‘Writing’ plays on my stage

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I write to make a record of history. I write to defy forgetfulness. I write because writing is act of defiance.

A few months ago I found The Writer’s Voice by one Al Alvarez at my old book supplier’s. Alvarez wonderfully captures in just a few sentences the goal of his project: “(how) a writer develops his voice of his own and a presence on the page; then (how) the reader learns to hear that voice and respond; and finally, (how) the true voice and the public personality sometimes clash, confuse, and contradict each other.”

I want to emphasize these words here: voice, presence, clash, confuse, and contradict. Although I have borrowed too many words by now, I am afraid these words justly represent the goal I have been striving for in the last few months. I have never experienced anything so refreshing or so possessing as the act of writing. Well, of course, with the exception of a human being – living or dead – caught in the web of times. So can we use a human being as an analogy for writing? I should perhaps retort “Absolutely!” I have seen this being enacted right before my eyes – observing myself in the reflection of my writing. There goes a series of mirrors – of letters, of words, of sentences, of paragraphs, of phrases, of observations, of twists and turns in the syntaxes. Where does it not follow you? Writing enhances and exaggerates the known strategies of men and women at war and peace with odd and even forces that gives shape to our consciousness. The act of writing often whispers to me “Be wise.” Writing has been a successful tool bringing out the fine qualities in man, in me.

Writing helps me vacillate between my most feared and worthiest experience. My feared experience would be time when for the first time writing left me completely exposed and naked. Once I decided to write everything about myself and what I wanted. When I went back to the writing to look in retrospection, it threatened me with all its truths and lies. But with that came a self-discovery. It may sound clichéd but I shook hands with the likes of Augustine, Rousseau and Rimbaud, haven’t I? This worthiest are yet to come my way – but come it must. Writing pulls me out of my den of solace and at the same time can quickly engulf me into it. I see how independently and lonely it forms a bridge connecting mind to mind. It taught me how to remain silent and be loud simultaneously. It instigates my hunger and even sedates it. It makes me sensitive and tough, exposed and covered, accompanied and lonesome, mediocre and distinguished, calm and rebellious. It plays tricks, keeps me entertained, makes me envisage, makes me pragmatic, and in the end keeps me human.

During our creative writing classes in school I used to observe how all of us kept quiet, immersed in thought and we all prayed with paper and pen. I still have my long hours of prayers – to wait through one’s toil is the most sublime attendance.

I put an end to my note accosting “Writing has become my coin for exchange.”

The Unknowns

My eyes were busy. There were so many things around. Each desperately engulfed my attention one after the another without a single break. Colors, motions, people and actions all were being played together. At one point I felt dreamy. I felt as if I was the only one to become gradually stationary and all other things around me kept on moving at a same slow pace. On wherever and whatever my eyes fell upon, they would all turn to represent themselves in a slow motion as if they are enhancing my detailed observation. And instantly I would be secluded in some deep thought and my ears would shun away from the encircling loud chaos. I was in a middle of a village fair.

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We were actually on our way to visit the above archaeological site called Mahasthanghar situated in Bogra, Bangladesh. Mahasthanghar contains remains of an ancient city dating back to 3rd century BC. There is also a museum beside the area showing the beautiful ancient sculptures, ceramics, terracota art, brahmic inscriptions, coins, all which have been excavated. On our way we noticed a large fair and thought to drop by.

The place was redolent of rosewater and pungent dhup which came from burning agar sticks. I guess that aroma added to the divine atmosphere being created. The fair was just beside a shrine. At the shrine, some people circumvented and gathered around the tomb of a saint. They dove into deep sacred worship. People with their secret desires crowded around a Baba sitting under a tree, in the hope of getting those wishes fulfilled just through a holy touch, while some sought advice. Baba claims to possess special power and charm to change people’s lives. But I found power in his attire, in his thick locks of tangled hair, in his loose black garments and a jacket over the body, in his infinite number of ornaments, in his sleepless eyes and in his dusty bare feet.  The appearance seemed carefree and loud or shall I say deceptively pleasing? I seem to be the only one among the crowd with a camera. All the glares thrown made me close to alienated. As I captured photographs, Baba seemed to smile at my camera. Perhaps his holy look would bring some prosperity to my life as well. Not believing in superstition much, I diverted my attention to somewhere else.

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It was the most unique fair I had ever seen. Apart from snake charmers, local vendors selling kitchen accessories, jewelleries and snacks, there were barbers offering men new haircuts and shavings, some even offered odd services like ear cleaning. It was rather a traditional fair. I could see people from various religions. But what I discovered most unusual was there were some old men selling some bizarre products. Well bizarre to me because I have witnessed such things for the first time and I like to believe in correct scientific knowledge. So what were the men selling? Okay so I saw a man who was sitting on a piece of cloth placed on the ground. He was surrounded by small containers containing what seemed like herbal powder perhaps adulterated with sand and soil. There were crushed stones and colorful liquids too kept in small boxes. In the centre he proudly kept a head of a dead deer as if it possessed some magical powers. I was rather horrified at the sight of it. As I started a conversation with the old man, I am soon enlightened about his business. What he sold was different types of natural remedies of common diseases such as headache, backpain, common skin infections and so on. Natural remedy? Really? I thought those products would be causes of new diseases. They failed to convince me though but surely not a certain group of people. When I saw some men and women buying those “cures” I was about to prevent them. I even felt the urge to argue with those sellers. But at that instant some thoughts rushed in forestalling me to speak- though the things that they sold in the name of medicine are not professionally tested under drug trial, I have heard that it was a tradition they maintained for hundreds of years. And if those remedies were really not effective, the tradition would have been long dead. It was surprisingly still alive. Moreover, it was also a source of their livelihood.

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But now as I look back I still believe that it holds certain dangers to health at the same time. Those remedies perhaps may have worked a few times but not for always. I mean with the success stories of traditional medicines we have also heard the drop sides of them. Those men and women should be properly educated regarding this matter. Well coming back, as I continued my tour in the fair, I got more familiar with the people around. Most of the vendors and the people who were presenting shows of monkey tricks and tarot card reading, they all belonged to this special community called Bede. People of Bede community are basically known as ‘Water Gypsies’. They are landless, do not have a permanent place to live and traditionally travel across rivers. Their boats serve as their portable mini homes and shops. They drop by different places usually at local fairs to sell various items. River flows and so do their lives. That was the first time I got to know about such a community. After much of my exploration in the fair it was soon time to get back to our car and resume our journey.

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In the car while looking back in retrospection, I thought of another reason for the fair seeming so unique to me. Perhaps this was because I got to know about certain traditions with which I was not familiar before. It was a different experience which served as a fresh motivation to travel locally as I realized that there were still so many things left and needed to be explored within my country. So many places, so many people, so many unique traditions, so diverse the world…

The Night of the Musical Wizards

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I am back! I will try posting some video clips of the concert. Well lets complete the story first then…

Fupa and I were about an hour early at the concert. Our seating arrangements at the back were elevated so we had an almost clear ‘headless’ view of the stage as you can see. I know it is very annoying when your view gets disturbed by the people’s heads at the front row. As we were waiting inside for the concert to start, we carefully observed the incoming and increasing audience. I was delighted to see an international audience. There were people from all around the world, from Europe, India, China and US. Zakir Hussain does captivate hearts world-wide. The stage was set simple with a starry background and a bluish lighting added to the soothing mood. After some formal sound checks, the show finally started. The curtains of the show was raised by charming presentations of classical Tagore and Nazrul songs performed by Bangladeshi and Indian artists. They did reminisce my fupa of his old times. The last one was a fusion of a modern bengali and a classical indian raga. My fingers picked up the beats of that song. The tune was quite catchy.

Finally it was time for the three maestros to come on stage. I could feel a rush of excitement amongst the audience. Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck were warmly welcomed by almost relentless applause and whistles. At the background screen when each of their biography was being displayed, the masters laughed and pointed at each other accordingly. After that without further ado, the enchantment of the melody began. Zakir left the audience awed by his infinite speedy rhythms and strikes he came out with by playing his tabla. I don’t know what he has got in his hands. I actually ran out of breath while following his notes. Not only his fingers danced but also his eyes, his body and his expressions all seemed to dance to his rhythms across his percussion pieces. Edgar Meyer started with his heavy tunes. I would like to quote from a local magazine which reported the whole event, “The tall man’s arms swam between four octaves”. His mellifluent notes with his double bass incited a certain emotion. When it came to Bela Fleck with his banjo, his plucking and strumming made every head nod and every finger tap and dance. He made his banjo sound so versatile. He played mandoline/flageolet/guitar-like notes. I believe that it is a true skill which a virtuoso instrumentalist possesses- making his or her instrument sound versatile. No wonder Bela won 19 Grammys! The three maestros played their instruments, sometimes singly, sometimes complementally  and sometimes in perfect synchronisation or harmony. But all made us engrossed in their recitals of melodic tales.

After playing their first piece “Bubbles” and then second one “Cadence” from their album “The Melody of Rhythm”, Zakir Hussain had to say something about the display on the background screen which made everyone laugh. The display was an animation of water waves flowing across an ocean. “I feel like I am on Titanic, floating. Getting a little seasick I guess. Aren’t you?” He humorously asks the audience. He requested the event managers not to put any displays, “I think it is better if we only look at each other and not  have any other distractions!” Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck played a classical piece which they called “Canon” in a musical duel- one trying to match the other’s note.  Later Bela Fleck grabbed the microphone and said, “Hey you know we are playing some weird music up here, I though you guys would be gone by now!” And we chuckled. They also know how to make the audience laugh at the same time and lighten up the mood. Entry of flautist Rakesh Chaurasia was a great surprise and addition to the concert. He is the nephew and student of flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. His skills regarding the flute is absolutely phenomenal. When he joined the trio, we all were in trance. The four played a piece they called “The Happy Drum-Drum Monkey Girl”. What a name! They picked up great tempos in that. The whole auditorium was resonating with wonderful diversified expressions of music.

The concert ended with a long and loud round of applause. We all stood up clapping and smiling showing our appreciation and sheer delight. When everyone started leaving and the artists at stage became busy exchanging gifts and flowers and taking pictures for the press, I quickly went down and walked up right to the front of the stage to take a closer look at the maestros and take proper pictures.  And guess what I took a picture with Bela Fleck! When he saw me taking his picture, he exclaimed, “Hey won’t you include yourself in the picture?” I said, “Of course! I was about to. I would have climbed up to the stage if it was a bit lower!” He laughed and said, “How about if I come a bit closer and sit like this?(coming right to the frontal edge of the stage and taking his pose)” And a girl clicked our picture. And there was it! One of my memorable moments captured for the life time. I was happy and excited after our exchange of words. I was very impressed by his humility. Such a big musician but still spares time for personal humble interactions with fans. Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer left early, otherwise I could have taken pictures with them too. Well anyway, the music took me to a different world. It took a bit of time to fully absorb back in my reality and resume my walk with the ongoing world…

So I would like to end this post now by dropping the curtains and saying “It was one precious experience.”

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It has been so long!

I know I have been blog absent for a month and I missed it to a great extent. But it is often said patience ultimately leads to the finest reward, so yes, there was I waiting this time for some fresh and stimulating experience to come to me instead of me going and choosing from life’s vast collection of offers. Now I have some good content to write about…

Most of my regular morning starts with a lazy stumble from my bed to our dining space. No I don’t see a heavenly breakfast all prepared and laid across the table for me but just a plain newspaper which my father would freshly  pick up every early morning from right underneath our main door of the house and keep it on our dining table. Then he would go out for his morning walk and my mom would still be sleeping. Everyday I like to happily embrace the morning serenity and its soothing silence. Though the silence lazily and gradually gets disintegrated by the hustle and bustle of the Dhaka city- hooters of the school buses and million private cars, callings of the local vendors and what not. Well, before the silence breaks away, I, with my hair all ruffled up, would sit with a cup of tea or coffee to feed my knowledge. So at that day with a quick eye rolling over the headlines, I moved onto the ‘Arts and Culture’ section of the newspaper as usual, as part of following my primary regular interest. Woah! The news was successful indeed in ceasing all the residual drowsiness from my eyes. Fusion concert of three maestros was upcoming and that too for the first time in Bangladesh! Yes, I am an ardent music enthusiast. I was offering flying kisses to the organiser of the event. It would not have been any better than the trio of Ustad Zakir Hussain, Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer.

When all the information about the concert came out a few days later, my first thought of the moment- ‘no matter what I have to be present at the concert.’ Well that bubble of thought soon got pinched later by my mom, “I would not allow you to buy such expensive tickets.” I argued for some time. It did not work. Sadly I then went to my fupa (dad’s sister’s wonderful husband who devours indian/pakistani/bengali/ classical music). “Beta(hindi/urdu word for son/daughter), I would love to go but I do not know what your fupi would say when it comes to the pricey tickets, you know your fupi is not much of a music enthusiast like us!” I got similar remarks from some of my friends as well. Yes I was disappointed and angry. I mean, watching all the musical wizards at their best was more important to me than the price of the tickets. No one was understanding my sentiment. Well, all I could do was wait. I had 15 days at hand to somehow convince my mom. Everyday I tried talking a little about the event to mom. I was afraid at the same time about the tickets getting all sold out. Okay so the day finally arrived, I got in contact with the organisers of the event and my morning started with the good news that there were still a few tickets left. I went downstairs to fupa’s room and re-appealed to him saying that this opportunity would not come often and undoubtedly it would turn out to be a pretty good investment. Fupa just could not further deny my extreme excitement and enthusiasm. So off we were to buy the last tickets. People complain that I nag a lot. But my habit of nagging worked to my advantage this time. Yes I could finally convince mom to let me buy the tickets. In the evening fupa and I arrived at the concert venue.

Okay keep holding on to that, I would be back soon describing the event, I hate when my work calls me all of a sudden! My life! Sigh!

New Year. New You.

This is my first blog post. It could not have been better than this day. Opening my blog in the first day of this new year 2013 (It is already 1/1/13 in Dhaka). Hope my blogging goes well…

I do not believe in making new year resolutions because they ultimately turn out to be futile as each year keeps a lot of changes in store for life. But still I found this phrase refreshing, the phrase I gave my title as. All I can do is pray and hope to have a fresh new start and have a great year ahead for all of us. And I also hope that this new year offers me or exposes me to many exciting travels, good music and some valuable experiences.
On that note, I went to my terrace to join the ongoing celebrations. The night sky looked so beautiful with all the fireworks! It left me mesmerized. It was a delightful experience. Shot a couple of videos for which I had to turn round and round to capture the encircling illuminations. My head started spinning badly in the end. I am still a bit dizzy now. Anyways, sayonara for now.

And yes once again, Happy New Year Everybody! :)

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