Friday, September 30, 2011

Chamber Music

A beautiful piece! Two instruments I love - the kora and the cello.

"Chamber Music is a collaboration between Ballake Sissoko, who plays the traditional kora, a lute-harp from Mali, and Vincent Segal, the French cellist who plays for the trip-hop band Bumcello. It is also, quite simply, one of the most elegant and beautiful recordings of world music in recent years."

Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal - Chamber Music

* Photo from Google Images

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Certain bits from stories that people tell me remain in the memory, sometimes I wake up in the morning remembering one of them, from a long time ago. I inhabit stories, I wander in and out of them. I love this one especially, a vision I can see and hear in my head:

"...It reminds me of the work I did last year with the Maldharis of the Rann of Kutch- they have a unique breed of buffalo that they call the Banni breed. A strange and wonderful breed of buffalo that survives the harsh climate of the Rann and grazes at night. Its quite a vision to see hundreds of them returning by themselves to their pens at dawn, each herd following its lead buffalo just by the sound of the bell around its neck."

Barry Time Again :)

"Everybody should have a pet. Pets give you all the love and devotion of close relatives, but you can lock them in the basement for hours at a time if they get loud or boring. The pets, I mean. 

Have you ever wondered why people have pets? Neither have I.  I suspect it's because pets are easy to talk to. I spend hours talking to my dog explaining my views on world affairs. She always listens very attentively although I'm not sure she understands me. If I could hear what she's thinking, it would probably go like this: 

ME: The situation in the Middle East certainly looks serious.
MY DOG: I wonder if he's going to give me some food.

ME: It is unfortunate that an area so vital to the economic well-being of the world is so politically unstable.
MY DOG: Maybe he'll give me some food now.

ME: The Russians certainly are making it difficult for our government to achieve a lasting Mideast peace.MY DOG: Any minute now he might go into the kitchen and get me some food.

" Page 16, 'Bad Habits' by Dave Barry

Monday, September 26, 2011


You know, those pictures of the old temples at Angkor Wat you see all the time – the ones where the gigantic trees hold the stone faces of the gods and kings in their vice-like grip? That is the forest reclaiming Angkor. They know that if these trees are not removed, gradually the entire stone structure will be reduced to dust. But if they try to remove the roots, those roots that have gone so deep into the heads of those stone faces - the heads will break into a million pieces. It has become that the roots are what holds the heads together now.

Removing a significant person, or a belief, from your life, is like that. The roots have gone so deep into you that you will break when you try to pull them out from your head.

But then you have to. You have to break. And then reconstruct. Grow a new person out of the ruins of the old.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Orange against Gray, September

So September is the season of the lush orange flowers. Remember this, you Watcher of Seasons. The African Tulip tree, the Rudrapalaash. Tall tree with thick foliage, burning orange at the ends. Seen against dark cloudy skies. Orange against Gray. And oh, the same contrast on the road too, when you finally remember to look down. And oh, all this for free.

If something matters only to you, it still matters. So what if you are a one-person world, swirling around a sun only you can see. There were sun-less times too.

Every little thing, marked, measured, treasured, and rescued from the Darkness, that is probably right at the door, waiting, biding its hour.

While there is still time, note the Orange against the Gray. Sear it into your soul. Show it in your smile.


Sunday, September 18, 2011


While searching for some old photographs, came across this old print of Amedeo Modigliani, preserved so well across these 20 years, since I had taken the trouble to get it laminated . A favorite painter, discovered in my youth, thanks to a dear friend who introduced me to a whole series of artists.

This is a portrait of Jeanne, his wife, who killed herself. Of all the long sad faces of Modigliani, this one is my favorite.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Healer of Broken Things


The Buddha, when he was a small child of seven or eight, was once taken to watch the annual Ploughing Festival, where his father, the King, ceremonially guided the bullocks in plowing the first furrow. At the end of the day, they find the little child seated upright in the same position they had left him, deeply disturbed by the plight of the tiny creatures who lost their homes and their lives in the plowing.

It is this story that came to mind when you spent a morning with Saleem, who runs the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. Day in day out, he looks after wounded animals brought from all over the city and outside, with an indescribable gentleness. Hardly anyone to help him, practically no comforts in this remote overgrown small place near Banngerghatta National Park. But he lives there all by himself, facing the dangers of wild elephants and hostile villagers.

You first met him when you went there to transport a wounded kite with a friend. The image of Saleem calmly putting his hands in and lifting the huge wild bird whom we had spent 30 mins gathering the courage to touch, never leaves your mind. You know you will return.

The Cult of Consciousness

 From 'Psychology and the East', by Carl Gustav Jung:

"If tendencies towards disassociation were not inherent in the human psyche, fragmentary psychic systems would never have been split off; in other words, neither spirits nor gods would ever have come into existence. That is also the reason why our time has become so utterly godless and profane: we lack all knowledge of the unconscious psyche and pursue the cult of  consciousness to the exclusion of all else. Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, coupled with a fanatical denial of the existence of fragmentary autonomous systems.

But we differ from the Buddhist yoga doctrines in that we even deny that these systems are experienceable. This entails a great psychic danger, because the autonomous systems then behave like any other repressed contents: they necessarily induce wrong attitudes since the repressed material reappears in consciousness in a spurious form. This is strikingly evident in every case of neurosis and also holds true for the collective psychic phenomena.

Our time has committed a fatal error; we believe we can criticize the facts of religion intellectually. Like Laplace, we think God is a hypothesis that can be subjected to intellectual treatment, to be affirmed or denied. We completely forget that the reason mankind believes in the "daemon" has nothing whatever to do with external factors, but is simply due to a naive awareness of the tremendous inner effect of autonomous fragmentary systems.

This effect is not abolished by criticizing it - or rather, the name we have given it - or by describing the name as false. The effect is collectively present all the time; the autonomous systems are always at work, for the fundamental structure of the unconscious is not affected by the deviations of our ephemeral consciousness.

....Insanity is possession by an unconscious content that, as such, is not assimilated to consciousness, nor can it be assimilated since the very existence of such contents is denied."

Page 36-37, Chapter 1: Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two hands and a face bowed near...

Came across two old notebooks of excerpts and quotes, started in 1984 and 1986 respectively, while searching for some old photos. Re-discovering the authors who stood by me through hard times, who were my only friends during the dark period that was growing-up.

From 'Three Comrades', Erich Maria Remarque

"You are well off, you are alone", Herse had said. All very well. The man who is alone cannot be forsaken. But sometimes at night, the whole artificial structure collapses, life turns into a sobbing insistent melody out of the senseless grinding of the everlasting barrel organ, rises up a whirlwind of wild desires, cravings, melancholy, hope without direction, seeking an object.

Ah, this pitiful need for a little bit of warmth - couldn't it be two hands then and a face bowed near? Or was that too only deception, surrender and flight? Was there nothing but to be alone?

I shut the window. No there was nothing. For anything more, there was too little solid ground under one's feet."


The Word
by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?...


I am a sunlight-addict. I watch light all the time, its many shades, hues, fluidity, its mercurial moods. I am keenly aware of its varying warmth on my skin, I revel in it, I open up to it, as if to human touch. The light on, and through leaves, brings me inexplicable joy. An everyday gift I have easy access to, in this warm country of infinite brightness. I cannot understand when people call an overcast day "such lovely weather" :).

I have been seen sitting alone on a beach wall, on a 42 degree C summer afternoon, high on the heat, watching the light on each rising wave. If this is insanity, let me never be cursed with a cure :)
And therefore, the absence of sunlight is the most cruel punishment. Two months in a cold gray country and I wanted to die. When I returned I wandered around crazed in the sun for weeks together, delirious with happiness and relief. I was on my knees, thankful for a bounty I have done nothing to deserve. Gratitude is my strongest emotion, every single day.

I can relate to this poem :)


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Let me love you as a tree loves...

...Let me love you
as a tree loves
with all its flower tips on fire
without embracing. 

Sunitha Jain, 'Till  I find myself'

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Handful of Rice

The other day I ask my friend S who does wonderful work teaching small kids, whether she can use the Ugly Indian’s videos and photos to teach kids about not littering the city, about taking responsibility for their surroundings.

And she replies: “I keep trying, but it's so difficult nowadays since the parents themselves don't have these values. Very tough to get through to the kids when the parents themselves throw stuff out of the car window, you know."


A few years ago, on a Notebook Drive by the Dream School Foundation to some rural schools outside Bangalore, happened to sit next to this young boy from Infosys, on the way back. The whole morning I had seen that he was the life of the group, the most active volunteer. Since I was the lone outsider who didn’t know anyone in the volunteer group, every conversation was a learning.

Especially the one with this boy. He tells me that he learned social responsibility from his mother. She is an uneducated woman, never completed school. But all throughout his childhood, he grew up seeing her keeping aside a handful of rice every single day, before cooking food for the family. At the end of the month she would take all the rice in that tin and give it to one of the poor families who stayed nearby.

He said that was the most powerful lesson he ever learned in his life, without a word spoken.

Nzolo, Dearly Beloved

 "...Adah and I were trying to puzzle out how everything you thought you knew means something different in Africa. We worried over nzolo - it means dearly beloved; or a white grub used for fish bait; or a special fetish against dysentery; or little potatoes.

Nzole is the double-sized pagne that wraps around two people at once. Finally I see how these things are related. In a marriage ceremony, husband and wife stand tightly bound by their nzole and hold one another to be the most precious: nzolani.

As precious as the first potatoes of the season, small and sweet like Georgia peanuts. Precious as the fattest grubs turned up from the soil, which catch the largest fish. And the fetish most treasured by the mothers, against dysentery, contains a particle of all the things invoked by the word nzolo: you must dig and dry the grub and potatoes, bind them with a thread from your wedding cloth, and have them blessed in a fire by the nganga doctor.

Only by life's best things are your children protected - this much I surely believe. Each of my peanut-brown babies I called my nzolani, and said it with the taste of fish and fire and new potatoes in my mouth.

Page 606, 'The Poisonwood Bible', by Barbara Kingsolver


This novel, set in the Belgian Congo in the 1960s, was not a book I chose to buy - it was chosen for me by a strange white woman at a second-hand sale, while I stood at the old-books stall not doing much to resist. She just came over, looked at me, picked up this book and asked if I had read it - and proceeded to give me a summary of the novel, set in an important, and turbulent, period of Congo's history.

There was an urgency in her voice, which took me by surprise, so much so that I just managed a weak smile, and did not even say Thank you for the recommendation. I opened one of the pages at random, promised myself to not let myself be bullied by a stranger who probably caught me in one of my weak lost-looking moments, and then I came across this sentence: "There is no stepping in the same river twice. So say the Greek philosophers, and the crocodiles make sure."  I bought the book.

And had no cause to regret. What a brilliant inter-weaving of injustice and humour and war and violence and discovery - all so neatly, lyrically rolled into each chapter, told by multiple voices, so vastly different, so lush and sparse in turns. The wit, especially, was startling, considering the setting, but never taking away from the gravity. Amazing achievement.

Thank you, stranger.

Part 2 of the Magrath Road Spot-fix

Video of Part 2 of the Magrath Road Spot-fix by the Ugly Indians - don't miss the BBMP Corporation Official:



The transformation is unbelievable. The Ugly Indians are a group of silent workers who don't want to be named, or want any publicity. Join them. Watch the city change.

The Ugly Indians:
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Click on The Ugly Indian label below this post to know more.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pass the ball, Camarado!

It is 5 PM on a Friday evening, and time for the office Football Club to get together again. So stepping out of the air-conditioned, cold-tubelight-lit office, I go to reserve a place in the public playground, after sending mail to the group – "Come to play football NOW!"

Outside, I notice that September, as it is leaving, is bringing in that beautiful clear winter sunlight - which gives me a high nothing else can.

There is not enough place in the ground – already there are 2 cricket teams and 2 football teams, and also a huge tent being prepared for Dussehra [Hindu festival] celebrations. So we use the strategy we've learned, and convince the group of hesitant young college kids to play a match with us. They are not very well-off, they wear poor clothes, they look thin and under-nourished. No one has good shoes; in fact most of them are barefoot. The disparity between our teams is glaring.

I am made goal-keeper. I am usually made goal-keeper because I am no good at playing. I know that I am no good, and everyone else knows it too, but since I am the catalyst, the one who gets it all going, I am held in fond respect. Who said young people aren't kind?!

The game starts. We have mixed the college kids with our people, they didn't have enough numbers, so it is not us against them. They are absolutely brilliant – agile, fast, impressively co-ordinated, untiring. We are completely wowed by them. My boys too are good – and as always I am almost moved to tears by how these normally serious sober youngsters, some of them so quiet and shy at office, are suddenly transformed into fired-up, passionate, intense people. It is a miracle. Just watching them, I know it was all worth it, starting this club, which everyone told me won't take off.

Brahma Muhurtha

Long ago, Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar came home for dinner, during a Dhrupad music festival in Bangalore. The great master suffered the bumpy ride on our old bike from across the city, with my husband, who knows the Dagar family from his Bombay days.

Of all the things the wise old man spoke about, I remember him telling me that music ought to practised at 3 in the morning - the auspicious "brahma muhurtha" when your brain is able to take in learning with the most clarity, in the stillness outside and inside. He believed that, that is the most spiritual and peaceful of hours, and therefore perfect for the practise of music, especially Dhrupad.

And then much later, at the Punyathithi [death anniversary] of the sitar maestro Ustad Rahmat Khan at Dharwar, during the all-night performance of Hindustani classical music, we get to hear the Gundecha brothers sing Dhrupad at 3 in the morning. The sheer resonance of it within you, as sleep falls away like a burden you never needed. You close your eyes and awaken, to an experience which is beyond goose-pimples and any normal expression of amazement.

Finally when they finish at 6 AM, and the light dawns outside, you walk out into the streets where the newspaper boys and the milk vendors are the sole owners of the mist-filled hour. You are silent, you are not completely of this world. The petty worries and needs of mundane life fall off you, for you have sat by the roadside when the King has passed, and you have beheld his Face. (A remembered image from Tagore's 'Gitanjali'.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Then why is it that when you are distressed you wake up at 3 in the morning unable to sleep, your anguish at its most insufferable unbearable gut-wrenching peak, and in the dark living room with the pale moonlight coming in through the coconut tree fronds, you feel as if all your gods have abandoned you?

"......You do not know
The noxious smell untraceable in the drains,
Inaccesible to the plumbers,
that has its hour of the night;
you do not know
The unspoken voice of sorrow in the ancient bedroom
At three o'clock in the morning."

'The Family Reunion'
T.S. Eliot

Monday, September 25, 2006

Friday, September 2, 2011


Squirrels live on coconut trees doing squirrel things, scampering on agile butterfly feet, scratching their ears with baby fingers, cleaning their bushy tails, playing endless games of catch-me-if-you-can and standing on their hind feet and warming their fluffy tummies in the first rays of the morning sun when all is well and ummmmmmmm happy in their small squirrel world.

And then one night when you return after a long day sliding rapidly into the harshness of hospital corridor lights just-like-that, one of them lies dead near the gate, ants crawling over his tiny head, rigid softness not melting under your sudden bitter tears and gentle finger caresses.

And then you bury him between shoeflower plants in the wet earth hoping that he will yet feel the sun again through the bright pink petals of a flower, and that the God of Small Things will yet have mercy on him...

Jan 04, 2005

Tu kya roondhe mohe...

"Maati kahe kumbhar ko
Tu kya roondhe mohe
Ek din aisaa aayega
Mai roondhoo gi tohe"

(The earth tells the potter
Go ahead, try to mould me
There will also come a day
When I will mould you.)

"Dukh mein sumran sade kare
Sukh mein kare na koyi
Jo sukh mein sumran kare
To dukh kahe hote"

(They always pray in times of grief
But none in times of joy.
Those who pray in times of joy
How would they even know grief?)


Live in my absence as in a house...

If I die, survive me with such a pure force
you make the pallor and the coldness rage;
flash your indelible eyes from south to south,
from sun to sun, till your mouth sings like a guitar.

I don’t want your laugh or your footsteps to waver;
I don’t want my legacy of happiness to die;
don’t call to my breast: I’m not there.
Live in my absence as in a house.

Absence is such a large house
that you’ll walk through the walls,
hang pictures in sheer air.

Absence is such a transparent house
that even being dead I will see you there,
and if you suffer, Love, I’ll die a second time.

Pablo Neruda
Translated by Stephen Tapscott


A tent in the forest.
In the half-darkness,
Old songs rise from a flute.

Warm drowsiness,
and the comfort of friends
Stretched out around you.

Even the loud crickets,
stopped to listen;
I would like to think.

30 Aug 04, Monday

Just if we could simply be...

Just if you could be alone for one minute with the toaster and the music from the hall and be aware of the sun and the clouds and the mouse in the cellar by the wine and the creaking of the floorboards above you and the breeze that lifts the fluff from the dandelions and sets it free and just if you could be alone for one minute with the faucet and the laughter from the garden if you could.

Just if you could be with me for one afternoon with your wineglass and the summer breeze and be aware of the scent of flowers by the well and of the laughter in your heart and just if you could be with me for one evening with your feet up and with the music and the candles and the flicker of the fire. Just if we could talk for hours and hours and be aware of ourselves and the spirits in the air and history of our words and just if we could simply be.

Raymond J Wright

Thursday, September 1, 2011

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against, 
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.

When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.

Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.

Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love, even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known. 

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