Friday, June 29, 2007

Jammu Kashmir... Jammu Kashmir...

This post is dedicated to Jakra- a friend, a Guide, a fellow porkibaay, and who is still very much alive...

To all my friends who wished that I'd not return from J&K [ 4 and counting] , I'm extremely sorry.
Well I'm back, and have lots to tell.
For starters, the reason why I was there , was to attend a national convention of SPIC MACAY.There were 10 of us, 5 boys and 5 of the chromosomally challenged types....
The unusual part os this journey was that the journey was longer than the stay, so we ended up inventing crap like Phase 1, 2, 3[ degree of boredom], arbit antakshari [start a song with any letter other than intended]. The Bolly-Tolly-Sandal-Tamil wood song database was thoroughly exhausted, to an extent that only the dreaded Himesh Reshammiya-Songs [ for lack of a better word], were left.
Boarded in Bangalore..Friends[ Sha, chappar, Soma, Srik] coming to send us off.. Well two surprise add-ons to our list of extra-ordinary travelers, was a welcome change.
So via the capital [ a much needed recharge point, cells and humans alike], we managed to board the Shalimar express to Jammu.The fellow SpicMacayiites were here[ including Kiran]. Jakra managed a hit [ IITG, if I'm not mistaken].
So on that fine morning we land at Jammu University, with excitement in our eyes, and wierd smells elsewhere.[ Three days.. not much for me, but an eternity for some].
The univ is beautifully set in the middle of the city, a lush green campus, with arbitly skewed buildings/departments,well set roads, and lots of history to draw upon [ I swear , I was not paid for this].
So Vivekananda Hostels for the baays, and Chandrabagha for others....A decent place to stay...
Cuisines served at the Gymnasium.... Decent food.
Jammu's people are really nice, especially the ones at the univ, met really friendly people here.
Me signed up for an intensive[ a.k.a workshop] titled Sankhavadyam, fooled by a keralian sounding name with images of sankhas, and mridangams floating about, made myself co-ordinator, etc etc, but I'm glad I made the mistake.How else could I meet such a brilliant man as Purushottam Muni Ji, a expert in his art, and a person who has taken heavily from the cup of life.How else could I make awesome friends, like Harikrishna, Rajesh, Poorva, and of course Jarul....
Dwelling a bit more into my intensive, this is a folk art from Orissa, has three major parts called, shankhabadan, ranapa, and chadeya. These artists could blow a conch for 20-30 minutes at a stretch, could dance and perform acrobatics on stilts, and perform a graceful dance. We could manage a 20 second squeal of a sound, couldn' t even stand on the stilts, and finished with what was perceived by the public to be a really good dance, and we were kinda happy that we did not create any major goof-ups. I even managed to give an interview to ETv Oriya regarding this,from an audience perspective.
About the concerts, I've lots to tell, since I'll cherish someof them forever. For the first time, I got to see, Balamurali Krishna , his youthful nature only enhances his musical magic[ he loves the tag 'bala' ]. Shiv Kumar Sharma, the first time I heard him in Jaipur, I was spell bound, this time was even better. The pristine purity of Santoor's music, coupling with Panditji's brilliant expertise of the instrument, makes it one of my best musical experiences.
The overnight was truly great. We were handling backstage, hence got to meet lots of artists in person[ giving them tea n stuff, still, in the presence of masters....], Concerts starting with the legendary T.N Krishnan on Violin, later Ustd.Rashid Khan Saab[ 99 not out] with a khayal rendition, followed by the vocalist extra-ordinaire T.M. Krishna[ His book with Bombay Jayashree- "Voices Within" , is out on the stands, Buy a copy today].The next was the pick of the lot. The concert by Ustd. Shahid Parvez, on the sitar, mesmerized everyone.
As George Harrison of the Beatles' Fame once said on his tour to India," The Sitar is equivalent to a 11 member Cello Orchestra",It carries with it such amazing complexity, and only a true master can explore the instrument to the extent that we saw that day.Despite some grievances that he faced, as a result of negligent behaviour on the organizers part, on our part, He kept all that aside, and his performance was beyond par.
Next came the Chupa Rustum concert. We had all seen the list before, and Venkatesh Kumar- Hindustani Vocal, seemed an arbit choice.Here was a singer from Bellary[ Yes, Karnataka...], whom none of us had even heard of. But we soon were to realize that our ignorance knows no bounds...I'd the opportunity to interact with him, he was happy that he got a Kannadiga to speak to.I was amazed at this great artist's humbleness..
Here is the situation, It's neary 5 in the morning, half the auditorium is asleep, quarter of it is empty. and the rest are wondering which of the above options to choose from.Here comes this man, manages to instill the fervour within the rasiks in the crowd, to an extent that people can perceive the artist-rasik connection happening with each stage of the alaap, and by the end, people are glad they stayed back, and could witness this stupendous performance. Such was the intensity of the fan-following , that few Reporters and others came backstage to contact the artist, and he was more than happy to oblige.The joy on the faces of the fans told the story.
That was the end of the saga, in Jammu Univ.. Bid farewells to new found friends,took some arbit campus pics, and planned half a day of sightseeing.
Rain played spoil-sport, still we mustered our spirits, and set out in search of the famous Raghunath temple.The temple was an architectural novelty from what I'd heard. This temple had been under attack some years back. Set in the midst of the city [ the markets grew around the temple , ob], this temple has the kinda structure that can be witnessed throughout North India. A pyramidal Gopuram, with a dual pradakshina circle, usually square like, and the sanctum sanctorum with brightly coloured stone idols.
What was unprecedented was the security[ there were people with submachine guns on the temple roof], as well as the nature of blatant commercialism that has covered the premises.Guaranteed money offered you individual attention to the Great Lord, and a free arbit garland, but still, there are limits to which you test people.Adding to that are temple rooms for every Hindu God on the planet that merits a dakshinam, and a purohit seated for the transaction.Finally somewhere people would Yield [ : ) ] .
I was bleeped at by most of my friends for doing an extra round, it was certainly not out of devotion[ God or Goddess[ : ) , ok a bit here ] , but just pure inquisitive bliss.
Just when we thought we were swindled enough already, we came out and saw what the Jammu markets had to offer. I'd a great vision in mind. Will take some dry fruits, [ walnuts etc], and would be given a grand welcome back home, for this amazing foresight. I was blasted outright. 2 kgs of Akroots take ages to break, and it's frankly not worth the effort. I'm sure my friends would share the feeling.[ I'm sorry for the brilliant recommendation......]
The train journey back was a bit gloomy, but has to be one of my best train trips ever.The Jammu Tawi from Jammu to Chennai, probably one of the longest train trips I'll ever make,was one of the most peaceful trips too. Arbit pics, senti moments, and Jakra taking pics with future to-be celebs. Here I tried to mock Bernoulli by trying to take a pic of a moving train, somewhat Ghulam ishtyle, and having narrowly missed the pic, and moreso being squished into pulp, have to thank Jakra immensely.

The journey from chennai to Bangalore, on the really long train-bus, was memorable for it's own reasons.People suddenly finding irresistible attraction to the foot-board, and then being scolded at by the TC.This was a really senti-ful journey, with a really melodramatic end. With infinite Post-it's at hand, we created an instant autograph book/ send off gift/ crown to Jakra.
No NITKian send off is incomplete with a kick to the posterior[ make an excuse in my case], and so in the middle of K.R.Puram station, Jakra was given a sounding farewell.

Some highlights of the trip:-

Vk flaunting his Walkman phone, almost all our phones going kaput in Jammu, Amazing Concerts, People desperately trying to collect contacts to boost some fictional ++ ratings, Mech rocks, L[ with a wierd hand sign], Jammu Kashmir- A Boring play with a wierd neck twisting dance manoeuvre, Raghunath Temple [ Apparently Tirupati's not the only temple which shaves] , Jammu university, Indian Railways, New friends, Old arbits, Shocking taps, Do not spit- DNS, Mental Manja- a.ka Mangal moortie., Some flings+crushings[ : ) ], NITK Surathkal being bestowed the best chapter in all categories that exist, and so on and so forth.

To people who've managed to stay awake so far, to people who came along with me, to
Jakra, to the people of Jammu, to friends, to people who managed to land on my blog due to some wierd cosmic catastrophe, Here's me signing off..
Cheerio. Adios,Astalavista...etc etc....

P.S:- Fellow tripsters included Vinayak, Anup, Kartik.J, Saranya, Mahima, Asha, Surabhi, Revathi, Madhava.



  1. nice one.. :)
    Typical logikku style...
    could have covered more (!) on Kashmir also...
    I missed it :(

  2. nice to read about all of this.. for ppl like me who missed it, write more details.. esp the concerts side ;)

  3. Rather than write an entire post on the whole convention I find it easier to add to the present post by logic…

    The first thing that strikes someone reading the post would be the importance given to the travel and other details . It gives a idea that these were the events of significance during the 10 days we were together…
    Having been to 3 conventions I regard each of them as a critical event in my life and yet I haven’t written a single blog , simply because its more of a personal experience that cant be put into words. Clichéd as the words sound, I guess there is no other alternative .

    I will try to explain the experience here with my limited vocabulary and more clichés ..
    When u wake up at 4 every morning(unless of course u r the con) and begin ur day with 2 hours of yoga and an hour of intense naada yoga-- the way information is perceived and analyzed itself changes… This is perhaps the main reason I have been to conventions thrice.. v r much more perceptive to the many information that is received and if I may use yet another clichéd phrase-“the soul is awakened”..
    So the really significant details about the convention cannot be blogged. One has to experience it( reminds me of what we used to say in the first meeting-“we cannot describe our experience in words”)

    Coming to the other aspects of the convention which has been missed out..
    There were 3 movies this time of which Charulatha ( Satyajit Ray)and The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)go down as the best movies I have ever watched… Again I emphasize on the fact that watching it in the convention environment.. Had I watched the same movie at home I woudnt have completed the movies … Roshomon (Akira Kurosawa) was so abstract that I did not understand it.

    About the talks (held at 9 in the morning) there was Naina Kanoudia on the first day to speak on art.. She has done a masters in Economics and then on moved to art and is one of India’s top contemporary artists…
    The talk on dogri lit was in dogri(Jammu’s language I think).From what I could make out the author didn’t speak in any other language other than dogri in her home town or something.. So the audience couldn’t relate to the talk..
    There was also a panel discussion involving many greats such as Balamurali Krishna, Gurappa Chetti, Kalamandalam Raman Kutty Nair and Gopi, Ustad Fahimuddin Dagar, Ustad Abdul Rashid khan and Shaswati Sen..
    Being a very distinguished gathering of very acclaimed artists and also because of lack of time the discussion weren’t very coherent . However the take of Balamurali Krishna on music’s universal nature was very a break from the conservative attitude adopted by the classical artists. Shaswati Sen , Gurappa Chetti and Ustad Fahimuddin Dagar also gave a small talk which are food for thought.

    Technically speaking I am incompetent to write about the intricacies of each concerts ..
    Logic has described the Pandit Venkatesh Kumar concert very well..
    I for once choose to stay out of any sort of back stage work So sat though the entire overnite listening to the amazing performances.. (expect for a 15 mins black out at the end of TM Krishna’s concert)
    I have a few words on the concert of Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan. I saw him back stage just before the concert and I expected a performance somewhat similar to what Ustad Bismillah Khan had given last year(He did not perform although he was on stage)
    He is more than 100 years of age(easily the oldest person I have been around).. He uses a wheel chair to move around and needs the assistance of his disciples even to have a sip of coffe and I doubt he has vision. Age has literally taken away everything but his voice . He has nothing left in him but for his Dhrupad and Khayals.
    I don’t believe in miracles . However when some thing of this sort happens in front of your eyes its not easy to comprehend. I was waging a personal battle against sleep and the artist on stage was waging a battle against all the odds of old age and gave a stupendous concert. Honestly, I have never felt smaller.
    Having heard Ustad Fahimuddin Dagar at close quarters I know a little about the intricacies associated with dhrupad.. And from my perspective the concert of Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan was a notch above Ustad Fahimuddin Dagar’s performance that morning.
    A trivia I made up after the concert-
    Age of Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan(100+)= Age of TN Krishnan (80)+ our Age(20)..
    Having seen the performance of TN Krishnan just before this, there was a strange sense associated with the above fact..(I don’t want to go to clichés here again)

    It is concerts such as these which drive home the concept of Spicmacay in the strongest sense.. If someone, with knowledge of Dhrupad listens to a recording of Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan , he would just be able to appreciate the intricacies of the art form.. Watching Ustadji perform on stage defying age and conventional logic challenges the individual understanding of life itself..

    So this is my take on convention. I thank the weather gods for being favorable to us during most of the journey and the convention. Thanks to Logic for the dedication..
    And thanks to all the 9 people who made it to the convention..
    4 of us who had been to conventions earlier knew that the experience would be worth it.. I think that it was huge leap of faith for the others to undertake a long , strenuous journey to a place which is often in news for the wrong reasons ..Unfortunate Alok,KV,Jaya, Aparna, Snetu had to miss out .
    I dedicate this comment to the 6 newbies(Surabhi, Sharanya, Mahima , Asha , Revathi and Madhawa).. and to Jaya for influencing a few of them…
    Am sure that there will be enough fundaes from the 9 to last for an year..

  4. reading ur report brought every every everything rushing back...
    without doubt, the MOST well spent 10 days of my life! :)

    cheers to spic... to all that colours the mind...!

  5. hey, nice post! missed out a bit on stuff like movies, the other intensives, yoga and the like and yeah, of course, the CONCERTS, but i guess jakra's post covers everything which u've missed out! the experience as he says, cannot be penned down coz it is different and unique for each person! but well written! it was an amazing ten days! :)