Soul dance

If ever I make a list of things that I wished I could do better, dancing will figure right up there in that list. The stillest of still mannequins can reek eloquence on the dance floor compared to what I can ever accomplish. Awe consumes me when I see people break into a dance. Swing arms. Shake legs and other parts of the body with such striking coherence, rhythm and synchrony that just being a fly on the wall shakes me up, stiffens my body to the bone and like I got a intravenous injection of stiff glue.

Blessed are the nice people amongst them, God bless them all, who make it a point, to tell me that its not really about getting the steps and synchrony right, but more about ‘having a good time’. So as is wont to happen, I get goaded onto the dance floor. I am reasonably sure that the nice souls that goaded me to dance were really looking to have some belly ripping laughter of seeing a human being with glue in the veins attempt dancing! I once had a nightmare that someone uploaded a strikingly eloquent video of me dancing : arms, legs, head, hips and whatever else going in such asymmetrical silly splendour that it would be hard for anyone to imagine that all of that belonged to one man! Sleep played truant for a few hours after that.

Thankfully I do not watch TV. Sometimes though, the missus points me to dance shows were purportedly normal people and kids (who barely reach my knee) do such insanely incredible dance moves with amazing synchrony, rhythm and other acrobatics in the name of dance, like some cirque du soleil show. It leaves me gaping in awe, shaking my head and retreating to my world of blogs, books and bemused looks.

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Cut to a year ago. In Berlin. On a Sunday, I was hurtling to see the Berlin wall. Struggling with the language, the chill, and a little raw from a few cold shoulders, I alighted from the metro as it swept into a station with a hurried precision.
Right inside the station, there was a performance that was underway. A dance. This wasn’t abstract acrobatics. This was a community in action. Their moves were such a joy to watch. And they were perfectly normal people. Young, old and middle aged. Or so it seemed. It was seamless motion, in a metro station.

They made slick moves with such seamless ease. They turned and paired with another with a clap. Another clap in a few seconds, another turn. A new partner. A quick elegant step and then a clap. A new partner. The background hugged a music that I didn’t understand, which didn’t matter. The inanimate pillars seemed to let go of a leap of joy, every time they clapped and turned. A trance enveloped me and kept me frozen for a while. Forgetting all about the hurried flurry of wanting to see the great Berlin wall. This dance left me soothed, refreshed and as though a sudden wave of a wand was upon me, a ton of a good mood rained on me.

It was odd that I had set out to see the broken Berlin Wall and several other walls broke, even before I saw the wall. Dance has such incredible power. Artistic expression always carries with it a little bit of soul and makes moves that aren’t so visible, or so I believe. In this case, it had pronouncedly tangible moves as well. There is no joy like the one when you witness a soul dance.

The missus was discussing a ‘Bollywood Dance’ class that is the flavour of the season in the apartment we live in. This post started there. As I write, there is a constant throb of garba music and my window pane catches a zillion lights, perhaps from tiny shiny glass pieces sewn on to dupattas that adorn swiveling bodies that hug mellifluous tunes.

Go dance people. Make your moves. Whatever they are. Pass a bit of your soul. Its good for you too.

Happy Pongal !

Happy Pongal !

Tomorrow is Pongal. Wikipedia informs me that Pongal is akin to Thanksgiving. I only know that it is a festival of harvest. It is a festival of a new beginning, of sugar, of jaggery, of decorated cows and of course of pristine joy! Perhaps a flowing over the brim of all of these !!

Wikipedia also informs that the Tamil Nadu government has decided to announce that from this year on, Pongal will be Tamil New Year ! I guess they wanted to become Julius Caesar or somebody by changing the calendar. (Ah. I have given a word to my missus : No politics on the blog. Ok. So, i stop there. Right there). Thats a different issue.

Back home, Pongal meant four days of holidays. And those wonderful dishes that amma made. The prayer and the offering to the Sun, in the spacious courtyard of home ! And of course, sugarcane ! Endless sugarcane !

Pongal. Madurai ’06

This is a picture from the album. Pongal celebrations at home. 2006 ! My taste buds are already active, when i look at the offerings on the leaf. And of course, you cant miss the sugarcane. Those long, thick purple hued delights.

Pongal brings to mind a different time. And makes me miss home. And when you miss home, you miss home and the glorious times that were part of home ! Parents. Friends and the times !

Tomorrow however, the missus will wake up early in the morning, and make Pongal (the dish). And we’ll have a prayer standing in our apartment kitchen, from where we hope to catch a glimpse of the sun, and say a quiet thank you. And then, i run away to work and and she goes her way !

In that space would escape a thousand memories and a few techni colour memories peppered with longing for recreation and renewal to a far away land that’s close to a migrant heart.

Sugarcane. Pongal ’08

The one material thing that i would miss, is the purple hued sugar cane. We went around shopping for sugar cane, and ended up with what you see. That size would make a home grown drumstick from Madurai beam with pride !!

On another note, i guess Pongal is about a new beginning. About acknowledging the forces of nature that sustain us. About peace. About happiness. About community. About sincerity of a wish for a better tomorrow.

And that sincerity is not dependent on where you are or for that matter, by the length of sugarcane in your region !

So here is a sincere wish for you ! A sincere acknowledgement for being there and a prayer + hope for a better tomorrow for all of us !

Happy Pongal !

Yes We Can !

So, a new history is being made out there. And a new history is being created for the world ! I have watched in great awe as the US Presidential election unfolded. And what a magnificient canvas it provided ! This blog has stayed away from politics. Well, atleast, has attempted to. But this post is not about policies or politics. This is about the what resides within us : human beings.

I for one, cant fathom what runs in the veins of an ordinary man, causing him to raise so meteorically. Combating a stiff headwind. One after the other. In the name of race, religion, powerful people et al. And to be a complete rookie, yet ooze confidence that befits a seasoned veteren, and most important : pull it off !! Thats a tall order.

So it is, a tall order. To be 72 years old. And take to the rigours of campaigning. Day in and day out. With a vigour that is eclipsed only by the power of a campaign that can be described as some kind of a mass movement ! A campaign who knew that the cake was baked much before it was ordered and yet kept the battle on, right till the last curve. Thats a tremendously tall order too.

As much as i winced at the acerbity of the contest, today I marvel at the grace of the acceptance of the victory. So too, the elegance of conceding the defeat. As much as i am sure of machinations that would work at a furious pace beneath the surface, what i see, moves me. Beyond a point.

Colour. Caste. Creed. Age. Resources. Education. History. Family background. Etc. Etc. Two men, as different as chalk and cheese on each of the above, just seemed to believe ‘all things were equal’ ! And carried it to the finish line.

Personally, that sets a new contour. A new context. That indeed it is possible to climb mountains. And scale them, even when there is a strong headwind. What perhaps is more important is a steady clinical resolve to keep going !!

Only one made it. But two men showed that it is possible to fight. To disagree. Yet accept, hold hands and move on. There have been very few moments in recent times that stood on the precipice of hope and possibility as this one. And suddenly it does seem we as a race will make it.

The networks dont call before its over. But i am no network. Suddenly, ‘Yes We Can’ seems to take a new meaning.

The Length of Shadows

Id from my balcony. Mumbai. 2nd Oct 08
The morning ushers with it a holiday on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. And Id. And as i part the curtains to draw in the morning air, there is an Islamic preachers cadence which floated through ! Rather noisy. That’s my first reaction for the day.

I stand there, soaking up the morning and all that it has to offer : the birds chirping, the first rays of the sun hitting the opposite building. And more importantly, the relative silence that a ‘holiday’ morning offered. Free from honks, bus engines and an inherent Sisyphean buzz.

In a few minutes, i became aware of young Muslim men, characterised by their caps registering in my eyes. They seem to be returning from prayer. Or wherever. Bright clothes and a sprightly walk characterise their today. Today is Id. After a month of fasting, today, is celebration time.

And as they walk towards in the direction of the Sun, i see their shadows lengthening. They segue from slow to a brisk walk. I wonder whats the hurry. Perhaps breakfast. I think.

I wonder how they feel, to be identified & labelled as a Muslim. Victims themselves. Either of terrorism, propaganda or bias. A lump sits in my throat. The birds continue to chirp.

The religion surely must be rich. And i am sure there must be dimensions of which the rest of us don’t understand fully. Maybe someone needs to demystify and help the world understand the Koran, i think.

We need to accept ‘them’ as one of ‘us’ i think. And then, a smile escapes my lips. ‘Us’ & ‘them’, my mind thought 10 seconds ago.

I ask myself, ” aren’t ‘they’, ‘US’ ?!?”

The lump gets bigger within. I wonder if the biases, that i think rests with the rest of the world, rests in me as well. Unconscious sleeper cells? I wonder.

And even as i wonder, i hope thats not the case ! A full minute later, the ‘sleeper cells’ are still introuvable. Thankfully. I hope they never existed.

Far below, the boys themselves, don’t seem to be bothered. With animated chatter, they are now sauntering on. And as the Sun’s rays get brighter, their shadows get lengthier.

In an hour, i am at my breakfast table. Muesli and honey. I wonder what the boys who walked by would be having for breakfast. A few images appear. My mouth waters. Many years back my dad told my mom, half in jest, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through the alimentary canal’.

Out of nowhere that comment makes a propitious appearance. And stays too. Silly. I think. But, it continuous to stay. I wonder why.

I saunter to the window. A new set of boys with the same caps walk by, on the same path. The Sun is up in the sky.

The shadows, however, are shorter. Much shorter.

Happy Id !

A captain bids adieu

What does it mean to retire ?!?

Sunil Gavaskar’s retirement was the first retirement that i had to come to terms with in my life. And there was something said like, ‘its better to retire when everyone is asking, ‘why retire’, than retire when everyone is asking ‘why not retire’ ! That comment stayed.

Some months back, amma retired. Then appa retired. And it left me with some basic questions. How does it feel to walk away from what you have been doing for ages. For most parts of your life. How would it feel to just fade away from the scene ? To see all the striving of a lifetime come to a day in life, when life changes from the next day onwards.

The thought appears scary. With the only background on retirement coming from context provided by being a son of just retired parents, i attempt to think through. Perhaps the most fulfilled retirement years are for those who left an imprint by being who they are. An imprint in the minds of people, that will stay permanently etched in the DNA of those that knew & worked with them!

To retire with grace and happiness, to me, seems to be a result of ‘working with love’ when it was time to work! And as Khalil Gibran says….

And what is it to work with love?

It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,

And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Young colleagues & friends talk of retirement as if it were something that happens in remote corners of a forgotten land, only seen on a BBC documentary, by the mistaken flip of the familiar TV remote !!

Every rail track tells the tale of a coming train. If only you put a ear to the track, the rumble runs through the ear ! A tale which the eyes cannot see ! But the train and its hurtling are indeed reality ! And the train does appear, faster than one can get to spell ‘retirement’ without doubt !

And when a captain hangs up his boot & the world takes a bow, you realise that he has lived his life, by leaving a mark. More often than not, the mark is not a result of a herculean special effort but more by being himself. Living with passion. Striving for perfection & a love of work thats best complimented by simplicity of thought and execution !

When such captains retire, you stand by the sidelines and clap hard. And just as the sound of the clap reaches the world and your own ear, you relalise that your zest for work and making a difference, grows.

What more can be a true tribute !

This post is written just as a captain & a gentleman that i have only known from afar, retires. today. He left a mark. On many.

On me too.

All that glitters..!

The last week an important event in the calendar came and went by ! Akshaya Tritiya. An auspicious day to buy gold / silver / property / new vehicles …and so. I am told.

Upon good neighbourly advice ( to be read as ‘neighbourly peer pressure’), we were lead to believe that such a purchase on the appointed day was mandatory for greater riches to pour in. The story went that whatever we had bought on that day, we would get many multiples of the same and more.

I had just come back from work, and did a quick check. I had bought a notebook, five litres of petrol, chewing gum and tea. Propelled by the fear of having more of these and not anything else, we saw our steps meandering to the jewellery store at the street corner. “I probably can buy a pendant” she said. Ah so ! That’s the plan !

I stood by the doorway and clicked the picture that you see atop. Not out of interest towards photography. But because of the crowds inside ! Everybody clamouring for more. Women and men from all walks of life. Buying that small pendant to the big chain to the ring to the bracelet. We braced for cover and i wanted to walk.

The accompanying images of great riches and the sheer belief that i saw in peoples faces made me think that there perhaps is some meaning in all this ! There was a war on between the rational side and the other side of me. My wife realised that war was on, and quickly bought a silver coin and walked ! We were poorer by Rs. 250 / – She was a happy woman !

I looked back at the crowds that were still raging. Now, was that great tradition at work ? Or was it shrewd marketing and positioning ? Or is it anyway close to being real ? Or is it the incredible human mind and its clamour for a better living !

I don’t know. All i know is on those days the glitter of gold was hard to miss !

Todays song is by Neil Young, called Heart of Gold. I thought it appropriate.