The De-Classic

Speaking of the rich artistic traditions of India, any Indian should be rather puffed up by pride. There are two streams of classical music in India with their divergent schools, viz. Carnatic and Hindustani. The former has moorings in South India and the latter has strong Persian influences and was immortalized by the court-musicians of the Mughal emperors. Elaborate ramifications of music have made any attempt to study classical music a herculean task and many do not have the calling. It calls for a quasi ascetic pursuit of the discipline.  Similarly, the Indian classical dances are Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Odissi and Kathak. There are many more dance forms which require elaborate erudition and systematic practice.

The rise of classical art forms are strongly linked to a culture of leisure. The discipline that leads to erudition and aesthetic sharpening basically springs from the fact that you have enough time and means to pursue your taste. In a land where the majority are underprivileged and ahs minimal exposure to the comforts of life , there can only be a spontaneous expression of the élan and not a systematic exposition. Nowadays, the interest for folklore are on the rise. Kudos to those who dare to see.

This occurred strongly to me as I was watching my friends of Veo ( an interior hill country of Arunachal Pradesh in India, the foothills of Himalayas, where the various hill tribe Nyishi inhabits) rehearsing a welcome dance. The dance steps all looked the same to me, but not without a definitive charm. They had nuances which I was not able to appreciate. These ladies were home after a backbreaking day of hauling sacks of grain from their fields to their granaries uphill, which indeed was after long spells of harvesting when they bend over with scythes. They lacked everything which could appeal to a Classical afficianados. I wonder how the steps exactly followed the lead, something very remarkable in what I thought to be an impromptu situation. Perhaps music is too rooted in their veins.

If you are more interested, this is a sampling of the bihu celebration by the Nocte tribe of Arunachal Pradesh

Drumming on tabletops and for that reason, on any hard surface of wood have been my occupation since child hood and it has tempered my hands a lot. I presume that this is the way they teach the traditional drum known as Mridanga in the Carnatic musical tradition of South India. So as a drummer I am as confident as any amateur can be. The best way to learn drumming is to teach the rhythm to your fingers so that they fall in the right place in the nick of the moment. Here listen to samples of the popular Indian rhythms sounded on a computer table top.

“Four Four”, the complete, typically western rhythm

“Three Four”: The rhythm of Waltz

“Four Eight:, the rhythm that rocks

“Five Eight”, the typically Indian, sways to the Cosmic Dance

“Six Eight”, the rustic dance rhythm, common to various folk music and ethnic and tribal music in India, it appears to be a very natural rhythm…

“Six Four”, the dirge

“Nine Eight”, typical celebration music, to the sound of large kettle drums

“Seven Eight”, the prayerful rhythm

 

percussively yours…

 

 

 

Reality-when excessive

Sounding overdriven notes

Drives men to take cover

Seeking options to quell it.

 

Reality- negate or posit it

Or turn your back you may

Drawing apps and new ways,

Plying for situation control.

 

An earplug- born of needs

To nix the sound extern

Is deafness made wearable,

As if world has no words for you.

 

Or an earphone, still better

To fix a sound you like

As if it’s only one you’d hear

Though the world cries out loud.

 

Blindfold in its symbolic richness

Can hold the world at bay, a dark bay.

Window-blinds shut in

To let in just a beamlet;

 

Still reality stays and it says’

“You hear that you want

You see that you want,

But there is more and more unturned.”

beautiful-malayalam-movie-poster1

Let me share something on the ways the films of my land are going. Dubbed after the Hollywood they call it the “Mollywood”(M for Malayalam), but believe me its not that great a wood, something like a bush. Malayalam film scenario was typically marked by the dearth of classic movies. There used to be a time when people used to dwell on very ordinary situations of life, but as a rule they religiously observed certain developmental aspects of the story. This gave rise to stereotypes in Malayalam films. Entertainers usually centered around the “megastars” (the normal ascension is something like star-supersta-superduperstar-….megastar).The adjectives are made by the most erudite members of the fans’ association sticking to each megastar. The fans’ association is not generally an intellectually oriented lot who takes art or literature seriously. They are available for the star to show his clout and to indulge in campaigns and exercises detrimental to any opposing faction. These megastars are not very many, to be exact just two. They won’t leave and the female actors once cast opposite to them decades before are either dead or happy with the roles of granny, but enriched by the rich elixir of youth, our protagonists still dance,ogle and shoot dialogues like a loose cannon. Characters are tailormade for them assuring that they will be almighty and their deviant behaviour should be treated as pedagogical and consequently as holy evils. These characters are preferably high class people flaunting an elitist accent and impossibly rich gadgets and tastes.

Surprisingly, these days certain iconoclasm is going on in Malayalam movies. People really love that change. There is irreverence for whatever was considered sacrosanct and we have started to shed the reservations. As a rule people advise each other that a megastarrer movie should not be watched unless there are a thousand feedbacks vouching for its worth. The indiscriminate fans are happy as long as the star is alive on stage and they can hardly give you any sound piece of advice.

The movie “Beautiful” I watched last year got me struck to two instances in the story line, though there are many of them. The protagonist is a quadriplegic nevertheless heir to a large fortune also shown as indulging in ogling and ribaldry. Once returning from the hospital in the night they miss a burglar fleeing from his home. The burglar was very adept in martial skills and high jumping and all sorts of acrobatic gestures. The face of our man was alight with admiration instead of the rage that should have naturally occurred there. That night he dreams of this burglar exhibiting his callisthenic and acrobatic skills. Perhaps that is the greatest possibility he could dream of given that he is bound to the other extreme, the immobility of the body.

He meets an amateur singer who is hired to perform for him every day at his bedside. They later become thick friends. The singer takes our man for a ride in the motorbike with a special carriage to hold him in place and parks the bike on the roadside with our man still on it before going to a shop. It rains, rains heavily. It should have been choking for our man strapped to the carriage. Choking indeed, but he relishes the globule of water wetting his face with a cherubic smile.

This attention to the depiction of life as it really is can perhaps save us from the pangs of the megastars doing superhuman fete even while being very much human. Let us burn those story lines…

Poster of Beautiful.2

 

“No matter how many white swans you have seen, it doesn’t tell you anything about the possibility of a black swan”
                                                                                                                         Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Philosopher and Expert on Risk
In a celebrated dialogue between Fr.Copleston and Bertrand Russel, the latter is posed with a question as to what question he would throw at God if he chanced upon him. Russell quipped: “I will ask God why he hasn’t left anything in the world to prove his presence.” The Vedas had it that “Isōvāsyam idam sarvam”(Everything is the abode of God). In a crude way Thales spoke of everything being full of gods, thus sowing the seeds of hylozoism and pantheistic trends in the western thought. In Indian tradition one comes across the supposedly contrasting worldviews of acosmism and cosmism; these are nevertheless the same thing viewed from two different ends: from eternity and from temporality. A similar strain of thought is shared by the Stoics in their formulation of sub specie temporis and sub specie aeternitatis upholding that everything is essentially good even when it appears the contrary. Tertullian went a step further in claiming that anima naturaliter Christiana( soul is naturally Christian). The aforesaid representations point to the fact that some sort of regularity had been observed in the dynamics of the universe which are variedly ascribed to the physical, preternatural or spiritual forces.
A law or rule of action is seen as implicit in the very nature of things. This, we call, the natural law. It also designates laws that regulate the activities of nature both in organic and inorganic realms. All creatures have from their creator those determined natural inclinations to their own respective ends “which we say are natural laws”, comments St.Thomas; elsewhere he has spoken “natural law is nothing other than the participation of eternal law in rational creatures”. Not only in classical and scholastic philosophy but also in modern science one finds that natural law is deemed to have an ontological value. This is a realistic view. Various contemporary thinkers hold that scientific knowledge is assimilated as a passive representation and faithful mirror of reality.
Plato speaks of Euthyphro Dilemma: whether something is good because God loves it or God loves it because it is good. This is a moot point in moral philosophy. One can view the beauty and order as a consequence of its ordination by God or one can speak of God as an abstract representation of the beauty and goodness one finds in the world, something like a provisional subject. Are there natural laws? Science has no knowledge on things that cannot be observed. Its validity depends on the conformity of the individual observations to a hypothesis.
Consider the proposition “All crows are black” and its contrapositive “All non-blacks are non-crows.” Each time we see a black crow our supposition is proved but given that each of the above two propositions can be immediately followed from the other, why is it that a pair of white shoes (which is non-black and non-crow) does not validate the supposition that all crows are black? There is something predictable about the physical laws; in that respect how much does it contribute to the definability of God? This is under the assumption that God wills the physical laws to be unchangeable so that every time you throw a stone up it inevitably comes down. Suppose if there is a miracle or an aberration, then it too is natural in that it occurred in the natural sphere. Only thing we may conclude is that the exception was so far not recorded.
Duns Scotus said that God in His willing is “intelligissime et ordinatissime volens” (most intelligent and most orderly) and that He is not arbitrary. If natural laws are participation in this eternal wisdom why it seems that much of the occurrences in life appears as matters of chance or like game of dice. Natural law ought to orient us towards the natural end as the case maybe. The facticities (things which are beyond one’s control) of life set each individual in a different starting point and he is to grow upon that. How can one conceive a common denominator for the different individuals and speak of it as the natural end of that life. When the pronouncements about each man’s end are as varied as there are individuals how can we speak of a “law”? The universality of the “law” is at stake. It takes us back to the Orwellian paradox: “All men are equal, but some are more equal than others”. If you try to educate somebody about the aim of his life, then it’s just trying to conform him to a consensus and it stops to be natural and spontaneous. If one’s destiny depends on the formative force of his circumstances then it is not equal for all. Natural laws, if any should be applicable or accessible to all equally. This leads us to the nominalist position that there can’t be such a thing as universal and that there are only individuals.
If we are pawns in the hands of God then there is no point in speaking of our actions as bound to natural laws, because God is not part of our nature in the sense God is part of God’s nature. This leads to arbitrariness in human actions as we witness in the present sociopolitical context. Each action is targeted not on a blind abyss but on immediately fruitful results. Here appetites grow higher than the intellections. Every human action becomes hesitant or determined according to the viability of the situation with utter disregard for the “natural laws”. A jihadist has sound theology for his outrages, an imperialist wages war in the name of God. This is because God is no more thought to be abstract but as a concretization of one’s own personal whims and fancies. Therefore god’s  revelations become unmediated and very often my god draws the sword at your god. Then why wonder that the world has become self-centered and each one nothing but a juggernaut.

 

fiendish gloom robs heart of its warmth;

thoughts have turned pale and cold

sole query does my mind raise

“Has the spring lomg way to come”

robed in anguish, wake i, all days

sighing over duties undone, prayers unsaid.

sins make a grim dance on my eyes,

wonder how large a troupe they are.

i don a cloak of ritual penance

still withholding my goodness,

makes unfeeling vows before Lord

knowing each word waits to be broken

cobwebs from corners

through treasured icons reaches

for my dusty soul…

 

“death-gaze”
watching dead leaves fall
from the cell through a window,
time seems frozen still.

“universality”
when you stand on heights
and rain wets you,see it
falling on vales too.

“windows”
two windows set near
one lit yet other not- as
opaque septum parts them.

“puddle”
sips by the beak off puddle,
crow slakes but as man im forced
‘drink safe lest guts crash

“candy”
never candy melts
but chewed down unrelished- my
mouth chews by instinct

“love lost”
our love cedes, meeting
flesh of flayed realities
so we wed new lies

“oratio”
prose to set a fire
lovely hymns to quench- so my
prayer cycle recurs.

“rules to climb”
when you hear a gurgle
know your foot’s on splay- climb up
or roll down, no stay.

“doze-off”
sweet note,loved, treasured
crumbles in hand as i slumber
lethal lethargy!

“irony”
id crush boulders, eat them
digest,filled, live by it, yet
tip over a pip-sized rise.

“spectres on ice”
icebed arctic melts,
a mammoth calf unveiled
haunts me back here home.

“drip drying”
clothes to dry, sun slips
wind blows, lost sun bemoaned
forgets- wind dries too.

“outspoken”
‘john’s dead’-said in jest
the words flew, all johns fell dead
that’s the thrust words wield.