Posts filed under ‘Literary’

The great Indian stitch-less garment

Of the countless variety of trousseaus that unravel and enhance the innate charm of a lady, there isn’t an attire that is so captivating in elegance yet distinct in demeanour, stately and dignified yet sublimely sensuous as the stitch-less Indian garment, the Saree.  For the one who could carry it with élan, the saree confers poise and authority, style with substance and endow the feminine persona an aura of majesty.  With folds and pleats, laces and entrancingly winding hems, the draping of this very adorable apparel is as intricate and delicate as the designs and patterns that are woven on them.  The six yard eloquence on yarn is at once a loud proclamation of the genius of the Indian craft and a silent tribute to the glory of the womanhood.  

While a neatly worn saree presents the picture of a complete woman, each subtle shift in the way it is draped could epitomize an image of femininity that is distinctively different from each other. If the casual hanging of the Pallu (the loose end) over the left shoulder of an erect frame could be suggestive of a woman with authority, taking it around the back to the other shoulder could instantaneously symbolize deep modesty. Tuck it around the waist and there is a person ready for combat or cover it around the head and a woman of humility and reverence is born.  For the tall and the slim, the saree could just be the medium to flaunt a chiselled figure and for the plump and the rounded the saree perfectly hides the extra fat from public gaze. The saree could conceal as much as you want it to reveal! With gracious steps and a flowing tress, the lady decked up in the finest Banares silk is a picture of most tantalizing beauty that the eyes could behold whereas with a bun of gray hair, the octogenarian in starched Pochumpally eludes a charm that is equally mesmerizing.  The saree is the most egalitarian among dresses that doesn’t really let anyone down.

An essential accomplice to the stitch-less garment is the decoratively tailored jacket that is worn on the upper torso. With an amazing variety of cuts, shapes and designs, the jacket is indeed a canvas to showcase the skills of the couturier to complement and enhance the appeal of the fabric. Full sleeved or spaghetti strapped, stringed back or off shoulders, the jackets are natural extensions to saree that together would cast a spell on all and sundry.

But the modern day young Indian women seemed to have lost her moorings with this awe-inspiring garment as they are mostly seen in listless outfits. The saree, sadly, is now no more a regular wear, being confined to be worn for the occasional wedding receptions. For the working and the travelling woman, pants and jeans could be more a convenient option but when it comes to making a statement or to leave an impact, there isn’t yet a competition to the great Indian stitch-less garment.

Yours

Narayanan

July 17, 2010 at 9:05 pm 13 comments

Classical languages, political agendas

Semozhi Aana Tamizhmozhiyam” blazes off the A R Rahman theme number composed to celebrate the conferment of classical status to Tamil, the ancient south Indian language, placing it in equal pedestal with Greek, Latin and Sanskrit languages. A recent conference showcasing the antiquity, refinement and maturing of the language in the cultural, social, political and religious backdrops of its evolution captured the essential richness of its heritage and its vast literary traditions while scholars debated, dissected and endlessly devoured the sweetness of the innumerable works created in it. As the theme music played on every lips and reverberated on every hearts, Connoisseurs and commoners alike basked upon the fathomless beauty and glory of their tongue to their soul’s content.

To be called classical, a language should satisfy a set of most exacting criteria to which only a handful of the world’s languages qualify. First, it should be ancient, even dating back to antiquity and second, it should have an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own and not as an offshoot of another one. Thirdly, it should possess a vast and extremely rich ancient literature that is unique to it conforming to complex grammatical and literary patterns. And Tamil lives up to each of these benchmarks in ample measure and much beyond. The earliest stone inscriptions in the language dates back to 300 BC and judging by the maturity of the language used therein, it can be safely  said that its existence preceded these inscriptions by at least a thousand years. The language arose purely as an independent tradition not influenced by any other language streams and its literary repertoire is indescribably vast and rich. From the Tollkappiyam,  the Thirukkural and the Manimekalli to the modern works, Tamil literature exhibits a profound subtlety, complexity  and immense variety with underplaying universality in its themes. These characteristics make it all the more suitable to be called a classical language.

While Tamil flourished over the last few millenniums, another Indian classical language also achieved great literary advancement in the very same geographical region of southern India. Right from the beginning of the first century AD, Sanskrit achieved remarkable progress and made immeasurable contributions towards enriching the philosophy, culture, literature and music of the region through the works of the likes of Sayana, Vedanta Desika and Govinda Dikshita. Also, all the three proponents of the three main Indian philosophical streams of Dvaita, Visistadvaita and Advaita, namely Madhavacharya, Ramanujacharya and Adi Sankara have their great volumes of work composed in Sanskrit language and all of them flourished in South India. Their commentaries or Bhashyas on Vedas and Upanishads are today the treasure chest of great Indian heritage as they stand unparalleled, both for the beauty of their compositions as well as for their profound philosophical thoughts. This contribution of the Sanskrit language in South India also extended to fields like mathematics, astrology and astronomy as the works of the stature of Baskaracharya illustrate.

When two great languages vibrantly thrive in close proximity, it’s but natural that they influence and get influenced by one another resulting in the evolution of a composite and highly refined literary traditions that paved the way for the emergence of the most sublime philosophical ideas expressed in flawless language. The Shivaite and Vaishnavite literature propagated by the Nayanars and Alwars   stand testimony to this confluence of thoughts. What is more, the origin and development of the language of Malayalam is the result of this happy and joyous inter-mingling of two great classical languages.

But when political considerations overtake historical truths, when narrow chauvinistic agendas indulge in mindless glorification of the one to the suppression and strangulation of the other, what we get is a truncated and often disfigured replica of an otherwise glorious past. The misplaced enthusiasm of some of the so-called custodians of the Tamil language and their intolerance to an equally vibrant Sanskrit literary tradition has caused immense agony to a large section who pride in their composite and highly refined cultural traditions.            

 “The mark of wisdom is to discern the truth, from whatever source it is heard” said Thiruvalluvar, the great Tamil poet (Tirukkural – 423) and the hardcore Tamil enthusiasts would do well to revisit his works before they indulge in rampant denouncements of the other classical traditions to which they also are the rightful heirs.

Yours

Narayanan

P.S. To view the A R Rahman theme song click at the link given below

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWOEJSj_qeE&feature=related

June 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm 9 comments

Where stones breathe

stones breathe click here to see pictures.

In his eternal quest for immortality, man has been continuously struggling with various mediums to lend an aura of permanence to his creative expressions which seeks to capture that elusive idea called “The Absolute”. Long after the physical frames turn to dust and much after they fade away from the memories of their loved ones, the kings and emperors of the yore used these mediums to remind their ideals and aspirations to generations on end. Through the verbal traditions of folklores, through stylistic prose and eloquent poems set to haunting music and through colourful and enchanting murals, these rulers deployed myriad techniques to communicate to posterity, the values they cherished and the valour they displayed in fending and fostering a culture and thereby a civilization. Without the active royal patronage of these art forms, most of them would have been extinct by now leaving us poorer of many a rich and vibrant tradition.

But when seeking an awesome permanence that outlives the onslaught of invasions, the battering of natural disasters and the silent ravages of time, the rock has remained the chosen medium to tell a thousand tales. The sturdy granite imbibes in it the carefully crafted carvings, the chiselled figures and the intricate ornamentations to capture every shade of human emotions and a canopy of animate and inanimate objects that together communicate, in grand eloquence, gripping stories of a bygone era.  In these sculptures are chronicled the triumphant march of kingdoms, the conquest of hearts and minds through philosophical ideas and also etched are efforts to answer searching questions on existence here and hereafter.  Though they show signs of withering, the sublime thoughts they invoke are as profound today as they would have been centuries ago as these stones silently breathe a vital life force that leave one invigorated.  

But behind these panoramas of supreme craftsmanship are the untold tales of sufferings, of humiliations and of corporal punishments meted out to the thousands of artisans and workers who toiled to bring them to shape and to life. They worked as slaves for their masters who administered inhuman treatment and were kept on bare minimum requirements for existence. Morsels of food were the only remuneration and more often death was the punishment for any lapse on their jobs. There could be exceptions, but the physical and environmental conditions in which these crafts were created   all point to a high degree of authoritarianism that brook no lenience.

As we pay tribute to their crafts through these pictures, they also remind us of the human tragic stories to which these stones are totally silent.

Yours

Narayanan

June 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm 5 comments

Inside 2622- Tamilnadu Express

The surging forward movement of the locomotive delivers rhythmic vertical strokes to the body while the chugging berceuse synchronised perfectly to the coaxing and cajoling horizontal swings transports the mind to a state of transcendental bliss.  The rocks of the moving train massages every nerve of the human anatomy that there isn’t yet a swing comparable to its magic that instantaneously puts your senses to a long spell of suspended animation. Though not sure if any medical researcher has worked on the subject, I feel  strongly that a train travel would be an ideal course of treatment to anyone suffering from bouts of insomnia. However sleep deprived one be in static life but in a train journey, you could sleep till eternity.

While the harmonic musical shake will put you to extended periods of slumber, the kaleidoscopic panorama of the view seen through the window would keep you wide awake throughout.  The rapid alternation of the scenes, from the lush green mellows to the long stretches of barren hinterland to the occasional site of a winding river, the nature, through its bountiful variety, casts a spell of awe and wonderment that doesn’t bestow the eyes the luxury to wink. And as you are charmed by the ever changing beauty of the flora that whizz past you, a bewildering  diversity of human beings that form part of the altering landscape would equally bowl you over. From a semi-clad solitary farmer negotiating his bullocks on the field, to the hoards of bejewelled ladies forming the part of a marriage convoy, to the rows of little girls carrying head loads of twigs, to the idling elders on the charpoys smoking their hokkas to glory, the spectacle of the human species and their myriad daily chores are indeed a treat that one cannot turn his sight from. And if all this is not enough to keep you awake, the sight of appalling poverty that characterise the setting of a railway platform would knock out any vestige of drossiness left in you.

Between these contrasting  backdrops that alternatively keep you in deep quiteuide and in expectant alertness, the engaging conversations with fellow passengers could be an intellectual stimuli. As many of you would have experienced, a verbal exchange with the co-traveller typically begin with the offer of a cookie and quickly turn very intimate and even personal as the travel progresses. A very comfortable topic that everyone around enthusiastically pitches in would be on the state of the political affairs of the country with each dissecting the reasons why the current dispensation is the worst that could have happened to the nation. This will not be complete without an eloquent self-appreciation of the virtues of our democracy and equally loud denouncements of our neighbour’s affairs. As the discussion gets animated, few passengers open up to share their personal data and even carry forward their travelling acquaintance to their grounded lives. And for the more enterprising lot, a game of cards and a round of chilled somethings make the journey a very memorable one.  With all these happening, there isn’t a dull moment in an Indian train journey.

It is now dark outside and inside passengers are spreading their beds after a sumptuous shared dinner. With the descend of a certain silence, it’s time for me to get caressed to a rocking sleep on the lower side berth and  the Rehman number “ Cheya Cheya” wafting from the ipod  of the upper berth traveller is damn intoxicating.

Yours

Narayanan

June 13, 2010 at 8:34 pm 4 comments

The Prince of Ayodhya

In the many aeons of human history, there isn’t yet another tale that’s so intensely captivating, enthralling in its magnificence and mesmerizing in moulding and sublimating the human character, as the tale of Rama . Through the many contours of its narration, every conceivable human emotion, from awe to ridicule, from love to despair, from pride to piety, are played out on its majestic canvas. And the colossal persona of Rama distils the epitome of idealism that men through all ages readily reckoned to.   When the vision is blurred by the cataract of attachment, when reason flounders over the grip of caprice, and when the individual is caught in the merciless swirl on the tumultuous sea of life, the story of Rama is the beacon of light, illuminating the path and  guiding the route to the safe shores of righteousness.  The Rama Katha, in the current context, is the “panacea for the removal of the ills”, as a great scholar puts it, caused by and of the “morbid itch for sensual pleasure, the mounting irreverence towards parents, teachers, elders …the disastrous frivolity and flippancy in social, marital and familial relationships and the demonic reliance on violence as a means of achieving immoral ends.”   

Chew the cane in any of its parts and the sweetness oozes out uniformly throughout. As the sweetness of the cane is independent of many of its angularities, so also is the nectarine message of Rama and his compassion that flows ceaselessly throughout the many twists and turns of the epic.  When Dasaratha  inconsolably lament over the prospect of exiling his darling to a torturous life of the wilderness, the act of Rama enthusiastically adorning the role of a renunciant ,shunning the regal coronation,  is the exemplary illustration of honouring the vows of a hapless father , even a fraction of its application today would  make one immortal.

As Rama was an ideal son, so was he a consummate brother to his siblings as many of the instances in the epic demonstrate. When Baratha trekked to the forest repenting his cursed fate for having seemingly usurped the throne that was rightfully his, Rama assures him of his incorruptible innocence and coaxing him to discharge his sovereign duty without any remorse. Counselling the young one on the many intricacies of governance, his brotherly affection even succumbs to the plea of offering his scandals as his icon in the royal Durbar. Such is the splendour of their unadulterated love, untinged by even an iota of sibling rivalry that stands out beyond compare.  

And Rama as a friend is indeed a celebration to that very idea of comradeship where words of assurances are to be fulfilled even at the altar of one’s ultimate sacrifice. Even when many counselled him against taking Vibhishana, the brother of his arch foe, on his fold, Rama, true to his magnanimity, welcomed him with stretched arms, assuring him of the kingdom of his brother. The vanquishing of Ravana was as much towards the fulfilment of this promise as it was the accomplishment of his avataric mission. The friendship of this calibre is itched in golden letters that ordinary beings can only marvel.

In the battlefield, Rama was the ultimate warrior, honouring every rule of a fair combat and never transgressing the limits of warfare.  The need to annihilate the opposing force never stood in his way to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of the enemy camp and treat them with respect, even in their death. He is the supreme embodiment of righteousness, of Dharma, on which the entire edifice of a civilization rests. As a pupil, as a husband, as a father, as an emperor,…..  Rama stands supreme in his countless facets.   

Ho Rama, the valiant son of Kaushalya, the treasure-chest of auspiciousness, I bow to thee as the world celebrates the day of your advent.  

Yours

Narayanan

March 21, 2010 at 11:16 am 3 comments

The wellspring of joy

The golden sun beam piercing the morning haze spreads a cosy warmth on the pristine earth.  The gentle northerly breeze wafts the fragrance of a thousand flowers as its countless hues carpet the ground till the horizons. The sweet chirping of the cuckoo birds strike a lingering melodious note of a bygone era. And the scented countryside is bustling with the harvest of many a bountiful crop spilling the granaries with lustrous grains. The days are getting longer and brighter and it’s that time of the year when nature decks up to unravel her beauty, most grandeur!  Rejoice, the celestial season of  Basant, the Spring, is here yet again, filling every heart with unfathomable joy and glorious bliss!

The season of Basant also enlivens the mystical and divine romance, enacted by the Lord, through colourful dance set to rapturous music. The Rasa Leela captures the myriad shades of  love that the Gopis nurtured towards their beloved and the pangs and agonies caused by their separation from him, that invariably follow.  They long to hold the Lord closest to their hearts but the playful One gives them a slip everytime. And Radha embodies the eternal quest for that nectarine sweetness of supreme love and the human predicament that prevents the final merger. Basant, in many ways, is also a celebration of unadulterated love, victorious of its many trials, victorious of, to borrow a phrase,  the “Ishaq Ka Imtihan”.

The natural adjunct to the season of colours is the festival of colours, the “Holi”.  With a riot of dazzling shades, deafening music and unrestrained revelry,  Holi is one occasion when man lets go his self-imposed importance and indulges in joyful inter-mingling without inhibitions. The colour on the faces is a great leveller that erases the distinction between the boss and the subordinate, between the ruler and the ruled, and, between the prosperous and the dispossessed.  And herein lay the egalitarian message of the festival and its loud affirmation on the essential and underlying unity of all creations that is beyond the multiplicity of the manifested world.

Oh, what a season, what an occasion, what a festival and what a message…. I am getting my “Pichkari” ready, what about you?

Yours

Narayanan

February 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm 12 comments

Metro- the engine that empowers

As you enter the aisle, the flashy fluorescent signboards are only a prelude to the dazzle that you are just about to experience. The digital camera scans your electronic ticket and permits your entry inside and you step into the escalator and glide down to the underground platform in the cool air-conditioned comforts. A cursory glance around suggests that this could well be an international mall; shops selling trendy accessories, pizza joints, internet cafe’ and an array of refreshment kiosks offering anything from coke to cappuccino. And as you stand mesmerized by the ambiance, a rolling beauty in sparkling silver almost quitely slips amongst you and slides open its doors. A soft voice announces  its arrival and the destination that it would take you to. You seamlessly drift into cabin and find yourself in a decor of exquisite craftsmanship and speckless cleanness. The station moves backwards and then you realise that it’s the cabin that your are in that’s moving forward, almost without a whisper.

This could as well be the description of a sub-urban station somewhere in downtown Manhattan or in Frankfurt city centre. But when you realise it’s the Kashmere Gate metro station in the old walled city of Delhi, you cannot but feel proud of our progress. Metro is just one more symbol that proclaims that India has arrived.  And in style!

Delhi Metro is very much a work in progress. But it’s already criss-crossing a substantial part of the national capital transporting thousands of commuters daily, much to the relief of the over-stretched road system.  With fully air-conditioned coaches and a network of  other feeder services, public travel has never been so comfortable, indeed enjoyable, in the city. As Delhi quickly adopts to this changing landscape of public transport, the drudgery of daily travel is finally behind many of the capital’s denizens.

But there are other spin-offs that the Metro has conferred to the city that has almost gone unnoticed by the media. It is now emerging as a vehicle of integrating people who hitherto has lived in separate communities unconnected to each other. Veiled Musilm women, for instance, many of whom have never ventured outside the confines of the walled city, are today seen in large numbers, shopping or just strolling in Connaught Place & in Karol Bagh, thanks to the Metro that gives instant access to these places. And people from Vikas Puri and Rohini just hop into the Metro and travel to Chandi Chowk to enjoy the delicacies that the Parathe Wale Gali has to offer.  This has opened up the floodgate to explore, understand  and appreciate each other better and thereby make priceless contribution in strengthening and cementing inter-community relationships. And with the Metro now crossing over to the nearby Noida, this intregration of the hearts and minds would only become more pronounced in the days and months to come.

Hail the Metro!

Yours

Narayanan

November 13, 2009 at 12:52 am Leave a comment


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