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Nurturing our Roots

 

‘…Parda nahin jab koi khuda se, bandon se parda karna kya…’

sang a young woman passionately in love, yet strong in her head, and shook an entire sultanate with her courage, conviction and, of course, sheer love for her beloved.

Loosely translated, the verse means when there is no veil with the Supreme Lord, where does the need arise to veil up myself (my thoughts/feelings) in front of humans.

The classic love story of the beautiful courtesan Anarkali and Prince Salim, Emperor Akbar’s son, is making inroads back into our lives, in the form of a musical! A theatre production brought to life by Feroze Abbas Khan, a well-known theatre director, this musical is a live rendition of one of the iconic Hindi movies of Indian Cinema – Mughal-E-Azam.

Art and culture form the core root of our society. And any, and all, attempts to strengthen it, nurture it, and, in today’s times, reinforce it, is welcome and needs an applause.

Let me pause here and take readers back into history. Mughal-E-Azam was an all-time hit movie that was known for its magnificent sets, extravagant decor, beautiful costumes, melodious music, outstanding star cast, and memorable dialogues. It was also a writing masterpiece, with seamless dialogues and classic conversations depicting the social fabric of the times as well as giving a mesmerizing insight into the passionate love, prevalent social dogmas, unyielding elders, staunch lovers, and positions of power. Though a black and white movie, the costume, cinematography, characters, scenes, and many such aspects were thought through with great attention while making this film. The film took close to a decade to complete and cost the filmmaker an unimaginable sum of money, and resulted in a spectacular classic.

And now this iconic film is running full houses as a musical show in live theatre to great applause and appreciation! 

It is highly gratifying to see that this form of theatre is coming to life at a time when technology is sweeping across our lives and alienating us from our core roots. Ask any 20-year-old today about 3D, VR (Virtual Reality) or AI (Artificial Intelligence),  you may very well receive an instant answer from them. But prod them on Kudiyattam, Bhavai or Jatra forms of theatre, you are going to see them staring back at you.

Street plays, stage performance, puppet shows, folk plays, short skits etc. are turning alien to too many millennials. While they were once, to use a contemporary term, ‘talent base’ of actors for the Indian Cinema, today you see them moving into oblivion. Great actors like Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Sheikh have their roots in theatre from where they went on to become successful actors. Down south, actors like Rajkumar or NTR started their careers in street theatre and went on to become successful actors. They not only acted, but also directed and sang their own musical plays.

Coming back to Mughal-E-Azam, why a musical?

In 2004, a colored version of Mughal-E-Azam was released. And somewhere at that time the roots of watching a musical were sown in his mind, says the director. All for love, he adds. To quote his words, ‘Love stories are bigger when sacrifices are big. Anarkali knew the consequences of loving Salim. She was ready to die for love.’

Driven by the firm belief that a theatre is more befitting for this classic, the makers have used a cast of over 350 people and created a play that runs for about 2 hours and 15 minutes and holds a strong contemporary sensibility. The grand set, the costumes, trained dancers and more importantly the live singing on stage brings to life the immortal movie for us, and makes us relive the historical fiction. The play has already run 50+ shows in Mumbai and New Delhi and intends to go global next year. So, all you lovers of this form of art, do take your families, especially the younger ones, and see this musical when it comes to your city.

I hope this endeavour of Feroze Abbas Khan ignites other creative minds, sets the tune for more such plays, nurtures our core art forms, revives them to their full glory and enables younger generations to connect back to our roots. Not only will it enable them to get a hold on our rich culture and heritage but also empower them to connect with their own selves, and the people around through a theatrical depiction of various emotions of life like trust, love, betrayal, anger, friendship, remorse, forgiveness etc.

After all, certain things like love and happy relationships cannot be downloaded using an App on a mobile phone!

 

Swapna Narayanan is an author of short stories and poems currently based in Bengaluru, India.

Stop looking for inspiration!

We all want to do something that we love. Something we ‘see’ ourselves doing throughout our lives. Something we want to be remembered for. The legacy that we want to leave behind. But most of us aren’t there yet. Yeah, it will definitely take time but I’m talking about people who haven’t even taken the path they, deep down, want to take (I am guilty of it too). Why? Aren’t we good at it? We’ve been doing that ‘something’ for quite a while and yet our dreams remain dreams or even fantasies if you can call them that. What is it that’s stopping us?

While there may be many reasons for that, the most common one is that we are waiting for inspiration. Inspiration. What’s so great about it? Everything we’ve done, everything we do and everything we want to do has some kind of inspiration behind it. Be it some person or something we’ve seen or heard, they all inspire us to do things. Inspiration is powerful. It is powerful enough to stop us from chasing our dreams and work on transforming them into reality. It’s the overwhelming feeling that helps us get away from the mundane and explore the exceptional.

Inspiration, indeed, is magical and we do need it in our lives. But isn’t that just a tiny part of the whole process of becoming legendary? It’s just the beginning and there’s so much more that we have to do in order to get where we want to but no, we are just waiting here for the muse to come and cast his spell on us while we should actually be working on getting better at our craft.

Here’s something to bore you. A few days ago, I was depressed because I hadn’t written anything for 4 days and the reason I stopped writing was that out of the blue, I had this thought that no one would read what I wrote. Yes, it sounds ridiculous but it did happen. Last week, I was talking to a friend of mine who, I’m so glad to say this, is as clueless about life as I am and philosophy is our escape. In the midst of our conversation he said: “Unless you start believing in yourself, the world will not believe you.” Boom! Inspirational as hell! I’m sure it’s not original and he must have come across it somewhere but that did make a difference. I was really inspired by what my friend told me. But it only took a couple of hours for it to fade away.

Inspiration is temporary. We want to get inspired and we sit to read some inspiring stuff. We go through motivational stuff and self-help books and Eureka! We are inspired. Did it actually ever happen? Like most of the things in life, inspiration too will pass. We are going to find inspiration in the least likely of places; so the best thing we can do is keep doing what we are doing and get better at it. Our muse is out there watching us and it will come to us when the time is right. Until then, love, laugh, work and sleep.

P.S: I want to dedicate this post to everyone who’s failed at inspiring me

Glances

A short romantic story about a guy new in town who meets a girl in mall

do it do it

UBIQUITOUS TUTOR

THE UBIQUITOUS TUTOR

In layman’s language a tutor aka private teacher is typically one who teaches a single student or a very small group of students. Private tutors offer their services to school and college students to augment their learning, hone their skills in the subjects of study in order to help them score superior grades. Gone are the days when one going for tuition was labeled a ‘dullard’. Contrarily, today’s students seek extra help and benefit from the support; the significant increase in the number of private tutors, particularly those of Mathematics, Science, Indian and Foreign Languages augments this. Numerous tutors operate from their own homes, at the students’ homes, or at local meeting places such as a learning academy or tuition centre.

By and large, private tutors work with individuals or groups of students not only to enable them to complete their assignments, but also help them enhance their knowledge of a subject. The principal objective, however, is for excellent marks, a prerequisite in today’s context. By identifying individual learning needs, tutors could extend the necessary facilities and learning environment, evaluate students’ progress to reinforce the classroom learning with intermittent testing in an informal atmosphere. At first glance, it appears to be a set of simple tasks – merely tutoring and testing. Unlike in a school environment, where the number of students could be around fifty, a private tutor, by virtue of dealing with a small number would be in a position to give personal care and attention. What then could be the challenges posed?

In this context, I wish to spell out that the private tutors attached to institutes coaching students for the Board examinations and Entrance Examinations are not the subjects being discussed. Firstly, the private tutor has to correct the mistakes made by the student while copying into the notebook. (No offence to teachers! nevertheless, the eye fatigue of the teacher is to be taken into consideration, owing to the number of copies evaluated each day, day after day…) Secondly, under the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation system, students are required to complete a number of projects and reports, which involve reference from various sites. As a vast majority of parents happen to be employed, the private tutor is the expedient to offer valuable guidance in the project. And this, often takes away the ‘study time’ allotted for the students.

Further, tuition teachers do not enjoy a status better than the domestic help. Their absence makes things harrowing, the presence is often taken for granted, needless to say, without due recognition for the extra special effort put in, in terms of offering holistic education to children under their care. Often, private tutors end up babysitting young children for more than the stipulated time, just because the parent was tied up with some urgent work, hence, could not pick up the child in time. An attitude issue, more often!

Burgeoning tutor population and the commercialization of private tutoring is an observable fact in recent times; the lucrative business opportunities for tutors, partially because of the tax-free income they enjoy, more so owing to the flexible working hours in comparison with the high-flying jobs, that offer little respite. The work-flexibility has been the major cause for luring stay home mothers (SHMs) into the scenario. Not only does it boosts the self-esteem of the SHM, but also brings in ‘pocket money’ for personal needs – a big step towards woman empowerment.

Having said this, it would be worthwhile and rewarding for every private tutor to keep abreast of the changes in learning techniques in order to extend the ‘comfort zone’ to children under their care. Technology has been beneficial and harmful to children in the way they think and act. A sizeable number of children today experience difficulty in learning owing to multi-fold psychological issues. A private tutor who monitors and closely observes the learning curve of students would be able to identify such problems, counsel students if possible, else, advise parents to seek professional advice. As the adage goes, Prevention is better than cure.

Through meticulous working, the private tutor could carve a niche in the informal environment by emerging confidante, mentor and facilitator – all rolled into one. Quoting the words of Alexander the Great, about his teacher, the legendary Aristotle – “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”

Reflections in Retirement

This New Year will be different for me, even special, as it will be my first New Year in retirement. Not my retirement but my husband’s – at the age of sixty, after 35 years of service in government. The age of retirement seems odd, when politicians are voted to work on well into their 80’s.Judges of the High Courts retire at 62 while those on the bench of the Supreme Court remain till they are 65.Many foreign diplomats work into their 70’s.

Anyway, here I am with him, trying to finish unpacking hundreds of dusty cartons, collected over the past decades and stored in the anticipation of this time in our lives.Bubble-packaging takes up most of the space in the cartons. As I unroll each carefully sealed sticky-tape, it evokes images of a childhood game, ‘Pass around the Parcel’, only here, I would need to remember where I had bought the item or the person who had given it to me. Strange that visions of some of the packers flit to and fro through my misty vision, though I cannot quite place them all in context. As I open a hand-painted small tea-set, I think of my packers in Korea almost thirty years ago, who enjoyed the chai and samosas at 11 am and at 4 pm during their three days in our home. They presented me with this gift, saying I was kind and to remember them when I drank chai! I said I was just doing what we all do back home in India!

What hopes we had all those years ago, travelling thousands of miles across the continents, to seven countries, away from our parents, grandparents, friends – into new environments and diverse cultures and making new acquaintances. At the end of each posting, we would talk of future family gatherings in our home -of a lush green lawn that you could sink your feet in and breathe in the familiar air, then chase butterflies through the colourful flowers in bloom. We spoke of finally being near and living amiably with relatives and long-lost cousins and old friends.Alas.The pollution from vehicular traffic in front of our house is a health-hazard.

I place all the clothes and jackets that are wearable, gently-used, to one side – for the winter collection by local youthful volunteers.Its heartening to see them doing their bit so whole-heartedly, going into the streets and slum-tenements, inter-acting with the children.There are many books our adult children have said we may give too, and toys. It is with great love that I pack away these items- as each has memories of glad joy, even some sorrow, etched into its fabric, including every dog-eared page. A bit of my life ebbs away with each parting gift, but as I straighten up, I know a new little person will feel the same joyful emotions and be warm for a while – till he or she outgrows them too! This is the end of the road….just twenty odd boxes of such items, as we had always given away wearable clothes and some household kitchenware before leaving each country of residence.

The Deep-Fat French Fries Fryer that found its way back here is given away for free to the kabaddi-wala (*collector of old items), but I caution him that the plastic handle seems unsteady – I am unprepared for his toothy grin and “Chips”! Each item must be usable, the husband admonishes – Yes, I know. But we need to stop eating French Fries at our age and re-discover the magic of greens and healthy options.Of exercise or walks at a steady pace. Of the need to slow down and de-stress.To sleep early or get-up late, if we wish.

Our books are treated with great respect and we are going to re-read our favourites and those yet unread. Perhaps the spouse will start his carpentry again and his painting…the yacht does actually float – tested in a bathtub 24 years ago! The fire engine with its ladder and hose pipe has not been found yet…the treasure hunt continues!

I wonder at it all, this coming home, to retirement – this is the ultimate ‘coming of age’. It is not easy. It takes longer to get things done. It is tiring. It gets a bit boring, all this unpacking, but its for the last time. There is a sense of apprehensive finality. I have travelled the world since I was 5 years old. I am at some intangible cross-roads, full of indecision, torn between taking – off again or digging roots, at this late stage of my life.

I miss the clean cities I have lived in. I despair at the illiteracy around me and the sudden development – in uneven graphs, that defy the imagination. I am pleased that people are earning more, but saddened by the lack of civic consciousness.I am angered to see people on motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, even in cars – breaking laws by not wearing helmets, disobeying traffic rules, impervious to their surroundings,showing no respect for pavement-walkers, driving on the wrong side of the road.

But I am getting used to side-stepping past the old bulls that come to rest on the pavements,so stoic and at odds with the chaotic traffic, the congested city-dwellings and footfalls. I am becoming an expert at ducking sudden projectiles of paan (*betel-leaf)-liquid on my way to the corner store!

Yes, I have time to stand and stare now. In retirement.

RESPECT

Some people decided to ignore me,
I respect their decision.
Some people Love me unconditionally,
I respect their emotions.
Some people call me best the way I am,
I respect their reverence.
Some people call me a brave Chevalier,
I respect their imagination.
Some people call me an emotional fool poet,
I respect their commiseration.
Some people call only when in need,
I respect their requirements,
Some people call me an achiever,
I respect their encouragement.
Some people call me a loser,
I respect their greatness.
I respect you, I respect others,
and above all
I respect a respect called as self-respect.

Regards
Dinesh Kumar Jangra (DJ)
BSW PGDY MSW UGC NET JRF
Hisar, Haryana, India
Published books- Dastan E Tau, Kavi Ki Keerti
Upcoming books- Prem Ki Pothi, Dineshawari Geeta, Fakiri Muskan
FB Page- www.facebook.com/kaviyogidjblog

Anis Shivani recommends three picks for 2013.

Buzzfeed Announces Its Emerging Writers Fellows

“After having received more than 500 applications, we’re thrilled to announce the four writers who will join BuzzFeed in January for the Emerging Writers Fellowship. With an emphasis on personal essays, profiles, and cultural criticism, each fellow will receive $12,000 over the course of four months, along with mentorship and personal development designed to help them take a transformative leap in their careers.  Their names are Chaya Babu, Niela Orr, Esther Wang, and Tomi Obaro.”

read more here

No Entry Fee :) Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

Good Luck All!

$10,000 prize, no entry fee.

“The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing [hereafter referred to as “the Prize”] will alternate yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions, beginning with fiction in 2015. Fiction submissions can take the form of a novel or a collection of short stories. Nonfiction submissions can take the form of a memoir, a collection of essays, or a book-length work of narrative nonfiction.

Manuscripts must be complete and submitted in English (translations welcome).

Candidates must be first-generation residents of the United States. “First-generation” can refer either to people born in another country who relocated to the U.S., or to American-born residents whose parents were born elsewhere.

Candidates must not have previously published a book in English…”

read more at the Restless Books site

Image credit: © Amanda White, 2009 | www.amandawhitephotography.com

Image credit: © Amanda White, 2009 | www.amandawhitephotography.com

You Make Me beautiful

Your voice is that of millions
wandering, lost,
bedraggled and confused,
seeking peace and enlightenment
everywhere,
but from within.

Yet you seamlessly describe
the pure beat of thunder in your veins,
indigenous drums,
ancestral circles,
of smoke
rising.

Your breath is my own.

Thoughts that scatter
inside my skull,
you have written of them,
reaching into my heart
with open palm
behind my sternum,
gently,
you take one tip of finger
and tell me
what my own soul
already knows.

Dear Sir, you make me beautiful.

I am lost in your words,
unable to do anything
but melt
within the beauty
of the divine.

© Susan Marie

– For Sir Muhammad Iqbal[Shair-e-Mushriq]
in response to “I Desire”