Classically yours

Bollywood has given us some of the best songs that are either purely or partly based on a classical raaga. Composing songs based on classical raagas was the forte of yesteryear composers like Naushad, S.D.Burman, Madan Mohan, Vasant Desai to name a few. Even R.D. Burman who first introduced us to western beats gave us splendid songs that were purely based on raagas. The era of classical melodies in Bollywood ended with the beginning of the late 70s action-oriented movies and later the advent of techno-pop and dhinchak beats. Nowadays, in most songs, it is the rhythm that lingers longer than the melody, if at all. Total Recall on Times Now this Sunday brought back the memories associated with those classical gems that were my best companion not very long ago.

Being born in a musical family and also a student of classical music, I was used to the game of "identifying/guess the ragam" of a song in my childhood. Mother would have a proud smile on her face when I'd hit the bulls-eye even with some difficult-to-guess ones. Later, when my interest in music bended towards light music/film music, I'd try to find similarities between the Carnatic and Hindustani ragas. Come any competition and my choice for song always tended to the ones that had a classical touch to it.

SA RE GA MA (of the times when Sonu Nigam used to host it) was the first music show that promoted real talent. I'd remain glued to the T.V set for the slotted hour, nodding away in awe at the extraordinary singing talent displayed by most of the contestants. The rounds were truly competitive at that time. Be it the classical song round, where the participants had to choose a song that truly tested their caliber in the song rendition while adhering to the sur and taal along with the finesse with which they handled the harkats (movements or variations). If they could bring in a touch of their originality, they got extra brownie points. The Taal round on the other hand was truly a mind boggling one that put even the top-notch contestants in a spot. The original taal would be changed (either in the tempo or the number of beats itself ) and the participant would be required to sing to the changed taal without making the song sound out of rhythm! Clearly, a test of how well a person understood the maatras and percussion. Every round would be a learning material for aspiring singers and the audience too.

And, when like-minded people got together during weddings or other occasions, we would spend many an hour debating on who was a better singer in a particular episode, the debate reaching ridiculous degree of intensity with each side passionately advocating their choice of contestant. I can still recall the names of many of the participants whose exemplary singing remained in my heart long after. Such was the high-standard. The judges were revered names from the classical and film industry and there were no staged squabbles among them to increase the TRPs.

The mushrooming song and dance reality shows that have come to replace shows like SA RE GA MA are an extremely watered down version with more emphasis on the TRPs rather than the actual talent hunt. The talent today is no less, on the contrary, is in on a all-time high. However, I feel, the bar to test them has been lowered many times over. Also, with new age technology, any blemish in the pitching or in the rendering of the song can be corrected. You don't really need to be a classically trained as every thing is digitized and an off-the mark note can be tweaked to attain the perfect output. On a recent interview of Shreya Ghoshal in a newspaper, she had remarked that during the times when she was a contestant on SA RE GA MA, they (the contestants) were free to choose a difficult song that none had heard of, for rendition, but now the songs have to be ones that are popular with the masses to gain viewership.

It is a pity that music of such kind is no longer a preferred option. Is it too technical for this generation to appreciate? Will melody slowly fade away into oblivion? Will classical music be left to be explored only on a pure platform through concerts? Can the present and next league of composers not recreate the confluence of popular and classical music like their predecessors? These are some questions that may perhaps be unanswered.

I'll leave you with some of my favourite songs that were played on this Total Recall episode:

Laaga Chunri mein daag based on Bhairavi in Hindustani or Sindhu Bhairavi in Carnatic music

Naino mein badra based on Ragam Aberi of Carnatic or Bhimpalasi in Hindustani

Raina beeti jaaye based on Todi of Hindustani or Shuba panthuvarali of Carnatic

Beeti na bitayi raina based on Yaman kalyani of Hindustani or Kalyani of Carnatic

The list can go on and on but since the post is already long enough, I'll put a stop here. Are you also a fan of classical based songs? Do share your views/favourite songs?

The feline visit

My first house after marriage had a huge balcony. The flat was situated at the end of a long corridor from the staircase. If our balcony didn't have a grill, someone could easily jump into it from the passage corridor outside!:-0  But, our balcony did have grills, so, there was no such threat. So why am I rambling about my house and the balcony? Just so that you can picture it correctly in your mind. Well, even if you can't just read ahead, please.

It was on one afternoon that I got up from my post-lunch siesta and as I opened my eyes, I saw a huge brown cat at the door of our bedroom. As I gave out a loud scream in shock, the cat (probably equally shocked) made a dart towards the balcony and vanished. Now, am not a very animal friendly person. And, anyway, a sudden unsolicited appearance of any kind of creature in my territory, startling my bones, can only evoke such a reaction. The cat went away but I was left searching every corner of the house to see if it had left any other marks of its brief stay or if there were any more surprises. Convinced of its absence and of any traces, I closed the doors to the balcony. I kept a wary eye out for its subsequent visits but to my relief, none happened for some time. Relaxed, I let my guard down.

A few weeks passed. It was the rainy season. That evening, it was pouring cats and dogs. The hubby came home and went to dry out his umbrella in the balcony and made a casual announcement that we have a family of cats visiting us. I rushed in horror to double-check (hubby knows my love for the animal and reptile kingdom and is capable of saying such things just to spite me), and sure enough there were three cute little kittens along with the mother cat (yes the same one who gave me a fright not long ago). So, the little imp (the cat, I mean) was planning this all the while. Taking advantage of a poor lady staying alone for most part of the day in a huge house. Well, the house wasn't so huge but of course the balcony was and she occupied it with her kittens now. 

Even though I cannot stand the thought of having pets, least of all cats, I didn't have the heart to drive them away. To be frank, I fell in love with the tiny kittens. The mother would go off in the morning to find food and these would be left merry-making or sleeping huddled together. One of the three kittens, a white one, was the cutest and naughtiest. While the other two would sleep, this one would prance about trying to climb on to the nearby window ledge :-)

 During their stay, we made sure, we did not step into their territory. The mother, whenever she was around, would keep a stern and ferocious guard and let out an angry purr, even if she sensed us coming near her kittens. We for our part played our roles as gracious hosts and kept out of their way, only sneaking a look every now and then to see if there were there or not. I was in fact even worried about their safety from the pigeons, who were also frequent but transient visitors.

 The feline family attained prime spot in the conversations between me and my family who'd be eager to know how the new members of the house were doing, if they were still there or had abandoned their new-found shelter yet.

The visitors stayed for a full two months. And one fine day, just as suddenly as they made an appearance, they all  left. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss them.

Where is the sense of humour?

Some people are funnier than the rest. They are easily the soul of any party with their spontaneous wit and sense of humour. Humour attracts people like bees to honey. Yet, increasingly people find it easier to laugh at someone else, rather than with. When the joke is on them, very few have the magnanimity to laugh it off. We are very serious people. Our self-esteem depends on what people think or make of us rather than we ourselves feel about ourselves. Really, even if we view ourselves objectively and come up with a few positive points, we still feel unsure till someone else seconds it. Why is it easy for some to laugh easily while some take even an innocuous comment to heart, their ego bruised very easily?

Sometimes a funny or humourous person is not taken seriously as the rest of the "serious" lot feels that the person has a lackadaisical approach towards life and cannot be trusted with more important tasks. But without them or the spice of humour, don't you think our lives will be such a drab! Think of your daily office routine. There will be at least one funny chap who is always surrounded by people during break times (and even non-break times) to have their usual quota of laugh for the day, to get rejuvenated enough to get back to the boring stuff. The tele-shows (and am not talking about the forever laughing Siddhu and Archana Puran Singh) that have a humourous take on life are definitely a welcome change from most of the other routine tear-jerking ones.

Writing is tough but writing humour/satire is tougher. For some, it just comes naturally. It is as though you are in front of the person listening to their funny anecdotes. Is there any surprise then, blogs or blog-posts that are filled with satire and humour get the most number of visitors? When the going gets tough, it is only a little loosening of yourself, a little laugh, a little joke shared that keeps one sane and helps to get a fresh perspective to life. It's not for nothing that even doctors vote for laughter as the best medicine.

Yet, we keep shunning humour when it is most needed. The recent political row over banning of cartoons in text books just shows how childish and immature we can get. Seriously, you cannot digest a cartoon depicting a satirical view, how do you weigh the enormous responsibility of leading the country on your rigid shoulders, then? "Cartoons in text books can damage impressionable minds. It is for adults and not children". Really? since when humour became an adult thing and whom are you kidding when you say children are far away from truth these days? Sometimes I feel the youngsters these days are far more serious than we were. They are much more in need of good humour and light-heartedness. Yes, sometimes hitting someone below the belt and hurting someone intentionally does happen in the name of humour. Every good comes with its share of bad. Simply because someone cut his finger, one does not throw all the knives out of the window. Satire is just a way of expression and when the humour in it is lost, it is in a sense, a loss of a better way of looking at things. Sadly, for children of today even a sense of humour would come with a price tag.

What I thought of Satyamev Jayate

Like many of you, I too sat glued to the T.V to watch the opening episode of the much advertised show Satyamev Jayate hosted by Aamir Khan. I was completely impressed with the topic that was chosen to be discussed on the opening episode. Female foeticide or infanticide-a burning issue that had been debated to deaths on the blog world was finally getting the attention at a national level.

We, as bloggers, do know for a fact that educated and well-to-do people are equally and perhaps more involved in the practice. However it was an eye-opener for the rest of the audience. A simple fact of science taught in class 7 or 8 that the male chromosome is the key factor that determines the sex of a child is something that got conveniently forgotten. Or was it? The shocking case of Dr. Mitu, whose in-laws rank among the very well educated, is indeed proof that perhaps the male progeny crazed people do not care about the science.

My mother-in-law is a septuagenarian who kept trying for a son till she got one finally after 3 daughters. She was 38 when she finally became a mother of a son! She obviously wished that her first grandchild would be a male. Fortunately for her, her wish was fulfilled. Now, I know for sure that I would not have been tortured or asked to abort if it had been a girl but I have always wondered if she could have showered the same amount of love for a grand-daughter instead. I got a chance to ask her this recently and although she said she would have accepted the girl child with equal love, she also didn't mask the pride, relief and gratitude to the Almighty to have granted her wish. After all her daughter-in-law achieved something that she and many of her predecessors and contemporaries achieved after several frustrating and anxious attempts. It was a matter of status and pride those days to have a son, she quipped when prodded to the whys. I failed to make her see my point of view that if people like her grew and continued to have such beliefs today,  there really would be no girl left in the country to marry off the blessed and precious sons. She is two-generations behind us, so maybe, just maybe, we can grant her, her thinking but sadly there is a vast majority from the so-called modern thinking clan who think on the very same lines. How is it that for a son to get married and have children, they want females but to have them born as their daughter or grand-daughter is simply not acceptable? What kind of warped thinking is this?

The point is, will such shows open the eyes of people who are perhaps more aggressive and vehement than my mother-in-law in their stubbornness to somehow have a male progeny in their family. The show is certainly in the right direction going by the uproar and wave it has created. For once it is about the right issue and not about some nonsensical grapevine of the Bollywood. However, the show is not only about female infanticide; the next episode on there will be other important issues to be highlighted and discussed. This cannot be handled in the same way one watches a debate on the show, discuss it online and elsewhere, create a few ripples, make small inroads here and there and then let it slither off the back and memory, few months down the line. Sustained efforts to keep the flame of reform burning and fueling it time and again to let it grow wild enough to compel people to take note of this malady is essential. And these efforts are to be made by us as individuals, by the society in general, by the authorities who shut their eyes and ears to the growing social illness and by the rest of ethical medical fraternity.

When a woman as a mother-in-law forgets the pain she goes through as a mother to bring a child into this world, when she begins to think just as a mother of a son and considers herself to have achieved the highest form of salvation by the virtue of being one and inflicts pain on the daughter-in-law either mentally or physically, it is the duty of the daughter-in-law to stand up for herself- first to secure herself and second to bring punishment to the guilty. This will happen only when daughters are raised to think independently, educated to be financially independent and given enough love and respect so that she develops a healthy self-esteem instead of raising them as just as a responsibility, someone who will get married and go off to take care of someone else's parents.Values of "adjustment" and tolerance" are good but they should not be applied when the self is at stake.

Just a couple of factors in the show that came across to me as disturbing:

Firstly, the case studies. Although I am not denying the validity and truth in them, it was certainly glaring to note that all of them barring the one from Delhi came from BJP ruled states. If this was coincidental, then it is a very interesting one. Secondly, the red areas shown on the Indian map to highlight the maligned areas funnily showed Andhra Pradesh as a fairly clean state. Now as a person who lived in Hyderabad for a few years, I can safely say that it is a state where dowry is openly discussed, taken and given. I find it really hard to believe that the state is progressive enough to not practice female foeticide or infanticide.Thirdly, while I am happy to note that a town in Punjab has been successful in eradicating this malice, I also wish to point out that the Modi government in Gujarat has been equally a crusading factor in bringing about a change.

These irritants can be ignored if the larger context is upheld and some progressive thinking takes place. I'll put my cynical self on hold for a while until then.

P.S. I am not a mouthpiece for Modi government or BJP but am in general more in favour of these two when compared to the other severely corrupt parties.And I am aware of the media which is largely in the hands of the ruling party and sweeps off the good work done by the opposition under the carpet and generally twists the facts to present its story.

The self is fragile

First impressions and appearances can be deceptive many a times. It has happened a few times when I thought I had sized-up the person well and s/he turned out to be completely different. So much for my sizing up skills! The person in question here is someone who was in a very senior position in one of the companies I worked in. The first day he came in to meet us, I was charmed by the way he spoke and the way he carried himself. He looked like a man of authority, who spoke well and who also knew his business very well. I was quite impressed.
Only as days went by, did his real self came peeling off like a badly done paint of a wall. He was downright arrogant with people who stood up for themselves or who had the guts to say no to his face. He couldn't take disagreements gracefully. I was for one among the people who rubbed him in the wrong way. This was my third job and by now I was far from the eager over-enthusiast who'd bend backwards to please my mentors/seniors in the greed of getting noticed and appreciated for the sincerity and hard work. I truly understood how the corporate world functioned and knew how to just do my stuff and stay clear from getting stuck in yucky politics and the quick-sand of "being in the good books" of the senior management. Sure, I was still sincere and worked hard but there were no stars in my eyes of hogging the lime-light for this quality alone.

Anyway, I digress. It is sometimes comical to see a person of such stature and position stooping so low as to play child-like games of being miffed because someone had the guts to say no (for genuine and personal reasons) for a request that was not even related to work. And go to the lengths of ignoring or talking to the employee in a condescending tone in public. Why the arrogance and the superiority complex? Or is it some insecurity within that saw a small disagreement as a matter of loss and win? Shows what ego can do to a person. Education and exposure to the world in general does not really guarantee a humble attitude. It is quite rare to meet accomplished people who are also genuinely humble and gracious while dealing with people from the lower ranks.

And then, isn't it difficult for many or most of us to refrain from showing off our knowledge and maybe superiority in the company of people who we think do not quite meet the mark of our high selves? Little or more, this bloated sense of self is present in all of us. Whether we choose to mask it or wear it on our sleeves depends, perhaps, more on our basic nature and the environment we grew up in. This "I" is so fragile and it takes very little for anyone to cause damage to it.

(Not) made for each other

Priya looked at Rajesh's profile photo. He looked like those "uncle" types. Not very tall and sported a moustache. But these reasons were not sufficient to reject the "prospective" groom. At least her parents thought so. Give the person a chance is what the others told her. So, she ignored the heart and went ahead with the mind. She began corresponding with Rajesh. Nothing seemed wrong with him prima facie. He responded promptly to all her mails and answered her questions with grace. Yet, there was something nagging in her heart. She wasn't yet falling for him.

Priya was well educated and worked in an MNC. Tall, dusky with a not-so-perfect skin, she was your girl next door. A sunny smile, perfect gait, a nice figure and pleasant disposition made up for the lack of conventional beauty. She went through the usual rigmarole of groom-hunting, burying the secret desire of finding someone who would sweep her off her feet to fall in love. She was practical too. Giving in to her parent's requests, she had signed up on the matrimonial sites.

Mails followed mails and soon the initial introductory phase was over and it was time to move on to more serious topics. The horoscopes were already matched, so families and habits were discussed. Priya had a lot of apprehensions but Rajesh deftly handled her queries. She seemed pretty fast (?), he told her once over an email. (Whatever that meant!). There were things that nagged her. The fact that Rajesh's mother doted over him more (apparently) and valued his opinion more than that of his elder brother triggered an unease. That, he kept track of the family budget and prepared extensive excel sheets for the finances should have been a plus, yet it gave her strange goosebumps. These were inexplicable irritants- no real reason on the face of it. Call it a woman's instinct, Priya was certainly not at peace.

Things were moving a fact pace, sooner than she liked. It was time for a face-to-face meeting and she was dreading it. Rajesh hailed from a different city, worked in yet another city and was to fly down to Priya's city to meet her. She was hoping for a miracle. Something that would stall things or something concrete that would come into light to enable her articulate her fears, to base her possible rejection on. It was not as though her opinion didn't matter. She was given the reins as far as the final choice and decision was concerned. Her decision would be respected even if it was just based on her whim. But maybe the responsibility that comes with the freedom stopped her from making rash decisions without giving a full chance to the other party and to herself.

Priya's prayers were answered, when all of a sudden before the meet was to happen, her brother-in-law, Santosh, had to go on a official visit to the same city from where the guy hailed from. In short this was a opportunity for someone from her family to meet the guy's family and gauge them before she and Rajesh met: an important lead to take things ahead. She spent a restless day and was eagerly awaiting some news, when Santosh came with some information that confirmed her fears about this match.

Rajesh was the second of the two children. The elder son and his wife lived with the parents. The elder son didn't hold any professional degree, but came across as a very warm and genuine person. But the manner in which he was treated by the family that too in front of a complete stranger (Santosh), rang warning bells in the brother-in-law's mind. The way Rajesh's family functioned and behaved was typical of an orthodox system where hierarchy of age prevailed over wisdom. In the course of the short visit, small but significant facts like: the mother kept the main/common cupboard locked and the keys remained with her at all times, came out in the open. Thanks to her brother-in-law's sharp observation and deducible powers, Priya was assured that her fears were not baseless. She had already made up her mind. With nothing to worry now, she looked forward to meeting Rajesh. It was just a mere formality now.

Rajesh came with his uncle in tow. Priya tried to meet Rajesh's eye. Considering they had corresponded for some time they were not strangers but he evaded her gaze. The minute the snacks were placed on the table, the uncle made a dig at it with an air of authority and superiority and even had the nerve to ask his nephew to eat on without inhibitions. No issues with the eating bit; if snacks are served they are meant to be eaten of course. But uncle's attitude definitely reeked of "oh! we are from the boy's side and we ought to be take care of"- a total put off and a glaring danger signal for any girl. Anyway, soon it was suggested that the girl and the boy talk alone for some time.

The minute they were alone, the first thing Rajesh said was that Priya needed to change a lot. On asking what exactly needed change, he replied that he found Priya a little too modern and that needed change; for e.g. she "couldn't" wear T-shirts as they were un-lady like in his opinion. She was emboldened by the fact that she didn't have to marry this creep, so she took this as an opportunity to scrape the surface further to test the true mettle of the person.

Priya: do you think the wife should "adjust" more??
Rajesh: I think ladies are naturally endowed with powers to adjust.
Priya: So, do you think your wife should work?
Rajesh: Well, I earn enough, so she need not. If she wishes she can however just for time pass.
Priya: What about the decision making? Will you consult your wife in all the decisions taken?
Rajesh: She will be consulted if necessary but the final say would be mine
Priya: You may want to give her some money to run the household then? (the sarcasm was obviously lost on the thick-headed guy)
Rajesh: Oh yes! I am an expert in making budgets. I'll give her some fixed amount for the monthly expense.
I am a good manager at office hence feel I have the capability to manage home too.
meaning: she can be a doormat while I give her some pocket money so that the poor girl can sometimes entertain herself.

Priya was enraged enough to give the chap a tight slap but decency stopped her. They wound up the talk on the "will let you know" note. She had to collect her thoughts

A closure was important and it was more important that she drew it. That night she shot him an email to give a finishing touch to the matter:

I don't think this alliance can work out due to following reasons.
1.We are on completely different wavelengths.
2. I find your views very imposing and rigid. Marriage involves adjustment and change for both partners in equal proportion. I don't believe ladies have special power to give in more than gents. At least this 21st century has no place for such backward beliefs.
3. Change in attitude and lifestyle should be gradual and out of mutual respect and love and not because one partner demands it and expects complete compliance from the other,out of personal reasons and beliefs.
4. I believe, space for personal likes and dislikes and personal growth  is absolutely necessary even between a husband and wife. Individual identity cannot be compromised upon.
5. A life partner am looking for is someone who can be my best friend,who  treats me as an equal with respect. Respect can only be earned and not demanded and it is mutual (works both ways).
6  I believe, marriage cannot be dealt with in the same way one manages a team  in an office.Many successful managers are poor home makers because they see no difference between the two. 
I sincerely feel we cannot get along. These are entirely my viewpoints with nothing personal against you.
Wish you luck in future.

The "send" button was clicked to flush out both- the mail and male chauvinist out of the system.