Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Music and I

                                                         Courtesy Google Images
   Having woken up later than usual this Sunday morning, I was rushing around like a headless chicken trying to do half a dozen things at the same time. Multitasking, they call it.

"Music and dance reduces stress, doesn't it, Ma?" Pahi observes quietly with The Speaking Tree supplement of TOI spread in front of her and music blasting from my mobile. For a split second I wondered if it was meant for me or was she trying to help herself given that she was on a guilt trip all of yesterday. Reason- she nearly damaged her sister's eye while playing with a flimsy  arrow that usually never went further than the bow. So after tears streaming in the house, one with pain and the other with guilt, tense moments and rushes to doctor, today seemed much calmer.

   As I sit down now with the gray matter in my cranium in some semblance of order, my thoughts drift here and there prompted by her words. Please bear with the ramblings. We have all known of music's healing powers, read about them in tomes, experienced them time and again. I have heard of students sitting down with maths while the music blared. I believe it helped them to concentrate. Having tried the stunt on a couple of occasions, I managed to get all my calculations wrong. Moral of the story, how music works for others need not be the same for me. 

  Yes, it did work in a way for me during my adolescence apart from uplifting my mood was when it drowned out my mother's 'dos' and 'don'ts'. As she continued with her unwritten script, the volume went up in notches till she gave up in exasperation.

   Now as I mature with age (I hope), I find music adding another dimension to my experiences and to the 'self'. I like the direct connect between music and me, the way it communicates to me, the way I look upon it, this beautiful and harmonious bond that we share. Delhi in the winters, has its platter full with every kind of music you want to expose yourself to, explore and discover. It may be in the confines of an auditorium, in the cool environs of an amphitheater, the schools, colleges or  relaxed chilled evenings in the parks. I especially like them in the expansive Nehru Park, Purana Quilla and other symbolic backdrops, and among them, the Music In The Park Series. In these fortunate rendezvous, I have been transported to a different realm altogether which is timeless, where everything else ceases to exist.

  Or the time when a prominent artiste is paired with another , who is no less in any way except perhaps  being in the mainstream or in finding a wider audience. The music they make, transcends all barriers and captivates the listener with fusion of different styles. The Coke Studio has provided not just the platform for such powerhouse performances but also opened a window to the music aficionados to get a glimpse of these talents , who otherwise remain as benchmarks  but confined to their regions.Well, there are the reality shows too that bring forth some astonishing amateur talents. However the purity of music in these are lost in the the alleged staged incidents, the competitive hoopla, and other such interventions. I like the music to flow, without any hitches like the thoughts, like the stream, like the swell of the waves,  the flight of the birds...
  A recent experience at the Assam Day cultural show at IITF 2013 Pragati Maidan, was one such that carried the audience with the artistes. It was an eclectic mix of bhakti and folk in the Tokari geet, the lilting  yet rhythmic Barat dance of the Tiwa people, the pulsating Jali Kekan  dance of the Karbis with criss crossing bamboo poles and of course rounding off with the ever popular Bihu. The show stealers were Khagen Gogoi, a renowned master in the traditional Bihu genre catapulted to national fame by a Coke Studio performance with Shankar Mahadevan; and Dhol Samrat Somnath Borah Oja with his award winning 'talking drums' performance. When the evening ended the bright faces of the audience, the thunderous applause,elixir for any performer, and  calls for 'encores' said it all.
   Music to me brings back memories of those Sunday afternoons many years ago when Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar, Yesudas, Hemlata, crooned their way through the radio sets filling our homes with melodies as domestic warmth enveloped our days; when every artist connected with the making of the song was given due credit. Pervading the space not just within the four walls but also seeping into the consciousness and filling the spaces within. It also gives a romantic hue to those unknown artistes lost in the maze of train journeys, who have foraged for livelihood among the passengers, in their perfect soulful baul renditions rising above the din of the chugging train and the clanging iron wheels. Music also brings to mind the many evenings spent with family and cousins attempting a soiree especially during power cuts.

   On a recent trip to Brussels, music is what characterised the place for me. As we were walking towards the exit of an underground metro, we could hear a couple of strangers walking down the stairs humming, and what seemed like an impromptu jam session. And the next minute they were sitting at the base of the stairs and making some beautiful music lost in a world of notes, melody and rhythm. How different it was! No designated time, place for the music to flow and yet not intruding on others who carried on with their lives. And for that reason, I like the flash mobs. For bringing colour, spontaneity and energy to an otherwise ordinary day.

     A trip to the Scottish Highlands was heightened as the bus meandered the highway revealing some exotic panoramic views. I remember that journey vividly for the tragic saga of  the House of McDonald  of Glencoe being played in the backdrop as the bus swept past the rugged landscape.  And then there was that evening while walking down from church of St Gilles in Brussels, the street filled with people chattering, laughing with friends over drinks at the road side cafes, a familiar tune caught my ears. I turned around  desperately trying to place the instrument. And then I spotted him. The last I had seen that instrument was probably in a Raj Kapoor movie. The artiste, as they all are, was playing the accordion. And the melody was  the haunting, poignant score from  The God father. I had goose bumps and time stood still, the crowd receded into the back ground. It was the music floating all around...

  I don't know how it is with you, but watching a beautiful dance recital or listening to a music concert or witnessing any art form  of any genre is highly cathartic. Maybe the artiste with all their passion poured in through hours of hard work, reaches out to the audience at a different level, holding all the souls together in tandem with the One Soul for  just those fleeting moments...

Thank you to ballad of  Mcdonald massacre
sung by Alistair McDonald
( to André Rieu's uploaded snippet, for the haunting melody of The God father)
To Google Images and  for the lovely image.
To all the artistes known and unknown, for having enriched our lives



Friday, 15 November 2013

Delhi Duty Free Shops - Selling An Experience

     There was a time when air travellers lingered on with their friends and family till the last call for security check even if it meant awkward silences, last minute instructions or plain simple small talk. Things have changed now. And we only have to thank the Irish for introducing us to the invigorating as also the languorous like the warmth of a McGuiness, whiskies; literary masters like W B Yeats, Samuel Becket, G B Shaw, Oscar Wilde ; the submarines, tractors. Add to the list DFS- Duty Free Shops at airports and seaports.

     It was Brendan O'Regan in 1950 who ushered in the glitter of the duty free shops at Shannon airport, on the secured side of the airport arguing that since passengers  are out bound to other countries, there was no point in levying taxes on the products that were not coming into the country. What started off as a common sense business proposition trying to tap a niche market for retail soon changed the international travel scene not to speak of the multi million market it created.

                                                     ( Courtesy Google Images)

    Now air travellers while chalking out their itinerary do keep the DFS area at international airports in mind. The long empty hours between flights no longer exist. Instead they have transformed into shopping sprees and window shopping. But most importantly, they have turned into experiences. In my limited sojourns abroad, I've found our very own Delhi Duty Free Shops at T3, the single largest in India, to be swanky and well laid out. Some of the stores were selling not just products off the shelves but also heightening the experience of embarking on a trip abroad especially for those on a holiday. A few of these stores were very aesthetically done up giving a glimpse of our heritage.

 Cosmetics, electronics, fashion, alcohol, handicrafts have their retail outlets at the Delhi DFS. With the increase in Indians holidaying abroad, it is the fancy beginning to a much anticipated trip. For the foreign tourists the DFS at T3 is a boon to pick gifts and memorabilia, be it handcrafted stoles, fine cotton garments, hand painted folk wall art or indulge in a last minute spa experience.

    The DFS at Heathrow and Munich, among the few that I've transited through failed to impress me. The well publicized Dubai Duty Free has caught onto everyone's imagination with it's innumerable counters of famous brands, duty free shopping festivals and the most crowd puller - the supposedly competitively priced gold and other jewellery counters. I would caution the passengers in transit to research a bit before they embark on a shopping spree. There were hordes of passengers converging from almost every part of the world as the flights homed in offloading more of them. Some strolled from one counter to the other while the others flitted in and out looking for specifics as boarding calls were announced.

   On our way to Munich, we spent much of our time browsing the stores at the Delhi DFS. Ambling through the fragrant aisles of the perfume stores sniffing and 'breaking' the aromas with coffee beans, I felt like Alice in the Wonderland of an upscale mall just as Dubai's DFS brought back images of Ali Baba and his coveted cave. The products positioned at brightly lit niches to seduce and lure the customers into shelling out a few of those crisp notes. The alcohol and the cosmetics, especially the perfumes, do offer good bargains. These are the stores that passengers visit looking for a good bargain on some world class brands.

  An anecdote once narrated by a close friend comes to mind. A group of defence officers on their way from Tel Aviv to New Delhi  hurried through the DFS area  at Dubai. By the time they reached the designated exit the team leader realised two officers were missing from the group. As the last call for boarding was made, the duo dashed their way through with gleaming eyes and sheepish grins. They had succumbed to the lure of the free sampling at the counters. Quickly swigging the free samples on the offers, they managed to reach the departure points quite dramatically with the clanging bottles in sealed packs clutched dearly in their hands just as the gate was closing.

   There is no denying that  DFS has changed the way we travel international now. It begins with making that beeline for the security check at airports for the experience to begin as quickly as possible.