Monday, May 9, 2011

Tagore, Robert Johnson, Nilgiri Tea, and some Spinach

Summer of 2011 has been pleasant and turbulent and extremely life transforming.  I was able to draw on the love, support and inspiration of a host of friends and wellwishers to finally take the decision to cut ties with what one might have called my workplace of over 13 years.  While I have been hearing more and more people speaking of making their lives count and walking away from the pursuit of wealth creation for relatively selfish ends, the fear of uncertainty and the size of debts and bills has till now held me back.  As I learned the hard way that expecting others to keep their commitments only sets you up to be let down, I was guided back to faith and the concept of surrender.  Read more about my decision to not work for a living at once I get down to writing about it.

The other major development was a surprise reestablishment after two years of the object of devotion (not my music system, silly!!) on the evening of May 5, along with an equally lifechanging dialog with one of my closest friend and guide. Over the next few days, I was able to see my selfishness, my utter disregard to the consequences of my thoughts, speech and actions, and my indifference to the sufferings of my loved ones.  I am still struggling to not just accept it, but to change it entirely.  Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers I know.

Three birthdays of people related to me from previous lifetimes this month.

Rabindranath Tagore was born on May 7, 1861.  Like Ramapada Chowdhuri said in his acceptance speech at the 2010 Rabindranath Memorial Awards, his ubiquitous signature that adorns the cover of all his Visva Bharati publications, is one that is instantly recognized by every Bengali, if not every lettered Indian.  Though known mainly for his poetry and songs (which number several thousand), he created his place in literary thought through his essays, philosophical and spiritual writings, and novels and dramas too (am I leaving something out?)  His body of work covers several shelves in my parents study.  Thanks to the quiet erudition of my father (an incurable Tagore hotstepper) and not so quiet fanaticism of teachers like Shibajida, I was guided to his more seminal and intense works, and in spite of my limited exposure to literature written in Bengali, I have found in his writing succor and meaning at my times of greatest need.  Legends like him never die, and he went on to return to being the Bhanusingha (Sun Lion) that he wanted to be as a teenager.  Though a lot of his work still remains untranslated, all his translated work is out in the public domain and can be found easily online too.  Do delve.

The other birthday that in some ways has almost as great a significance as that of Tagore to me personally is that of songwriter and guitarist, and pioneer of the Delta blues, Robert Johnson (heresy, cries the good Bong, blasphemy!), who turned 100 on May 8 this year.  Strange, in contrast, since, in the relatively short lifespan of 27 years, he wrote only 29 songs, and his complete recordings (even with the multiple takes) write comfortably on to one Audio CD.  I had almost no idea of Robert Johnson's work beyond the occasional reference to him in books about Delta blues that I came across.  It was after listening to Clapton's Me and Mr. Johnson, that I got myself to find the Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson.  That was when I discovered that a lot of stuff that I had loved and grown up with were actually his songs, such as Crossroad Blues, Love in Vain, They're Red Hot, Traveling Riverside Blues and many more.  It dawned on me with each new track that here was the roots of much of the guitar work and blues work that I lived by.  Read more about Robert Johnson at my 100th birthday post over at Operative Notes.

The third is that of Bob Dylan, who unlike the two above is still kicking and screaming, even as Lou Majaw prepares to celebrate his birthday on May 24 at Shillong.  Read about his life and work in my original mono recordings post. If you are not familiar with Lou Majaw and his mission, do google it.  It might just change (or save) your life.

Food for thought.  Is an iron-rich diet necessary for sword-swallowers?  Read about two unusual recipes with spinach at Sita Ki Rasoi.  Now that the Supreme Court has stayed the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, this little piece of cyberspace is again freed from the pushme-pullyous of greed.

Brews from South India typically make one think of coffee, but thanks to friends who love tea, I had the good fortune of learning about fine teas that are grown in the Nilgiris.  Read more about full leaf fine teas from South India at Blend of Tea.

One for the road.  A translation of lines from Tagore, no way close to the original.  The Bengali is Porobashi Chole Esho Gharey

Come back home, Oh, Sojourner
Sail back in the friendly wind
Come back home, Oh, Exiled Self

Come back and see, for you
The ferry goes back and forth ceaselessly (for you)
The boatman’s song reverberates in the sky

The sky is set to greet you back
The breeze sings the welcome song

Your soul didn’t let you hear,
Made you homeless everywhere
You’re exiled within, exiled in life

Have a great run up to monsoon, dear reader.  Have a great life.



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