GHANA I BENIN I INDIA I ZIMBABWE I MARS I CANADA I TOGO I JAPAN I SOUTH AFRICA
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Sent:
January 19, 2003

BEGGARS AND BEACHES, A COW IS MY TEACHER

Well.....I'll begin at the end.  Just came back from a function to honour one of the topmost Carnatic musicians living today, Padma Bushan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, violinst and composer extrordinaire.  Present were most of the best musicians South India has to offer including the 90+ father of them all Semmangudi....and me(ha!), in the company of Guru Sankaran of course.  Through the whole thing a blanket of reverence, devotion, sincerity and overriding respect for the artists in question prevailed, truly inspiring to be in said company. And to see the frail yet composed elder rise from his seat to felicitate the younger was beautiful.  A few days ago having the honour to accompany Sankaran to an All India Radio recording (they don't usually let foreigners inside but I'm, in the words of Sakaran, "in-between") with an amazing flautist and sit next to them for the next couple of hours was a learning experience beyond explanation.  And a few days before that, having the blessed presence of Ravi's uncle, 84 year old S. Rajam, an acclaimed vocalist and painter come to our house for dinner...and he even sang for us.  He still paints about 6 hours a day, beautiful watercolours of traditional/religious themes in watercolour..and a humble, gentle and vivid personality with  humorous anecdotes to boot.  Those are a couple of the things I've been lucky enough to experience.

    And tests everyday.  A child begging at my pant leg, mumbling something in Tamil, I stop and look into her eyes until she stops and I give her whatever change I have, and later in the day the deep purple sheen on the back of a crow on a garbage bin catches me and it's eyes seemed to contain more peace than the girl's.  But later that night it all got erased.  I ended up at a small sabha (hall) which turned out to be a temple as well.  Inside mostly older persons, shoes left outside and sitting on the floor. The music pouring out of the vocalist in waves, effortless and pure.  Then the deity is unveiled to murmurs and bows and prayers.  Resplendent in flowers, jewels, gold, incense and other offerings, it is my first time experiencing such a thing and it's awesome...all the while the music continues.   Strangely, enough the whole experience resonates a little like Ghana, actually the similarities between the two are striking.....but that's a whole other book. 

Finally made it to the beach.  Navigating through, feces, crabs and garbage and I find a place to sit and kiss the waves with my toes..the Bay of Bengal..God knows what these shores have seen.  The "old" world isn't old, it's ancient.  So I watched a group of fisherman, young and old pulling in a net.  Cycling from the front to the back, slowly winding up the rope till the net comes closer to shore.  An hour or so passes till the climax is upon us and excitement is in the air as know one knows what's inside.  The women arrive with baskets to collect the catch.  Everything leads up to now.  The net emptied.... a few fish....until next time as the horizon is dotted with freighters and oil tankers.

So much beauty..in all forms.  Materially, the most striking of cloth, carving, jewels, painting, you name it and at very low prices.  All hand made, auras intact (Walter Benjamin would be smiling).  Naturally the urge is to accumulate..but after some contemplation...why?  

Anyhow, I do believe some objects can be endowed with something metaphysical, whetehr we put it there or not.  Case in point, Sankaran let me practice on one of the drums he used to practice on and then on a drum belonging to Palakkad Mani Iyer, perhaps the greatest mridangist of all time (bear with me if all this musical splurging is boring for you).  No doubt I attached more significance to these objects than there is but, still.....the hands that have held, caressed, pounded and flurried over these drums, the sound that has come out of them, I could almost feel it.  Same thing happened in Ghana last year as an old man gave me a pair of his old, used and nearly broken drumsticks, you could feel the power.  All the same, all of it, the instruments, idols, pottery, carvings, whatever....all tools to create something, hopefully bigger than yourself or at least the forgetting of yourself.

  I could keep going but I don't wanna fill up anyone's e-mail account.  Daily experience to make me go "what?!" - noon traffic at an extremely polluted (well....nearly everything is polluted) and crazy intersection....in the middle, literally, a cow with everyone going around.  The contrast was enlightening.  

I'll stop....now  

Curtis


ENTRIES FROM INDIA
FEBRUARY 10, 2011
APRIL 11, 2008
MARCH 31, 2006
FEBRUARY 27, 2006
FEBRUARY 22, 2006
FEBRUARY 5, 2006
JANUARY 19, 2006
MAY 7, 2003
APRIL 23, 2003
MARCH 30, 2003
MARCH 9, 2003
FEBRUARY 19, 2003
JANUARY 31, 2003
JANUARY 19, 2003
JANUARY 10, 2003


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