Saturday, 28 July, 2007

Taan-talizing Stuff!

It is humanly impossible to sing taans so fast, with such emotive imagination, and yet each note so exact, sung in a crystal clear voice! Unless, of course, you are Ustad Rashid Khan. I was at the Barkha Ritu festival of "rain and ragas" concerts, where I had the privilege of hearing this man sing, live.

An hour or more of Megh Malhar, followed by Des (including a tarana, one of his favourite type of compositions) convinced me that I have probably never heard a better singer and voice in contemporary Indian classical music. His voice culture leaves very little to be desired, and his improvisation is characterized by a high level of technical ability across a large range, as well as a strong emotive basis - and the latter is something which is rare even among the old Masters.

And his taans are simply electrifying! I remember - there was this kid in the row ahead of me, he must have been about 6 or so, and had come along with his parents. And he was typically being restless and fidgeting around in his seat and in the aisle (actually, this went for a large part of the rest of the crowd as well - but that's probably fodder for another post!). This went on for the first ten minutes or so, and it was quite irritating for the people around - meanwhile the Ustad had started his concert with a slow elaboration. And then Rashid-bhai launched into his first taan, and I saw this kid's attention literally arrested to the stage now! It was instantaneous. He'd been pottering around in the aisle, and at that moment, quietly sat back in his chair, and not a peep was heard from him for the better part of an hour, till the end of Megh Malhar! I don't think anything more need be said!

Here are some samples - Raag Basant, and Raag Marwa. Check these out.

Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and S Shashank were playing a jugalbandi next. Unfortunately for them, they had planned to perform Megh Malhar and Des as well, as Vishwa-ji pointed out before they began, but Rashid Khan ended up choosing the same ragas! So they had to change tack to Pooriya Dhanasri (another majestic raag) for their main piece! Heck, it's the rainy season, what's the big deal in stealing the thunder a little?!

Saturday, 14 July, 2007


This just struck me a few minutes ago - just out of nowhere. Just why exactly is the Hindi word 'saala' a cuss-word? Saala means the brother of your wife. What could be derogatory about that?

A moment's further contemplation brought the answer of course - what if one turns this definition around? By calling someone saala, I actually imply that I am banging his sister! Now that puts a slightly different spin I guess! A little research on the net proves I'm right. Funny how, given this slightly racy and strong (?) interpretation, it's still such a commonly used term, often even by children!

A bit of joblessness made me explore some more such "harmless" terms - here's one. See point 3 in that page! "Endearing and rather harmless" indeed!

He he!

Tuesday, 3 July, 2007

Being Prepared

I don't mean to be paranoid. I'm just saying, what's the harm in being prepared? There are situations in life, from the mundane to the critical, which can be called 'unplanned emergencies'. To be able to manage them takes only a little bit of skill, but then again, only if one is properly trained for it. The funny thing is, it doesn't take much to learn these skills - in terms of investment of time or money. But how many of us make that investment?

Here's a simple test. Below is a list of situations where 'things can go wrong'.

  • Flat tyre on your car/bike
  • The fuse on your mains blows up
  • Someone has a fall and breaks a limb / has a cardiac arrest / has seizures / has been bitten by a dog
  • There's a small fire / gas leak
  • There's been a road accident
  • There's an intruder in your house in the middle of the night
How many of the above can you handle independently and effectively, before professional help arrives? Do you know the emergency numbers to call? Do you know what to do, and what NOT to?

I will say this again. It takes very little effort and training to be able to handle a large number of emergencies at a basic level in the preliminary stages. The key, therefore, is to get that training, in these basic "life skills", along with those fancy academic programs. These could be so much more relevant.