Udai’s reading a book of nonsense verse, and he is sort of addicted to it right now. He heard Michael Heyman, the editor of this specific compilation, speak at the Bookaroo. When I say speak, I mean perform. He was there, guitar in hand, soft voice and expressions full on, converting young impressionable children, recruiting them to the cause of nonsense!
When we were in school, I was just as enamored by the absolutely hilarious poetry of Nissim Ezekiel. When I read it today, of course, I see sharply its political context and the enormous influence that Indira Gandhi and the Congress legacy had on creative people of that time. Sample this:
I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting –
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I’m reading newspaper
(Every day I’m reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming –
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I’m the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers –
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.
Another poem titled ‘The Professor’ is entertaining as well, in the same style, passing sharp commentary on his times in a humorous way. Then there was a poem about a nose that got up and ran away. For the life of me, I cannot remember the poet nor the entire poem. Nor is google-baba being of any help at all. If any of my Loreto friends (it was in that little book of poems we used) or anyone who studied ICSE in 1990-92 remembers this, please please let me know….
The firecrackers continue to light up the sky. I’ve pulled the cottonwool out of my ears now that I’m indoors, but I can still hear the thunderous sounds all around. This night ain’t ending soon for sure. My throat rasps from inhaling the pollution, my eyes water from too little sleep. And yet, I feel satisfied and satiated.
That’s the great thing about Diwali. It’s chaotic. Your back all but breaks cleaning your home. Your temper all but frays trying to keep track of all the stuff you need to buy, repair, reorganize, find…and yet, it’s all worth your time when you see the children’s’ faces light up at the joy of making rangoli, arranging flowers in a vase, wearing new clothes, holding a phooljhadi, eating a favorite sweet or savory…..
Where we live in one of Gurgaon’s gated housing communities, we’ve been lucky to find genuine friends. Plus, with my mum moving into the same complex recently, it’s been a fantastic experience to have friends and family close at hand during the festive season. The best part about being comfortable with the people around you is the sheer goofiness and abandon that is seen all around. No pretences, no inhibitions, just share the love and joy- it is actually that simple! The past few days have been about a lot of laughs and some really great moments! Here are a few snapshots….
Festivities. The lights are bright and cheerful all around. Down there in the park, the revelries of the Diwali party organized in our apartment complex are still on. Card parties are yet to be attended, more drinks are to be had, more food consumed.
There is a lot to be said for community, even the gated sort that gets frowned upon so much by my fraternity of architects and urban planners. This evening, out there in the decked up lawns, I saw quite a diversity of people having some serious fun!
Two young people were in wheelchairs. The girl, who I have known, has cerebral palsy. She was all dressed up and flush with excitement. Because we have lived here together for so long, many of us stopped to speak with her. Two young girls, clearly hired help, were entertaining the other young man in a wheelchair. They were all three having a good time too, feeding him, wheeling him around the stalls and sights, laughing with him.
Our own house help and my mum’s, two young girls from tribal Jharkhand, were having a superb time eating from the stalls and watching the teenagers on the dance floor. My grandmum, Amamma, who is 82 and rather deaf also thoroughly enjoyed the evening. She has always loved outings and her low energies the past few years have kept her away from the bustle, she is simply too tired to attempt too much. Today, because she had to simply walk across a few steps, she attended the party, taking keen interest in all that was being sold, in what the kids were doing, relishing the aloo tikki and papdi chaat and finally, even making friends with another old lady who could speak Tamil!
Children of all ages and sizes, of course, were a blas to watch. The younger ones had a choice of bobbing up and down in an inflated ‘bouncy’, playing a whole bunch of games, riding in a horse cart or on a camel. The teenage bunch were so entertaining. Some were dressed at their ethnic best, others made up in slick western wear, still others playing it really casual in denims. But most of them chattering, dancing away to the popular tracks the DJ was belting out.
I love the festive spirit that Diwali brings out. A lot of people in our complex have been donating clothes into baskets that have been placed by some good enterprising folks in front of the towers. This morning, I saw a sweeper stare longingly at some really cozy looking woolens that were inside the collection basket. He didn’t dare take any away and he started mutely. I could not help think about the irony of giving away clothes to an NGO with all good intentions when we are not able to help the people who work to keep our own complex in top shape. It was a small reminder that it is important to look after everyone around me in the spirit of generosity and festive cheer. After all, involving myself in the lives of the people who come to make my life easier, my cook, my cleaning lady, my driver, my gardener, my nanny, and truly wishing then well and giving them what they need and cannot afford, is the best sort of gesture for this season and a decent way of giving back to the community that nurtures me.
My weekends are intensely cultural these days. That’s because I learn kathak on Saturday mornings and Hindustani classical vocals on Sunday afternoons. It’s been a long cherished dream for me to get back to both dance and music and once I had decided, there was no stopping me from soaking it all in!
Fortunately for me, I have found patient, good-natured and excellent gurus in Gurgaon. Learning under the tutelage of someone who not only excels at her art, but also is passionately in love with imparting its nuances to her students takes the experience of learning to a whole new level. I find that the informal interactions we have with our kathak guru Jayashree Acharya on art, culture, attitudes to life, how we deal with change in our society, values and a whole range of issues, have a direct bearing on our understanding of kathak as a dance form and the importance of pursuing and practicing the classical arts in modern urban Indian society.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of watching Jayashreeji perform at the India Habitat Centre as part of ‘Tasmai’, a festival organized by the Aakriti Foundation. What struck me, besides the mastery she has over her art form, was her high comfort level on stage, her easy interactions with the audience as well as with all her co-artists who were supporting her. I felt like I was part of her performance, not someone watching from the outside.
Her students, aged between six and fourteen perhaps, performed a dance ballet ‘Paratatva’ at Gurgaon’s Epicentre a couple of days later. In terms of the theme, Paratatva dwelt on the importance of balancing the five essential elements of nature as a way to ensure the continued prosperity of our world. The raw power and beauty of nature, its sounds and rythms, its cascades and cadences were beautifully expressed by the children who performed via a skilfully choreographed ballet. Subtle costumes representing the colours of the elements-grey, orange, blue, green, brown- and a melodious background score added to the impact.
I enjoyed the overall effect of the dance compositions I saw, but also revelled in the joy of understanding some of the intricacies and even recognizing patterns (both tukdas and footwork) that we have learnt. A friend asked me whether I would be on stage some day and I didn’t really know what to say. I’ve always been the sort of person who craves the spotlight. I’ve performed many times- music, dance, drama, elocution….through school and college. I fancied myself quite the star, the diva.
But now, in my thirties, life has taken on a very different rhythm, a very different meaning. I savor the pleasures of learning and being taught without the bother of that competitive edge nor the bitterness of regret or failure. I enjoy both music and dance as art forms as well as ways to give myself the me-time I need. I have high expectations of myself, but I do not set boundaries or deadlines that stress me out. Now, in this way, I am truly enjoying the classical arts as they deserve to be enjoyed. No wonder, the good old traditions of yore placed the student at the feet of the guru, to learn, evolve and grow, bit by bit, over many years till maturity was attained, and beyond.