Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pregnant afternoons

I watch as little sparrows
Clutter the hearth
On afternoons of lazy Sun
When the air is pregnant with silences and questions-
Both out of context

The verandah and the hot afternoon air
Both seem sleepless
In a skin -governed air.
I wonder if the sparrow twitter
Crosses the boundaries of home
And that of love..somehow
Becoming clarion and carnivore-
Ready to bite
And be bitten..

© 2012 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

( Image courtesy Google)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One lazy afternoon

Working at home has its benefits. After crouching on the comp since morning I was tempted to ease my back atop a mat in the sunny patch in the garden. Somewhere along this ritual I fell asleep, only to be woken by a slight rustle. With sleepy eyes I watched a crow curiously perched, dangerously close to my human touch. I pretended to be still asleep trying to find out its intentions. I saw the crow put down its head on the ground as if it were listening to something and then suddenly flying off a little to the back as if scared that I would wake up. This happened three times and every time after the 5 seconds flight it walked back with a swagger again close to me. It dawned on me after a while that the fellow was trying to mimic me, resting my head on the ground, probably trying to find out what I was doing! My sudden laugh scared it away as it perched itself at a safe distance on the boundary wall, skeptical still....My fascination for this unique bird never ceases, am hoping to be able to imitate that swagger soon though :)

( Image courtesy Google)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To serve the lord..With dance

The soft music from a temple, made me explore and find today a temple that I had never seen before. A quiet and calm place, I decided to sit a while, looking at the inner sanctum. I suddenly saw the temple Pujari bring a bucket of water and splash it on the deity. The very act made me cringe. Worship comes only with love and love always begets gentleness.

Strangely I was reminded of the Devdasis a much maligned community of dancers, who devoted their lives to the lord. In the attempt to improve their lot much has been mis-interpreted about them. Fore-bearers of many Indian classical dance forms including the Bharatnatyam. They were highly regarded in the ancient days( much before the middle men got into it and made it a trade, that gave it the name of prostitution). Classical singers like ms subbulakshmi traced their roots to the Devdasi tradition.

As a part of the tradition of Tantric worship in ancient Assam, the practice was to be found there too, alive till very recently in little pockets here and there. Though not allowed to enter the inner sanctum, most of these women were seen having that immense grace that comes from the love of the lord.

As I stood there and watched the priest, who seemed to so callously throw water at the lord he worshipped day after day, I couldn’t help but think that the Devdasi in spite of her ill reputation did a far more commendable of loving the lord, and in that perhaps her worship was far more true!

( Image courtesy Google)

Monday, February 20, 2012

A moment of silence..A moment of prayer

On my morning walk today, around 6 am, when the streets are devoid of noise, cunning and chaos. I entered a tiny lane for my everyday conversation with my Ganesha ( Hindu deity, supposedly the son of Shiva & Parvati), stashed in the confines of a very tiny temple. I had thought that the fallen leaves and I were the only occupants of the street, but then I chanced upon this man. Perhaps he was a laborer somewhere, on his way to his work in the morning. I saw him quietly open his slippers and stand in unbelievable grace, hands folded in an embrace to the Gods. Most such laborers in India belonging to lower castes are not allowed entry into the temples that are often governed by upper caste Brahmins. But this did not deter the man. His feet did not touch the inner sanctum or the boundaries of the temple and yet there was something in his prayer that was so beautiful. A moment of surrender, and utter privacy. I clicked from a distance and felt strangely touched. A prayer is but this, as I know it to be. A Hindu and a Brahmin, I did not enter the sanctum too that day, a far greater sense had taught me all that needed to be learnt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Dharma' or the lack of it- Mahabharata & Teejan Bai Pandwani

I remember as a child listening raptly to the Mahabharata and Ramayana verbally told by many tongues..it was always fascinating, because every telling brought forth a different viewpoint, that of the narrators. But more than the 'Ramayana', it was the 'Mahabharata' that fascinated me, perhaps because the Mahabharata is never old, in its wisdom, in its conflict, in its grandeur it is always contemporary.

As I grew up, my fascination with this epic increased, I saw more and more versions of it and yet there have been innumerable questions that have alluded me. Why Shatriya Dharma was more important that the Darma of life & loving... Why Dhritarashtra chooses to remain blind and not hear of bloodshed on the battlefield, when he is already blind in more ways than the physical ? That the Mahabharata, is a political piece perhaps needs no reiteration. But the classic appeal of the epic lies where it rises from being a simple political piece into the play of Dharma, intricately weaved into the fabric of magic and miracles and simple truths of life.

In a scene in Peter Brook's 'Mahabharata', Ganesha who calls himself the first scribe, while keeping account of the poem, suddenly lies down, tuns over and opens his mask to reveal Krishna himself. The narrator of the poem, then becomes one with the one who construe s it.

As a youngster I was introduced to Teejan bai by my father. I remember him saying, ' She can recite the entire Mahabharata!' Teejan Bai, who gave her first performance at 13, sings pieces of the Mahabharata, especially those from the stories of the 'Pandavas'in the Kapalik style. Which was till then dominated by men. She uses the oral tradition of telling stories and enacts the 'Mahabharata', with her voice and the help of an 'Ektara'.

Astonishingly, the ektara sometimes becomes a prop that signifies the 'Gada'( mace) of Bheema or the bow of Arjuna or even the hair of Draupadi being pulled by Dusshasana.

Ironically, this woman who sings the epic that talks of Dharma, was ostracised by her own community, for singing Pandavani, being a woman. Life or stories..they always come a full circle..& that is Karma?

( Video courtesy Youtube)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The song of the little wild flower

It was the mid 80's, when as a tiny little girl I took my first trek. A medium sized hill, one of the many surrounding the little township of Digboi. It was a climb of about half and hour and we were about 5-6 kids accompanied by my father. Armed with sticks and water bottles, we quite fancied ourselves as climbers. There are certain memories of childhood that somehow manage to remain distinctly fresh, no matter how old you grow, this was one of them. I remember that the entire hill was like a basket laden with flowers, blue, violet and yellow. We had to push ourselves through these little shrubs to make our way up. My first and only question ( from a slightly non-talker of a child) to my father was, "Is this what a park looks like?" Digboi being the wilderness that it is, needs no parks and we hadn't had a sighting of a park as yet. I remember my father's laugh and ruffle in the hair, while he explained that "no, but this is better"...The little climb, yielded in one of the most spectacular views I have seen. Acres and acres of nothingness embraced the little hill with blue, yellow and purple, mingling with open skies....it remains till date one of the most important days in my life, the day I fell in love with wild flowers.

My fascination for Wild flowers, led me to visit the Yumthang valley, in Sikkim..much later in life. True to what I had imagined, the valley and the meadow surrounding it is full of absolutely fascinating riot of colors! A strange smell surrounds some of them, much like the smell of passion in a woman..of the wild wet earth on certain nights, lighted only by the moonlight. ..something so heady, that I've often wanted ot bottle it..and yet at the same time been immensely grateful that not everything can be packed..or bottled. The thing about wild flowers is that they are rarely like the grand rose drawing singular attention to its grandeur..but these arelike tiny little dots that make a spectacular graph all together...The Yumthang valley is full of rhododendron trees, made up of different colors, as well as other tiny flowers blossoms in clumps amidst the green grass, little patches of yellow and purple wherever you go.

My experiences with the fascinating flowers made me want to plant them in my garden too. I planted saplings, seeds..some plants survived, I got a flower or two, that would bloom sometime once a year and suddenly wither away. As a gardener I couldn't understand where I had gone wrong wrong..and then it dawned on me one day, that I was trying to capture a spirit in a bottle..a wild & free something and make it into a mannequined piece of art...Somethings are not meant to be tamed..if you try to do that they would rather whither and die...Have never tried to plant a wild flower since then..they belong to the wild..in spirit and form..whenever the call is strong to see them..I slip away..and they sing their beautiful songs and pass on their fragrances..free, uninhibited, lovely and un-tethered.

( Images courtesy Google)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mahabharata 1989 by Peter Brooks - Opening Scenes.flv

Like many others I am in a trance having seen Peter Brook's Mahabharata. A Universal cast,extremely subtle rendition, one can go on and on about this extraordinary film. But I choose to talk about today of little vignettes of the film that have my favorite Indian God Ganesha. Peter Brook presents Ganesha in such utter fascinating a fantasy, he is everything Indian,wise, witty and humorous too. With his extraordinarily beautiful head gear, Ganesha calls himself the 'First scribe', indeed!

But the magic does not end there..true to Indian Dharma of the oneness of all Gods and their meeting in Vishnu the all powerful avatar. In a delightful scene, Ganesha suddenly removes his head gear to unveil for the first time Krishna! Everything comes in a full circle, the God who appears to be a mere recorder of history is also the maker of the same history! That is perhaps Dharma as we know it.

( Video courtesy Youtube)

Connecting the dots

While in Palolem, in Goa I saw a man one day practicing with a bow and arrows, on a target made out of a tree stump. As our eyes met, he did a Namaste and asked me where I was from. That's a question not many outsiders ask I thought and I smiled wondering if he would understand if I told him from where I was, or where I was not and if at all it would make a difference. To my surprise he elaborated you see India is a big country and every part has something to add to the whole picture. I asked him where he was from & he said he was from Norway, staying in Goa for 6 months now, trying to find himself and his God and practicing archery while at it. He says that here, in spite of being so many or perhaps because of being so many, you have not lost your way..

I mused to myself and told him that while, outsiders often come here looking for God, for a way, many of our young have lost that way and in fact look at the west for 'upgrading' themselves. He looked at me quizzically and said "perhaps in this haze of drugs, of spiritualism, of diverse people, I shall find something..or maybe when that haze lifts..it shall be emptiness, till that time I shall try."..I asked and said, "like your arrows trying to break the block of wood to find more wood?"..he smiled and said, " See, you are one of the dots that join & it is precisely for this, I am here"..Spooky, Philosophy, ..India?

( Image courtesy Google)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The balance of the preciousness of life

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains un-awakened"-Antole France

Being an animal lover however comes with a responsibility and pain. The pain of seeing animal being mis-treated being man-handled and yet not being able to do much about it. Wonder when humans would understand that being a superior force on earth comes with certain responsibilities. Fortunately for us Nature, a far superior being( compared to humans) shows its superiority, only once in a while. Sometimes I wonder had dinosaurs been there, would we have really known what it was to be trampled all over?

A friend has in his house a pigeon nest, the workers have unknowingly shifted the nest( Which the bird will not go back to now) but in that nest lies two eggs that has also been abandoned in the process. My friend found out that the eggs need to be kept at a particular temperature and be rolled from time to time. But in togetherness we ask, what will happen if ever the chicks were to hatch? One feels helpless at times like this..

I have a dog at home and I know how it feels when he is hurt or sick, more so because animals cannot tell us how they are feeling and that largely wipes out much in the name of communication. I am a non-vegetarian but someday, I would like to turn vegetarian because that maybe the only thing I can do to save a few animals and to make known the message that animals have a right to live on this planet as much as we do. As a superior race ( that's what we think) we owe it to them..this balance of the preciousness of life.

( Image courtesy Google)

For the heart alone

On a little farm, yonder on the hills, I saw a stream I took out the most powerful human lens available to capture its beauty..I clicked and clicked from every angle possible and yet..Were was the presence of the wild of the mountain that the waters carried down with them..the spring in its step, of aimless sudden directions...the fragrance that it spelled of from droppings of the star like flowers, that did Bunjee jumping on it and gurgled with laughter like children on a Sunday Afternoon..Some essences are felt..and for the heart alone.

( Image courtesy Google)