A Matter of Faith

In almost every Indian temple, you aren’t allowed to take a photo of the main deity of the temple. Some temples allow it, but without a flash. If you have been to an Indian temple, you will have noticed that the space where the main deity resides, is dimly lit, usually by oil lamps. Taking a photograph of a the deity, in such light conditions, is usually difficult, without a flash. In my experience, this rule applies only to Indian temples. I have not sensed this, severely enforced in mosques or churches.

Why this is so, is not something I can explain. There are a couple of scientific theories about why the deities should not be photographed, but they are based on faith and belief, not hard science, as we know it. Three of my best friends are atheists. My best friend believes in Jesus, though she is not a Christian. Given my engagement with these four people, my personal (inherited; would be more proper) sense of faith is often questioned. I welcome the questions, even, if at times I have no answers. But the questions do not shake my faith. They make me seek a deeper understanding of my faith. And the faith, and its understanding, is personal.

In a recent visit to a temple I saw a couple of my friends, who were faithful take pictures of a the main deity in a temple. One of my atheist friend was accompanying us. I did not see him take photos of the main deity, but if he had, I would not be surprised. Needless to say, I offered my worship in the way I do, and moved on, to take photos of some of the wonderful sculpture that adorned that temple.

I was, I confess, slightly disturbed by the act of my believer friends taking photos of the deity. After a while we left the temple and made our way home.

Stones, layer,

*

It was one of the most beautiful drives I have had in my life. We were circumferencing a large lake, in a valley surrounded by my favourite mountain range — the Sahyadri. Small village roads, meandering along the folds of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, a mountain road, cut across the Deccan Traps. My three companions in the car, juggling the role of the DJ; good music played. We sang along, we laughed: at each other and with each other. I was a bit preoccupied; my passengers thought it was because I had a flight later that evening; and was looking to back as soon as possible.

I was thinking of the meaning of faith. I was thinking of how I was disturbed because someone else did not follow the general belief and custom. Somewhere, in that question, I was asking myself why I was disturbed. It was not a good feeling, and I wanted to understand why I felt that.

*

All of this happened a week ago. And I cannot say that I now have a proper answer; the answer will evolve. I know this much, though: my faith, my sense of my faith is mine. It is personal. I need not seek justification for what I believe. I do not need others to practice what I believe. (For even if I could make them follow, it would be coerced; devoid of belonging) There is no science to it. In the same way that I seek answers, I have to understand that other people do too. They make their own meaning. And how we sense our answers varies from friend to friend. And it changes with time.

Faith matters. But there is no matter in faith.

The Album Tag

I was tagged on Facebook by Amit. Somehow, a tag for me, doesn’t look good on Facebook. I’ve taken the liberty of taking up the tag here, on the blog.

Amit Phansalkar tagged me to create a list of my favorite music, which has made a lasting impression on me. So, here goes.

The rules: Copy this & post as your status, delete my list. List 12 albums in no particular order that made a lasting impression on you, only 1 per band/artist. Tag some friends to do the same (including me, so I can, see what you listed).

6593: My Own Song

  1. Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon: This is a 1963 Hindi movie, starring an actor, who is not known for his acting. Yet, all the songs are so wonderful. Perhaps it was a 60s pattern that some of the not-so-good actors got some of the most amazing songs. In particular, the song “Humdum mere khel na jaano” is one of my favourites. There’s a unique essence of romance that’s inescapable. Here’s the playlist of all the songs of this movie. Mohd. Rafi is at his naughty best, in “Phir Wohi dil laya hoon” and “Lakhon hai nigah mein.” Watch/listen to the full playlist.
  2. Nirgun Bhajan: I was introduced pretty late in life to this. Yet, the impression that this album (if you can call it that, as Amit says) is everlasting. The nature of the songs being spiritual/philosophical (#YouPrefer) they suit all times, moods, places, and situations. I remember, listening to about four songs sitting on a London street bollard, while waiting for a friend, a long time ago, on a cool Wednesday afternoon. I am shamelessly using the same link for these songs, that Amit used.
  3. Dnyaneshwari: A 13th C. Marathi translation of the Shree Bhagvad Gita in Marathi, using a poetic metre, very popular in Maharashtra, called an ovi. This translation was done by Sant Dnyaneshwar, a very famous saint of the later Bhakti Movement. It has taken me a while to understand some parts (it is in olde Marathi) – but the lyrical quality, the structure and the wonderful rendition by Lata Mangeshkar is a a treat. Listen to the full album here.
  4. Arth-Saath Saath: Why is this album of two movies? It has perhaps to do with the fact that these movies were released during the cassette-tape era; Side A and Side B. Both movies were released in 1982 and each song is a gem. Unfortunately there isn’t wasn’t a playlist of these songs, so, here is one I created for this post. Most songs in this album are a discovery of finding love, losing love, and knowing love. “Tere Khushboo Mein Base Khat” is an all-time favourite.
  5. Concert in Central Park: By far the best collection of S&G songs, and it’s live. New York often finds mention in S&G songs, but this is a concert that you have to listen to, to feel the spirit of NY alive and kicking, in the concert. Enjoy!
  6. So Beautiful So What: This is the album where I potentially break the rules of this tag. I say potentially because #5 above is an S&G album, and this one is Paul Simon. SBSW is a recent release, and all that is true, wonderful, lovable, heartfelt about Paul Simon comes back to life in this album. It’s different in many ways – but the sense of love is the same. I will not be able to put it in words, so why don’t you go ahead and listen to it. If you have time for only one song, don’t miss “Dazzling Blue.
  7. Essential – Roy Orbison: I admit, I didn’t know of Roy Orbison for a long time. A chance encounter, c. 1999, sitting alone in a place thinking of a love far away, I heard Blue Bayou. I asked the bartender who it was, got myself this album the next day. Since then, it has never let me down. All 36 songs from this double CD set, here.
  8. The Abbey – Monks and Choirboys of Downside Abbey: March 2008; soulful voices echoing through the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Enough said? I just could not find the playlist for the album that I have, but here’s a superset, to help you get the flavour of what I enjoy.
  9. Le Nozze Di Figaro: Two words — Shawshank Redemption. Red says, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about.Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a great place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” Never heard opera before in my life. After listening to an extract of one, in the movie, I got the album and it did not disappoint – though I still cannot understand it or tell you why I love it, I do.  Some titles aren’t available in this playlist, but it won’t be too difficult to find the Herman Prey version.
  10. But Seriously: The perfect album to have been released when you are seventeen. This album has been mine, since. And while I may discover and love newer music, this one is rock-solid, always there. And here it is for you.
  11. Pyaasa: No amount words can do justice to tell you what this album means to me. It’s not just the songs, it’s the movie, the man, the method, not in the least – the madness. Listen and lose yourself.
  12. Love, Actually – OST: If we were to ever talk of the best OST of a movie, this would rate way up in my list. Eclectic, evocative, emotional. Listen

Bonus: A Toda Cuba Le Gusta: If, you feel that I cheated with S&G/Paul Simon, here’s another one. This is an album of happiness and joy. Not just Cuba, I feel, everyone in the world loves it. This album is a Star Trek – like – teleporter. It can take you to wonderful places and wonderful times. All yours.

Feel free to take up this tag, and let us know of twelve albums that have had a lasting impression on you!

How Blue Should Be: #Anthem 17

If you have missed earlier Anthem posts, see all of them here.

~

51-SPMEH7fLThere may be people in this world who aren’t particularly fond of blue. I have, however, yet to come across someone who despises blue. It is pretty much an inescapable colour.

But how should blue really be?

There is no one answer to that question. Blue is different for all of us – whether we love blue or not. But there’s on shade that Paul Simon talks of, and it is a beautiful shade.

It’s Dazzling Blue.

I’ve always loved Paul Simon’s work, right from Tom & Jerry, Simon & Garfunkel, and later, when he was just Paul Simon. Name an emotion and there’s an S&G or a PS song for it. But Dazzling blue is different. Very different.

It’s a song of culmination, rediscovery, and existence itself. It’s love at its best.

And we wondered why, and imagined it was someday
And that is how the future came to be

There’s a timelessness to the words in this song; it is perhaps more relatable to me due to the use of the tabla. And not just the lyrics, the music is as visual as it can be.

For all the times that all of us have felt it, but never had a song, here it is.

PS: I must say, with some sadness, that the person who started this meme is not blogging anymore. But A’s A, if you are reading this, thank you!

 

Arth: A Conversation

When we smile, do we hide a lot? Are our smiles honest? It begets the question, what is honesty, really? When we express ourselves the way we want to — it is honesty. When we express ourselves without intention, that is honesty, too. Is the smile a manner of how we “are,” or how we want to “be,” or how we want to be “seen.”

Honest to whom? To ourselves, of course, I presume. Then, what we project is immaterial, isn’t it? Or is it? I don’t know. What we feel, what we think, what we want to happen, what we want others to think about how we “really” feel is all about being “happy”, with our being, in essence, it seems. So, whether we really feel a certain way of being “happy”, or we expect others to reinforce our own “projected happiness”, to be really happy with our own existence… well, I still don’t know what begets what. “Aankhon mein namee, haseen labon par” [Translation: Moist eyes; yet a smile on my lips]— we all need someone to see that moist eye, somewhere hiding behind the smiling face, I guess?

Are our tears a call for action, from the other, in that sense? When we cry, alone, are we really hoping that someone sees our tears? Not true, always, in my experience. Crying alone has its value; its virtue. Cathartic, some might say. We are to be responsible for ourselves. I am not talking of the social diktat. We have to dwell, twirl, and spiral within all that we feel. Poets, the good ones, have done injustice, for we borrow from them, the meaning and structure of what we feel. I utterly dislike poets. I have perhaps, said this to you before. As much as I love them. The sense of my feelings never seem to be my own.

We borrow, where we fail to express well. However, in essence, the point is that there’s a form and meaning to the emotions that we all feel that these poets provide, so to speak. A vehicle, in a way. But that’s besides the point, no? Are our tears, shown or not shown, a call to action for the other? Well, we want to hide the best we can what we don’t want others, including our loved ones, to judge us on, at any point of time. Point remains – any emotion , when unexpressed, is what we appreciate much more when felt by the ‘other’. As for the expression of these emotions, through those vicarious, or through some ways external to us – like these songs from Arth, are just a channel. In some sense, I feel, it’s useless in way. Because, such oral and obvious expressions are not what we’re looking, for when we expect latent emotions to be really “felt” without specific ventilation on our part. When you lose your primary audience (you know who I mean) and that medium of conversation (with those channels cut off), these songs become your emotional anthems.

So, these songs are our crutches, in some form? They are, perhaps. But, given that these songs are so beautiful, I’d rather not attribute ‘crutch’ to them. But that that’s just me. So, when the lover asks, how could I ever burn those wonderful handwritten letters of yours, he speaks of the dilemma of the beginning and the end at the same time. But the sense of burning never leaves him, for even when he submits her love letters to the Holy Ganges, he speaks of lighting a pyre in that pure water. Purity of fire, meets purity of the Ganges.

“Him”; I think of ‘me’ every single time these words pass through me. Beauty of these words, somewhere, lies in the fact that it’s so close to the feeling of a sense of loss, that you feel, is not warranted. The connection, the emotion, the whole ventilation that goes through you, is what makes these songs immortal, at least as far as I’m concerned. Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us. A letter, handwritten, garnished, conceived from start to the end, in the heart of someone that values us for “just existing,” for God’s sake, is something that cannot be burnt. That age-old paper, with that ink, lost in past, with those emotions buried within those strokes of ink, lends you, your life — today. And, that’s a big deal.

“Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us.” — well said. I once said, that our lives are just a count of incidents. It’s the same, when you refer to them as “moments.” And, as most corny and cheesy memes on Facebook and Twitter will tell you, it’s these moments that determine our life. I disagree. Moments are so personal, they can never be generalised to a population. When, in “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar” – he asks her to count the heartbeats of her young heart and asks for comparison with his own, that’s not his real question — he is seeking a sense of oneness; a sense of a shared, common existence. I go back to my question of the smile. In the song, in the last stanza, he displays braggadocio – but it’s not; he is as much scared in his expression of love as much as she is scared to admit it.

“He is seeking a sense of oneness”. Hoping. That’s what a lover ends up hoping for, and hopes for it to be the truth. I sense; a sense of optimism mixed with romanticism, with a purport of really knowing what the other person feels. You only know if it’s what ‘you hope for’, or ‘is the truth that’s being hidden behind all these facial expressions of casualness’; if you’ve really gone through it with a person yourself. Depending on where you are in any relationship, you could be anywhere in the continuum of possibilities — hope to reality. And, when things in reality don’t really converge with hope, then, you end up blurting out – “vo jo apna tha vohi aur kisi ka kyun hai, yahi duniya hai to phir eisi ye duniya kyun hai, yehi hota hai to aakhir yehi hota kyun hai…”. [Translation: That which was mine, why is it someone else’s; if this is how the world is, why is the world like this] Sometimes, it’s all about hope. Even in despair, poets find a way to find hope. Even if that knock on your door is in your imagination, you seek to open it. Oughta learn?

Are you in love?

A lover is always in.

Haha. Good one, mate. I expected another word to end that sentence of yours. But, by the stroke of slashing that word, you have described a true lover. Love is not about being loved. It is about being “in” love.

Aah, there’s my clue! Did you notice that we have two words – “Lover” and “beloved”. Loving is the action, and that’s the only one that you’re responsible for. Being a beloved is not in your hands. So, yeah, Love is about loving. As for being loved, well, keep hoping. Being loved is not in your hands. So, all you can do is love. And, being beloved? Well….

I like that. Being in love, i.e. It was Voltaire, if I remember well, who said, “it is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all.” And I reiterate — I like being in love. The sheer essence of the feeling makes my world go round (or around, whatever the word is). May there be more who seek love, in the true sense of what it means (and that needs to be discovered, for who knows, what love really means.)

You said it – “Who knows what love really means”. ‘Koi ye kaise bateye ke vo tanhaan kyun hai,..’ [Translation: How does one know if another is lonely]. Who knows whatever ‘whatever’ means. In the end, like Jagjit Singh says… ‘Aas jo toot gayi, phir se bandhata kyun hai…’ [Translation: Why do you try and bind the hope that is broken] – It’s all about hope, mate. Whenever I listen to these songs of “Arth”, I get a sense of melancholy and hope — in love, combined, if it makes sense; that’s what matters, immaterial of the possession of that ‘you’.

I see you, and this thought comes to my mind…

~o~

PS: The above post was a “live conversation” that occurred on a shared Google Doc that I had with Ashish Bhagwat. We were together, facing each other, as this post developed. Before we started this “experiment,” we talked of much, and as a blogging experiment, we had a ‘digital’ conversation. The conversation was centred around the songs of the movie — Arth. No edits were made. This post was linear; one paragraph by him and the next by me. His conversations are in italics; mine are regular. My blogging experiments continue. If you have an idea, let me know: we should experiment more.

Ashish Bhagwat - Co-blogging

Ashish Bhagwat – Co-blogging

I Do It For Your Love

What makes a lover say no to the love that stands, with open arms, asking only, that he take one step towards love?

What purpose or gain, if you love me
Other than being scattered in the whirlwind of my milieu.

What makes a love think so much of the life he has lived and the life that he sees in front of him, that he does not take that step?

I am the denizen of the hovel of grief and pain
It’s only me, who can stay alive in this haunt.
Why would I dream a dream whose reality is remorse
For, in my remorse, you may rue it too.

What makes a lover not see a better life and drives away the love to a better future?

Pray, what purpose, that anyone share this anxious weariness
Let my world remain dreary and dismal
Let the steps in your life be easier, in the least
In traveling with me, nothing but regret awaits you

What makes a lover hope for a good life for his lover, away from him?

What of me; there are many admirers to come
Many tunes that will echo of love, for you
Many tales of love that life is yet to tell you
You have no reason to believe you will not forget me.

Love.

*

I’ve taken serious liberties in translating the song, but have stayed true to the sense this song causes, within. There is an inherent beauty in sad songs, like I mentioned earlier. Even in your happiest moments, these songs remain beautiful, because of the weave of the words and the purity of the emotion that they convey.

It’s love.

*

“Pyar Mujh Se Jo Kiya Tumne”, from Saath Saath (1982), sung by Jagjit Singh

The Unexplained: #Anthem: 16

It’s been a while, since I posted an Anthem.

Songs of tragedy, pain, and loss are usually difficult to write about. One, the original context of the sadness is often very personal to the song’s author. When we listen to a song, the meaning changes — because the author’s context makes way for our own. Two, most sad songs are beautiful. So when you say you like a sad song, it isn’t clear if you like it because it’s beautiful, because you relate to it, or both. And finally, they enclose emotions that there aren’t words for, it can only be an experience.

But it’s a wonder (for me) how the poets do it. What kind of pattern-thinking do they posses that allows them to choose and lay out words that can make meaning to thousands, millions of people and relate to that inexplicable experience? The abstraction that they create, reaches far deeper than a simple statement would. There seems to be, to me, a sense of protectiveness of the sorrow, and if it has to be displayed, it stays behind the lattice-work of abstraction.

Perhaps that is why some sad songs become beautiful. In a single instant, there’s meaning, and there isn’t.

*

When I first heard this song, I didn’t understand it much. There was something however, about the song that never left me. This is the song that people sing at picnics and outings, after all the dance has been done, all the drinks are over. Like a full circle. This song, is essentially, full of questions. Mostly, none of the questions have answers. It’s the phenomenon of no-one-knows..

Here’s a decent translation (And a link to the same song, with better Audio, but no video)

I cannot, but think of a doha (couplet) by Kabir:

ऐसा कोई ना मिला जासों कहूं दुख रोय।
जासों कहिये भेद को,सो फिरी बैरी होय।।

None could I find, as such, to share my sorrow, sad profile
To those in whom, I did confide inimically turned hostile.

Above translation by Daduzen (DN Harjani), from Kabir Speaks

 

 

The Lost Lovers: #Anthem 15

Not all lovers are lost. Some are.

And they are lost differently. Notwithstanding how and where they are lost, they never cease to be lovers. They are as much lovers as the person standing next to them. Though, given that they are lost, there is perhaps no one standing next to them. And yet, they are not alone. There’s always someone calling out to them. Sometimes, these lost lovers hear the calls, sometimes they don’t, sometimes, they ignore.

The lost lover is conflicted. Between the head and the heart. Between the here and later. Between the discrete and the abstract. Between some this and some that. The lost lover is unable to love something or someone. The lost lover is trapped being in love with love itself. The abstraction of being in love, in the first place — and then, the added abstraction of being in love with love. That’s a sure place of being lost.

095532: Squinches

Those of us who do not understand the lost lover call the lover selfish. Dry. Empty. Soulless. And then, Loveless. We can call them anything we want. We cannot call them loveless, however. They me be lost. But they are lovers.

*

I am not a big fan of Ranbir Kapoor – the lead actor in this movie. #Statutory #Disclaimer. I love this song, however. And the irony, that this song is titled Kabira (I am assuming after Kabir) is not lost upon me. This is an accusative song on the face of it.  Tochi Raina and Rekha Bharadwaj  have rendered this song with the kind of sensitivity that it deserves. It’s not a dialogue – even though it is a duet. On the face of it, it is a come back home song.

We may do it a disservice however, if we leave it at that.

*

For those of us who would like to know the literal (not philosophical) meaning of the song, see this page. If this video doesn’t show up in your region, use these key words to search for the song: Kabira, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone