Monthly Archives: December 2008

Sawai Gandharva – 08

14/12 : Raj’s birthday; since he wasn’t in the city, I decided to celebrate the day visiting Sawai Gandharva – 2008, India’s premier classical Music Extravaganza held in Pune every year.

And what a celebration that was !

Magical performances, Excellent support band, Discerning and equally colorful audience, Comfortable seating, Typically fabulous Pune weather alongwith Puneri delicacies (served hot and crisp) made my day !

Stalwarts like Pt Jasraj, Shrinivas Joshi, Dr Prabha Atre, Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Pt Ronu Majumdar, Aruna Sairam played to jam-packed galleries and over-flowing aisles at Ramanbaug.

It was heartening to see all age groups coming over to watch the biggest classical music concert of the nation. You could see guys with camcorders, women wearing silk saaris – gajras(garlands specially made for women’s hairs), girls sporting their beautiful shawls ….. Fervor all over ! The crowd numbered more than 25 thousand and I felt as if there was no one around when an artiste was performing; such astute silence. On the other hand, whenever a performance finished, there were more than 50,000 hands busy applauding it. Music touches everyone and climax of Sawai Gandharva just highlighted it yet again.

Whether it was a raag, a taan or a harqat, chants of Marathi Bhajans or crescendo of flute, mridangam one thing was evident; it was something that soothes your heart, something that delights you every time you listen, and something that’s only one of its kinds. And then, its not difficult to guess why classical music artistes like to perform at Sawai Gandharva and especially in Pune. It wasn’t a game of cricket, it wasn’t a rock concert ….. and we witnessed an enormous crowd. Mind you, it wasn’t a wild crowd, people were peacefully helping themselves everywhere, no push and shove at all, elders and kids were escorted carefully ….. Truly a family fiesta !

Many thanks to Maharashtra police for tight security arrangements and organizers for managing to come up with such wonderful ambience. Next year, I expect even bigger crowd and little better arrangements and hospitality.

All and all, the day will go down as one of the best and the most pleasant gathering in my memory, Marathi classical saga at its best.

Let me make a wish that the tradition goes on forever and we get to listen to such Beautiful and mesmerising songs and Bhajans …..

लाभले आम्हास भाग्य बोलतो मराठी

जाहले खरेच धन्य ऐकतो मराठी

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How ‘Sexy’ you are !

7/12 : I ran in Pune international marathon, the charity race’s theme was race against AIDS. The issue of AIDS and lack of sexual awareness kept me thinking for a major part of the last week. India has a terrible enemy AIDS.

The biggest victim of HIV stands helpless in the world today; the culture misinterpretation stands as one of the major causes for this; I have to say very sadly. This is India, king of closed-door mentality.

We don’t believe in open discussion on sex; sex is a taboo in our country. Vast Majority of the country still regards sexual activities as sins (less educated class) or mistakes (average socio-economic class) or a ‘dirty’ necessity (well-off youngsters). People here still don’t accept it as a critical necessity for life, as mutual pleasure for partners, as a very natural biological process. Parents don’t tell their children about puberty/youth/sexual growth and children start misinterpreting their sexual behaviors according to their sources of information. Adolescents are vehemently under-confident; puberty is not taken in a healthy way. We think Menstruation is grimy and Masturbation is mistake committed by the young.

India has never handled sex medically, it has always been something aberrant. We’re in a nation where a gentle kiss is still considered to be a ‘sexual activity’, people shy away from touching or holding their partners in public. Homosexuality here, is a matter of humor only. Our government thinks homosexuality is a prime cause for spreading of HIV in the country (huhh … stupid lack of medical research). Live-ins, homosexuals, one-night-stands have still not been taken well. Is there any other of the fastest-developing countries that’s more ill-informed about sexual existence ?

Now, still majority of India thinks they have the best and safest (?) sexual practices in the world. We rigidly label Westerners unfaithful, people here still don’t know that marriage systems in the USA, Europe are quite successful and long-lasting too. We often joke around their family systems while comfortably forgetting that we’ve equally bad practices carried out in India (urban as well as rural) too.

We have extra-marital affairs, pre-marital stands, incest (sex with a person of blood relation) relationships, domestic violence and rapes, child molestation, prevalent sexual harassment of women (sometimes men too) at workplaces/social places. Just like the rest of the world, India too has 18-20% of the population as homosexuals ….. People not only from army/navy or fashion photography but from rural backgrounds and normal households also. We still do not know the difference between gays, transsexuals and eunuchs (hijras).

States like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan belong to India only …. Thousands of girl fetuses are killed every month in these states. We still have child marriages, rituals like Sati and Devdasi in India. Girl child is never preferred, girls are suppressed, they are neglected and abused in urban areas equally. Females are always least important in India, sex ratio is declining very fast. Number of women suffering from AIDS due to transmission from their male partners is astonishingly high in India. We need to understand importance of women in overall healthy development of the country. We may be an economically developing country but we are definitely not developing socially.

I will tell you an incident : my grandma had rescued a wounded parrot from a park nearby her home, she took it home and fed it for some months. After recovery and some time, it was freed and to my astonishment, it just could not take off from the ground (I was around 6 years old then), it just fluttered its wings unusually and later was grabbed by a cat. When I asked my grandma about it, I still remember her words, she said “use aazad udane ki aadat nahin thi” (it wasn’t used to flying freely in open air) ….. that’s what I feel about India’s posh class. They are educated, they are well-off but they do not have the sense of utilizing that freedom. Talking about sexual freedom, India’s high class is one of the poorest categories. Relations with more than one partner, practicing sexual pleasures with glamorous prostitutes, strip shows does not mean sexual empowerment. There’s a very fine line between elegance and sleaze and we, generally tend to blunder !

India need to wake up to the fact that we have been badly gripped by HIV. Above examples, according to me, show worst affected general categories in India. We need to identify the enemy HIV correctly. AIDS is spreading fast across all categories. Sex should be taught and thought in a healthier way, we need to be informed and stay informed medically.

Prostitution must be regarded as a ‘profession’ and prostitutes need be educated about their health and usage of contraceptives. We also need to recognize and socially bring up prostitutes’ children, enough of negligence. The ‘so-called’ culture which does not preserve the dignity and pride of women needs to cleansed big time. Rituals like Sati and donating the girl child to the god (devdasi) need to be scrapped socially. British time Rules and laws against homosexuality (male and female both) must be reconsidered with the help of medical experts and research sans any inhibitions. In fact, Gay tourism can benefit the country long way. Very few countries in the world allow gay marriages, if India makes such marriages legal, lots of gays all over the world will travel to India for the purpose (Canada, despite being very expensive, attracts a huge tourist population for gay marriages are legal there).

There has been a slight improvement in India republic in the past few years with India making stringent laws against domestic violence and marital rapes (some activists are fighting for such laws against women too). Kudos to Maharashtra, front-running in awareness, holding live-ins legal and granting rights equal to marital ones to female participants in live-in.

The government has put a foot ahead, are we socially ready ? Are WE liberal and sensible enough to talk sex ?

Awakening

Week after the blasts, after hundreds of coverage and analysis shows, thousands of blogs I could not help but agree with all of those. Almost everyone/everything had a point of view towards the blasts. Indeed, a time of grief and mourning …

Few are disappointed they have lost their acquaintances / family friends

Some are shattered by dilapidated Taj structure

Some want Manmohan Singh to step down at any cost

Few went to silly extents of challenging Raj Thackeray to fight the terrorists with a gun in his hand

All colors of a single protest, just that personal concerns tend to overshadow our protests, regularly !

I …..

I don’t belong any one of the above categories

I am not Hindu / Muslim / Jew / Christian

I am not a regular at Taj / Oberoi

I do not travel by local trains

I stay in Pune and visit Mumbai once every around two months

I have been to the Gateway of India 3-4 times in my life

None of my friends/relatives staying suffered directly from these blasts

Still an attack on Mumbai is an attack on my home, in all the ways ….

Yet, I can’t help but confess that I was devastated mentally on 11/26, I feel numb and helpless just like many around me do

I don’t have a good leader around, someone who can protect me from terror attacks …. The politicians are too busy carving out election agendas out of terror attacks

I don’t have a coordinated security / well-equipped police to protect me …. they are themselves helpless

I don’t have a mature media to speak out through ….. they’re busy trying strategies for better TRPs or revealing out Indian forces’ ‘internal’ plots in open

And then, I don’t have sensible people around me ….. they are too busy with their work and personal growths or too busy to undergo security checks or to caste their votes or raise voices against terror / government

I felt embarrassing when my nation’s stock market was closed for an entire day

I felt insulted we had to lose billion of rupees and dollars due to attack on our own country

I felt dejected when best of Indian security forces could not fight 10 odd militants

It was personal when people (oops, another mistake …. They’re not people, they’re politicians) like Narendra Modi, K Achutanandan, R R Patil, Abbas Naqvi passed on their utterly silly comments

Well, I am not going to take things lying down ….. happily, this time, its not ‘I’ but ‘We’ …. There’s an awakening around ….. Congrats Mumbai !

We won’t let even outside areas for planning and commissioning terror on our soil, beware Pakistan

We won’t let anyone insult our martyrs

We will put all the make-up, lip-sticks and come out to protest, lets see who stops us

It will be OUR decision, if at all, not to vote for existing government, others need not advise us

If someone thinks these incidents are not very big, we’ll show them what price they have to pay for it

We are not going to be soft targets anymore and will start changing from ourselves, undergoing security checks and we’ll be casting our votes regularly

We will start practicing caution in crowded as well as lonely surroundings

We will be careful towards abandoned goods around us

We’ll carry our identity cards everywhere we go and fully cooperate in facilitating the security process

Keep looking on, we are moving forward !

Mumbai is ready to fight

Maharashtra is ready to fight

India is ready to fight

When I visit Mumbai next (very soon at that) I wanna go and visit Taj …. Oops sorry, I wanna visit ‘The Taj’, I wanna board train from CST next time …. I will walk Colaba streets for sure …. Let’s see who can stop me