10 November 2007

Keep the candles going

1. After Singur and Nandigram, the staunchest of CPI-M supporters have had either nothing to say or have fallen silent. But some people are their usual cocksure selves. For instance, the Times of India. Day before yesterday, it led with a story that screamed, “Battle for Nandigram won.” My questions: (a) Who won the battle? The people of Nandigram or the CPI-M cadres? (b) For whom was the battle won? The people of Nandigram or the CPI-M cadres? (c) Is that something to celebrate? Quite a few of us have not forgotten that Laxman Seth, local CPI-M biggie, declared early this year that 20,000 odd acres would be acquired. It was then that Nandigram erupted, and the affected people formed the BUPC. So, if the BUPC was 'ousted' by the CPI-M, does it call for a celebration? TOI editors think so. This is the newspaper which got the 'Lead India' nautanki on the road recently.

2. If you can, get a copy of tomorrow's Dainik Statesman. The lead story presents the number of people killed during the last 30 years of Left rule: 55,000. And this is according to police records.

3. I think we must institute some sort of an award for fearless reporting and give it to Tara News for being the bravest news channel of India and all its Medinipur and Nandigram correspondents for being as intrepid as they have proved themselves to be. Truly, hats off to them. They smuggle cameras to conflict areas and send footages god knows how.

4. Gopalakrishna Gandhi. Yes, you are the last hope we have. Please take the one step you have been mulling about since the last couple of days. It's time you made the anarchy of this state official.

5. Oh, do remember to keep those apolitical candle light vigils going. As long as you light a candle and strike a pose, it doesnt matter what you do on election day. The movie buff bhadralok at Nandan was miffed because the film fest was disrupted by the Trinamul party. The bhadralok said on TV that though he was very sorry about what was happening in Nandigram, the film fest shouldnt have been disrupted, because the two things were 'different' and 'not connected'. The CPI-M owes a lot to people like him. I wonder what the bhadralok has to say about Mahasweta Devi's vocal presence in any protest relating to Singur and Nandigram. What could a novelist have anything to do with politics, he might wonder.

6. Bengal's fate in the recent past (that is, since the beginning of coalition politics) has been closely linked to the politics at the Centre. Tomorrow the Left and Manmohan Singh meet, ostentatiously for the nuclear deal. And Bengal's politics can go to hell, once again.

03 November 2007


When I sing, I feel something releasing in me. I deeply miss my music classes with Mrs Sampath. I learnt a bit of Carnatic music from her in Hubli, of all the places. As far as I know, she was the only Carnatic vocal instructor in Hubli-Dharwad, the cradle of Hindustani music in Karnataka. Pure stroke of luck that I found her.

When I first joined the classes, I was about 12; my voice was good, but raw... unused to modulations, to 'bhaava'. Mrs Sampath told us to practise at home at least once a week. Prashanti, the little brat and my music classmate, and I would 'practise' all the way from my house to Mrs Sampath's, a distance of about 15 mins. But the good thing about us was when we began to sing in class, we poured our heart out. And Mrs Sampath would be impressed, and would say, "So, you have practised."

But Mrs Sampath was no fool: soon, she told us that our voices were good and we sang well, but we had no bhaava. Now, what is bhaava, I remember thinking. And then she sang the same kruti that we had just sung, and I began to listen. I heard many sounds in her voice, many ups and downs, many twists and turns, many a thing that made me close my eyes and rock my head. (That's among the many similarities music has with the process of an orgasm: you cant stand or for that matter lay still when you are experiencing either.) And I knew I didnt produce these sounds; at least not then.

So, I began to practise. Not much, maybe an hour or two a day. I also began to listen to more music. One day at class, after I finished singing a pancharatna kriti, Mrs Sampath looked hard at me, as if trying to search for something, and then gave an approving nod of her head. The beginnings of musical insight - that's what she was looking for in me, and she said she found them.

Mrs Sampath was a perfectionist. Weeks used to go by with me stuck on a line. There was no going ahead unless she heard what she wanted to hear. It was excruciating for me because I could see where she was tweaking it a little, but to do that myself made me sweat. There was only one way to sing it the way she did: shut my eyes tight, map out her voice exactly in my mind, and imitate it. And, bingo! If you hear it right, you've got it. This was how I picked up Bengali, too. Works with language and music.

Must find a teacher here. Must practise, must sing, must breathe!