drinks only raindrops, and even though there is water nearby, it will not drink anything else. Sometimes the clouds play truant with it, and it thinks its going to rain and is ecstatic. Then even upon realising there is no rain, it won't drinkanything but rain-water, even though its throat is burning with thirst.
A Sufiana Kalam- 'Maine teri aaakhon mein pada Allah hi Allah, Sab bhool gaya bas yaad raha sirf Allah hi Allah' by renowned singer, Vitthal Rao from Hyderabad was a sheer delight to hear, especially given the fact that this man is all of seventy-nine years of age. And had a powerful voice as compared to his disciple.

The finale came from the Sabri Brothers of Jaipur, one of the topmost Qawwals in India. They sang a Sufi qawwali, 'Tu malik hai' and Amir Khusrau's 'Aaj rang ma'. Some of the words of the first composition were, "Prabhu nahi mujhe koi gyan tumhara; Mujhe to ek hi dhyaan hai...voh hai tumhara"... Simply delightful!

Looking forward to the next Ruhaniyat!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Everyday stories.

Don't have a great camera, but do have a passion for photography... and over the years have great pics taken...most people say I have the 'eye'... :) ... either ways, I love to shoot and off late have gotten pretty fascinated by people. A picture can tell a thousand words indeed. As I have been moving around the city for documenting the architecture and heritage buildings (part of the heritage walks that I conduct), I have been stunned by the emotions that fill me when I shoot a person or living thing...have still been unable to fathom it...

1. 'Lord of the small things'
(c) D.Athale, 2007

He waits,

he watches.
One day, some day...
these small dreams
will be real size too.

2.Light and it's shadow.
(c) D.Athale, 2007
If everything lit always threw a shadow, wonder where does light hide it's shadow?

3. Time-bound
(c) D.Athale, 2007Time stood mute testimony
As he scrubbed and laboured
And not a word was spoken,
when the sparkle was delivered.

4. Weather- beaten.
(c) D.Athale, 2007
Old arms, tired of supporting
Old joints, tired of holding
The weathered facade of mine
rests, along with those,
who pray ... in me.

5.Smoky Dreams
(c) D.Athale, 2007
One last puff
before I say 'done',
My eyes closed,
I sleep.
My hands and lips continue...
Allowing me to have smoky dreams.

All photographs and text are copyright of D.Athale. 2007.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jab We Met...

As my new year resolution of staying fit, I have joined a class that teaches Power Aerobics (whatever that means) and Bollywood Dancing (I so wanted to learn this!). And one of the first songs we are dancing on is 'Mauja hi Mauja' from the movie 'Jab We Met'.

I had happened to see the movie few months ago. And was totally unprepared to the fact that not only would I like it a lot, but find it any day better than other movies like 'Om Shanti Om', etc. A very feel good, light-hearted, romantic and yet not too emotional a movie. It had a good mix of script, direction, acting and music. Shaheed was exceptionally good! And I really felt sad for him, when I heard about his split with Kareena, because one could see the love and passion he had for her during this movie.

And the songs really are fun to hear. A different approach to music. Some good lyrics too.

One of the songs I really liked was 'Tumse hi'... enjoy!
Na hai yeh pana
Na Khona hi hai
Tera Na hona jane

Kyun hona hi hai

Tum se hi din hota hai
Surmaiye shaam aati
Tumse hi tumse hi

Har ghadi saans aati hai
Zindagi kehlati hai
Tumse hi tumse hi

Na hai yeh pana
Na Khona hi hai
Tera Na hona jane
Kyun hona hi hai

Aankhon mein ankhne teri
Bahoon mein baahein teri
Mera na mujhe mein kuch raha hua kya
Baaton mein baatein teri
Raatein saugatein teri
Kyun tera sab yeh ho gaya
hua kya
Mein kahin bhi jata hoon
Tumse hi mil jata hoon
Tumse hi tumse hi

Shoor mein khamoshi hai
Thodi se Behoshi hai
Tum se hi tum se hi

Aadha sa wada kabhi
Aadhe se jayada kabhi
Jee chahe karlu is trah wafa ka
Chode na chote kabhi
Tode na tute kabhi
Jo dhaga tumse jud gaya wafa ka

Mein Tera sharmaya hoon
Jo mein ban paya hoon
Tumse hi tumse hi
Raste miljate hai
Manzile miljati hai
Tumse hi tumse hi

Na hai yeh pana
Na Khona hi hai
Tera Na hona jane
Kyun hona hi hai

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Quit 'monkey'ing around!

My two-bits on the India-Australia Cricket chaos...

- For one, I don't understand why there was no uproar when the umpires were obviously being biased.

- I don't know why the Indian team is still around in Australia, and hoping to still play after all that happened. Do they have no self-pride left? Is the money more important than the prestige?

- Why did the Indians not put a case when one of the players was called a 'bastard'?

- Considering that the word 'monkey' was taken as a racist term, because it supposedly raised questions on the person's parentage... Come again, what was that?

- If the term monkey is a racist term...then god help the theory of evolution, and us all. Because then the question does become of the parentage of humans.

- And then again, if the term 'monkey' is a racist term and we all humans are supposedly evolved from monkeys, then what does that make the Australians? Non-humans, for one. Other options... keep guessing.

And finally, what did the poor monkeys do to make their entire breed an example of racism?