Friday, December 30, 2011
Perfect Poet Award, Week 57
In the far corners of different streets lay two closed houses
One fine day you knocked on mine..and I on yours
We both opened them with creaking hesitancy
Just to let in some fresh air perhaps…
But then, with the suddenness of realization
Of happiness unfamiliar..the doors closed on us
Society had of course ordered-
Be X..be Y..be Z
But never be you
The closed doors remained closed forever
In the pungent smell of decay..
And goodness coated with maturity
The smell then turned to poison
One day when each of us had died
Of good manners, maturity and society
And wrapped ourselves in the incense of the heavens ..
We had died of being ourselves..
© 2011 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Image courtesy http://www.gaylecurry.com/100paintings/karenorr/ko_painting21.html
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I am sitting in a car, in one of Bangalore's many traffic infested roads. The traffic has been stand still for the past 40 minutes. I see the lights from a distance, turning Green..looking pretty and cheerful and then turning somber Red again..all the while when the car is at a standstill. There's a bridge overhead, I tilt my head and look up..I can almost see myself sitting on the top of the bridge, my legs dangling, looking down at the traffic standstill, looking at me ..my own patience and my ultimate resignation to what I think is everyday fate. As I peer down at myself..I am angered at this tremendous resilience, the loss of impatience, the resistance to protest against the stupidities of life taking them as if they were a part of our destiny when it is not so. And yet it was not as if the person in me had not tried. There have been numerous occasions when the wish to fly over a traffic situation like this has resulted in me getting down from the car and try to control traffic in small ways along with the policeman in charge. This works incredibly well in small town and in city corners where the mayhem has been created by zealous drivers who want to break rules at the drop of a hat, thinking it would give them that inch of a headway.
But somewhere today even that zeal to get down from the car and see if things could be rectified has gone..I see myself dreamlike, as if in a trance rather wanting to glide my wheels over all other cars and make a smart exit, a la 007, when a few years back the thought of jumping on top of car bonnets would have filled me with glee. I am broken from my reverie by the honking on all sides. The traffic jam has finally been cleared..everyone seems to be excited. The smart looking IT professional on the left of my car has just finished a long and winding argument with his wife, the teenage couple on the right have let go of each other and their long kiss, letting out a 'damm those traffic lights..why can't they make it longer'..I take a peek at the girl on the top of the bridge with dangling legs..she's gone..in her place a tree has grown suddenly out of nowhere..it seems to say..I am the hope...Life is beautiful still!
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Yesterday was a day
Where innocence was an everyday, and lies an occasional weekend
Come night or year end, sleeps were more rested
Today in the so much of the everything
I find yet the nothing….
Sunday, December 25, 2011
I saw her one night
Wrapped in cold and hunger
Sleeping peacefully at my doorstep
I step aside, give her a good look and ask her
What she wants-
She’s angry at being disturbed
At the lack of decency in humans-
Walking over sleeping beauties
On a cold wintry night
She shuts her half opened eye
In smug terrific-ness
And then wags her tail-a limp
As if in afterthought of kindness
Go away will you, her silence screams..
I’m deaf tonight..in my woes and rants that I want her to hear
I sit by her, in delighted warmth of company some
And tell her tales of woe
She fakes no decency
And wags no tail
She s sick and tired of remorse, pity and stalemates
Somewhere, another bitch howls
Another cry of loneliness?
She cocks an ear, in half asleep stupor
Displaces some fur on me
Stretches a lazy limb
In dissatisfied curl
And mocks a howl at me
Get a life, she seems to say
Men..they are a plenty!
© 2011 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I make my mind empty of fragrances..
Of love and hope both new and old..
I free myself of intentions both happy and sad
In scattered bits they lie..the mind & the soul
Some on the bedsheets of desire
Some on my soul..crumpled, wrinkled & very very old
I make myself empty..free of even my mould
Monday, December 19, 2011
Little Ms hoity toity,
Fell on some free verse..
Little Ms Hoity Toity,
Didn’t like it at all..
She screamed & she ranted
And she tore my hair off
But little Ms Hoity Toity,
Forgot about a word-
‘Life’ it was called..
That Free verse enjoyed in plenty..
Little Ms Hoity Toity.. saved Ms free verse
From an ill pronounced Saxpere’s and ‘savage encounters’
© 2011 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Monday, December 12, 2011
Something about the shade of brown has always excited me..In a way perhaps it starts from the days of the British..where brown stood for anything Indian..we attained freedom and more..every time I see brown I try to find the secret smell of earth that I think is lingering within its warmth..to me it is the color of age old secrets..well preserved in warmth of something undeniably earthy..to me Brown is the color of 'What could be'..Today on my morning walk when I saw a heap lying scattered in careless elegance I was reminded once more of an essence of beauty beyond the life of what has been..
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Most daughters would tell you that their father’s have had a profound influence on them. I would reiterate the same; my father has indeed had a deep influence on me. But here I’m talking more about the influence that my father’s voice has had on me. Throughout my growing years whenever I would see large cut outs of the Fox terrier, Nipper listening attentively to the gramophone and listening to ‘His Masters Voice’ it always struck a chord in me somewhere and the little girl in me wondered if I would have someone to listen to as I grew up.
I’ve always had a great affinity with chants and the sounds of things musical. My grandfather was a Sanskrit scholar and I was told later in life that I was given my name by my grandfather who had observed that I would listen with rapt attention to the Sansckrit Shlokas he recited, even as a baby. My home, all through my years of growing was like an exciting orchestra. Set amidst the beautiful Patkai ranges, our home resounded with the chirp of birds along with the chimes of Hindustani Classical music. My father was a tremendous table player, but also played many other instruments which he had mostly learnt to play by himself. Though his interest was mostly in instrumental music, he would occasionally hum a song or two in his beautiful and deep baritone. During those years I was training in Indian classical dance and it was my father who taught me to lisen..listen to the discordant note in any music and never to miss a beat.
My father’s love for music was passed on to me very silently and unknowingly, in the musical concerts he managed to organize almost single handedly and bring a small township in the North Eastern India into the focus of classical music. It was no mean achievement and during this course I had the privilege of listening to some of the best in the profession. It taught me that love of music is not restricted to singing or playing or even listening. That, is also music which is propagated and loved for beyond one’s own recognition or individual interest, for the love of the art itself.
There is one particular event that comes to my mind whenever I remember my father’s music. True to the oil town culture, there were plenty of occasions for musical soirees where some sat with a guitar, some with a piano, other’s showcased their vocals, etc. On one such particular night, when the winds were beautiful and receptive to music and it’s likes..after a few Western Classical numbers were sung on stage, my father was invited to grace the stage. I wondered what he would do, since he wasn’t really a singer. I closed my eyes in trepidation of what would happen. Amidst the pregnant silence rose, a beautiful poignant and grave voice..deep in its resonance and eerie in its purity. In an extremely anglicized culture, where men wouldn’t be seen without their tailcoats, my father sang a shloka. For about 2-3 minutes, there was not a single sound among the spectators! And then there was a thunderous applause for the sheer beauty and simplicity of what had been sung. It is my belief that hardly a handful of people would have understood what it meant, but that was the ‘Sound of music’..nothing else really mattered. That day I learnt my first and most lasting lesson in music, when sung from the soul, music becomes a prayer and that music is more than mere sound..it is the sound of passion.
Over the years, whenever my father performed the Durga puja rituals, where hymns are sung out in Sanskrit to the Goddess I would creep up and listen. Whenever he has sung on stage or performed on the Tabla, I have not missed a single note. In all the instruments that he played, some of which he made, tuned and gave different dimensions to, I saw, felt and heard with the soul. Because, music as he taught me was devotion, purity of soul and a fine blend of aesthetics that needs cultivation and developing an ear for.
Over a period of time and all through life, my father taught me music of every kind. When the birds came, he taught me to listen to their chirp and understand that theirs is always the first right, when it rained he taught me to find music in its pitter patter, when life was dull, he taught me to find music in that. With this ‘Master’s voice’ beside me and my own inclination I believe today that music is the only passion that touches man with a belief of reality and mysticism born of dreams.
( Image courtesy Google)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Whenever I have traveled, it has been not only to see places, it has been more for an essence of the place, and that comes inevitably from the people as well as the place. The time, I speak of here is the early 2000 s. Like most of those who have read Rabindranath, I wished to go back in time too and have a peep into the mind (if you please) of Bengal's poet laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. There was of course another reason for my venturing out to Shantiniketan and this reason was interacting with Bauls. These wandering mystical minstrels singing their hearts out in their throaty voices had always enchanted me. And I hoped to find in Shantiniketan a Baul culture that one cannot see in their 'cultivated' performances in different concerts in Kolkata.
Shantiniketatan which is well connected by bus and train from Calcutta is a small town, where Rabindranath spend much of his days, experimenting with all the art forms close to his heart. The story goes that once when Maharshi Debendranath Tagore ( Rabindranath’s father) was traveling to a friend's estate to a place about 100 miles west of erstwhile Calcutta, he got down at Bolpur( the nearest railway station) and proceeded in a palanquin. It was almost time for the sun to set when, he reached an open space, bereft of any vegetation, stretching long and wide into the western horizon, without anything to break the view of the setting sun. (Bengal usually does not boast of such open stretches of nothingness, where most of the countryside is covered in lush vegetation) Enchanted the Maharshi, sat down in the place for his evening meditation and by the time he was finished, he had made up his mind to buy the place. This was what later came to be Shantiniketan.
Incidentally, Shantiniketan still boasts of large open spaces, where cycling around is one of the best ways of seeing the place. While covering ground one is often met with sheep or goat on the narrow country roads. My journey to Shantiniketan covered the usual rounds of seeing Tagore's spread out university, his home, relics and many other Tagore memorabilia, which not only smells of nostalgia of an era of Bengal Renaissance, but also shows you the sheer callousness with which such a memory has been treated.
While visiting Shantiniketan it is best not to have any time or destination in mind, one should just wander around and discover what comes in the way. On such a stroll in the late evening, I was drawn to strange voices and faint melodies. As I quickened my pace and followed the sound, I came upon a clump of trees where a couple of Bauls were singing. Unlike other musicians, Bauls are minstrels who love singing for themselves. the sun had just set and the sky resplendent with an orange-ish red light. One of the bauls hummed, while another strung his Ektara. I slowly slipped in their midst and sat in a quiet corner. Suddenly, one of them got up, he had a gungroo tied to one of his feet and tapped his feet on the ground as if to test waters. I was strangely reminded of my Ghunguroo..lying unused in distant drawers of my home in Assam. I wish I had it with me. By now the colors had faded..as I looked around me, I found a lot of nothingness envelope us all. Someone had lighted what looked like a desi pipe. I presumed it would be a bout of Ganja, that was doing the rounds..it smelled heavenly. My nose picked up the smell of something else something sweeter perhaps?. ..it was the Jui phool (Bengali name for a variety of Jasmine), that I smelt in the air..Clapton suddenly flashed in my mind..singing somewhere aimlessly 'wonderful tonight...
The bauls then sang..in their half broken, sometimes off beat voices..If you expect great Tal and music akin to classical, you would probably be disapointed in the Bauls..because the Bauls don't follow any rules..they follow only their heart..As in the case of anything great that needs an acqusition of taste Baul music too perhaps needs acquiring a taste...Many would think that the Baul's are all about tantriks and tribals, exorcisms and esoteric 'sexo-yogic' secrets..it perhaps is all this and more..It’s beauty lies in its simple rusticity.
I was reminded of excerpts from Mimlu Sen's book 'Baulsphere'
Wild and free, they raised their clamor in the mansions of the rich, and roared their gaiety in the courtyards of the poor...''To the poor, they offered the wealth of the human spirit, to the blind, the divine light of inner vision, to the sick and ageing, they gave the comfort of faith and cured them with songs, natural medicine and yogic practice. The rich and the arrogant, the selfish and the mercenary, were all subject to their provocative mockery. To women, they offered parity in sexual relations, the possibility of exploring their own bodies, and of leading men to a greater knowledge of theirs. They decried the phallocentric society around them, caught in the shackles of the caste system, and exposed the fanatic parochialism of the mullah and the pundit..."
And in that night when the bauls sang, without memorandum, purpose or anything at all I couldn't help but compare the not far away beats of Tagore and his beautiful language of elaborate poetry. But then I remembered Tagore with his RabindranSaneet had also tried to bridge the gap that lay within Classical music and folk music and in his very own enthusiasm also promoted the Bauls. Perhaps the bearded one also sang with us that night, amidst the charm of the little moon doing a peek-a-boo amidst the clouds.