Archive for the ‘Pondering….’ Category

A few years ago, a conversation with the wrong person, about learning music, included the following exchange –

You’re learning the violin? Dude, why don’t you learn the guitar, it’s so cool and easy. It has a ‘youthful touch’ to it,” the guy ignorantly suggested while making a jeering mockery of the Indian solfège.

Do you even know how many strings a guitar has?” I asked him, conspicuously annoyed.

The conversation ended with no resolution of the question of the ‘youthful touch’ he so animatedly advertised. ‘Youthful touch’? What the hell did he even mean by that? I wonder, to this day! Back then, taking pictures with a guitar, holding it in ridiculous positions to look ‘cool’, was a fad. Also, it turned out, he didn’t know squat about music. If he really were learning the guitar and understood the nuances of learning the instrument, he wouldn’t have quacked the way he did. Anyway, shocked as I was, I began to wonder – Why is it so hard for people to understand that learning any musical instrument is an unforgiving challenge if you do not have the aptitude for music and the right attitude towards learning? Why do they think that one instrument is easier to learn than the other just because they think it has a more ‘modern design’?

Guitar & Violin

Guitar & Violin – Kins in Beauty

To those who think the guitar is more modern than the violin, hence scores higher on the ‘cool’ factor, I have news for them – The modern classical guitar also has a long history of more than a thousand years and what’s more, its earliest relatives travelled to Europe from Central Asia, Persia and India (Yes, you read that right!). The Sitar, which developed independently in India during the Mughal period, is also a distant cousin of the Guitar. Ever noticed the remarkable similarities in the names and the structure of a modern guitar and the Sitar? Saying all this, the point I intend to drive at is, no instrument is ‘cooler’ or ‘better’ than the other. Every instrument poses very different challenges to its players, who sculpt their styles to overcome them, thus establishing their own musical idioms. That’s what makes a great musician. I implore everyone not to reduce this delightful art form into a battle of the ‘cool’ and the ‘uncool’!

I have a bone to pick with those who claim that one style of music is ‘greater’ or ‘more beautiful’ than the other. There is a reason why scholars and artists call music a ‘universal language’, as clichéd as it might sound. Every human, every single one of us, responds to music in one form or the other. The extremely precise mathematical patterns and the harmonic symmetry in music make us that much more receptive to it. We are all naturally predisposed, thanks to evolution, to respond to beauty and symmetry in every form – visual, acoustic or even abstract. The physical and biological parameters under which humans perceive beauty and symmetry are the same for every individual. Everyone will undeniably perceive a tonic and a dominant fifth played together or in quick succession to be beautiful or at least in harmony, if not anything else. The tonic is what we Indians call ‘Sa’ (short for ‘Shadjamam’ or ‘Kharaj’) and the dominant fifth, ‘Pa’ (short for ‘Panchamam’ or ‘Pancham’). This ubiquity of harmony and symmetry in music has everything to do with biology and Nature’s mathematics and nothing whatsoever to do with social or cultural attributes. The only role of culture is to mold these sounds into a collage that exudes the uniqueness of the society in which they blossom. So, one style of music patronized by royalty in one part of the world, isn’t any better or worse than another style that developed thousands of miles away, in the remote sun scorched wastelands of a desert!

Sheet Music in Mozart's Handwriting

Sheet Music in Mozart’s Handwriting

There exist diversified opinions about the role of religion in the patronage and promotion of music throughout history. While it cannot be denied that religious institutions and ideologues have been some of the biggest patrons of music in the past, it would be wrong and squarely insulting to the composers to say that if it weren’t for religion there wouldn’t be any music at all. Indeed, composers of yore drew inspiration from religious ideas and concepts, but surely it was their skill and genius that produced the masterpieces. Mozart started playing the keyboard at the age of four and began composing by five and at nine, wrote his first symphony. Thyagaraja started composing at thirteen. At such an age, the spur of creativity certainly cannot be ascribed to religious inspiration. It would be an affront to human creativity and ingenuity to suggest that if it weren’t for religion there wouldn’t be patrons of art or inspiration for art.

Nature has always served as an alternative muse for artists and musicians. In fact, it gave them a wider canvas on which to create their masterpieces. Societies and their quirks can evoke music and art. Also, for a long time, particularly in dark-age Europe, secular art and music were widely discouraged, lest one should fall out of favor of the Holy Mother Church! Notwithstanding, folk traditions evolved across all cultures without large scale religious interference. They were largely non-religious in nature and retained the pristine rustic charm of the culture in which they flourished and therefore, struck a chord with the common man. This was in tandem with the structurally and pedagogically rigid, heavily patronized and monopolized systems we call Classical music. People often seem to forget that music has had very mundane, non-divine and secular beginnings.

Tanpura

Tanpura – The Drone of Bliss

Nature is an enormous musical library. In the animal kingdom, a staggering variety of sounds serve various purposes. Birds like larks, some birds of paradise, great tits* (Sleazy, I know. But that’s what they’re called. Now grow up!) sing in long intricate syllables to mark their territories and attract mates. Among mammals, the humpback whale and some other species of whales sing long elaborate song-like patterns to woo potential mates – the longer and more innovative their songs, the better their chances of landing a life-long mate. Other mammals like dolphins, bats and elephants produce an entire spectrum of sounds to communicate and navigate. Some higher order mammals, esp. primates like Siamang gibbons and chimpanzees, live in small family groups and draw their borders by calling out to neighbors and other groups in semi-rhythmic patterns.

Being social primates, we humans began to live in larger groups for safety. There is a general consensus within the scientific community that territorial demarcations by the first humans were also made by singing in large groups – the larger the group, the greater the need for harmony. Therefore, we began to develop simple but perfect rhythm patterns to harmonize. These led to certain synchronized body movements, thus laying the foundations for dance. In a social context, singing in groups helped a great deal in forging strong social bonds and establishing group solidarity. It triggered the limbic system of the brain, thus enabling us to ‘experience’ rather than to just listen and respond. Many scientists also believe that we began to sing even before we began to speak. There were stalactites found in some caves, showing signs of erosion caused by drumming, suggesting usage as percussion instruments or as an early form of the xylophone. The earliest and simplest melodic instruments, apart from the human voice, may have been reed-pipes and bone flutes (c. 40,000 BCE). Songs and dance were – and still are – used for sexual selection as well. Every culture, without exception, has developed some form of music. In the words of David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, “It’s as if we weren’t human without music”. Music served a very pragmatic purpose in the course of our evolution and eventually threw open the flood-gates to our creativity.

Humpback Whale - The Singer of the Seas

Humpback Whale – The Minstrel of the Sea

As human societies diversified, so did their music. Like earthly life-forms, music took its own course of evolution in each society, changing and adapting to novel social and geographic stimuli, developing into new styles, genres etc. Thanks to technology and an unprecedented exchange between cultures, the twentieth century saw the greatest revolution in the stylization of music. More genres and styles of music were born in the twentieth century alone than in all of recorded human history. The old began to embrace the new and coexist or change or blend with it. With new paradigm changes came new music that constantly redefined beauty. This revolution in music also revolutionized human expression to an extraordinary degree and will continue to do so. These changes in music are as natural and progressive as any other, such as in language, in other forms of art or in society itself, as a whole. Every style of music must either adapt to its environment or die out, as did many in the past. Unfortunately, there are no fossils in music. The unpreserved music of the ancients can only sound as good as the speculation surrounding it. Recreating it is a hard game of intelligent guessing. But music today, in sharp contrast, has any number of means of preservation. It can be heard and appreciated in its original form, a hundred or even a thousand years from now – a privilege granted by technology.

Changes in music are inevitable, whether we like it or not. Most of us have gladly taken them in our stride, but then there are those that refuse to accept changes and stubbornly argue against them. Their myopic views of a perfect musical style are predicated upon a warped sense of grandeur, that hides behind the veil of a delusional and divisive old school of thought. The frustration resulting from the sheer magnitude of logical fallacies in their arguments is beyond description. Compounding the problem is their steely resolve and stern refusal to acknowledge those fallacies. My appeal to them (prostrating) – if you cannot appreciate the spate of changes and the bursts of creativity in musical expression, then please step aside and allow those who do appreciate them to step ahead. You are entitled to your opinion and are welcome to grope around in the darkness of your ignorance, but you have no right to restrain others within your dungeon of intolerance. We must all realize that a note with a frequency of 261.626 Hz will sound the same, whether you call it ‘Sa’ or ‘Safed Ek’ or ‘Kattai One’ or ‘Middle C’ or just simply ‘C’! Convenience dictates nomenclature and there’s nothing more to it. Rephrasing the BardWhat’s in a name? That which we call a ‘C’, By any other name would sound as sweet. Please, do not ruin the sweetness by dipping it into your bitter and desperate need for identity.

I wish to conclude this post with a quote and, of course, a couple of songs from various genres –

Where words fail, music speaks. 

–  Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75 )

(“Mokshamu Kalada” – Saramathi Raga – Adi Talam – One of my favorite Thyagaraja krithis, in which the saint asks if a person, without the knowledge of music, is capable of attaining ‘Moksham’. Rendered by BOMBAY JAYASHREE)

(“Khabaram Raseeda” – A qalaam (poem) by the medieval Sufi mystic Amir Khusro Dehlawi (1253-1325 CE). It switches between Farsi (Persian) and Hindavi (an early recognizable form of Hindustani [Hindi/Urdu]). It is about a devoted lover laying herself at the mercy of her master (lover) and begging to be noticed. This qalaam was tuned and sung in Raga Bageshri (the same in both Carnatic and Hindustani). Rendered by FAREED AYAZ and ABU MOHAMMED)

(“Scarborough Fair” is a traditional ballad of Great Britain. The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former lover to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished. Rendered here by SIMON AND GARFUNKEL)

(“Kashmir” – One of my all-time favorites and one of the first classic rock songs I ever heard. My brother takes the credit for introducing me to ‘English Music’ – as I fondly called all songs foreign – that opened my window to music from outside of India. In this song, I absolutely love the strings section, apart from the guitars. Needless to say, this song entirely and solely belongs to the legendary LED ZEPPELIN)

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PS: All religious fanatics and ultra-traditionalists who think that music and dance are a distraction caused by the Devil/Evil One/whosoever the hell it is, that leads humans away from the ‘True Path’ and by virtue of which, they think that they are empowered to suppress others’ creativity, can kindly take their religious DUNG and SHOVE IT! Religions and belief systems that seek, by dogma, to stifle human expression, creativity and intellect are not worthy of reverence or respect in any measure.

PPS: * Whoever thought of naming an entire family of birds after breasts, or was it the other way round? I Wonder!

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Images Courtesy:

The Violin and GuitarMozart’s Sheet MusicTanpura Humpback Whale 

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एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति |(Ekam sadvipraa bahudhaa vadanti)” – Rg Veda, Mandala 1, Sukta 164, Rk 46

The Existent is One, but the sages express it variously”

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” – The Holy Bible, Book of Deuteronomy 5:6

Lâ Ilâha Illallâh, Muḥammadur Rasûlullâh” – ‘The Shahada’ – Muslim Declaration of Belief

There is no god but God (Allah) and Mohammed is His Messenger”

These are the interpretations of the world’s three largest schools of thought, of the existence of the ‘One‘, whom each of them calls by a different name(s). Through canons of doctrines called ‘scriptures’, they talk of His omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience and tirelessly sing praises in His glory. Nine in ten people around the world happen to believe in Him and adhere to one of hundreds of precepts like the ones above. They all think of Him as the ultimate and the only truth and call Him GOD. These schools of thought are what the world calls Religions. And these Religions, apart from describing and vaguely defining an abstract idea of a supreme power/being that is beyond the comprehension of the extremely limited human faculties of perception, also speak volumes, quite literally, on norms and rules of human conduct. These norms and rules, they claim, discipline human life and give purpose and meaning to it. Thus, Religions have transformed from being schools of thought into systems of belief, each claiming to be brightening the right path to the ultimate truth.

OM

After writing that heady, philosophical kickoff, a question lingered at the back of my mind – Do we really need to instill a fear of some supremely incomprehensible super-human power/being in order to establish discipline and make our lives more meaningful? Far from finding an answer, I stumbled upon a slew of more unanswerable questions. In medieval Europe, so much as a thought leading to such questions would have committed me to the stake and placed me on Hell’s menu as an exotic ‘Heretic’ or an ‘Apostate’ or an ‘Infidel’ from the East! But, thankfully, in a more tolerant world of today, I’d only be judged as an ‘Atheist’ or a ‘Non-believer’ or perhaps an ‘Agnostic’ for being confused. But, I hate being typecast and thrown into such categories which by themselves have sectarian undertones. Let me assure you that I am none of the above, nor am I a blind believer leaving no scope for an argumentative, skeptical view-point. Expressing skepticism and argumentativeness over established religious dogmas has claimed the lives of many a great thinker in the past. Even today, although such extreme punitive measures are rare or non-existent, such thoughts and acts are still not encouraged. But at least, we are at liberty to explore these aspects of questioning and learning and thus nurturing that fundamental human urge to know. I think inquiry and skepticism are the two keys to all knowledge.

Since the dawn of civilization, Religion, despite all the rationales behind its establishment, has divided the human society and stratified it more than unite. Ironically, it served as the reason for humans losing touch with humanity and humaneness. The thought of one’s beliefs being superior to another’s has spawned conflicts and history bears witness to their terrible outcomes. Kingdoms, empires and nations have risen and fallen to the whims of faith and altered the course of human history several times. Religion has wrought havoc on earth by breeding radical, intolerant, fundamentalist ideologies. People have slaughtered one another in the name of the one supreme being who, ironically, dictates that killing another human being is tantamount to sacrilege and is punishable with eternal damnation in the fires of Hell or being born as a parasite in the next life or some other penalty, as the ‘faith’ may be! Do we have to brainwash a person with these ‘consequences’ in order to enlighten him to the fact that killing is wrong and unnatural? Do we really need that fear of the divine to scare us from wrongdoing? Don’t we, as humans, possess that faculty to judge right from wrong without the intervention of divinity? Can we not be humane without factoring in something or someone from outside the known universe into the equation of human existence? Have we not evolved or learnt enough to understand that an omnipotent, supernatural being is a superfluous concept in the context of a modern human life?

Crucifix

Another aspect where religion amazes me to no end, is in its claims on creation and sustenance and their absolute disconnect from reality. Religion fails to provide any amount of credible evidence to substantiate its claims and any attempt to question this failure is regarded as arrogance and in many cases, a sin punishable by death. We are expected to believe everything without dispute or reason. Therefore, Religion meets its nemesis in Science, which is skeptical of anything that cannot be proved by logical reasoning and rigorous empirical processes. Science today, is taking quantum leaps into the future, what with the radical change in the way people think and perceive. This is the age of reason. In this age, should we still believe that the Universe was made in six days by a long bearded man seated on a colossal throne surrounded by extremely good-looking men and women with wings, and that they all rested on the seventh day OR that a four-headed, four-armed man born on a flower sprouting from the navel of another four-armed, dark-skinned man reclining on an enormous thousand-hooded snake, created the Universe? My answer would be an emphatic and resounding NO! These are wonderfully imaginative narratives, rife with people, magic, strange beings and creatures, but not textbooks on Astronomy! They are a testament to the prowess of human imagination, but not evidence of reality. These tales certainly cannot replace ‘The Big Bang Theory’ or ‘Theory of Evolution’ in schools. Sure, the belligerent might bawl saying ‘O they’re just theories and nothing more!’ Well, yes they’re theories, and as required of a theory, they’ve been tested and re-tested over and over again and have been proved, time and again, to be most accurate and progressively reinforced. I think we must begin to refrain from according religion the excessive deference and adoration it is so used to receiving. History has paid enough tributes to religion. Finally, I think it’s high time some faith-based groups stopped propagating that humans and dinosaurs had a live-in relationship just 6000 years ago! For the last time, ‘Flintstones’ is not a documentary and ‘Jurassic Park’ never happened! The earth is more than four billion years old, is almost spherical, spins on its own axis and revolves around the Sun and finally, all life forms ‘EVOLVED‘ from unicellular aquatic organisms which appeared more than three billion years ago, now get over it! And NO, THERE IS NO INTELLIGENT DESIGNER, who sat down to painstakingly ‘design’ all life forms as they appear today!

as-Shahada

As a child, I grew up amidst orthodoxy and a staunch belief in the supremacy of gods and rituals. A consequence of this is the ritually invested three-pronged white thread, the yagnyopavitam, that hangs from my left shoulder and runs across my chest to come a full circle. For long, I blindly believed in everything I was taught and accepted it without question. Mind you, I was always ‘taught’, never ‘brainwashed’. My family gave me the liberty to frame my own opinion and accept belief the way I saw fit. But it took me an awfully long time to become aware of the latitude I had. So, religion, ritual and God played a very important role and had a very special place in my life. They governed the way I thought, the way I perceived the world around me. I measured everything in life with a theological yardstick. I led a life of absolute subservience to the ‘divine’ power. Today, for reasons unknown, I think I am undergoing a phase of transformation by questioning the very fundamentals of faith and the rigidity of enforcement of its doctrines. I don’t know if this means that I’m rejecting them altogether, but I’m certainly exploring a new perspective on faith. I once ‘believed’, and now, I want to know what exactly it is that I believed in and whether it was worth believing. Words like renunciation or apostasy may be too harsh to describe the state of my belief right now. Whether or not I will ever be able to get to the bottom of this quest and face the ‘truth’, is something I really don’t know. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to know if I’ll ever get to the bottom of it. I’m content with the way I think and investigate into the truth, or the lack of it. As I think and ponder, the off-white three-pronged thread serves one of its many noble purposes – as a great back-scratching tool! While I think….and think….and think!

Images Courtesy: Om, Crucifix, Shahada

The new day that has dawned,

Brings no cheer to my life,

No new hopes, No new wishes,

I have no desires, but to survive,

Who will heed my cries?

Who will quell my hunger?

For, a morsel is all I crave,

I have no longing, but to survive,

I walk the desolate road,

Of hopelessness and despair,

If there is an end to it,

Who will take me there?

Who am I, you ask?

You know me and know me well,

I am the dying farmer,

Who ploughs his own grave,

I am the distressed weaver,

Who weaves linen for his death,

I am the orphaned child,

Who sobs for a touch of warmth,

I am the destitute widow,

Who begs for her deprived dignity,

I am the disoriented refugee,

Who seeks deliverance in an alien land,

I am the burgeoning pain,

That the world chooses to ignore,

I am who you call, the ‘Poor man’,

And this is my plea to you.

I know I am a bad poet, but this is the best I could do. This poem was inspired by a better one and my friend put me up to it. He said it was Blog Action Day and the theme was poverty. Hence, the poem.

The tears of the poor man have gone unnoticed, in this ever-changing rich-man’s world. Everyone cries havoc when the stock markets fall and some ultra-rich person loses a chip of his treasure, but does anyone even pretend to hear the wails of a poor man, for whom everyday is a battle?

The world now has close to a billion people who sleep hungry everynight and India is home to a quarter of them. In 2007 alone, 75 million more people were afflicted by poverty across the world. Most of them live under a dollar a day. Even in the most world’s powerful nation, 37 million people live in the most adverse of conditions, without food, water, shelter, health care or any other basic necessities.

They’re calling out for help! Listen and lend a hand!

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Image courtesy: : www.solarnavigator.net/poverty.htm

The title is actually a song from ‘Mughal-e-Azam’.

This post is a part of the Blog Action Day ’08.

Call me obdurate, hard-hearted, compassionless, but I always thought, that crying is the defense of the feeble minded. I was of the opinion that (and I may be wrong), people who break down at the slightest whiff of saddening air only do so to grab attention or in self-pity. Under no circumstances is shedding of tears an option for me to vent my grief. This gene, I believe, has been passed down to me from my mother, a very strong woman. It usually takes a lot to ruffle my lachrymal apparatus. As far as I can vividly recall, instances in my life when I came close to crumbling under the pressure of dejection are so few, that I can count them on my fingers. And instances when I actually caved are even fewer and there was always a very strong reason behind it. But there are also times when you are only consumed by a sense of gloom clubbed with compassion, but it doesn’t actually crack the pot of tears waiting to be broken. The pathos of the situation just gives you a doleful muse and leaves you pensive. You don’t shed a tear but silently ponder over situations life sometimes bares you to. Life shows you how it can cruelly play around with your emotions and remind you how helpless you can be when it does that. Believe me, I’ve been there! This is to tell you how it feels to be caught in such a spot. These were no life altering incidents and might even sound trivial to many, but they are certainly something that I will never forget. They will always linger on, in a dark corner of my otherwise empty head.

It was a cold December morning and I was up early, to study for an exam that afternoon (not something I do very often!). My mother was already up as usual, finished her early morning puja and kitchen purging and was preparing for a new day. I was in my room trying hard to pull my slothful self out of bed. When I finally did, I trudged over to the balcony to feel the morning chill. I was admiring the rising sun and the morning buzz as I shivered in the winter zephyr. I turned around to get back in when, from a distance, I heard a woman wailing. It was a long, forlorn cry that struck me hard. I looked over to see who it was and why she was crying. I noticed that she was with her maimed husband who was pushing himself on a flat trolley as she walked next to him. They were almost naked, with only a few inches of clothes to hide their shame. They were desperately wailing, sobbing and crying out for a piece of cloth. Now, such a sight is not in the least unusual, if you’re living in India. You practically grow up with beggars all around. But something about this hapless couple was very unusually rueful. And there I was, draped in a warm cuddly razaai watching these two unclad people who were in a desperate need for it. It was heart-wrenching to hear their sobs. My eyes almost welled. As I contemplated on giving them some clothes, I turned around to see my mother holding a small bundle of old and unused sarees. As her lips mumbled a silent shlokam, she gestured towards them. I was so terribly moved. I ran into my room, grabbed a bunch of unused clothes and wrapped them up in the razaai I had draped around me. I took the two bundles and ran out to give them to the helpless couple. As the woman clutched the bundles, I saw a look of heart-felt gratitude on her squalid face. She showered blessings on me as she took them. But the joy of having helped a person in need didn’t last long. Their cries haunted me. Their sorrow echoed in my head and killed my concentration as I sat through the examination that afternoon. I was so disturbed by them for some unfathomable reason, that I couldn’t sleep for the next two nights. Sometimes I still hear their voices and sense their destitution, even today. I hope they’re doing well. I really, really hope so.

While that got me thinking for about two days and occasionally afterwards, this incident had me for a week. Hailing from an orthodox family and hence being slightly religious, I used to visit the near by temple in my locality every Saturday. For a long time, I noticed this old lady who begged at the gates along with a few others. She was a regular, like I was. I would give her something every time I went to the temple and she would bless me in gratitude, like all beggars do. We wouldn’t talk or greet each other, a smile is all we shared. One saturday she didn’t show up. I thought she was probably taking a day off. She didn’t show up the next week either, or the next week or the week after that. Her continued absence bothered me. I asked one of the other regular beggars if he had seen that old lady. He nonchalantly replied – “She died about a month ago.” A sudden chill and a rude shock! I was not prepared to hear that. While I usually sang out loud like a mad man on the loose as I walked, that evening I walked the whole distance back home in mournful silence. I couldn’t eat or sleep that night. I mourned that old lady’s death for a week after that, with sleepless nights. I didn’t visit that temple for more than two months afterwards. I felt no kinship with that woman, but I still mourned her death. Strange, but true.

This was way before the previous two incidents. January 26, 2001 – a major earthquake rocks Gujarat. All major news channels did a commendable job in covering the misery of the people and increasing their TRP ratings. I wonder if news channels will ever realize their ‘social responsibility’. Anyway, a national news channel was covering a collapsed school in central Ahmedabad. The surviving children were being taken to the nearest hospital. One video showed a 12 year old girl on a stretcher, with broken limbs. She was evidently more worried about her missing father than herself as she wailed “Mera baapu! Mera baapu!“. I don’t know if she ever found her father . I don’t even know if she herself survived the injuries she suffered, although I hope she did. I was at the dinner table when I saw that depressing video and, needless to say, not a morsel went in after watching it.  Her face is still vivid in my memory and her cries still haunt me. I know, this sounds ridiculous to some, but it’s true, that’s how ridiculously emotional I can get sometimes.

December 26, 2004 – the sea breached its frontiers with land and wreaked havoc. The town of Nagapttinam, TN was the worst hit in India. Again, the new channels celebrated their ever-growing TRP ratings, with their respective coverages. But Barkha Dutt is one journalist I’ve always looked up to and admired her for her professionalism in reporting, be it the Kargil conflict, the military coup in Pakistan or the Boxing Day Tsunami. Her coverage never lacked the professional character that many reporters are sadly famished of. She covered the tsunami in the same spirit. But she’s human after all – she broke down on camera when she visited a make-shift relief center. And one cannot blame her for it – there were mothers looking for children, children pining for their parents, some looking for entire families. It could not get worse, the death toll and the number of missing kept rising by the minute. In any case, Barkha Dutt’s report on the relief-centers was gripping. After watching the report, I fervently looked for the smallest of opportunities to volunteer in the camps in the affected areas. I finally found one with Red Cross, Hyderabad. The center was looking for volunteers and I gave in my name through someone I knew. I was to board one of the special trains to Chennai in a couple of days, when suddenly, I got a call from RC. They said they already had enough volunteers and didn’t need more. I was heart-broken. I tried persuading them into letting me go, but they had already decided not to. Every time I watched the visuals of the devastation after that day, I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. I would be overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. The thought that I didn’t do what I could, gnawed at my conscience.

These incidents did not affect my life in any manner, but still remain fresh in my memory.  They always will. These were times when life reminded me that I am human and that I am susceptible.

On a closing note, here’s a music track that is often voted ‘the saddest classical composition ever’ – Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’.

PS: Now try reading the post with the track playing in the background! But don’t cry, please.