Sunday, May 31, 2009

Message In A Bottle: Book Review: May 2009

I am only thankful I didn’t start a book and leave it unfinished this month so I would have successfully achieved the count of 0 books in a month. I managed to read one book and I am still wondering what kept me from reading more. So as of now I am confused if I should be feeling relieved or ashamed. Then again, what’s the fun if books are not read leisurely and at one’s own pace…as if it were some mad race with oneself…I am just rambling here and I should stop and get to the review.

The book being reviewed this month is: Message In A Bottle by Nicholas Sparks

Message In A Bottle
Nicholas Sparks

This is one of the most acclaimed books among those written by Nicholas Sparks and I have a friend to thank for recommending and gifting it. It makes for a quick read like most Nicholas Sparks novels. The story revolves around a man and a woman (duh!). The woman (ok its just to weird to write like that…man and woman style…so Theresa) finds a bottle washed up on the shore one fine vacation morning and finds that it contains a letter…from one Garrett (our hero) to one Catherine. The letter is heartbreakingly beautiful and she is intrigued about the writer. When she finds two more letter from Garrett to Catherine…ones that had washed up on other shores…the single, lonely and heartbroken Theresa sets out to find Garrett…just to see who on earth writes such heartfelt letters in this day and age. She does meet him and the story goes forward from there on to become a tale of love, conflict, haunting pasts, resentment and return. There is tragedy too, like all Nicholas Sparks novels. And it is heartbreaking.

I didn’t find Message In A Bottle to be anything spectacular. All the letters that go floating into the ocean in this book are no doubt epitomes of the kind of love the soft-hearted ones dream of. But beyond that Message In A Bottle is just another story with all the essential emotions woven in. It is nice read of course, although it ends in a sad way… it’s a love story all the same. And all the avid readers of love stories will like this one too..and maybe even shed a few tears over the tragedy.

All said and done I don’t recommend this book very strongly. Nights in Rhodante may be a much better read and on the same lines by the same author. Take your pick.

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Traffic Jams In Life

I was stuck behind a big white bus at Silk Board Junction earlier this evening. I was standing close to the divider and all I could see was the row of vehicles next to me. I couldn’t see anything in front of me…not the vehicles…not even the signal…it was being blocked by the bus. I didn’t know whether the signal was red or green. I didn’t know how much time it would be before it would turn green and we would begin to move. I didn’t even know if there was some space in front of the bus so I could move ahead if only I overtook the bus standing right up front. All I could see was the white metal sheet and the big box with wheels. I was stuck.

I kept waiting unsure of when to turn the ignition of my vehicle on. That uncertainty made me slightly uncomfortable. Yet, the signal did turn green a while later and I was able to move ahead when the other vehicles showed signs of movement. The traffic was heavy and we barely managed to maintain our lanes as more buses joined from Hosur Road. I continued at that slow and slightly unsteady pace to realize that the traffic was flowing much more smoothly up the road and the ride became comfortable again.

In life we face our own big white buses. There are times when everything comes to a standstill. And all we can see is what is around and behind us…not what is ahead. We have no clue if there is enough space in the direction we have chosen to drive in…no idea of how much time it is going to take to even start moving, leave alone get somewhere…somewhere we want to reach. No idea when the signal is turning green for us. And all we can do is wait tapping our feet impatiently and uncertainly.

But the lights turn green…they always do. Big white buses and road blockages move. Even if it means being unsteady for a while, the traffic does ease and the ride does become comfortable. We always reach where we are truly supposed to reach.

There are no standstills in life…any halt in movement is temporary…

One has just got to be able to hold on and wait it out…a little while longer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ghazal Muse

Yesterday was a long ride home. And it was cold after the torrential downpour Bangalore experienced in the evening. So naturally our daily ritual of having tea at midnight assumed immense significance owing to the weather and I found myself eagerly preparing ginger tea at midnight and humming a Ghazal that my mind dug out from its recesses… Chitra Singh’s ‘Bahut Pehle Se Un Kadmon Ki Aahat Jaan Lete Hain'...and the medley began.

I started singing these old favourites that I used to hum regularly when I was at home In Nagpur. These days I hum only the very favourites ingrained in memory and I do that almost unconsciously. But yesterday I found myself remembering and singing the other jewels and pondering upon their words after almost an era. It was a nice start to the day : )

I mused about the moon yesterday on the blog but at night I remembered this ghazal by Hariharan which goes as,

Aks chehre pe Aftab ka hai…

It means the reflection of the Sun is on your face. It was interesting to think about that when I had ruminated upon all the comparisons made with the Moon the previous day…

There is another ghazal sung by Hariharan which says,

Koi patta hile, hawa toh chale Kaun apna hai yeh pata toh chale…

It translates to ‘Leaves should rustle now and the wind should blow, who is really one’s own one should get to know’. It’s a beautiful ghazal in melody as well as meaning and I enjoyed singing it again.

Of course there is Jagjit Singh’s ghazal of which I’ll quote all the couplets,

Apne hothon par sajana chahta hoon
Aa tujhe main gungunana chahta hoon

Koi aansoo tere daman par girakar
Boond ko moti banana chahta hoon

Thhak gaya main karte karte yaad tujhko
Ab tujhe main yaad aana chahta hoon

Chha raha hai saari basti mein andhera
Roshni ko ghar jalana chahta hoon

Aakhri hichki tere zano pe aaye
Maut bhi main shayrana chahta hoon

I love this ghazal so much! In essence it talks about a person wanting to make his beloved his song and sing it, saying that even teardrops turn to pearls when the beloved touches them, that he is tired of remembering her and he wants to be remembered by her now, that darkness is descending upon the locales and he wants to light up his home and finally, that his will be a poetic death if it is in the beloved’s presence. Such a beautiful way of expressing what a loved one means to someone. And the melody can soothe your nerves in an instant. This one is a big favourite.

There were other songs that I didn’t sing yesterday but fondly remembered – ghazals by Ghulam Ali, Chitra Singh, Pankaj Udhas…and I remembered enjoying the ambience and the education in this Persian art form at home just as much. The thing with ghazals is that listened to alone, some ghazals can induce a sense of sadness but heard in company they instantly become entities that can be enjoyed and cherished. And hence, though I love them just as much now, I’d prefer to see myself in a secluded place – near a mountain, close enough to the sea to hear its faint roar but not too close, or just some quiet place even if it is home…listening to and talking about these ghazals that are timeless melodies with someone who appreciates them equally so I can enjoy them more…maybe over a cup of warm tea, maybe next to a bonfire under the stars with crickets chirping in the distance and the mellifluous voices filling the air…I am looking forward to that time of my life to muse on this again : )

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dark Side Of The Moon

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? I was looking at some pictures of those yesterday and my mind sky-rocketed into a world I had known as a child…the world of stars and galaxies.

As a child I had immense fascination for Astronomy. In fact when I was less than 3 years old, my father had bought a book on the subject from A. H. Wheeler and Company. We used to live in Gondia then. This book was titled ‘Astronomy’ and was published by Piccolo. It was a medium sized book with a wealth of information (that included tips on taking pictures of the night sky and making your own solar-eclipse viewer). And though I could not make the head or tail of it at that age, there is telling evidence that I had read the entire book at 3…I had marked the entire book using my father’s signature Luxor black pen, long flowing marks on the faces of Jupiter and Neptune…evidence that ‘Anu was here’.

I have read that book at least 15 to 20 times in the course of growing up and I’m not even kidding…I really have. Then of course I had all the other books on Astronomy we bought over the years the culmination being a 24-Volume Encyclopaedia, 2 volumes of which were dedicated to Astronomy. I loved reading about Stars – blue and red, Galaxies, Planets and their characteristics, their satellites, Binary stars, Novae and Supernovae, Black Holes…I could read that stuff for hours. I would look at the Star Maps and spend time on the terrace trying to identify constellations and stars – Libra, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion, Sirius, Mizar & Alcor…in fact I still get the monthly star maps in my Yahoo Mailbox…I really enjoyed that phase of my life and the knowledge I gained from it.

What appeared at the very beginning in these books I read, even the most basic ones, was our closest celestial relative, the Moon. And that’s where the muse started by the Northern Lights ended.

The Moon has been associated with beauty and love forever now. Umpteen comparisons have been made with that mellow glow in the sky and yet it continues to fascinate us. It waxes and wanes…it disappears and reappears…but it is always there and it’s the closest to us. And no one can overstate the importance of this celestial body in the Indian context where an entire calendar has been structured to follow its movements.

Like the Moon, there are beautiful people in your life too. People who are close to you. People who wax and wane in their moods and behaviours…disappear from your lives sometimes…reappear at others. But people who are always there.

The Moon brings light to our lives on dark nights…its very sight. It brings hope when the Sun is not around. So it is with some people in life. Their very presence, their sight can light up your life.

But the moon has a dark side. One that we have never seen. One that we will never see from where we stand. And that dark side could have anything in store – craters and cracks or treasures. But it is not for us to know.

People have dark sides too… attributes we do not know of…a past we are not familiar with…a future that is yet to be unfolded…qualities we haven’t discovered. It does not necessarily imply something negative…it is just something we are unaware of about the person. But from where we see them, it is a side we will never get to discover…maybe it is buried deep inside…maybe the person has changed…maybe it is a dormant side that will never see the light of the day…maybe it is hidden potential that will never be tapped. It is hidden nevertheless.

It is not for us to fret over what lies on the dark side. The bright side of people brings us the light and hope needed in life. Their changing phases bring daily change and excitement to life. If it is a night of the new moon when you haven’t seen the ones you love, nothing compares to the thrill of sighting that beloved crescent the next day and watch it grow. One will have to go out of the orbit to see the dark side and who knows if you can ever return from there. From where we stand, all we need to see to sustain ourselves through life is the bright side…keep your face to it and beauty and love will flood your life…its what the Moon has always stood for.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

Sometimes I thank God for John Mayer; else where would all the music lovers have been without all those gorgeous songs!

Discovered this song over the weekend and been listening to it ever since. Hope you like it too...have a good week ahead.

John Mayer - Slow Dancing in a Burning Room

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If Today Was Your Last Day

I just HAD to share this song with all of you. I heard it for the first time some time ago (what a pity!) and have been tripping over it ever since. I love everything about this song (have I been saying that too much?? Blame the musicians who create such lovely tunes having the most beautiful words : ) ) …I love Chad Kroeger’s voice, I love the tune, I love the very short guitar riff at the very end of most lines (you would have to personally come and ask me to show you what I am talking about), I love the lyrics every bit of them, I love the message being passed around…

I am not sure if this is characteristic of only the Indian society or of cultures elsewhere too but death and dying are such conversational and mental taboos that it amazes me. We are just not allowed to think about or utter words like ‘What if I die’ or ‘My death’ or ‘XYZ’s death’…I don’t wish to make this into a morbid post but we have to understand that we are not going to live forever; but we all act as if we are. Life is too short to accommodate things like beauty, happiness, friendship, love…I wonder how people find time to accommodate anger, hatred, regret and such negative emotions. Life should be considered to be a painting contest where everyone has been alloted limited time. Would you paint a hideous, sad or ugly picture if you wanted to win? What would you paint if you wanted to win? Paint that in reality…

I am not suggesting that you spend everyday preparing for your death…that is how you should NOT live…live with all your focus on life and the beautiful things it brings along. Choose. When you walk into a multiplex, do you watch every movie that is being screened? You choose to watch only the best…something that gives you value for your money and time…gives you a good feeling and entertainment. Sometimes you experiment, choose something different and live with it if it turns out to be a blip. Life is no different. Choose in life. See only the good, see only beauty, believe only in the best, discard everything else. Extract value from your life. Make it entertaining. What if someone were to tell the story of your life? What if you were to tell it to your grand children? How would you like it to sound? Live a good interesting story. Every story has places where the protagonists fall. But there are turnarounds too. Get up and be the hero of your own story. Live!

I could go on to tell you how I would like my life to look and sound towards the very end but maybe some other time. Without much further ado, presenting ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’. Do read what the song has to say and I swear it is something to live by. In fact, this song just became one of my anthems. I hope you really enjoy and absorb this one…

My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day’s a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
If today was your last day

Against the grain should be a way of life
What’s worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try
So live like you’ll never live it twice
Don’t take the free ride in your own life

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?

Would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you'll finally fall in love

If today was your last day
If today was your last day

Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are
So do whatever it takes
‘Cause you can’t rewind a moment in this life
Let nothin’ stand in your way
Cause the hands of time are never on your side

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?

Would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you'll finally fall in love
If today was your last day.


Nickelback - If today was your last day
If Today Was Your Last Day by Nickelback on Grooveshark

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Theatrical Thoughts

I stepped inside Rangashankara after quite a while today. It was to watch the highly acclaimed play titled ‘Blackbird’ by Akarsh Khurana Productions. As I went over the play’s synopsis two days earlier, it was the cast that caught my eye – Akash Khurana and Shernaz Patel, and I decided a sensible cast like that deserved to be watched. And so I decided to watch the play along with my sister.

The play itself was a short 80 minutes but it was the feeling of being in Rangashankara and experiencing Theatre that made me content today. It was good to be walking in what seems to have become the theatrical Mecca of Bangalore, along with a bunch of solemn individuals who were willing to experiment with things that are different, even abstract and understood the etiquette of theatre.

We loitered around the place awhile joined by two cousins, taking in the atmosphere before the queue began to form. We entered the auditorium a few minutes later and found ourselves a good spot from where to see the stage and the actors clearly. Rangashankara always plays some good music as the audience waits for the play to begin and I love that about the place. We settled down and the play began in some time.

When you can see the actors from a distance of a few feet, feel the power of their voice as they effortlessly deliver their bits of the script, understand the intricacies of being involved in a run that has no retakes and any slips on anyone’s part call forth for an immediate improvisation on everybody’s part, entertainment takes on a new dimension. It has a thrill that even reality TV cannot provide. It is a quest for perfection that got lost in the race that television and films started.

As the play closed on a dramatic note and the lights came up again for the cast to take a bow, one could see the wake of the effort that the performance had demanded on the actor’s faces. They seemed to be as emotionally distraught as the characters were meant to be at the close. And that opened one’s eyes to how real and how difficult this really was. My respect for all theatre artistes, though already very high, was elevated even further after witnessing that moment.

We left the auditoriums half discussing the play, half fiddling with our switched off cell phones to check if we had been sought in those 80 minutes. I did not want to leave the premises immediately, so we said goodbye to our cousins and proceeded to the Rangashankara café to get ourselves some chai. We munched on delicious bits of Sabudana-Vada and Vada-Pav when I saw the cast descending from the stairs of the auditorium. They came to the café too and were congratulated by some people on their performance. We for our parts kept smiling at them in acknowledgement as they passed by. I was way too happy about seeing them there and way too proud of the fact that Theatre allowed you this luxury of having the stars eat at the same table as the others and be completely at home about it. I still haven’t got over it really. It just warms my heart to even think about how gracious the two of them were when in reality they had been part of big banners in Bollywod. It made me smile a whole lot.

That, I think, is the beauty of Theatre. The ones on stage and the ones off it are on the same plane really. And they share the perspective of the art form being depicted for the while it is being depicted. Theatre is humble and it is hard work. It really is the place where the clichéd coals are turned into diamonds that remember where they came from. No airs about it. And I love the entire idea for that reason and much more.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

You Are Who You Are, Not What You Do

I found this valuable piece while going through my unread DailyOM mails. It is a must-read for everyone who is in the habit of judging and anyone who feels judged, even if it means being judged by their own selves. It’s called You Are Who You Are, Not What You Do. You can read the article here.

The article talks about something I believe strongly in – Inherent and Omnipresent goodness. No person is good or evil as such but if there is any such thing as benefit of doubt in this case I would go to the extent of saying that all people are good at the core. Every person is trustworthy. When trusted and put faith in, each one of us has the power to shine and become epitomes of goodness.

We all come with certain inherent personality traits and everyone’s personality traits may not be something within personal limits of tolerance. The concept of being on the same wavelengths comes into play here. We might not be able to get along with all the people we come across in our lives. We don’t have to. But more often than not we end up labelling these people with the tag ‘bad’ – that colleague who gossips a lot, that acquaintance who is too proud, that person who can never be clean and organized enough…that is something we should try and refrain from doing. It may be easier said than done but it is ultimately about realizing that spiritual difference between a being and its actions.

The same principle needs to be applied to our own selves too. We often hold a lot of regret in our hearts about a mistake that we committed in the past, especially if it involved hurting somebody else. We need to realize that maybe at that point we did not know better. And that mistake was cardinal in teaching us a life lesson that would serve us well later in life.

We do not become bad people just because we committed a mistake. Swami Vivekananda had said, “We become wiser through failures. Time is infinite. Look at the wall. Did the wall ever tell a lie? It isalways the wall. Man tells a lie-and becomes God too.”

Only people who are making mistakes in life are really going somewhere...because there is no formula to live life by and that leaves the entire laboratory of life open for trial and error. If you made a mistake it is a healthy sign that at least you are moving. You can always correct the course of your ship. But you need to make peace with yourself and forgive yourself for any perceived mistakes you may be holding on to. Take the lesson and let go of the deed.

Our wisdom in the present, however little or much it may be, is determined by the deeds of the past. And if you have played very safe and not made any mistake in life so far you need to be wary since the chances of making one in the future increase manifold. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes. It is part of form you have taken…human.

You are not your mistake. You are just a person who performed a certain set of actions unfavourable to yourself or to someone else in the past. That may be the truth. There is nothing good or bad about it. The bigger truth is that you are a beautiful being. And that is perennial.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Magnificent

I underestimate the power of Radio sometimes. And I end up underusing it (if there’s any such word). Once every long lost while I remember that I have a Yahoo login and then I sign in to Yahoo Music …to enter a magical world.

So that’s what I have been busy doing this week – listening to Yahoo LaunchCast Radio. It really is one of the best ways to keep up with new music. And I love the Adult Alternative channel (DO NOT get any ideas from the name). It has delighted me this week with songs from artists like Coldplay, Maroon5, Three Doors Down, James Morrison and the likes. Here is a list of songs I loved:

  1. Lover In Japan - Coldplay
  2. Reign Of Love - Coldplay
  3. Her Diamonds - Rob Thomas
  4. Goodnight Goodnight - Maroon 5
  5. Let Me Be Myself - Three Doors Down
  6. Forever You May Run – Gavin Rossdale
  7. Broken Strings – James Morrison
  8. A Little Too Not Over You – David Archuleta

Loved each one of these and I can’t even begin to explain how good and elevated I felt upon hearing these songs. But the crowning glory was a song called Magnificent by U2. It’s from their new album No Line On The Horizon and it has great music and lyrics. Very New Year’s Day feel (another one of my many U2 favourites). Bono’s voice is ringing in my ears as he sings the lines ‘Only love, only love can leave such a mark…But only love, only love can heal such a scar’…beautiful song.

Here’s how Magnificent goes:

Magnificent
Magnificent

I was born
I was born to be with you
In this space and time
After that and ever after I haven't had a clue
Only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise…

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent
Magnificent

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent
Magnificent
Magnificent

So music-wise it has been a great week. Truly the world of music is my go-to at all times. It can pull me out of emotional troughs. It can make me sing and dance and amplify my happiness. It can really lift me up. To me, for creating songs like Magnificent, the world of music itself is Magnificent.

u2 - magnificent