festival

Happy Holi

When the giant bonfire lights up the night sky there are a few things that it does.

It tells you that the bright days of summer are here. It tells you tomorrow is Holi. A day of colour and gaiety.

It tells you that winter is over. And as the fire leaps to the sky and people bow in its honour, it seems to wink at me and say, the seasons are changing. And in its fleeting wink, seems to ask me, if am ready. As the crackle of the firewood changes the contours of the night sky, the fire doesn’t wait for answers.

It is warm. Actually, it is hot.We step back a few feet as it devours all the wood and everything else that was there to light it up. In a continuous go like a runner gasping and soaking in lungfuls of air on the home stretch.

Well, the fire is brilliant. It consumes you and even as it consumes you, it lights something in you. And from its flame, I await new colours that will emerge in the morning.

Happy Holi!

Leafy colour

There is excitement in the air. A distinctly earthy smell permeates the inner walls of your nostrils and make them twitch involuntarily. You know something is up.

Which is when you discover they have been up. Up for a long time. The women of the house, that is.

They sit up this night. Tomorrow is Deepavali. The rest of the country calls it Diwali with a fanciful twang immersed pronunciation. This is Madurai. At home, things are simple. Simple truths get spoken and usually without the need for fancy or decorative adjectives.

The women in your house aren’t concerned with how you spell or pronounce Deepavali. To them, its the festival of lights. They have been on a different grind. Grinding leaves that is.

Grinding carefully selected leaves from a tree nearby. Adding a variety of ‘other’ natural additions ranging from lemon to an accompanying paraphernalia, managing which you imagine, could pose a stiff challenge to an established supermarket’s store keeper, especially when his computer is down !

The grinding produces a paste. Soon, there emerges a green paste with a greasy look and of course, the earthy smell. You shake your head in much disbelief. For the look and the quantity of the paste is disproportionally stingy to the extravagance of the aroma that twitches nostrils.

Even as you soak in the aroma, the paste is now sitting pretty in a small vessel onto which it has gotten carefully transferred. With care that would you would accord a maharajah who has come home for dinner.



As if to indicate how fleeting time can be, in a brief hour, the vessel is empty. For the leaf paste now rests on the palms of the women. In various shapes and sizes. Accompanied by endless chatter. Laughter. Excitement. Happiness.

You realize that their hands are in a way tied. They have to sit there and do nothing but wait out the green paste to dry. Just as you think that their hands are tied, they say, ‘don’t think our hands are tied. We can wash it off IF NEED be and reapply’.

You smile. These women.

You being you, you gear up your imagination and try thinking up of the spectrum of acts that you could indulge in just when their hands are tied. You think of ‘this’. Perhaps ‘that’. You smile. ‘this’ to ‘that’. You smile widens at your own imagination.

But you realise that your imagination will stay put as imagination. As dynamic as it can be, it still is well within the whorls of your brain. For you see that the women are washing the paste off their hands.

Colour stands where a greasy green paste stood. Semi permanent colour. There is laughter amidst ‘yours is better than mine’ (or vice-versa) conversation. You see a bright red in the palm where the dark green paste was. Not too long back, when your imagination was soaring.

‘Its not RED’. They say. Proceeding to name it somewhere in the vicinity of an ‘orangiesh red with a tinge of yellow’. Or something to that effect. Inbetween varying degrees of laughter.

You realise that there is a magic in life. Magic that can be brought alive by simple things. Like grinding leaves from a tree and applying it to the palm of your hand.

Colour on palms that help you be. Palms that have always brought a smile to you. Fingers that have fed and hands that have helped. The ever inspiring love of your lovely mom and the missus that have always stood by you, when everything fell apart.

You smile. Indeed life is beautiful when you see a smile on their face and colour on their palms.

Today, its more than a week. Deepavali is gone. The many kilograms of sweets have occupied already rotund hips. The colour on the palms of mom & the missus is fast fading.

The green leafy paste is nowhere in sight. The memory of that happy time, though, automatically twitches the nostrils.

Still.

Colour !

It takes some odd block of what seems like a solid wooden block. And some blocks of colour. Today, they are applied with some deftness of art. And craft. With some heat to add.






You watch. From a distance. As nimble fingers of the old man, work their magic on that block of what seems to be wood.
The heat work its magic. In some time there is a delicate, well rounded straight line. With stripes and design. You shake your head half in disbelief. Half in awe. Just a few minutes back, they were blocks of colour.
The hands are at work again. Somewhere between the holding and handling of what looks like a small piece of wood, emerges the first signs of what would finally emerge. A bangle. With a dash of colour and a design thats by design !

Some shaping. Some more heat. Some more tapering. Voila, a bangle. Perhaps a work of art ! In some time, all set to bring joy. To the lady wearing it. Or perhaps the chap who is buying it for her.
Seems like the story of life. Of each one of us. The transformation that some colour, some heat, some shaping and deft work brings to us is a story that we perhaps miss !
Celebrate life ! Add some colour. Give into some shaping. Soak in the moment. Life is beautiful. Of course, nothing can be holier than that !
Happy Holi !

The merry-go-round deal !

Children scream. Half concealing a laugh and a spirit that seems to come alive when the man with big biceps heaves all his might on to the ‘merry-go-round’.

For 25 paisa, there they are, sitting on red cars. With stationary wheels that spin in air and a steering wheel that needs no steering. The man with the big biceps moves them well ! For two minutes or for such time till the man with the big biceps gets tired, the kids spin around.

In seemingly countless whorls. Seemingly in control. Giggling. Screaming. Some crying. Some closing their eyes in sheer fear and great fright. And there they go. Round. And round. And round.

When their turn is done, they alight.

Slightly heady. Perhaps longing for more. Sometimes looking at their parents for ‘one more round’ ! This merry-go-round is a prominent feature of local fairs and any decent gathering in the villages.

The name says it all. Merry-go-round ! Be merry while going around. Wind in the hair. Screams. Laughter. And all that. For as long as the man with the big biceps desires. Generally its equitable. Sometimes he gives some kids a few more turns. Thats part of the deal.

The merry-go-round deal. The man spins the kids around. As new kids climb on to old cars. Cars with wheels that dont run on the ground and a steering wheel that doesn’t steer.

The same deal, that gives kids a heady high, to think that they steer while knowing that they dont. The same deal that the man with big biceps plays along. The ‘Merry-Go-Round’ deal !

Think about it. Merry-go-round. Man with big biceps. Heady high. Spin. Scream. Scare. Loss. Seeming control. Joy. And so on.

Life.

Isnt it ?

Life…seems to me, to be one big merry-go-round !

Whatsay ?

Diwali is here !

Diwali is here !

Tons of sweets beckon. Unknown taste buds get rekindled. There are lights that glitter in distant balconies. The next door neighbours door sports festive diyas. Roads teem with people. In threes. Fours. Neighbourhoods out to buy. Clothes. Crackers. Food. Gifts. Appliances. And such else that highly paid marketing folks have engineered.

Discount sales are the order of the day. DhanteRas comes up with some serious Gold prices. Prices that would have left the goddess of wealth beaming !

There are lights, lamps, rangoli and ‘traditional’ dress to work. The lines between ‘Fashion Show’ and ‘Fancy Dress’ run thin.

Children crank up the volume on the cracker front. And of course, have a blast of a time, enjoying the get-togethers and gala times. With toy pistols and such else. Imagining themselves to be some action film hero. And fashionable villains. But these are besides the point.

Diwali is here !

Television has ‘Diwali ‘ specials. Same serials in brighter colours. Same film heroes. Same heroines. And those news channels, those same views from the same chaps. Chaps who come on TV to give ‘points of views’ on anything from Terrorism to Ostentation to Culture to anthropology to..yes…Diwali too.

The corporate and government types get ‘gifts’. Of walnuts and fruits. Of sweets. And such else. AND SUCH ELSE.

Perhaps it would be befitting, if the world got whats most required for it ! Perhaps a spirit of giving. A smile. A moment. A kind word. An acknowledgement. And such else. Simple deeds that touch people deeply. Deeds that acknowledge that there is a world of human beings and human thoughts.

These are besides the point.

Diwali is here !

Diwali messages from banks, insurance companies, mobile operators, holiday homes and such else hit the inbox with such recurring ferocity that the ‘delete’ tab feels the weight of the world.

And yet, there are long lost friends. Recent colleagues. Blog world friends. Forgotten relatives, who send in a word. Make a call. Words that perhaps are soaked in possibilities and new beginnings. Hope is permanent fixture here. But these are besides the point.

Diwali is here !

Its supposed to be the festival of “Victory of Good over Evil”. There is conversation at the get-together. Whether the emphasis on ‘Victory of Good over Evil’ has to be on the ‘good’, ‘evil’ or on ‘victory’ ! Thats besides the point. Diwali is here !

Like the elderly uncle who said, “The emphasis has to be on the sweets !”

So here are some wishes that go out to the world. On this blog too.

For happiness. For cheer. For wisdom. For kindness. For health. For giving. For reflection. For time. For life. And for living. For Good.

Happy Diwali people. Diwali is indeed here !

Its not the drum !


Its a big hefty drum. With a red cloth to cover. Perhaps to cover its might. Perhaps to cover what lies inside. These are distinctly rural men. You can see it in their looks and the ease with which they heave it on to their shoulder, lean on to the other side, and let the beats do the talking!

Beats that you are unfamiliar with. But resonating with what you know so well. From your own land. You wince. As memories of another time flow. In some time, there is music. Here, these three drummers whip up your heart beat.

At the other side, the charcoal embers laced with incense powder fumes! At yet another, amidst the crowd, there is palpable expectation.

In a short while, hips, legs, head and all other parts of the body sway to the beats. In a synchrony that begs to find a new word. A word better than ‘synchrony’ !

The hands. Oh yes, the hands hold those pots fuming embers !

Your heart skips a beat. As the drummers and the dancer get into a jig now and then. Un-rehearsed. But flawless, for all of it is in the flow of the moment. You wonder, how he heaves such a big drum on on his shoulder, creates music, does a jig in response to the dancers steps. Smiling all the way.

You wonder how those dancers hold those hot embers yet stay connected to each step of the drum beat. So graceful. And so complete. Smiling all the way.

You get goose bumps. Dancer after dancer. Some are artistic. Others mesmerise. Yet others hold the eye. All in seamless flow.

You notice that the pictures that you attempt to click are getting blurred. The angles are missing. There is a lot of shake. You wonder whats wrong with the camera. And realise that the cameras just fine. Its just you moving to the beats from those big drums.

To you, it appears that the real dance is the one that’s on in each persons heart. As people smile. Clap. Cry. Go moist in the eye. Laugh. Cheer. Click. Record. And of course, dance.

Right there. As the drummers whip up the music. And the dancers catch it from thin air. And throw it right back at the drummer.

Perhaps everyone is connected to a different time. Perhaps a different place. Perhaps a longing to recreate that time and place, now. In a different distant city. Perhaps its a nested joy in being one with similar minds and very similar longing.

You realise that you are in a trance. Soaking in the unfamiliar drum beat, the dance and the fragrance. And something more.

There are you are. Aware. Unsure. At peace. Strangely happy. As those rural drums get the city dwellers dance in joyous abandon !

Later on, you lie in bed, thinking of the evening. The drums, the dance and the beautiful women and handsome men. You realise, that you can describe all of that.

And you are aware, of something else that was there about the air. An undescribable part. You know that its there. Yet, it eludes description. You try thinking about it.

You are tired. And you choose to leave it at that. Half asleep, you mumble to yourself, ” perhaps it is Durga. Perhaps its just the dance”.

You realise that sleep envelopes you. You know you will sleep like a log today. After a very long time.

And as you slip into sleep…you mumble…”Perhaps, perhaps… its just the drums.”

(Written after attending the Powai Durgotsav ’09. Danuchi Dance. Friday. 25th Sept ’09. All snaps from the event)

Events

There we are returning from Daman. And somewhere close to Daman, we see a sea of safron walking. On a pilgrimage. There are boys. Young men. And some sprinkling of women.

There are autorickshaws. Tempos. Cars. Bikes. Et el. Most sport saffron. We drive fast. And the sea of orange whizzes by. Or rather we whizz by. The orange seems to be an unending sea.



Curiosity gets the better of us. We stop at a bridge. And enquire, part in sign language and part in Hindi. The pilgrims are only too happy to talk. And they talk about the month of Shravan. And a pilgrimage.

And as we speak, many more just walk by. And i wonder, if walking comes naturally to India! My mind races to the pilgrimage of Sabarimala. Palani. Velankanni. Shirdi. All have thousands of people walking many many kilometers. And most times without footwear.

With all that, i wonder if Keep Walking was a slogan that Johny Walker picked up from India and its scriptures. And at that moment, i decide to keep my grand discovery hush hush. i don’t want some lofty custodian of moral values find one more reason to stage a protest or disrupt parliament ! Sigh !

And just a few hours back, we witness a ceremony. By the 400 year old fort. Someone has passed away. And the 14th day rituals are on. At least, that’s what a local tells us. Its a simple, sombre ceremony.


Where a paraphernalia of flowers, coconuts, garlands and such else are immersed into the river. Just as it meets the sea.

And the fort just looks on. Stoically. Perhaps its seen one too many of such ceremonies. After all 400 years is no small time.

Just a while earlier than that, we spot this banner. Narial Purnima is the coconut festival. Where coconuts are offered to the sea God.


But this is the city folk celebrating.

Mehendi is at 10.00 am. And then something called ‘Mass Drawing’ at 11.30 am. And ofcourse, there seems to be an interesting event called ‘mummy’s dance’ ! (with an apostrophe). And because theres nothing else mentioned there, the Mummy’s dance perhaps goes on till 6.00 PM.

Hmm. Seems to be an interesting festival. I am sure there must be something that i am unable to get here. We try talking to the local fishermen. We discover the importance and profoundness of the festival for them. They speak of coconuts, puja and the sea God.

I prod them some more, about ‘Mehendi’, ‘Mass Drawing’ and ‘Mummy’s dance’. All i receive is a stoic silence.

And since then, i have rued the fact,that i didn’t get to see the ‘Mehendi’, ‘Mass Drawing’ and ‘Mummy’s dance’. Yes, the same ones that were sponsored by the tourism department.

Not nought !



My mind hasn’t moved from the Kala Ghoda festival. Here are two pictures. The first one of an old man. And the other of a set of young men and women ! They spoke to whoever who cared to listen. I did.

The first gentleman, recited a poem. About politics, and how corruption is fuelling a rot of everything. And he recited it with no microphone in hand. No set audience to watch his recital. No arc light to focus on him. And no expectation from anybody around. He just stood in middle of a busy section of the festival, and read his poem.

People walked by. With insensitive disdain. Worse still, not caring to notice what was happening just as they milled around. Some stopped for a second, with ‘whatever is this man saying ?’ look. And moved on. This gentleman continued his recitation.

I counted four people, who stood there and listened. A powerful poem, i thought.

The gentleman though, didn’t seem to think much of the four people who stood or the four hundred people who walked around. He completed. And walked away.

The power of poetry and the passion in the recital kept me awake that night.





At another location, there was street theatre, happening. In full swing. A small crowd had gathered. There were a set of young men and women performing. Urging people to stay awake and vote the right kind of people.

Again, no microphone, no fixed audience, no arc lights, no rosepowder. But just humans and powerful performances.

Coming in the backdrop of noises and sounds of various decibel intensity, this indeed was some performance ! To keep an audience who were just walking by, glued to what was happening there was no small task.

And as i left that place, i shook my head in wonder. There after all were people who did things, because it was the right thing to do and that it needed to be done.

Not for appreciation. Not for praise. Not for money. Not for themselves. Not for their loved one. Not for 5 minutes of fame. Not for today.

But just to ensure, that everything doesn’t come to nought !

Long after they stopped speaking, their words and their spirit continues to echo in me. I wonder why !