Friday, November 14, 2008

Sunrise Over The Ganges.

Pandit Ravi Shankar said that when he was a child, his mother used to take him to the ghats of the Ganga, in Benares. Early in the morning, he would see the priests descending down the steps of the ghat to wash themselves in the holy waters, women buying sweets and garlands to offer their prayers before God, the half-naked sadhus still fast asleep ~ alone in their forlorn experience of life, on the pavements. His mother would bring him there, and tell him mythological love ballads of Radha and Krishna; his mother used to tell him whatever she knew....he would hear it, see with a young boy's imagination what romance is, and yet hear the cries of a poor deserted child in front of the temple, and see something else....

He said that a chord was struck, with these childhood memories of his.

Dawn breaks; the sun rises over the Ganges; at the backdrop of green banyan leaves and the rehearsing play of a flute, after taking three dips into the water, a devotee slowly raises his head from underneath the water, with closed eyes, clasped hands and a radiant physique."Brahma!" Much at the same time, a poor boy, at the temple door, throws his voice in singing a song to the devotees, coming for the aarti; pleased, they give this boy some paise; but ah! he wants that 'note' ~ again to be played. The flute-music has stopped. Just what a still void the boy felt with cold dread? The flamboyance of innocence, willing to make a coloratura....with the accompaniment of that flute-music. When the prayer ends, the boy _ who knows, out of what expectations _ rushes to the waters, submerges his head thrice, and murmurs his prayers in red lips!

Poverty bites. But once we are born, we want to live. We desire to create; be heard; be noticed. For the dhakis of Bengal....the majhis with their bhatiali songs....the aspiring flute-players of Benares _ everywhere, they see an imagination, and in reality, see something else. In India, poverty is not less harsh than it actually seems! But then, what's to become of aspiring aficianados?

In spite of all these, our romanticism with regards to faith and self remains viable. Thousands of devotees gathering at the banks of the Ganges fills our heart with the satisfaction of an unique fulfilment. The attraction towards temples, and the excitement at reaching the last step of the ghat and purifying yourself in those turbid waters, speaks immense of our congenital traits.

It is this faith in God that has created so much in this land. We perhaps want faith to conquer us, when we are in troubled times. This faith does not remain constrained to God only; it gradually creates a strength in us to have faith in ourselves; in music; in our motherland, in our creation so that we can absorb the pains and sufferings that make reality. The green mind is enabled to run the green mile.

Pt. Ravi Shankar's sitar strings were moved to move, by the inspirations from the beautiful naked truths of existential life. Life needs to be made beautiful. If 'poverty', 'purity' and 'creativity' can sustain each other when dawn breaks on the ghats of Benaras, do we need to doubt our ability for adaptability? When our tryst with sanctity is so intense that we can conceptualise the purification of our mind and soul with one splash into the Ganga river, exactly like the purified sun rises out of the Ganges to bring light and freshness to the day, are we in any way in real poverty? The sunrise over the Ganges definitely do not make the headlines, but it goes on to make a nation's pride.

P.S. I wrote this article when I was in my final year in school. moved by the Discovery Channel documentary on Pandit Ravi Shankar's early life.

Arindam Sir.

Of Ruskin Bond. Of Rusty losing his way before he could reach the tunnel...
Of 'Letters from a Father to His Daughter'. And my striving to make head-and-tail of it...writing answers to the questions that followed from the passage.
Of Banaphul.
Of why i would grudge to pay Rs 5/- instead of Rs 4/- for the same cup of tea from the local chai-wala, and not utter a single word while paying forty bucks for 'Lemon Tea' at The Grand Hotel. "Aesthetics my dear..." he would say. "Sense of prestige, not beauty, dear Sir", i would retort..!
Of hours spent before the first word was penned down for an essay topic that went like "Autobiography of an envelope, that carried messages for Napoleon the Great" to rueing the spontaneity lost for the same!!
To becoming a less-confused Agastya Sen two years down the line. Of still not knowing why, after choosing not to study medicine, I chose Economics and not English, something i was rather good at. It still amuses me to think how my risk-taking attitude got the better of me at that point of time when I had to make the choice...really!!

Arindam Sir. My English Teacher. When he first started coming to my resi. in cls 7, i was a pretty distracted child. Slightest sound from the TV in the adjoining drawing-room and my ears would go straight. ".....'wobbly feet' u know.... Ruskin Bond would write this to say 'The boy...with tired legs...would now have to cross the river' "............"Rajarshi, you are listening na..?!" A shy nod. Till then, i only read what my friend Anobik read. The Hardy Boys. The Enid Blyton series. Tom Sawyer. And Ruskin Bond was a new name. Introduced in a way as if it's an enigma. Later, as i would read 'The Night Train To Deoli' and the likes during my summer vacation, i would come across a hitherto unknown world of fantasy. I still rummage through the city bookstore shelves for Ruskin Bond. 'Delhi Is Not Far' is what i intend to read next.

"Oh Sir...aar parchhi na...mone hochchhe dnat ta khule haat a chole ashbe..uff ki tough..!!"
"Aare chesta koro na..."
"Ha sir..apni toh chewing-gum khete khete oi-tuku bolei khalash..!!"
"Ki aar maximum hobe bolo toh? 50 marks ar opor paper ta set korechhi....ta te maximum zero pabe, ei toh??"
Yes...'maximum zero'. Well, Nehru's writings to daughter Indira have long served the purpose of finest example of English writing in India. And Sir used to give me compositions based on that. In class 8. Naturally, i would keep on whining about the fact as to how tough it is....and to soothen me, he would get into discussions. How inspiring Nehru's speech was at the stroke of midnight on 14th August,1947. His foreign policies... especially the ones with China (that has a continuing impact in the north-eastern region in the form of territorial unrest) and Pakistan. Whether Indira Gandhi would have allowed the economic liberalization...for as far as her history goes, she wouldn't have in all probability (incidentally, i read an article in The Telegraph very recently that echoed the same thought).
And as I would listen to Sir, I would be in awe. He was just 23 i guess at that time, doing his Masters from CU. And he would read everything. And suggest me the same. Noam Chomsky. Bertrand Russel. Aldous Huxley (boy! i myself had read about his Mexican expeditions, and have never known that travel writing could come in so complicated a form!!!). And there were also things that he would suggest me not to read. "Bujhle Rajarshi...khobordar Freud porte jeo na kintu..." As he would say this, looking at me through his bespectacled eyes, he would smile at me knowing that he had perfectly aroused my interest by forbidding something...! i would smile back.
If his depth of knowledge was admirable, then it was his willingness to share that knowledge, always with that certain degree of reserve that made him an interesting person! He would say," A good teacher is someone who knows ten times more than a good student. "
...and his capability in provoking my mind with questions.
"Why is it that you believe that the world 'peace' lies in the corner of your room?" which i would probably mumble at first, and then say something like..."....coz it's the only unconventional place on earth where i can 'piss' with nobody complaining..!!" How abt that??.
...or maybe something even less sensible like..."Peace, like charity, begins at home...and the corner is the only place where 'ends' meet."
"Why is it that class-bunking is a necessary evil?"
Talks profound. Pseudo-intellectualism galore. A day arrived when i found Sir, coming to my house after a break, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. Usually, he was quite indifferent to social gatherings, throwing phrases like "Marriage is legal prostitution" and blah blah, expecting me to combat the same, which i'd usually do though!! So I asked....
"Ki sir...onek din no khobor apnar?"
"Aar bolo kano...oi ekta biye-bari chhilo.... "
"Apnake dekhe-shune ja mone hochchhe....ta te toh praye apnar-e biye ta hoye jawar jogar hoyechhilo aar ki..."
"Ki bolle?!...come again..."
"Na maane....i-ye....."
"Actually, biye ta amari chhilo jano....korei phellam bujhle..?!"
....And the two of us burst into laughter!!! So much so...that when actually i should have served him with some sweets for that news, we went out to celebrate our hysterical laughter with chicken rolls!!
Incidentally, that was his last day at my residence. So, i asked him a question, " Sir, on the very first day, you told me to read Bond. Now, on the very last day, what do you suggest me to read?.." and politely added with a smug smile "..sir..ektu chhotor opore bolben...!"
Needless to say, this writing demands an epilogue. Banaphul is all about being precise. To put everything "in a nutshell".
I had often smiled at the thought that Arindam Sir, who used to come in a Kawasaki bike, and who would simply not give a break to flying kites on Viswakarma puja day,...the next time i meet him, i would probably see him coming out of the fish-market, carrying two heavy bags...and probably with an urchin dangling his feet from his father's shoulders!!
I called up at his resi after bijoya-dashami. And Aunty (sir's mom) said,"K Sir k khujchho..?! o toh Sandakpu te trekking korte gachhe...kobe phirbe.....ummm......."
Wow! Sandakpu Heights! I miss him. Arindam Sir. He was not perfect. And neither am I. None of us actually is. But he showed me what high thinking and plain living is. To think unconventionally. To think...
Of Heights. Dizzy Peaks. Of Risks....i chance upon to remember an old essay named 'I would not know Ambition had I not seen the Himalayas' as i end here!

A chipmunk on the sea-shore.'s been almost two years that i have written something...of substance, of meaning...and i have quite arrived upon the hopeless conclusion that i have lost the 'art'...of writing, as i would speak over a cup of coffee, ...of articulating my thoughts in the same manner, with the same vehemence as one would associate with me when i'm quarrelling with my mom..!!
And thus i give this title to the maiden writing in my blog. It's not unusual that i feel like a squirrel, restless with ideas, but not just sure enough as to how he would make it to the other end of the sea...
He decides he'll give it a try.