Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homeward bound

I have decided to return to India for good post December 2012. Although there were some obviously compelling reasons that propelled me towards this decision, every day, I realize that there are a lot of smaller, very impractical and innocent things that have participated in that process. So I have decided to list them (apparently, strong Js like making lists and I am one of them).

1. The fresh fruit/veggie market (मंडई)
I wrote this post before I left India. The spirit of Phule Mandai cannot be translated into any language. Being there is the only way  to completely understand its beauty.

2. Music
To be able to buy and listen to as much classical Indian music as I want to. I want to be able to go to live concerts all the time and perhaps, also organize some travel, exclusively for the music, around places where I have found it in the past.

3. Yoga (and hopefully, vipassana)
My passion for Yoga was something I truly discovered away from home. When I was in India, Yoga always felt like an imposition! But now that it is a part of everyday life, I think I want to start all over again from the beginning.

4. Lazy weekends in my grandfather's home
I really hate feeling nostalgic about anything. And I think this loathing for nostalgia has been brought about almost exclusively by how nostalgic Kolhapur makes me. I have never been able to fully get over my childhood memories of summers spent in Kolhapur.
But I still look forward to lazy weekends in what used to be my Aaji's room, reading all day, and stepping out of the house only when I am ready to leave the city!

5. Rickshaws
Yes. They are that important to me. :)

6. Street food

And most important of all reasons is to eliminate digital communication with my best friends and to be a real three dimensional part of their everyday life. I think this last reason is too important to be on the list. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Music in my posts?

 We don't realize it but our generation grew up with so much digital technology at hand that it has made us more musical (?). When I  was in Australia, I used to stay in touch with my friends in the US through email. Our emails usually came with mp3 attachments. I did this for years. To the point that I took it for granted. But isn't it the most wonderful thing to receive a song with your letter? A song that you haven't heard, or you have heard so many times that it is somehow dearer!

There are very few times in my day when I am alone and headphone free at the same time. I am always listening to music. It is a big part of my life.  It has the power to bring all the hidden feelings to the surface. As a kid, sometimes I felt irrationally uneasy when my dad played certain songs in the house. It was difficult to pinpoint what exactly it was that made me uneasy. Some tracks make it extremely difficult to sit in one place and work. You are almost compelled to get up and dance. Some just take you back to a familiar place (or sometimes, too familiar a place?).

I listen to every kind of music there is. I am a fan of  Pt. Jasraj and Lady Gaga at the same time without any judgement. But I always go back to Indian classical music. I have tried asking people how they listen to music (with my ears?!). How (and why) do some of us evolve into door slamming Black Sabbath fans (even temporarily as teenagers), and some of us can take an unhealthy amount of Chopin or Beethoven? I think music activates my imagination. So when it is too structured (with a great score, great lyrics, great movie), there is little room to add anything of my own. I find that kind of structured music too processed. :)
But with Indian Classical/ folk music, there is room to set your mind free. There is also room for little experiments. When it is accompanied by the tabla or the mridangam, it throws your mental stage wide open for an imaginary dancer.

And even though it lets me wander, it also has the mathematical/metaphysical quality of coming back to the same point in circles. Each circle can be different in its own way. Some go by slowly, savoring every moment there is, while some just spin out of control until you are reminded that you are back to the same point. So when I discovered that I could now make my posts musical using Spotify, I had to write this pointless post to include three of my recent favorites.

1. Zakir Hussain takes us through rupak variations.

2. Anoushka Shankar playing Desh at Carnegie Hall

I totally absolutely love Raga Desh. This track is a really good example of  "coming back to the same point". It feels like a little girl is trying to run wild in the courtyard as her mom brings her back to the center so that she can finally tie her wild curly hair. :)

3. Ustad Shujaat Khan performing Sham Kalyan (Drut)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Breathe and Smile!

I took a Yoga class after a long time yesterday. I entered the studio later than everyone else so the only place left was the front corner, right in front of the mirror. Somehow, no one likes this spot. Maybe because it is too close to the instructor, or too close to the mirror. I like to be there only when I have been practicing for a while and when I really like looking at myself in the mirror. Yesterday was definitely not one of those days. After two weeks in France, I could literally feel all the pain au chocolates around my waist. But I had no choice so I took the spot and unrolled my mat.

Throughout the class, I could hear a really annoying voice in my head.
"Look at you! You used to be able to do this so easy a year ago!"
"That pose is just not flattering. Uff! What am I going to do with you!"
"That's it. No carbs at night. You cannot look like that. It is unacceptable."
"Okay. If one hot yoga class burns 800 calories, then how many should you eat during the day to lose weight?"

It was persistent, constant and unbelievably annoying. (un)Fortunately, I am so used to doing this to myself that it doesn't reach or activate any emotional centers in my brain. It is just the same effort I make when I reject data with high standard deviation in the lab, or when I repeat an experiment because I am not happy with the result.

At the end of the class, the instructor said the usual nice things that the Yoga teacher is supposed to say
"Thank yourself for taking these ninety minutes out of your day for your body"
"Thank your body and mind for sticking together through this practice"
"Look in the mirror and smile at yourself for doing this"
"Be compassionate towards yourself and your body"
"You deserve all the love and happiness in the world. You are beautiful"

A girl in the very last row broke down into tears. The instructor walked over towards her and kissed her on the head. And for the first time in those hot, sweaty ninety minutes, the voice in my head stopped.

Why is it that when someone else says something we really want to hear, it brings us to tears?
If we really want to hear these things, why can't we just say them to ourselves? Why are all these essential emotions, like being compassionate towards yourself, so difficult to practice? 

Even though we live in a world that constantly subjects us to comparisons and judgements, I am starting to believe that our acceptance of unfair judgement from others starts within. It starts with that mechanically annoying voice inside our heads. You first fall victim to your own judgment and then somehow, you see the world around you mirroring your own thoughts back at you.

If we become strong enough to shut that voice, we would become strong enough to cross that judgment barrier. And perhaps, we can all be happy! :)

Friday, August 03, 2012

In Transit

Between the paranoia over security
And the head rush of take off
Lies a fragrant corridor, of tax free scents
Where breathing suddenly becomes easy
Like clouds after precipitation,
We look fluffy and light
Old ladies, with wrinkled hands
(How do you fit three rings on one finger?)
Open paper backs with mascara eyes
Bored dads with empty strollers
People sitting around power points
Like baited fish, giving me odd looks
As I write with my ball point
In a totally organic, three dimensional notebook
Eyes everywhere, locking and unlocking
Sometimes, predictably, turning into a brilliant smile
It is easy to make friends in transit
Perhaps because we all share the feeling
Of a deliciously suspended and an utterly aimless moment!