Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - November 25


The poem I'm sharing this week is probably my all-time favourite Tagore poem and definitely one of his most popular poems. It has a lot of personal importance too because this is the first and  only poem that has brought tears to my eyes so far.

I'm sharing it this week for two reasons. First, this is one of those poems that I believe everyone ought to read. I don't know of anyone who's read the poem and not liked it. This poem finds its way into most speeches addressed to Indians or about India. Recent samples being President Obama's speech at Parliament and PM Dr.Singh's speech in the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. 

Second: On the eve of the second anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, something that shocked, startled and pained many of us, I think this is an important reminder of a great man's dream for his country. A dream that might sound Utopian, but one that is worth putting our heart and soul in to attain.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments 
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way 
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee 
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

I am not going to try analysing the way simple words are used exquisitely or the wonderful metaphors. Because this poem is all about the emotion. Read it again, again, again and experience it. This poem, like many of Tagore's poems, is not restricted to India alone and fits just as beautifully for any country. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Growing Up with Harry Potter


To many of us, the Harry Potter series is more than just a best-selling book series that spawned a successful movie franchise. We grew up with Harry Potter. We stood outside bookstores early in the morning to get our copy of the books. We cried our eyes out when a character died. We debated endlessly about probably theories, ships and ideal endings. We kept track of every word J.K.Rowling said in her interviews, hoping to find clues about what would happen next in the series. 

We met some amazing people and broke the ice by talking about Harry Potter. We managed to get a Harry Potter reference into the essays we wrote for school. We stuck Harry Potter posters on to our walls and could quote from the book extensively. If Harry Potter had been a subject, we would have all topped class. We have friends from across the world, people of different cultures, traditions - all united by The Boy Who Lived. We have cherished memories related to Harry Potter and it is so very much a personal thing. We are the Harry Potter generation. 

I like the Harry Potter movies, but they're nowhere near as magical as the books. And as I get ready to watch the movie soon with a couple of friends, I can't believe how emotional this is! This is the beginning of the end of a movie franchise that is as unforgettable as the books it is based on. Though I want to run and watch the movie as soon as possible, part of me also wouldn't mind not watching the movie for a while, if just to extend the Harry Potter-related stuff I have left to enjoy.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to watching the movie and reviewing it and I hope everyone has something or the other to enjoy in Deathly Hallows Part 1. Because remember, in a sense, this is the culmination of our journey alongside a little boy with a lightning scar, who was left outside Number 4, Privet Drive one night. 

P.S.  I'm delighted that my blog now has 100 followers! Thank you all so much and I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - November 18


This is a beautiful poem where Tagore touches upon subjects that we're familiar with from many of his other poems.

Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight.
Thou ever pourest for me the fresh draught of thy wines of various colours and fragrance, filling this earthen vessel to the brim.
My world will light its hundred different lamps with thy flame and place them before the altar of thy temple.
No, I will never shut the doors of my senses. The delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear thy delight.
Yes, all my illusions will burn into illumination of joy, and all my desires ripen into fruits of love.

I love the metaphor of the earthen vessel being filled with the draught of the colours and fragrance, a recurring element in his poems. Sample: 'This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life'.  The crux of this poem is one that Tagore often speaks about; the need to see, experience, live and love and not renounce. He is scornful of meditation and remarks  "But I meanwhile, with hungry eyes that can't be satisfied, shall take a look at the world in broad daylight." The final line of this poem is a beautiful, fitting conclusion.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - November 11


This week's Tagore poem is very different from the rest I've posted, because this reads like a story. So simple and seamless. 

I had gone a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King of all kings!

   My hopes rose high and methought my evil days were at an end, and I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth scattered on all sides in the dust.

     The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and thou camest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right hand and say, "What hast thou to give to me?"

        Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet I slowly cook out the least little grain of corn and gave it to thee.

    But how great my surprise when at the day's end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a least little grain of gold among the poor heap! I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give thee my all.


This is such a beautiful parable of sorts! It has a nice little twist in the end and is of the type that I would like to read to children. Again, the sheer variety of Tagore's writing is amazing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Music Room: A Memoir - Namita Devidayal

Rating: 7/10

Review:
Allow me to lapse into a little bit of nostalgia before I review this book. Like many Indian girls, it was customary for me too to learn Indian classical music right from a very young age. Though I love music, the rigid, packed schedule of school, music and home work meant that I was always reluctant to go to music class. But that wouldn't matter, since it was almost blasphemous to mention anything close to 'I hate music class'! Anyway, my Music teacher was always kind, lovely and patient with me, having seen many such reluctant learners.

Music is such an intrinsic part of most Indian families, that it is common to name their children after ragas (Don't we all know our Kalyanis, Ragamalikas and Sahanas?) Music here could be a refuge, a spiritual recourse or  something that people love to talk, discuss and even debate, showing off their musical knowledge. If there is a girl learning music in the family, you can be assured that everyone who meets her will ask about the new Kriti she learnt, whether she's waking up early in the morning for voice culture exercises and if she made it to the recent Bombay Jayashri concert. Music, the great leveler of sorts, is a part of each and everyone I know here and this debut book of Namita Devidayal pays tribute to that universal language of music.

Devidayal uses her personal experiences with her Music Guru Dhondutai Kulkarni to trace the history of two of India's greatest singers: the legendary Alladiya Khan and his disciple Kesarbai Kerkar and their legacies and the kind of environment they lived in. The language is simple, engrossing and filled with small stories and anecdotes about these three great musicians and their lives, even as the concepts that are vital to Indian music, and indeed music as a whole, are explained. 

The narrative, however, is not as simply structured as the language. It jumps into flashback mode quite a lot and often, abruptly. But that is no great fault, as the book is a page-turner that will appeal to just about anyone who loves music or likes to read about India. Devidayal deals with concepts surrounding music and its religious and social repercussions. Sometimes the book might read like a chapter from Theory of Indian Music or the like, but it only adds on to the reader experience, by helping them understand the concepts referred to in the book.

The final parts of the book were a bit of a dampener and it became a rather predictable ending, which is what stops this book from being more than just a good book, in my opinion. However, the good things far outweigh the negative points in this book. The relationship between little Namita and her teacher Dhondutai is so beautifully and realistically portrayed and it is hard not to care for them both. 

Pandit Ravishankar is quoted in the gorgeous book cover, saying that this book is 'A must for every musician and music lover!'. That just about sums it up. Settle down comfortably and prepare for a trip down memory lane and a peek into the wonderful world of Indian music that has long enthralled people across the world, no matter what country, religion, gender or race they belong to. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

An evening inspired by Tagore


This Thursday was different from my usual ones, because I got to see an entirely new perspective on Tagore. I happened to visit an exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, organised by the InKo Centre showcasing the works of seven major artists from Korea as a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore on the year of his 150th birth anniversary. Now what exactly is the connection between Tagore and Korea? The answer is this poem: 

The lamp of the east
In the golden age of Asia
Korea was one of its lamp-bearers
And that lamp is waiting to be lighted once again
For the illumination in the east
The Lamp of the East, Rabindranath Tagore, 1929)

This is a poem that apparently not only finds its place in Korean school textbooks today, but also served as an inspiration to the Korean people when they were under Japanese occupation. Another testament to the power of Tagore's words and their long-standing influence.

I'm an absolute ignoramus as far as paintings are concerned, and the most in-depth, knowledgeable and deep thing I can say about the exhibition is that it was beautiful. I wouldn't have gone for it if not for the Tagore connection but I'm glad I dropped by. There weren't many obvious (to me) connections to Tagore's poetry in the paintings, but for the fact that I'm pretty sure Tagore would have been delighted by the idea of two countries joining hands through art and through him. 

There were some lovely paintings of Cactuses, gorgeous depictions of nature in Korea, some interesting paintings of Tagore, Gandhi and Mother Teresa and my personal favourite (probably because it was in- your-face and easy to understand) - the beautiful video of a white Korean 'Moon Jar'. This video captured the four seasons, depicting rather gorgeously the blossoming of flowers, the change in climate with petals getting drenched in rain, winter setting in with snow covering the blossoms and finally autumn and the shedding of petals. 



The exhibition is on till the 13th of this month and if you're interested in either art or Tagore or both, I definitely recommend you check it out if you are in the city. To me, whose knowledge of art is pretty abysmal, this exhibition was a chance to understand what Gurudev means to so many people in so many countries and how relevant people find him to be even today.


Photos from: The Hindu

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - November 4


This poem caught my eye the moment I read it, because of the gorgeous, lush imagery and beautiful use of contrast. 

When the heart is hard and parched up, come upon me with a shower of mercy.
When grace is lost from life, come with a burst of song.
When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides
shutting me out from beyond, come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and rest.
When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner, break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.
When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy one, thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.

This is one of those Tagore poems that I want someone to read out to me! Someone like Matthew Macfadyen or even maybe Amitabh Bachchan

P.S. Expect something a little different, yet Tagore-related to come up soon on the blog :)

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