Friday, August 22, 2008

Barkha Bahar Aayi

Its monsoon time and in todays melee we have somewhere forgotten the beauty and richness of this season. Have we ever celebrated monsoon in recent times ? Atleast I don't remember. The world has been too technical around monsoon. For urbanites it brings the dreadful memories of water logging and the resultant jams and chaos it brings along.

However their is very beautiful and poetic side this season. The months of July-August, sounds more poetic, when its called Barkha (Varsha Ritu or Rainy Season), per Hindu solar, or Saawan ( Shravan ) per Lunar. For some its more romantic....and for some more pious. Each of these emotions have been captured by our literary and musical greats in various forms.

It reminds me of 'Meghdoot' a masterpiece by great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, who asked Megh ( the clouds ) to be his doot ( the messenger ) and convey his love to his beloved ( post his separation using monsoon as metaphor ). Its one of the most romantic renderings I have read. How romantic can it be, well let me take you through the first chapter : The Plea


For failing to perform his duty, the Yaksha was banished for a year by his boss, Kubera to Ramagiri (Ramtek near Nagpur in India), where the trees are green and the waters holy. At the end of the summer, after having languished for months away from his Love and losing much weight, he saw a large cloud nuzzling a mountain peak in the sky. That sight reminded him how he wanted to hold her close to his heart. Her. Who was not there. He held his tears back and stood there quietly. The monsoons were approaching. "May be the cloud can take my message to her", he thought and he decided to suck up to the cloud. How a cloud, which is nothing but water vapor, can carry a message? But when you are heartbroken and sick with desire, you will try anything. "Great Cloud. Please help me. I am away from my beloved and miss her very much. Please go to the city called Alaka where my beloved lives in our moonlit house. Lonely women brush their hair away from their eyes and look up to greet you. Because you bring cool rain. And with the rains return their loved ones. Who wouldn't rather be with their Loves in this romantic season except the unfortunate ones like me who just cannot be there? Swift winds will blow you in the right direction. When they see you come the chataka birds will sing and the cranes will get all excited about the onset of the mating season. When you reach my place you will see my girl counting days till she sees me again. The stem of hope holds the flower of her heart, which is sure to wither without that hope. The swans, with lotus shoots in their beaks, heading for the Manas sarovar will keep you company all the way to Mount Kailas. The tall peaks that have known you year after year will greet you with warm tears of happiness.


Had it not been for rainy season, the clouds ! If you go thru the rest of the poetry - the journey, description of Alaka,the place, his home, his girl, finally delivery of his message and final thoughts. Its an awesome piece of work. His another work, Abhigyan Shakuntalam is equally marvellous. But I have more fondness for 'Meghdoot'.

Musical geniuses have brought about the richness of this season with so many ragas and compositions. In Hindustani classical music, ragas are not only associated with a particular time of day, but also with seasons. Summer is regarded as the corresponding season for Raga Dipak, Monsoon for Raga Megh/Raga Malhar, Autumn for Raga Bhairav, Winter for Raga Malkauns, and the Spring for Raga Hindol. In particular, ragas of the season are associated with spring or Basant and the rainy season or monsoons. The Malhars ( that which washes away the dirt ) and its variants - Raag Megh, Megh Malhar, Desh Malhar, Shudh Malhar, Gaud Mahar, Nat Malhar, Mirabai ki Malhar etc which epitomises this season and have been entralling generations. They make us go ecstasic. Couple this with rich emotions - excitement, peace contentment, longing, anticipation, anxiety, romance and joy - all the rasas i.e. Veer, Karuna, Sringar and Viraha. Hear Ustad Amir Khan in Raga Megh.

Had it not for Megh Malhar, Tansen would have burnt himself singing Raag Deepak. Another popular classical form sung ( generally folk in nature ) in monsoon is Raag Kajari. It is derived from Kajara or Kajal ( Kohl ), which symbolises black monsoon clouds. This form of music has two facets - some exult the happiness of union and some depict pangs of separation. The latter is generally takes the more popular form. If you hear Shobha Gurtu singing Kajari, its no less than union with GOD. Hear this Kajari by Pt Ajoy Chakraborty. This recital was given by him on BBC while BBC was commemorating 50 years of Indian Independence. ( I have don't have permission from BBC, but I am sure they would forgive me )

This season also celebrates the birthday of Lord Krisna, who is also called GhanShyam (Ghan : clouds, Shyam :dark colored, which basically means monsoon clouds ). A popular composition reads, 'Ghan Aaye GhanShyam Na Aaye' ( Clouds have arrived but not my lover/husband. Painters have depicted Krisna in joyous moods the famous Raag Megh Raagmala paintings.

Well so enamoured are we, that youngsters these days create 'rain' for a rain dance and pay quite a hefty sum for such a experience in the 5 stars.

Bollywood has been one of best mediums to capture the beauty of monsoon. They have captured every emotion. I am picking some of the best numbers. Probably the best is Raj Kapoor's 'Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua' ( Shri 420 ) with Nargis, both standing together in an umbrella...looking so cool. How can you forget a wet Madhubala in 'Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si' ( Chalti ka Naam Gadi ) or Amitabh and Mousmi with clasped hands on Marine Drive in 'Rim Zhim Gire Saawan, Sulag Sulag Jaye Man' ( Manzil ). Neither can we forget Zeenat redefining sensuality in 'Hai Hai Ye Majburi..Tere Do Takiyon Ki Naukari mein mere laakhon ka Saawan jaye' nor fresh fresh Manisha in 'Rim Zhim Rum Zhum' ( 1942 Ek Love Story ). For sheer beauty of lyrics, hear out, 'Umad Ghumad ke Aayi Re Ghata' ( Do Aakhen Barah Haath ). Some of my favorites are - 'Saawan Ka Mahina, Pawan Kare Sor' ( Milan ),'Allah Megh De Pani De' ( Guide ), 'Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi' ( Chori Chori ), 'Hariyala Sawaan Dhol Machata Aaya' ( Do Bigha Zameen ). In recent times, the theme of Lagaan was around monsoon where farmers sing, 'Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Aaye Badra'. Finally the song which has the title on this article..'O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi, Ras Ki Phuhar Layi' ( Parakh ) beautifully sung by Lata Tai.

Don't feel like making this article very technical, but still. When I ask students why it rains...I don't find a convincing answer...almost everyone ends up describing the water cycle.

Finally the furious side of monsoon. Some of our states are perpetually flooded because of poor management. As I write this blog, Kosi has wreaked havoc and devastated large parts of Bihar.

Still no emotions can match the longingness of the first drop on the parched land after months of dry hot summer, leaving the intoxicating smell of earth.

Enjoy the Season.

Some More Olympics

After many many years did I watch a boxing match live. You would have guessed it - it was our Vijendar fighting it out. Adrenalin was rushing with every punch...felt like wearing gloves and hitting it out at the Cuban. Our man lost...but no worries he will get home bronze, a great achievement. This olympics...for India will remembered for Abhinav and shooters...Vijendar and boxers ....Sushil Kumar and wrestlers...Saina and shuttlers. Not bad...isn't it. We would come home with 3 medals - 1G and 2B. My heartiest congratulations to Sushil and Vijendar. India never had it so good and thank you for making us proud.

Friday, August 15, 2008

61st Independence Day - August 15, 2008

Today, on August 15, 2008, we are commemorating our 61st Independence Day. Here, where I stay, Regency Park 2 at Gurgaon, the residents welfare association made the day more memorable by the fabulous arrangements at our community park, to celebrate the occasion. Family and friends made it to the occasion. It started with flag hoisting ceremony followed by the National Anthem. We hardly see occasions where we get to sing our National Anthem these days. It is such a nice feeling to sing Jana Gana Mana. Then came the spirited performance by kids and fancy dress by toddlers, looking really cute as Gandhi Ji, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. There was a quiz related to events leading to our Independence and to my surprise no questions went unanswered, which is truly amazing. You want to try ? Some of the questions were - When was Battle of Buxar held ? Which event led to the end of Non Co-operation movement ? Which year was Dandi March held ? Who accompanied Bhagat Singh in the assembly bombing and so on? Finally, the last leg was games for kids and adults - run for luck and musical chairs respectively. I will try to post some photographs of the event. Family and friends made it to the occasion making the celebrations sweeter.

Well we had some funny moments as well. While a gentlemen was making a speech that Swami Vivekananda said it in 1897 that it will take 50 years for India to get Freedom and another 50 years to be on growth path, power went off, and we felt saying another 50 years to be self-sufficient in power and stable supply. Another gentlement was shouting 'जब तक सूरज चाँद रहेगा, तब तक भारत तेरा नाम रहेगा' and a friend shouted 'Belvedre Park पानी में डूबा रहेगा'. A downpour of an hour or so had led to waist deep water logging, potholed roads leading to chaos, jams and choked roads, throughout the city. For some it took 2.5 hrs to cover a 5-7 Km distance. Isn't it shameful ? All this tells us that its miles to go, before we sleep. I hope when we celebrate the 100th Independence Day, we may be done from these embarassments.

I am not that pessimistic either and certainly don't want to end in that note. We have made susbstantial progress on all the fronts, wealth has grown ( though it could have been a bit more inclusive but still better that not having it at all ), barring few states most of exploited the changed economic scenario and liberalised policies to the advantage of their people, we are a nuclear nation, we have successfully sent rockets in space, we are slowly getting recognised as economic powerhouse, we have become donors and its upto us how we make most of this momentum. Long Live India and Long Live Indians.

007 The Man With The Golden Gun

Aug 11, as the news rushed in our office that Abhinav won Gold at Beijing - our chest swelled with pride, what a ecstasic moment. It appeared as everyone had won Gold. He won the first individual Gold for India in 108 years. Event - 10m air rifle and score 104.5 . Metaphorically, it was like rains on the years of parched earth. A country of billion people had to wait for so long for this feat. Probably its a comment on us, system and administration on how we treat sports and sportsmen. Even though he is 25, he probably deserves Bharat Ratna for this stands out as a greatest sporting feat for this country in the modern era. Even Kapil said, this betters the India's '83 world cup win in cricket. The is far more 'global' and far more prestigious. Olympics is for the toughest, ohysically and mentally fittest, with best of the best taking part. Hence unless we get the Olympics right, we will never be a sporting nation. I have written earlier also on sports and sporting facilities in our country. The government infrastructure is so pathetic and the private so expensive that someone like Abhinav deserve kudos for the perseverence, determination and confidence with which he pursued his passion. More so, when he has been victim of criticism whether he was rewarded too early with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and others post his International wins. Going by his style, he never made his displeasure public. Rather what a way to silence them for ever. He is now the World champion and the Olympic champion. I admire his calm and composure upon his win, which is what a shooter should be made of. He is the man of iron muscles and nerves of steel, our 007, our Abhinav James Bond Bindra, our Arjun. Many congratulations to him.