Wednesday, January 18, 2006

goddess of music and beauty

I would get a chance to visit her place around festive deepawali season. Earthen lamps would illuminate this spacious two-storied building in downtown opera house of south Mumbai that had entry point from the side. Tapping footsteps from small wooden stairs would announce the arrival of incoming visitors. It had a sprawling hall and row of rooms one behind the other with common alley. There was a small balcony at the edge of the hall with colored glass panes on top. With continuous streaming of visitors, main door would always remain open. A sprawling hall with cream and brown hexagonal ceramic tiles, high ceiling with a roof resting on slender wooden columns, stained glass windows, would be the place for every visitor to be ushered in. Furniture was minimal except few wooden divans and chairs in one corner. Most of the hall was occupied by spread out cushioned mattresses and decorative mats for visitors to sit down.

All visitors after removing their footwear at the main door would head diagonally to a place adjacent to protruding balcony that was adorned with Deepawali lantern. The place that was sacred for visitors was where she would sit on a wooden reclining chair that had a movable arm with circular cut hole to fit well-polished brass kalash (vessel). This was used to spit chewed beetle leave remnants. In the corner, would be two huge Tanpuras - an Indian classical string instrument- made of a big pumpkin with the hollow neck. A big wooden swing with brass handles opposite the balcony was positioned in such a way that swing would not touch the chair. With advent of evenings, glow from glass lampshades would make those huge portraits on the walls glisten and shine.

I was told that this place had witnessed dignitaries from royal lineage, politicians, and musical stalwarts. Those were the days when food for guests was served in silver thalis and spoon. Despite aristocracy was past her prime, it was still the luxurious and interesting environ for me. I enjoyed seeing this hall humming with people – dressed with elegance carrying with them packed Indian sweets or dry fruits. Woman wearing their choicest of gold embroidered saris sprinkled with attar- Indian perfume, those ladies who were not associated with the music, would head to interior rooms of the mansion after touching her feet reverently. I would watch with amusement those special persons who would sit down under her feet for a small chat. I admired Tanpura’s dark brown polish and marble inlay artwork on teak wood and wondered how it would be if I were to vibrate those strings and hear resonant sound from that pumpkin .I was curious how a pumpkin can become so hard once inside the Tanpura . I marveled that huge swing but could not enjoy its ride; it was rude to be there when she was on her chair.

She was in her ripe age of 90’s but despite her frail health and wrinkles spread all over her body, her glowing skin was still intact. She would wear her cream-colored silk saree without any border. With her gold-rimmed round spectacles, she would carry an aura of princess. She may not have been princess, but every Maharaja in her prime days wanted her to grace special royal festivities and occasions. Even at this age, she had a sharp memory, would easily identify people, and talk to them in soft tone. After years, when I read about Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings, I learnt that his mohini paintings were evolved on this lady and she was one of his earliest model for some of his memorable paintings.

For me, until then, she was just an aajibai (old grandma) – a respected elderly figure who has something to do with music and carried charisma with some rich and powerful people. It is only in later part of my growing years, I learnt the enormity of her personality and her accomplishments as a singer known as goddess of music. Her name is Anjanibai Malpekar- a recipient of Sangeet Academy Award

She was born on April 22, 1883 in non-descript place in Goa, learnt music from the age of eight under Ustad Nazir Khan who alongwith his brothers Ustad Chhajju Khan, Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan shifted to the Bhendi Bazar area of Mumbai and thereafter their singing style became known as “Bhendi Bazar Gharana.” The most distinctive feature of this Gharana was their presentations of Khayals. Lata Mangeshkar too was associated with this Gharana when she learnt her early music lessons under Ustad Aman Ali. It seems that Anjanibai had a good knowledge of Marathi, English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, and Arabic and wrote Urdu Shayaris.

She must have been rebellion in many ways. Else, in that era, who would have courage to marry a Gujarati industrialist without even informing family members? Those were the days when singers would be invited to the court of Maharajas but they had to stand all the way. It was impudent for a singer to sit in front his highness and sing. Anjanibai broke this norm and refused to stand and sing. Haughty attitude to patrons of art and music but Maharajas acceded to her demands. Anjanibai’s first performance was at Muzaffarabad Hall, in Central Bombay in 1899. This was followed by performances all over the country. She won a number of awards and she became reining a musical queen patronized by princely states and industrialists. It is said that most of the musical stalwarts made sure to visit her place during their visits to Mumbai. Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande took her help in writing sargams for complicated taans. Gauhar Jaan would stay at her place whenever she visited Bombay from Calcutta. Kishori Amonkar was her favourite disciple. Kumar Gandharava as a kid would come and mimic singers. Begum Akhtar would take lessons from her. Backed by shipping magnet husband, both goddess of wealth and music must have blessed her in abundance. However, all of sudden she lost her voice and no medical help would set it right till Narayan Maharaj – a swami close to pune blessed her and helped her to regain her voice. Soon after that incident, she decided to quit giving musical concerts.

Things took vicious turn within few years of her quitting music; she lost in quick succession her musical mentor –Ustad, her mother and her spiritual guru who helped her to regain her voice. This was followed by colossal loss of her husband’s business fortunes eventually losing his life in this shock. Financial loss made its foray into deterioration of material wealth of prime real estates that had to be sold to pay the business losses. Her well-wishers pleaded with her to start singing to put a stop to dwindling fortune, but Anjanibai had a strong resolve; she refused to touch the Tanpura. Its only Kumar Gandhrava’s musical rendition at her home made her modify her oath of touching tanpura only to teach music to her students. After that, her association of music remained only with her students. Goodwill, affection of her ardent fan followers and patrons was intact until she was alive .They made sure she was accorded all the respect she deserved.

Anjanibai died on August 7th 1974.

Today, with no musical heritage running in her next two generations and with no supplementary income, most of the musical treasures are either been handed over to various museums or left in dilapidated condition. The sprawling hall that once adorned ornamental fixtures now wears desolate look, walls that spruced up with oil paint have little coat left, and some of the broken hexagonal tiles are covered shabbily with cement fillings, window stained glass panes are replaced by cardboards. Huge paintings stand erect amidst gloomy surroundings but they do not shine or glisten under fluorescent tube lights. Reclining chair, Majestic swing and those portraits are perhaps the only mute spectators of this saga from riches to rag transition.

Some of the fascinating archives of Anjanibai Malpekar:

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The God Of Small Things

People often cling to a storybook when it succeeds in sustaining an interest. An interest in knowing the outcome when all the little mysteries in the story plot gets subtly revealed and all the loose ends are tidied up in dramatic manner.

Would a story be accepted if it spells its denouement right in the beginning of it? Would readers be eager to recommend a book if it pronounces shades of its characters and their relationship within first few pages? How would global readers accept if a backdrop of such a story were completely alien to them?

‘The God of Small things’ written by Arundhati Roy shattered all these traditional concepts of writing a novel and yet went onto win a booker prize. This book was with me almost for 6 years. My earlier two attempts to read this book turned futile when I was taken aback by confusing and complicated Kerala names of various characters and places. This chaos was further aggravated with a need to resort to a dictionary far too soon that broke the flow and momentum of reading. Somehow, I broke the jinx this time and completed the book effortlessly.

Arundhati Roy could break all establish norms of writing novels by her sheer passion of the subject and her talent of narrating a story from child’s imaginative fertile curious brain and charming use of delectable words. How did she manage to that? She was not an accomplished writer when this book was being written. This is her first novel. I guess. the secret lies in her being a scriptwriter for movies and to some extent looking at her own childhood impressions. Arundhati Roy has admitted that her growing up by her mother in informal manner without traditional textbook teaching. It seems this has developed sense of freedom from any intellectual constrain. She writes "from within"; and follows her inner voice, rather than having a set of restrictive rules ingrained in her. She comments, "When I write, I never re-write a sentence because for me my thought and my writing are one thing. It is like breathing, I do not re-breathe a breath... Everything I have - my intellect, my experience, my feelings have been used. If someone does not like it, it is like saying they do not like my gall bladder. I can't do anything about it."

Her description of the story does not leave anything for reader to mental portrayal. She does it to the perfection with minutest detail, from sweat drops on a person’s forehead to biological nomenclature of a plant that make beautiful garden in Kerala home. The result is a wonderful mosaic pattern of childhood crazy thinking, emotions of elation and trauma seamlessly woven by incidents of past and future that swings like pendulum from page to page. The impact of this book hard-hitting that you tend to go back to very beginning to read it all over again!!
I have seen some of the reviews written by mouthshut reviewers condemning this novel. I would be happy if they go through this book when their state of mind is ripe enough to assimilate this amazing creation. This book has increased my interest in Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie. Most reviewers on used the creative writings of these two individuals as benchmark to assess Arundhati Roy’s : The God of Small Things.
It would be interesting if anyone could attempt to make a theater drama based on her script, making a movie perhaps be a bit difficult.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

India Pak cricket is back again

India Pakistan cricket rivalry would begin on January 13th

Level of excitement and intensity between Indo Pak matches has mellowed down to a large extent but for cricket aficionados this would be absorbing contest between pace bowling and quality batting skills.

First hour of the first test would be psychological war between these two teams and will set the tone for the rest of the series. Lahore is witnessing coldest winter in the recent years and with foggy conditions, stinging pace deliveries will not just test Indian batsman but slip fielders too. There is no doubt Pakistan will choose to bowl if they win the toss. What would India do? Predictably they would also bowl but they might go otherwise to prove that their batting is strong enough for pacey wicket, as they did last time when they toured Pakistan and miserable by the end of the first day.

One thing is sure, Chappell would spring a surprise or two for Shoaib Akhtar and Sami. If they manage to derail the speed express, that would rattle pace battery.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

श्री. विंदा करंदीकर-२००३ ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार

When i was studying at SIES college in 1975-77, college was known for Prof Ramjoshi who went on to become Chancellar at Bombay University, Prof Menon who was known for his whimsical ways of Physics teaching . But i had also learnt that noted Marthi writer Mr. Vinda Karandikar also taught Marathi for Arts Faculty.

Mr. Vinda Kanrandikar stayed at Sahitya Sahwas and I thought I would have an opportunity to see him during my travel from Sion to Kalanagar in route 371 bus. Often I would have a professor from arts faculty with me but then he didnt look like Mr Vinda Karandikar. I had seen Vinda's photograph in marathi books but this prof didnt resemble like him. He turned out to be Prof Bandiwadekar. My seeing vinda remained unfullfilled dream. As I read about him getting Jyanpeeth award, memories went to those initial years at SIES.

मराठीतील ज्येष्ठ साहित्यिक श्री. विंदा करंदीकर यांना भारतीय साहित्यसृष्टीतील सर्वोच्च मानाचा २००३ वर्षासाठीचा ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार जाहीर झाल्याची बातमी आत्ताच येथे ऐकली. (मुंबई आकाशवाणीचे महाजालावरील संकेतस्थळ)मराठीला फार वर्षांनी हा बहुमान लाभला आहे. १९६५ सालापासून ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार प्रदान करण्यात येतात. आतापर्यंत जाहीर ३८ पुरस्कारांपैकी केवळ दोन पुरस्कार मराठीच्या वाट्याला आले आहेत. (वि. स. खांडेकरांना १९७४ मध्ये, तर कुसुमाग्रजांना १९८७ मध्ये) परंतु याच कालावधीत सात कन्नड, सहा हिंदी व पाच बंगाली भाषेत लेखन करणाऱ्या लेखकांना हा पुरस्कार मिळाला आहे.(दुर्गाबाई भागवतांनी हा पुरस्कार सविनय नाकारला, आणि कन्नड भाषेतील साहित्यनिर्मितीसाठी ज्ञानपीठ मिळवणारे कवी द.रा.बेंद्रे हे मराठी भाषक होते, ही काहीशी अज्ञात असणारी माहिती यासंदर्भात सांगावीशी वाटते.)विंदांना हा पुरस्कार काहीसा विलंबाने मिळाला असला, तरी त्यामुळे त्याचे महत्त्व कमी होत नाही. वसंत बापट - मंगेश पाडगावकर - विंदा करंदीकर या कवित्रयीने जाहीर काव्यवाचनाचे प्रयोग महाराष्ट्रातील गावागावांत करून मर्ढेकरोत्तर मराठी काव्याला नवसंजीवनी दिली. खुद्द विंदांचे 'ऐसा गा मी ब्रह्म' आणि 'स्वेदगंगा' हे काव्यसंग्रह अतिशय उच्च प्रतीचे गणले जातात. समाजातील शोषितांचे अंतरंग त्यांनी या कवितासंग्रहांतून प्रभावीपणे मांडले आहे, आणि विशेष म्हणजे हे सारे करताना कुठेही आक्रस्ताळेपणाचा लवलेशही नाही.ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार मिळवून मराठी साहित्याचे क्षितिज रूंदावणाऱ्या खांडेकर-शिरवाडकर-करंदीकर प्रभृतींचे कार्य पाहून तेथे "कर" माझे जुळती म्हणावेसे वाटते.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

some more charming quotes :

No artist ever gives anything that is good or what is close to the heart. He only sales garbage to the public :(this must give jolt to art collectors !!)

Wise men arguments, geniuses avoid them.( and I was under the impression that I lacked self belief at group discussions)

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent ( I have stopped feeling that!!)

vagaries of cricket rules!!

I dont know why LBW decidion is never considered when ball is pitched outside the leg stump ? If a ball swirling past the pads and were to dislodge the bails ,batsman is given out !!
I think this is unfair to legspinners particularly Shane Warne, It's a beauty to see him getting batsman bowled by pitching the ball around the legs. But sad to see the batsman getting reprived when the ball hit the pads. What would have been tally of Warne's wickets if this rule wasn't there and how relieved the spectators would have been if they were not subjected to seeing cricket played by pads than bat.
This thought came when I saw today, in Austarlia v/s South africa 3rd test , Warne getting the shaun pollack comprehensively beaten by turn and swirl and hitting it right in front of the stump but umpire Billy Bowden declared Pollock notout as the ball had just fractionally pitched out the side the leg stump. sharp eyes of Billy Bowden and correct decidion though!!