Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flakes of Love

With a light jacket hung loosely onto my shoulders, I stepped out of my house, like I do daily at ten thirty at night. It is my time for an after-dinner stroll. A step up the stairway, and I found myself smiling, as if something good was going to come my way today. I had not even reached the terrace door when a pleasantly chilly gust of air greeted my face. My loose hair were blown back, and I felt my smile intensifying. The winters I was missing so bad had finally knocked at my door.

Winter, indisputably, is the most romantic of all seasons. Delhi winters especially so. Early morning fog with its musty smell, afternoon rays cascading down to mark their feeble presence, or the extremely chilly nights yearning for the warmth of a lover- winter with all its solemn hues entices hopeless romantics like me. Numerous scenes are automatically added to the fabric of a love story I'm trying to weave. Yes, I am trying to put together a love story. At times for real. At times in just the landscape of my imagination.

Ambling on the terrace was more pleasant than usual today. I was walking through the chill. My hands stretched the jacket to tightly wrap it around my body, but my nose was more than glad to be exposed and breathing in the smell of winters. My mind felt calm, and felt rich. Rich with memories of love. Memories for real, and memories conjured.

In bits, I felt lonely. I have always pictured myself in the warm, cozy embrace of someone special as I open my eyes to a lazy, reluctant morning. In the very next breath, I see myself adamantly returning to slumber, sinking deeper into the same embrace. Sharing coffees by the window, and sharing clasps on a long, aimless walk down the road- these common visions seem to acquire new definition when a fog-rich background is added to them. Lazy smiles. Ceaseless hugs. And beautiful nights. Sigh. I did feel lonely. Acutely.

However, I was not open to any gloom today. Winters, eluding the Delhi air for so long, were finally making their presence felt. Under that fast enveloping feeling of loneliness borne out of an acute urge to share my winter mirth with someone, I desperately sought some pleasant distraction for myself. Finding none, I thought it best to plan for an ideal, still 'single' winter. What would be the best options for living a memorable winter, for a romantic who finds herself still single in the city?

Books-romantic fiction strictly.
Coffee by the balcony-a single mug, of course.
Stroll in Central Park- early morning, to miss the sight of all those lucky couples.
Piping hot tomato soup- at D'pauls, warmth and pocket comfort simultaneously.
Journal entries- amid outdoor beauty, Lodhi Gardens or Agrasen ki Baoli.
Clothes- greys or whites, dark or subtle, intense or calm.
Quilt comforts- with a remote and nice love story on tv.

And if all this love is not potent enough to suffocate me, may be I would spend some time reflecting on yet another closing year. The bests of it, the worsts of it. The achievements, the lessons. The friends, the best friends. December is like a mischievous damsel- it gives me the most beautiful painting of nature to gaze at, it gives me the most salubrious weather to feel rejuvenated in, but it also lends me a powerful craving to have someone near by, and even before I know it, it fills me with the gloom of having to watch another year go by.

I have not even finished writing this post, and I'm already receding into imagining yet another scene which will hopefully fit into the love story I'm writing, for real or not. You, my dear readers, I would be indebted to, if you could suggest something new for me to do these winters, given that I am not occupied anywhere else. If for you winters are not just another passing month, if you romanticize them as much as I do, what would you do to make them absolutely special ?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sculptures Made From Recycled Automobile Parts by Tom Samui

Swiss artist Tom Samui has been creating junkyard wonders for the last decade or so. He works with a team of 15 people creating these amazing sculptures. Tom has created hundreds of these sculptures, entirely made out of scrap car and motorcycle parts.

You’ll find animals, vehicles, people, creatures from fantasy and even some furniture in his collection. Many of the sculptures aren’t small, either. His T-Rex is about 28 feet in height. The build process involves collecting cars from a junkyard, then sorting through the parts. Then they are cleaned, and welded together, then polished and lacquered. Nothing is wasted. It takes about 400 hours to complete a large sculpture. This translates to about two to three months.

Field Of Light Installation by Bruce Munro

Lighting artist Bruce Munro has unveiled his latest light installation at Holbourne Museum in Bath, England. The field of more than 5,000 Christmas lights atop acrylic stems sprawls across the museum grounds intending to mimic the way a barren desert bursts into bloom after a brief rainfall. The artist was inspired to create the fantastic installation after a walkabout in the Australian desert landscape after rainfall.

Source: flickr

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ustad Sultan Khan- His Sarangi Lives On....

Jagjit Singh. Bhupen Hazarika. Ustad Sultan Khan. These three were the unparalleled jewels who embellished the world of Indian Music and enhanced its glory. Each one of them belonged to a vastly different genre of Indian music, each one of them now no longer there to regale our souls with their powerful voices. At times like silk, and times haunting- I still cannot believe that we have lost these three precious voices in such quick succession, with barely any time to even recuperate in between.

While Jagjit Singh was popular among the masses because of the commercial success he could garner, the latter two are relatively lesser known names. Bhupen Hazarika, still, has had a marked presence on the musical scene in the north-east, but Ustad Sultan Khan's fame had remained confined to the dilettantes classical music- not so popular among the youth, till a long time. I myself was introduced to his magical voice rather late in life, when I had acquired enough respect and awe for Hindustani Classical Music. It was with the release of the endearingly melodious 'Piya Basanti' that his voice gained stupendous recognition among the young music listeners. Piya Basanti, with its soft musical curves, remains a top favorite till date.

Padmabhushan Ustad Sultan Khan first gained fame through his extraordinary mastery over the Sarangi, one of the most difficult traditional Indian string instruments, which he learnt under the tutelage of his father Gulab Khan. If you have not heard the notes of his Sarangi, trust me, you are missing out on one of the simplest pleasures of life. Besides being a glorious sarangi player, he is also a prolific singer. In fact, of all his works, what I hold favorite is his first vocal album, titled Sabras. In each song of that album, you can get a taste of the bewitching notes of his Sarangi, combined with the wondrous rustic beauty of his voice, set to either folk or classical tunes. 'Nadi Re Kinaare' is my pick from them all.

A still from Leja Leja, from the album Ustad And The Divas
He sang only a limited number of film songs. His most famous is perhaps 'Albela Sajan' from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, a age old classical melody which gained effortless commercial success. 'Jhin-min-jheeni' from Maqbool also owes a mellifluous sufi section in the song to Ustad ji's voice. Collaborating with the young voice of Shreya Ghoshal, he churned out one of the most celebrated non-film songs, 'Leja leja', which I find myself humming very often while doing my daily chores. He is one of those artists I have followed with a pious fervour. Like was the case with Jagjit Singh, an attempt to imitate his songs to the last little harkat has been a source of immense musical learning for me.

One of the most-read articles on my blog is Kate Nahi Raat Mori, a post which extols the eponymous song set to his very voice. If there had to be just one song I could recommend to someone oblivious to the charms of Ustad ji's voice, it would be this one. A lot many people landed on the earlier post while searching for its lyrics, as my blog stats later revealed. I'll end this post with the lyrics of the same song, which continuously reverberated in the background as I wrote this post. Praying for his soul.

Kate nahi raat mori, 
Piya Tore Kaaran, kaaran.

Kaare-kaare baadal chaaye,
Dekh dekh ji lalchaaye,
Kaise aaoon paas tihaare,
Bhool gaye more saajan.

Bheega bheega mausam aaya,
Piya ka sandesa laaya,
Manwa ko chain na aawe,
Tarse hai mori raina.

In the colors of his land. Ustad Sultan Khan belonged to Jodhpur, and was cremated there yesterday.

Beautiful People. Beautiful Things. (Segment 2)

GREETINGS, READERS! I apologize for not posting last week; but for now, it's time for the second part of what I call "Beautiful People. Beautiful Things.", in which I post ten pictures that somewhat inspire me.

Hope Solo - Photo by Annie Leibovitz
Linda Celeste Sims, from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,  in Matthew Rushing's "Uptown" - Photo by Paul Kolnik

Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims, from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in Alvin Ailey's "The River" - Photo by Lois Greenfield

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sean Caarmon, from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in "Loves Tories" - Photo by Jirka Jansch

Students from the Ailey School; Professional Division - Photo by Kyle Froman

Students from the Ailey School; Professional Division - Photo by Kyle Froman

The company of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" - Photo by Christopher Duggan
I'm in love with dancers.

By the way, HOW WAS YOUR THANKSGIVING? Let me know!

Until next time...

Photos: No copyright infringement intended.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Impromptu Rendezvous- School Remains The Best!

The kind of happiness an impromptu re-union can give you, its quite unique. We leave our academic abodes- schools and colleges- with loud promises keeping in touch, being integrally involved in each others lives, and always being there, with due emotional emphasis. But by now, all of us have been through and known, that even the most genuine of such commitments are often not able to stand the test of circumstances. We move on. We carry few faces firmly forward with us, but leave a lot many more behind. Often, the people we leave behind are the ones with whom we perhaps shared more intimate association while still in their obvious company. There remains a guilt, but there remains a helplessness.

And this is where the concept of reunions catches steam from. Reunions sound ultra grand- sound like a homecoming of sort; but the more they are planned and ranted on about, the more they fall flat on expectations. When invited to reconnect with people whom you shared your pens, pencils, notes, and your very heart with in one era, you can sometimes feel awkward by the pace with which things and people have moved on. You yourself, of course, being no exception. But when reunions are random and unplanned and impromptu and fixed over sleepy calls at the break of dawn, suddenly the excitement associated with them increases manifold. And then, who land up in your company are friends, who really want to be there with you enough to jump out from bed half dizzy and head towards an old hang out without a second thought. Despite it being a Sunday, they shift, alter, delay or cancel plans to experience that coveted tryst with memories.

And yes, though my ramblings might seem exaggerated at points, they do total justice to each emotion I felt during the course of the day. I studied in Laxman Public School, an institution which remains irreplaceable to my existence and to which I will proudly remain associated till even one known face exists in its precincts. What made one of my routine trips to the school even more special today was the coming together of the best of my friends, after an eon, with all the ease of the good old days. Teachers, building, classrooms- everything/everyone was greeted with the familiar mischief, familiar loudness, and familiar warmth. The day was great, and was made better with the lightness of everyone’s demeanour.

We saw a few changes. We don’t know for good or bad. We ended up criticizing them. Alterations, good/bad, associated with things which have a sentimental value are not always welcome. Traditions are sometimes best left untouched. We also found ourselves a little grown up. We began by indulging in the usual fun-banter about teachers, but ended up apologizing to a few for our unpleasant acts committed while we were too young  and adamant to realize it.

After a great time, albeit reluctantly, we parted ways. This time too, loud promises were made of keeping in touch, being involved, and being available. I am not thinking about that. I am just happy that today was. 

Thank you all, friends and teachers, for making LPS such an awesome experience for me. We might not always be in touch, but our common roots are enough to ensure that we remain connected at some level, always. 

Anjali ma'am. Not just a teacher, but a friend and mentor for life. She stood by me when I felt lonely and dark, and made me learn things which cannot be found in any text books.

With Tyagi Sir and Tyagi Ma'am-the best Chemistry teachers ever! I owe all my boards marks to their strict and disciplined, yet fun teaching.

The 12-A2 gang, collecting outside the school gate. From left to right- Piyush, Nishtha, Tarun, Myself and Mayank

Seema ma'am- junior school math teacher. She was the only one who could make me do math. Later, I only deteriorated.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho- An Attempted Review

"He has no idea what he is doing. He is walking towards Absolute Limitless Evil, capable of anything.Hamid assumes that Igor is just another adult and that he can confront him either with physical force or with logical argument. What he doesn't know is that Absolute Evil has the heart of a child and takes no responsibility for his actions and is convinced that it's right. And when it doesn't get what it wants, its not afraid of using all possible means to satisfy its desires". - The Winner Stands Alone, Paulo Coelho.

For me, the word macabre and love can never go together. But when it comes to Paulo Coelho's writings, you can obviously expect the unexpected. Before I picked up The Winner Stands Alone (TWSA), my experience with Coelho was moderately sweet. I had read three of his works- The Alchemist, Eleven Minutes and Veronica Decides To Die- and each one them, which I read separated by huge spaces in time, enthralled me at some level. So, while I could not exactly call myself and ardent fan of the author, I was definitely one who trusted him for writing good, out-of-the-box stuff.

Things changed a little with TWSA. It is his twelfth book, and like the earlier ones, touches on a something arcanely sublime, which is way above an ordinary person's realm of imagination and understanding. This, exactly, is what Coelho is famous for doing. TWSA pivots around one protagonist, although in totality, there are five names which shape and aid the development, pace and culmination of this book. 

Igor Malev, is not just the protagonist, but the very subject of this book. He is an extremely successful Russian telecom giant, who visits Cannes Film Festival with a single thing on his mind- to win back his wife Ewa. Ewa, who was once the motivation and the very reason for his existence is now married to a couturier, Hamid Hussein- a man as successful as Igor, but a powerful contradiction in character to him. Igor never recovers from the loss of his wife, and after two years of separation, decides to win her back. He calls himself to be on a 'mission of love', a mission that requires sacrifices- murders. Set against the backdrop of glitz and glamour of the world's most famous film festival, what then ensues is a tale of 'extraordinary violence' (as the book cover puts it), lasting just under 24 hours, revealing the evil which hides in each human soul and busting the myths associated with the world of celebrities.

TWSA is one of Coelho's most criticized books, as I learnt later. The reason for that, as I can guess, are many. For me, however, the prime reason for finding it an unsatisfactory read, was the profound sense of darkness which as an engrossed reader, TWSA filled me up with. The portrayal of the world of glamour, no doubt realistic, is very depressing. It is depicted as an arena in which under the glimmer of stars, what exists is deep darkness, an abyss of depression from which no return is possible. Gabriela, an aspiring and aging actress, and Jasmine, a young and wise model are the characters who are used to convey this aspect of the story, though in a very repetitive fashion. The narrative of the story keeps shifting between all the five characters (and also a few more), and which though essential to the fabric of the story, hinders the lucidity of the storyline at places. The development of the characters, besides that of Igor and perhaps Hamid Hussein, leaves a lot to be desired. The worst bit for me was the contemplative end of the novel. I like stories which end in light, and even though TWSA does not end in total darkness, it gives me nothing positive to carry in my heart.

What I would keep due credit to Coelho for, though, is his hero- Igor Malev. Yes, he is a character I hated, but that is what this character was intended for- to be unabashedly hated by some and to be justified by others. Both categories of people were not expected to like this character, even if they empathized with him at some points. He was a mirror for all the evil thoughts we allow and justify within ourselves. Igor displays what is known as the Lucifer Effect, a kind of psychological condition, in which an otherwise normal individual develops a mindset where he crosses the dividing line between good and evil, and engages in evil action thoroughly justified in his brain. A good revelation of the psyche of the serial killers can be provided by reading this book; though a tale of love I still refuse to believe this book is. Igor's appentence for Ewa is understandable, but his ways and means and thoughts and actions are capable of powerfully unnerving the young believers in love like me.

Reading 'The Winner Stands Alone' on my way to Jaipur.
I've had long, passionate discussions on this novel with three of my friends; Coelho does stimulate your brain that much for sure. So I might go on presenting my opinion of this book in a tiring, dilatory tone. However, succinctly put, it is not a book for all types of readers. Even for Paulo Coelho admirers, may be this is one book you can skip.Love might not have been the central theme of this book, but it is depicted as the underlying motivation for all things evil. I would give it only about 2 stars on five, and maintain, that for me, macabre and love can never go together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Portraits of Former LA Gang Members

Brooklyn, NY based photographer Adam Amengual recently worked with Homeboy Industries, a non-profit outreach program which aims to redirect the lives of former LA gang members. Adam photographed memebers of Homeboy Industries for a portrait series called Homies. Hit the thumbs to see a powerful collection of images from Adam and feel the vulnerability of those looking to change their lives for the better.

Source: inkbutter