‘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 other 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 slow pace. On wherever and whatever my eyes fell upon, they all turned 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 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 back home from the site, we came across a large fair and thought to drop by.

The place was redolent of rosewater and pungent dhup which came from the burning agar sticks. I guess that aroma added to the divine atmosphere around. 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. I was alienated by all the glares that were thrown towards me. As I started clicking, Baba seemed to smile at my camera. Perhaps his holy glare 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 that, there were some old men selling some bizarre products. A man 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 center, 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 soon got enlightened about his business. What he sold was different types of natural remedies for common diseases such as headache, back pain, common skin infections and so on. Natural remedy? Really? I thought those products would be lead to new diseases. They failed to convince me but surely not a certain group of people. I heard that it was a tradition they maintained for hundreds of years. Surprisingly, the tradition was still alive.

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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 a 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 time to get back to our car and resume our journey.

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It was a different experience that served as a fresh motivation to travel locally. There are so many places remaining that have to be explored within the 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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And I am back! I will try posting some video clips of the concert. But lets complete the story first.

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. As we were waiting for the concert to start, we 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, a starry background and bluish ombre lighting added to the soothing mood. After some formal sound checks, the show finally started. The curtains of the main show was raised by charming presentations of classical Tagore and Nazrul songs performed by Bangladeshi and Indian artists. Fupa was reminiscing his old times. The last performance was a fusion of a modern Bengali and a classical Indian raga. My fingers went up and down to the interesting hooks.

Finally, it was time for the three maestros to come on stage. I could sense a rush of excitement amongst the audience. Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck were warmly welcomed by almost relentless applause and whistles. When each of their biography was being displayed on the screen, the masters laughed and pointed at each other. Without further ado, the enchantment of the melody began. Zakir left the audience awed by his infinite speedy rhythms and strikes on his tabla. I was gasping while following his notes. Not only did his fingers dance but also his eyes, his body and his expressions all seemed to dance to his rhythms across his percussion pieces. Edgar Meyer joined with his heavy notes. 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. 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 complementary and sometimes in perfect synchronization 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 asked the audience. He requested the event managers not to put any displays on the screen, “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 duet, one matched his notes with the other’s. Later, Bela Fleck grabbed the microphone and said, “Hey you know we are playing some weird music up here, I thought you guys would be gone by now!” And we chuckled. Entry of the 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 with 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 asked, “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 extremely 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 to 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 that patience ultimately leads to the finest reward, so yes, there I was, waiting 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 front main door of the house. 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 that day, after quickly scanning over the main headlines, I moved onto the ‘Arts and Culture’ section. And wow! The latest update ceased all the residual drowsiness from my eyes. Fusion concert of three maestros was upcoming and that too for the first time in Bangladesh!  I would also like to describe myself as an ardent music enthusiast. I became extremely excited. 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 was that no matter what I just had to attend the concert. Well that bubble of thought soon got pricked later by my mom, “I would not allow you to buy such expensive tickets.” I argued with my mom for some time. It did not work. Sadly I then went to my Fupa (my father’s sister’s wonderful husband who devours Bengali, Indian and Pakistani classical music). He said,”Beta, I would love to go but I don’t 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. However, I was afraid that with each passing day the tickets would get closer to being all sold out. Okay, so the day finally arrived when I was able to get in touch with the organizers of the event to book our 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 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 numerous changes in store for life. But, I found this phrase refreshing, “New Year. New You.”. 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 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. I felt a bit dizzy afterwards. Anyways, goodbye for now.

And yes once again, Happy New Year Everybody! 🙂