Friday, August 19, 2005

Music and dance

I was going through some blogs the other day and I found this group of people who have this project where they record CD’s of their favourite songs and send it to each other. These people are all spread across the world.

I think that is a lovely thing to do. Music instantly uplifts you, no matter what, and even if you’re sad or heartbroken, there are songs to keep you company that seem to touch your inner heart, as if they were written for you. My sister has a number of friends who do things like that for her – and there are others who get gifts like that as well – you know, for birthdays and things. I haven’t got any CD’s like that till date (sniff!) – so if anyone is ever interested :-), then here are some songs I will listen to again and again for life.

1. Absolutely everybody – Vanessa Amorosi
2. Time after time – Cyndi Lauper
3. Sexual healing – Marvin Gaye
4. Thank You – Dido
5. Inner Smile – Texas
6. Life – Des’ree
7. Out of reach – Gabrielle
8. Smooth operator – Sade
9. With or without you – U2
10. Come away with me – Norah Jones
11. Don’t know why – Norah Jones
12. Mrs. Robinson – Simon and Garfunkel
13. Over the Rainbow – Wizard of Oz film soundtrack
14. Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid film soundtrack
15. My favourite things – Sound of Music film soundtrack
16. Respect – Aretha Franklin
17. Stand by me – Ben King
18. Fields of gold – Sting
19. Every breath you take – The Police
20. Smooth – Santana feat. Rob Thomas
21. Ain’t no mountain high enough – Marvin Gaye, from Stepmom film soundtrack
22. Sweet home Alabama – Lynrd Skynrd
23. All the people of the world – Safri Duo
24. Aicha – Outlandish
25. Say a little prayer – Diana King from My Best Friend’s Wedding film soundtrack

They’re mostly happy feel-good songs with tunes that will make your feet want to get out of your shoes and dance (yeah – even if you don’t ‘know how to’. I don’t understand how people can’t know how to dance. Dance is an expression of yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet or not. Unless you plan to give a stage performance or something!)

You might be alone in a foreign country with the bleakest weather you have ever seen, or it might be bright and sunny and you’re around people you love – just dance. For yourself, for life!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

'Yatha raja, tatha praja' (What the king does, the public does too)

For those who are interested in reading more about corruption levels in India - Admiral R H Tahiliani (Retd), architect of the largest ever corruption survey in India, speaks here.


The concept of freedom has varied interpretations.

I watched the long-awaited Aamir Khan starrer ‘Mangal Pandey’, fittingly, on India’s 58th Independence Day. There’s something to be said about the concept of freedom. And patriotism. How it awakens the hardworking-but-publicly insensitive citizen and apathetic resident alike. How the sacrifice of a life for the sake of an ideology can make you feel that you just have to get out of your seat and do something more meaningful with your own life. How you feel intense hatred for politicians today who have made these sacrifices seem nearly meaningless, because 90 years on they play with the freedom of others nonchalantly.

I kept drawing parallels between ‘Braveheart’ and this movie as I was watching it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I watched ‘Braveheart’ for the second time around very recently, and Mel Gibson as the Scotsman, William Wallace had a lot in common with Aamir Khan as the Indian, Mangal Pandey. Both fought for freedom. From tyranny, from oppression. For a chance to let the people rule. Both took years to achieve their objectives – objectives which were realized years after their deaths but which were ignited BY their deaths.

‘You may take our lives, but you can never take our freedom’.

58 years on, India has achieved a lot. But no matter how much I try to appreciate that fact, the Aruna Roys, the Baba Amte’s, the thousands of uncelebrated individuals who struggle relentlessly for the sake of the oppressed, I keep coming back to the fact that everyday you have reports of corruption, of bribery, of assault, murder, every single day in modern India – a lot of it that can be contained if only people did not abuse the power vested with them. And that is a murder as well. A murder of faith. They play with people’s freedom. And their lives.

And when the government and the legal system prolong this murder of freedom, they are partners in crime.

And that is not worth forgiving.

Don’t talk about freedom if you can’t uphold it, dammit. That’s why I feel tears rolling slowly down my cheeks when I see these kind of sacrifices. Even in Bollywood movies. And I refuse to feel ashamed.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

McLeodganj – A walk in the Tibetan woods

There comes a point in your life when you just get tired of your life being ruled by external factors – someone else’s daily schedule, or your work or concerns about what this person would think or that. Sometimes you just need a break, to be by yourself.

I took a Himachal Pradesh State Transport bus to Kangra on Friday night, and went up from there to Dharamshala and finally McLeodganj. History has it that Dharamshala so captured the imagination of the then Viceroy Lord Elgin that he wanted to make it the summer capital of India. However, fortunately for the small hill settlement, it was spared that fate – and it was Shimla which finally got that 'honour'. I can tell you that Shimla has none of the charm that Dharamshala has today, thanks to hordes of tourists and innumerable hotel constructions along the mountainside there.

McLeodganj, 10 kilometres uphill from Dharamshala, is today the abode of the Dalai Lama. Quaint and very Tibetan (though the troops of Israeli and French backpackers almost make it more foreign that Tibetan – can you imagine hotel menus in Hebrew?!), anyone who goes to the place will come back charmed. I met an Indian couple on the bus who were going to meditate in the hills there, and they were able to give me some valuable information – such as the fact that staying in McLeodganj makes much more sense than in Dharamshala because it is much more interesting with its little market lanes. I went to the Dalai Lama’s residence and walked around the Buddhist temple within (the Dalai Lama himself was away in Switzerland) on my first day there, then went to Norbulingka which is a centre for the preservation of Tibetan arts and crafts spread over a lovely campus near Sidhpur. To get there, simply take the local bus to Palampur and get off at Sidhpur (a ticket costs Rs.4), then walk the 15 minutes to Norbulingka. I spent a couple of hours in the lazy afternoon there, then went back to Dharamshala where I popped in at the Kangra Arts Museum. I suggest you give it a miss – the government enterprise is dark and gloomy. I sat on a sack of potatoes (truly an Indian experience!) during a crowded van trip back as mist began swirling around the valley, then ate Hotel Snow Lion’s famous lemon curd cake in McLeodganj as I watched the slow drizzle change to a steady downpour. Deciding that it was not going to stop for a while, I dashed to my hotel, getting thoroughly drenched in the process.

As a result of that rain soaking my running shoes, I had to traipse around Bhagsu and Dharamkot, both 2 km from McLeodganj, in – catch this – Bata slippers, the next day! It wasn’t such a bad thing as it started raining again during the day but it wasn’t so comfortable after a point! I met an Israeli girl on the way to Bhagsu (the place is known for its temple), and she accompanied me in rambling about the most wonderfully green and mysterious woods nearby. There are a number of meditation camps in Dharamkot, and during our exploring we found a stone hut which looked like it was something out of an ancient land, with a couple of French backpackers eating fruit calmly as the mist loomed up the hills yet again. We spent an hour sitting there peacefully as well.

I caught the bus for the long journey back that evening, but Monday morning and the honking of Delhi only made me wish for the peace of the hills once more.