Lost Music, Lights and Colours

It’s Diwali: The festival of lights. The festival of crackers, earthen lamps, Rangoli, sweets, new clothes. The last day of the Hindu year. The festival of good finally winning over evil. You can read more about it here.

And there’s also cleaning. 🙂

Yeah, every year before Diwali, all people clean their houses from top to bottom. They rid their lives of clutter and welcome the new year with a clean and fresh outlook. I think it’s a wonderful tradition! Because, the material clutter often leads to mental clutter.

Like each year, the stuff in the cupboards comes out, the drawers are emptied of unwanted knick-knacks and papers. Only the things that matter are retained. Which brings me to our own drawers.

All my family is fond of music. I’ve grown up listening to old Lata Mangeshkar songs and classical music and Ghazals. And of course, my dearest, Madan Mohan! It was because of my family that I developed a taste for old Hindi music, and they learnt to appreciate new age music with me.

We had a huge collection of cassettes; Mum’s Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle songs collection, Papa’s Jagjit Singh albums, my nursery rhymes and fairy tales! Though I can’t say they loved my cassettes particularly (How often can a grown-up listen to Mary had a Little Lamb?), I grew to love their cassettes and music immensely.

Cassette

Well, times change. The age of digital music is here. So now it’s CDs (they’re getting old too, I know) and iTunes. And yes, it’s convenient and space-friendly and everything, but… But I sometimes miss the cassettes. And the fact that I had to listen to three boring songs before I got to the one that I really liked. (Using the Forward button too much spoilt the cassette). I remember we had a Philips tape-recorder-cum-cassette-player. And a walkman. And at least three pocket radios. And of course, the bigger radio. All of them have gone out of fashion and our home. We still have a stereo that can play cassettes apart from the CDs and the radio, but the cassette playing part doesn’t always work due to lack of use.

This Diwali, we also got rid of a major part of our cassette collection. We’ve retained some classic collections and I’ve been given the job of finding those songs in a digital format. End of an era for me!

I found another thing too. That’s my first brush with music playing. 🙂

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I, of course, then moved on to bigger and better things. We have a Harmonium and a mini keyboard too. The harmonium is my father’s; my Mum used to sing and sometimes play. (She still sings by the way; the past tense is for the playing). When I learnt singing, the harmonium was my companion too. Though I never formally learnt how to play the Harmonium or the keyboard, I could carry simple tunes. Still can, I believe. 🙂

But we don’t. Not very often. With other things taking priority, the harmonium and the keyboard are packed away. But they’re treasures and we would never give them away.

I gave away the music set pictured above, though. Along with some more of my old toys; I can’t seem to be able to part with all of them at once and have to wait every year to give some. It’s difficult, isn’t it? To give away one’s childhood. For most things, I’m not that sentimental. I’m good at getting rid of unwanted things. I don’t normally get attached to them all that much. And I very much realise the importance of cleansing one’s life. But there are certain things for which I convince myself with difficulty.

But I digress. I haven’t yet told you about the part I enjoy a lot during Diwali: Rangoli making. It’s made of coloured sand, and flowers and anything really. You just need colours. Like a temporary mosaic on the floor. Here’s what mine looks like this year. I kept it small and simple.

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Another part that I love is the lighting of earthen lamps. There’s something about the diya flames, isn’t there?

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I hope everyone has a great Diwali and a wonderful year ahead. 🙂

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Dancing The Night Away!

Navratri. Nav-Ratri literally means “Nine Nights” in Sanskrit. A festival which celebrates nine forms of Goddess Amba. It is celebrated five times a year, the most important being the Sharad Navratri, or the Maha Navratri, which marks the beginning of Winter. You can read more about it here.

It is celebrated differently in all parts of India. Here, in Gujarat, it is celebrated as a dance festival; the longest dance festival in the world. For nine nights, we do Garba (the dance form) on traditional Gujarati songs. Yeah, the tradition began long before the night clubs were even invented!

The traditional clothes: Chaniya and Choli. Yes, we do dance dressed up like that!

This is what was keeping me busy the past week, though I danced only on some of the days, being in the university.

Of Dance and Worries

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to worry a tad bit more than most people. There is always stuff to do, deadlines to meet, goals to be accomplished. The back of my mind is a pretty happening place, I tell you! Quite a bustling market!

Why do I mention this? Though the back of my mind is jam-packed place a lot of times, it magically clears up when I dance! I may be worried about a thousand things before I start dancing, and I may continue to do so after the dancing is over. But when I’m dancing, in those moments, I’m free and floating. In those moments, I’m completely blissed out! Dancing, like music, is food for the soul!

Which is why Navratri is my favourite festival. I wait for it throughout the year, and I’m hung-over for at least a week after it (Still in the Garba-mode, I mean). I’ve been doing Garba for as long as I can remember. It has become so much ingrained in me that though I do it only for these few days every year, I could probably do it sleep-walking if you ask!

Of Navratri Experiences

Where I stay, the Navratri Garba is organised with great fanfare every year. This includes live music and singers, beautiful lights and of course, mid-night snacks!

Garba, I should tell you, is not a dance form which is practised individually. You do it in a group, mostly a circle around the idol of Goddess Amba.

The sound and video quality is not excellent, but you’ll get my point. Watch from 1:30 to get a clearer picture of what I mean.

The beauty of it is that most people here have grown up doing it, including me. So, most of my friends are just as enthusiastic about it as I am. Not all the people that dance with us are friends. Some are friends of friends, some are total strangers. Most are acquaintances; people who come together every year just for one purpose: Garba.

Our “group” dances every year. Each year, there are additions to the circle, and subtractions too (excuse me for being too mathematical). But each year we meet, dance, chit-chat into the wee hours of the morning, learn new dance moves, and have a whole lot of fun!

The Kid Problem (or how I learnt Garba as a kid)

Garba, traditionally, is to be done in one big circular formation. But more often than not people break into their own little circles. Our group too has its own circle after the first few songs. (A group that people admire, by the way!). A lot of other people join too. The trouble arises when kids as young as seven want to join too!

Now I’m all for encouraging kids to dance. They will learn it this way. I learnt it the same way, coming in the way circle of the grown-up didis, getting bashed by the strong and fast-moving arms! Nevertheless, I pursued it relentlessly, though I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of them!

What goes around comes around! The thing about Garba is coordination of foot-work. And those kids have tiny legs! And then, we grown-ups (ahem!) have to take care not to hurt them. It does take the mindlessness that I enjoy the most out of dancing!

But then I see some kid actually moving in sync with the beats, and I think (as if I’ve had hundred years of experience doing Garba!) that “Hey, that one’s got potential!” It makes me really happy.

Continuing The Love For Dancing

I wonder what it will be like after, say, fifteen years. All of us will be busy with our jobs, families, lives. A lot of us would have moved to different cities perhaps. Will we come back here? Will we get the time to celebrate Navratri? Will we come here, with perhaps our spouses and kids, and connect once again through dancing? More importantly, will we be able to begin where we left off, as we do every year?

I should very much like to think so.

Nice Daddy, Dark Daddy!

Picture this:

Child, 3 years old, sitting on the bed, eating fruits. Well-meaning aunt, sitting besides, talking to the child.

Well-meaning aunt: Child! Are you fair or dark?

Child: Fair!

Well-meaning aunt: And is you mother fair or dark?

Child: Fair!

Well-meaning aunt: And is your father fair or dark?

A pregnant pause.

Child: Papa nice!

As you must have gathered, the father doesn’t meet the established parameters to be considered fair. The child is barely three, and yet, she knows two things:

1. Being dark isn’t desirable.

2. Diplomacy is required in the situation because you need to cover up the fact that Papa is dark.

We live in a world full of prejudices and pre-conceived notions. What’s worse is that we are passing down these prejudices to our highly impressionable children. Children were supposed to be honest and unapologetic, right? Wrong. Children are being taught the value of diplomacy quite early these days.

India, as a country, is obsessed with fairness. The market is flooded with advertisements of fairness creams and various other beauty products which are considered to be essential to our self-respect. And I just don’t mean women alone, though they are the major target audience.

But I won’t go into a rant about why I think fairness products are highly unfair; we all have read and heard quite a lot about that. No, I’m going to talk about my life-long problem. Weight.

Fast-forward by ten years. The child is thirteen, sitting on the table, having lunch. Well-meaning aunt, talking to the child.

Well-meaning aunt: Why, you eat like a bird!

Child: (stares incredulously ) But I’ve finished four full-sized rotis already!

Well-meaning aunt: (ignoring the child) How thin you are! You should eat more.

Child: But now I’m full.

Well-meaning aunt: (to child’s mother) Why don’t you feed her enough?

Child: (fuming inwardly) I eat enough. I’m genetically thin.

Well-meaning aunt: (ignoring again) You are a growing child. You should eat enough.

The child learns two things:

1. First impressions are always the last impressions. If the aunt feels the child is thin and doesn’t eat enough, then no amount of food ingested in front of her will register in her mind.

2. Science doesn’t hold water in front of prejudices and already-formed opinions.

I’m genetically thin. Meaning that my parents were pretty thin when they were my age too. Meaning that my food habits may not necessarily correspond to my weight. But not many people would be ready to believe me.  People will insist that I’m “too thin”, and they are probably right; I am pretty skinny. But their “humorous” comments about it don’t really strike me as funny after I’ve heard them for over a hundred times. If making fun of somebody who’s fat is rude then why is it okay to make fun of someone who’s thin?

Then comes the problem of our “khaate peete” relatives who believe that I don’t eat enough. They don’t care to listen to a word of my genetic woes and keep on insisting that I should “stop dieting”. Well, I don’t diet. Believe it. And if the dear relatives are satisfied that I eat enough of my own accord, then in that case, my poor mother is at fault, because apparently, she doesn’t feed me enough. Mummy khaana nahi khilaati hai kya? is a question that I’ve heard innumerable times. Thankfully this one has stopped after I got past the age of being spoon-fed, though by a considerable amount of time. (I would still hear it when I was thirteen; I assure everyone that I definitely started eating on my own way before that time.)

I’ll take back the question that I asked: If making fun of somebody who’s fat is rude then why is it okay to make fun of someone who’s thin?

Instead, the question should be this: Why do we have to attach so much importance to it?

does it matter

I think we spend way too much time thinking about stuff like weight and skin colour and what-nots. It’s one thing to want to be healthy and fit, and quite another to want to hear, “Oh you look great! Very skinny! Wow!” being said to you. Looking skinny is not equivalent to looking great and not being skinny doesn’t always mean being “healthy”. Why should I confine my body to one narrow-minded standard of beauty?

Bottom line is this: I’m not going to eat more/less to suit other people’s notions. I’m not going to buy fairness/tanning products. I’m good. And you are too.