February 23, 2007

They also matter...

I felt very touched when I saw this father-daughter* combination working together, playing the melam beautifully at a wedding in Vishakapatnam. There was a certain dignity, a certain reverence to their craft, and a naturalness as they played their music.

There are not many women who play the melam, that too at weddings, so that makes this scene unusual. Yet, it was accepted as matter-of-fact, no one stared, there was no extraordinary curiosity. Except for my Kodak.

Unsung, unpublicized, there are ever so many genuine artistes in small corners of the world. One only needs to be sensitized to observe, and not necessarily comprehend or analyse.

Yet it is only a miniscule percentage that makes it to the magazine sections of newspapers, and a smaller percentage still, that has a claim to fame...and if one is not alert, one can very easily get brainwashed into thinking that it is only those few that matter.

*Sri Balasubramanyam (a lecturer in a music college), and his daughter Kumari Lakshmi Suvarna.

February 16, 2007

Oh...the balloon-wallah!

My children's eyes always opened wide and their faces broke into cheerful smiles when they saw him. Actually they saw only the balloons and other colourful stuff that he had. They never really saw him. But he has been there...dependable, an unseen constant, sure to bring a smile to a child's face, sure to wipe many a tear.

He must have job satisfaction.

I cannot help wondering...if he sold all those balloons, how much would he make? I also cannot help wondering...how long before he is replaced by a vending machine at a mall?

February 09, 2007

Design and interpretation

I took this picture in the Botanical Gardens. I have always been fascinated by the colour and design of this flower, and by its name...my mother used to tell me that this flower is called the Kaurava-Pandava puvvu in Telugu, and something similar in some other Indian languages. The radial filaments of the corona all around represent the 100 Kaurava brothers, and the five anthers represent the five Pandavas from the Mahabharata.

I am amazed at how different cultures have given very different interpretations to this flower. I list some below:

• In Manipuri this flower is called Radhika nachom; could this be interpreted as the dance of Krishna and Radha, in the centre and the many gopikas dancing all around?

• In Bengali, it is called Jhumkalata...does this mean a creeper (lata) with jhumkas? The flower, if turned over, would look like a jhumka (a kind of earring), wouldn’t it?

• It is called Passion Flower in English. According to Wikipedia, ‘Passion’ does not refer to love, but to the passion of Christ on the cross; in many parts of Europe, this flower is a symbol of Crucifixion: the 72 radial filaments represent the Crown of Thorns. The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles. The top three stigmata represent the three nails and the lower five anthers represent the five wounds.

• In Spain, it is known as Espina de Cristo (Christ’s Thorn).

• In Germany it was once known as Muttergottes-Schuzchen (Mother-of-God’s Star).

• In Japan, it is known as clock-faced flower, and recently has become a symbol for homosexual youths.

• In North America, it is called the Maypop, the water lemon, and the wild apricot (after its fruit). Native Americans in the Tennessee area called it ocoee, and the Ocoee river and valley are named after it.

But, as they say, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet! The Kaurava-Pandava puvvu is truly one of nature’s marvels, and whatever be the name or interpretation, let us just look at it in awe and admiration.
Click on this link to see something interesting:

February 01, 2007

Mere yaar, patang udaya kar...

Meyrey yaar, patang uraya kar
Kat jaee to gham na khaaya kar

(My friend, fly your kite high
If it gets cut and falls, do not take it to heart.)
Dr Mathura Das Pahwa

Kite flying is a serious sport in my part of the world. Come November, kite shops begin mushrooming all over the city, in anticipation of Sankranti festival, 13–14 January in the new year that is round the corner. Until the actual festival, it is usually the chotus who fly kites, but it is on the two days of Sankranti that the real ustads move in, the kites like puppets in their hands, moving any which way they want them to.

All terraces are filled with people, goggles and caps in place, some handling kites with expertise, some struggling. Some buildings are equipped complete with music systems blaring loud film music as they fly their kites. This year I noticed one terrace having a mike system out of which people took turns giving a running commentary of the kite flying sessions in progress!

Now, it is not just plain and simple flying of colourful kites and looking at them in delight. Kite flying in Hyderabad is a highly competitive and addictive sport. It comes with its own nomenclature...pench means a kite fight, which is the whole purpose of this sport; maanja is the sharp, specially prepared (from powdered glass and other ingredients), usually coloured thread wound in front to cut other kites; dheel means leaving the thread slowly; and then the cry of victory, kaate when one kite cuts another. This is usually accompanied by an orchestra of noise makers, loud shouts and sarcastic hoots!

The sight of the clear blue sky dotted with the colourful ankhedars and naamams, lehengas and langots is a treat to the eye. Sankranti always finds my kite-loving family upstairs, trying hard to make the numbers under the Kites cut column more than those under the Kites lost column of our meticulously maintained score board! Other people are there too, in groups on the various terraces of our building. The unwritten rule is that we do not cut kites being flown from our own building.

Perhaps this is one sport where passionate kite-flyers turn from 20, 30, or 40 or whatever age they are at, to something like 12 or 13, without the help of any time machine! Their body language changes, vocal chords become stronger and childhood returns temporarily. We saw this grandfather proudly carrying his grandchild (about 1 year old) watching and cheering as pench after pench ensured continued entertainment. Suddenly he spotted a cut kite glide gracefully towards our terrace. A childish excitement grabbed him, and he seemed to move back in time from being 60 to 50 to 40, 30, 20 13, 12.... as he began to run to catch the kite, grandchild in arms forgotten. Gleefully he ran, like a little boy, from the middle to the edge of the terrace, trying to grab the kite. In the process, he tripped on the uneven floor and fell, the baby thrown to one side.

Luckily the baby escaped unhurt, and we saw the man limping the next day. He was 60 once again.