The difficult month that went…by and by

This was a difficult month, for all of us. But today is the last of the month and a lot of that difficulty is now behind us. Yet I want to scribble here in brief what all happened so that if ever a time like this should come I would remember, we have been there before.

Papa had to undergo a open heart surgery- all of a sudden. That was decided in the first week of the month. The date was set for the 10th. On the 1st of the month it was his angiography which told us about the blockages in his heart- they were four when the surgery was performed.

Around the same time Raga’s tail amputation happened, and while the tail was still recovering she had a bladder issue- she stopped passing urine. the vet said that she has lost sensation of a full bladder- due to paralysis. It was a nightmare after that- every alternate day I would be taking her to the vet for a catherization! As a result in the second week, she developed a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). That coincided with Andre being here- so between him and me, we kept taking her to the vet daily for cleansing her bladder with saline and antibiotics- six days continuously. By the end of this time it was time for Andre to go back, as well as for papa to return from hospital post surgery.

But this was not all, I also got to teach music in a teacher’s training department for three hours at a time- six sessions in all, to over 20 girls per session. Not the easiest of tasks to perform. Tomorrow is the last of them- thank god. Teaching such big numbers is not interesting at all, unless the students are motivated.And that usually does not happen easily in Indian universities. But every effort of this sort is generative to a researcher like me- so I am busy writing about the experience and drawing the outcomes from it, whatever they could have been.

I had to let go of writing an article for a special issue of a journal in mental health, which had earlier accepted my abstract, many months ago- because my mind was very scattered this entire span of time. The sort of peace I require to write was simply not there. Plus Ginger also got a diagnosis of chronic Otitis and a couple of other things. So now, we know all our cards, no more surprises- hopefully the worst is behind us.

After the UTI I learnt to tease Raga’s bladder and now I can manage to press it twice a day in a way to help her empty it out. It is a great relief to see my girl fine, though weak and becoming more and more so. However, I know that I am tending to her the most I can, and keeping her close to me, the most I can…loving her, petting her, cleaning her, hand feeding her, grooming her, putting medicines in her mouth when required. I know this is the last of our moments together, nobody knows when the end comes- I do not want to miss whatever scope life still gives us- the borrowed moments- to love each other and remind ourselves how much we will love one another, even when we would not be able to touch each other. Until then, let me run my fingers on her back, her head, her face…my weak little old yet baby girl- who had once come into my life as a 45 day old puppy. My darlin Raga. The beauty is that while I write this, my baby is still sleeping behind me peacefully.

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The countdown begins >>>

This is the countdown we are all moving towards- some fear it, some dread it, some accept it resignedly, some with equanimity and some with peace. I do not yet know where I stand on this spectrum. Perhaps just somewhere from where all these options seems recognizable. This is the countdown towards reaching the culmination of our earthly journey.

In many a  post, such as this, or this , or that,  in these past few months I have been writing about my dogs, in particular Raga. This post is just a round-up of today and unlike many other days when I write blogposts in the evening or late evening, this is rank afternoon. My computer clock is showing 2:03pm. This is not the time for blogs entries!

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As I write this post Raga is sitting right behind me, and the backyard is behind her

But this is. For today is the day that the final end is staring loud and clear- not that it was not earlier. But I do not want to mourn her passage- i want to write a note to myself for the morrow when she would really not be there, and I would be crying around. To tell myself of the future, how much I loved my baby…i need to write this down, while she is still breathing right behind me.

Last week, I had to take her to a vet in Noida- as she could not pass urine. It got me very worked up, because all these months she is not able to get up on her own as it is and every act of her bowel and bladder involves my role in cleaning up after her or washing her sheets etc. So in two days when I saw no wetness anywhere I just knew it was something serious. She was made to pee through a catheter. She had accumulated 2 and a quarter liters inside her. For a bladder capacity of 150ml that female german shepherds have an accumulation of 2.3 liters is too much. I shudder to think of the toxicity. The doctor was quite expensive and forcibly saddled me with a dog food packet having formulation for urinary issues. I came home lighter with an empty bladder of the girl and my own pocket of Rs.3000/- That is a lot of money for me.

Two days later I had no success and the same point came- she needed another catheterization. I was frantic. Taking her to Noida with my own spine not yet healed and paying an expensive veterinary doctor, notwithstanding how good he may be, is never an easy option. I called up the local chap (who is good enough only for small issues I figured, for he never seems to rise up to the occasion) and he said he was down with fever and at a clinic himself!! His assistant said he would come, only to tell me two hours later that he cannot manage a catheter with a female dog! My two hours had gone, and anxiety was building rapidly. Raga had not peed again in more than 48 hours.

I called another local vet, who is right here in our sector- he turned out to be an a***hole. Refused to deal with the issue, because another vet had already started the treatment! I never thought vets could be lacking in ethics, but having that encounter was an eye-opener for sure.

A blind fluke of a chance and I landed up in sector 19 market, at the reference of a local chemist- who I buy my canine medicines from occasionally. I met this vet for the first time only on Saturday-29th July 2017. He managed the insert the catheter with great difficulty and told me to unfasten her tail…let the wound dry. I did that yesterday. Even in his clinic there was a bladder output of over two liters! Today is the third day…for after coming back day before yesterday, there was no bladder movement again, while the bowel movement continues as normal.

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In the veterinary operation theater today morning

All this while I did not have a diagnosis for Raga. This vet wrote down- quadriplegic and paralyzed. My heart just shuddered to read it- my baby was so severely crippled that I did not even see it so. But of course I faced its outcome everyday…

Her kidneys are filtering yet the nerves that have to send a signal to the brain. The vet used the term degenerative myelopathy. There is nothing to be done, but support the animal till the last stages- however long one can handle that. My baby is so quiet…ever so gentle, still ready to bark at others especially the outside dogs who come into our compound to eat every morning, and on mornings when I have carried her up to the front lawn she can amuse herself by looking at them – eating right under her nose.

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Right in front of her

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The five outsiders eat their morning meal

Life is a great journey, which is so deeply enriched by the presence of animals , so much so that I cannot imagine what it could have been without them.

So today when I took her for another round of catheterization, the vet saw her tail and told me it had gangrene. Already in the morning i had a teary breakdown while talking to Andre, about Raga and to hear the gangrene word…i was jolted. I immediately requested him for surgery. Could it be possible without general anasthesia, the one thing I am so afraid of for Raga, for I fear she will not revive after it. He calmly told me to let him get over with the bladder issue.

While managing that he told me, that her tail can be numbed in two or three different spots and that way the amputation can be handled. the time for the surgery is 8pm. I will teach my students of music and then leave home around 7:30. It is a sigh of relief- though i know it is a sign of the end. My baby is getting ready to go and this, all this, whatever I am doing right now is basically my own preparation- to accept that she must; or else I end up prolonging her misery.

So finally it is all about coming to terms with our losses…our un-fill-able losses. Our animals are parts of our souls, as much as we are their’s. And this is the time for me to get ready to accept that my baby, my littlest one, who came to me as a 45 days old puppy, the daughter of Pepper and Ranger (and I saw them both) will soon be gone. This is my time to love her the most, to hug her what I can- to clean her body with the nice spray I bought for her, because she has not had a bath since April for I find her so weak. She does not smell in the least…and still I want to comb her, wash her nails and toes. My Raga- you were my music and the music must live.

I have tears streaming down as I write these last lines, yet I look back at our lives together- our interwoven tapestry is a beautiful one, and Raga has been through so much of it- thank you life for giving me such beautiful dogs and letting me love them and live for them, till as long as we had to share the road. Perhaps the next post will be my farewell post to her.

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The arrow of the ‘Bani’

The late nineties were a period of intense suffering for me. There was the suffering of the bipolar, which had made me a social outcast, and there was the suffering rather search for myself, via my musical self; which had to appear much later in life, at a philosophical and experiential level. One of the sources of this suffering was an uncertainty about the musical ‘knowledge’ (if I may use this word about it) I had. It felt, and was inadequate, half-baked, shallow, hazy and botched up, to say the least. The need for a guru, to lead me out of this darkness, was acute- rather desperate.

It was not the internet age. One did not know how to find a guru, the world was not so seamlessly connected and neither was one exposed to a lot of musicians in an average Indian, Punjabi household more so.

1998, saw me at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya (GMV) in Delhi- taking the bus, walking the long sunny path, hiding behind the shadows of the UGC building at ITO, taking the footpath from the bus-stop till the school, climbing the stairs to enter the classroom, of hopeful ladies wanting to learn classical music from a reluctant-to-teach guruji (who in fact was more keen to get private students from the public ‘pool’).

Six months in the 7th year (Master’s) class there and I was done with it! The search began all over again- this time it brought me to two teachers together- two men, with different worldviews, but both saying the same thing- they would not charge me for teaching anything, once they were certain I was the right ‘disciple’! Both had different roots and different methods. With one I lasted but a few months, and found him to be one of the most rotten encounters of my life. The other was A guru who molded my mind, and raised my musical consciousness- the first among the wise teachers who would teach me.

Dasgupta-ji was unlike any music teacher one would ever meet. You entered into his small living room, where there was a high diwaan and two chairs on the side, and an adjacent kitchen. My parents had accidentally met him in the house of a common friend, and had offered to drop him home, as they were all coming back in the same direction. Upon discovering that he was a music teacher, they got curious as they had a musically curious and eligible student in the form of their own daughter (me) as a point of reference. On the way back home, the music teacher shared all about his musical pedigree and the parents were sufficiently convinced that this was someone who their daughter should be sent to.

At the same time, the daughter-me, had encountered the other musician- Hari Charan Verma, who was very gifted as an artist, introduced by the tabla- accompanist of the GMV 7th year class. I was taken in by his singing and knew that I had found my guru. It was a tussle for awhile…but I paid heed to my parents in a few months and decided to meet Dasgupta-ji.

The Guru with a Quirk

Imagine meeting a music teacher who has the following conditions-

  1. I will not take any money for teaching you;
  2. You have to learn with me three days a week!
  3. It will be the way I want it- and possibly over two hours at a time!

Perhaps the average music student would be thrilled with such a prospect. So was I! what better than a guru so generous…until one really got down to it.

So the training began- two and a half hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the week. The first half hour was devoted to singing the pancham- by the clock too. Guruji would put his wrist watch on the harmonium in front and we would both get down to singing the ‘Pa’. The next hour hour was devoted to ga-ma-pa-dha; also by the clock. I do not remember what would happen after the first hour…but I do recall that I would be looking forward to the Marie biscuits and tea that aunty would bring forward, somewhere along the course of this. That was the sole bright spot of the whole singing- the Green Label Tea with its light aroma, and always the same taste- which I love till date.

But what a thing. Hours of singing and no musical ragas, no compositions, no fast paced actions, nothing- all at a century old pace, a leisurely dip in one note at a time for a youth (I was 25) who was so restless (thanks to psychotropic drugs), anecdotes from the lives of his gurus- Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan and Ustad Ishtiaq Hussain Khan, comments on the popular musicians of the day- which I hardly bothered about, and musical ideas that his gurus had handed down to him. I would be angry at times at the rebuff- he would stop me from singing so many times, and insist I slow down, I sing more precisely, more accurately. I was 15 years of a trained student, not a novice, and this was nothing but an insult for me. But I kept taking it- because he was never mean about it. He would explain to me, the significance of the ‘shuddh bani’. For the first time I heard it from him and understood the meaning of bani- and then I understood there were other ‘banis’ also going around- Dagar bani, Khandhar bani and one more (whose name I forget).

He would repeatedly tell me, ” Just learn the shuddh bani from me, and then sing whatever you want to sing. Sing classical, bhajan, ghazal or anything- but sing it in shuddh bani. Your voice will never become hoarse- you will sing the same into your old age, you will never go off-key.” Half the time, as i stood on the bus-stop later to take the never-to-appear bus home, I would tell myself I am not going to come back here again. But two days later I would still come back.

My stint with him did not last long- only for about a year or a little over. But it was enough to drop the seed in my head- the seed of the shuddh bani and then began my search, which would take me to many a guru and style, until I would come within and integrate them all.

When I would press him to know which musicians sang the Shuddh bani that he advocated so much, he would only name Mehdi Hassan and possibly Lata Mangeshkar. Among the classical musicians he was not willing to name any! It is not proper to name all the musicians he could find faults with- for this is a public medium and in India we hold musicians so ‘sacred’. But the fact of the matter is that, forget about Raga interpretation, even on the count of ‘swara’ musicians could find faults with one another. I have a lot of memories in my head about the family of Ustad Mushtaq Hussain that guruji shared with me- in particular how Khan sa’ab was so dismissive about most of his family and extended relatives. The only person guruji told me, who had any merit among Khan Sa’ab’s sons after Ustad Ishtiaq Hussain was Ghulam Taqi- but I think he also died early.

There were two people who I went to meet with guruji, on two separate occasions. One was Smt. Sumati Mutatkar- who was then into her eighties and the other was Ghulam Hussain, possibly a son of Khan sa’ab, or his son in law (I forget). The former lived in the Asiad Village and the latter in Zakir Nagar, Okhla. She had retired as the Dean of the Music Faculty, of the Delhi University, while he was a radio artist if I can recall correctly. And later guruji would have told me how Khan saheb had refused to teach either of them! But that is life.

When a tree becomes big, many can see it and reach out to it, to touch it and take cover under its umbrella and claim it to be a relationship, just because they have been close to the tree- regardless of whether the tree acknowledges that or not. In India, the musical learning tradition has no clear-cut pathways and anyone can claim to be anyone’s disciple (the way a certain big musician claims to be the disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, without even meeting him!). Delhi was full of musicians once upon a time who wanted to learn with Ustad Mushtaq Hussain, and Khan sa’ab would shoo everyone away or just while their time away, because he could see an ardent disciple from the ones who just came after his name.

He had after all seen Dasgupta-ji’s passion for a long time and tested him out, before taking me on as a student, but not before he himself had turned 93!

Mummy also stepped in

My mother has a strange relationship with some of my ‘people’- friends, teachers and gurus. With Dasgupta-ji also this happened- may be because mummy and papa had first met him, and not me. But mom got both guruji and his wife, a senior citizen’s pension, because she knew the local counselor of Kalkaji, who gave them the status of senior citizens. Guruji’s wife was very happy as for the first time in her life, she got money in her own name.

I learnt with guruji not more than a year, I think- but he got the pension from the government till the end of his life. I may not have paid him directly, but my mother ensured them some money for the rest of their lives. I feel proud of my mother for this, as also gratitude that she would do such things for people who had little connection with her in a direct way.

Today I remember Guruji, with gratitude that he raised my musical consciousness to that level where I could understand the different aspects of rendition and what makes a music touching as opposed to a musical wrestling, jostling or ‘smartness’. A deeper musician does not need to be smart at all, you just need to be simple and your music will speak to the heart of another directly- you don’t have to worry about impressions at all!

Last week brought a surprise…

A few days ago, a former student of Dasgupta-ji connected with me, thanks to the intricate web of the internet from somewhere in the US, and we got ‘talking’ (on email) about so many things- largely about our guru in common. But the uncanny thing was, that he said that he wanted to make a donation in the memory of our common guru, to Hansadhwani Foundation as a support for the work we are doing.

I am just thinking> money has a strange way of going around and coming around! This universe is so full of mystery, that it baffles me what all can happen. I am touched and humbled at the same time. The mysteries continue to unravel. Is this a blessing from guruji, by any chance? Is this an acknowledgement from the universe that I am on the right path- where without even me asking anyone someone is stepping forward to offer support? Is this a mystery or is it logical?

With Raga, mid ragas and the inevitability of change

It’s difficult to accept, no matter what evidence life brings in front, that you will soon lose a beloved companion. With Raga the evidence is mounting every single day- her earlier mobility with the two front legs has become even less so. Perhaps it is even a notch worse. Now she is unable to turn sides pretty much and I check to see if she is sitting on one side for too long- then I help her switch sides.

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But I wonder if all the others have not got a little ignored because of her needs taking center on a day to day basis. Of course she is not the first one to get fed, because Dash always accompanies me to the kitchen and Nikki is sitting at the base of the kitchen stairs, watching me from below and wagging her tail joyfully at the prospect of what could be coming next. But yesterday, Nikki also gave me a jolt. she refused to budge. I saw her lying for long hours on one side, and then not moving at all- not even to ease her bowels and bladdar. I coaxed her, forced her and finally slid Raga’s loop around her body to help her move. Now Nikki is very heave as compared to Raga- it is not easy to move her using the same method I have been using with Raga for the last several months.

In the picture above Raga takes her favourite position close to me as I hold my tanpura for my practice and she listens, watches over and in general keeps all others at an arm’s length. But of course this picture was taken a few weeks back. I am not holding the tanpura with any regularity these days. She is more feeble, and several times a day I have to clean up when she pees inside the house or wherever – it is no longer predictable. I never thought I would ever come to such a point- because when you have seen dogs all your life, and never really faced disabling situations, you are just not ready for what can happen. However, I feel grateful that I can manage her despite my own spinal pains, and more so, that we returned back to our home in Faridabad, from Goa. I shudder to think what could have happened had we remained in Goa!

The time between the last and this blog post has seen the birth of my little venture of teaching classical music to children. After years of deliberating upon who should be the one one addresses in imparting musical knowledge, I come to the point of teaching children, because it is in them only that we can actually drop the seeds of knowledge with a long term perspective. By the time they are older it is career goals and other aspirations that take over. The venture, a sub domain of the non profit Hansadhwani Foundation, is called SwarGanga- music workshop.

Does workshop sound tentative?

Workshop seems to suggest a short span of engagement ordinarily. To me in fact the word represents movement, motion and churning. A music school becomes a dead place where the same sort of music is taught year after year to batches of students, in a fixed format. That is why I titled this venture workshop, because the process of churning represents motion, and I am personally constantly researching, innovating, creating and composing new musical ideas in response to the needs of learners I am with.

Of course large parts of my work are a direct dialogue with those I work with and a response to what they can imbibe. The work becomes challenging to say the least and that is where the fun lies- to be seriously creative.

We started in the first week of April. So technically, we are a month old into SwarGanga. In the months ahead I will have to make a website of it and get things up, for I realized that there are a lot of music schools going around in this neighbourhood. The only way to distinguish ourselves from this would be to put it on a website what we are all about and how we specialize in the areas we work in, which are quite a few- mostly in music psychology of course.

Cockatiels

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April is my birth month. I turned 45 this once. A lot of water under every conceivable bridge. So the new element that entered into my life this summer are the birds. It was a great moral and ethical dilemma whether to keep birds in captivity. I thought for many years and felt it was improper to keep them thus.

Of course my garden has many visiting birds the whole year through and it is a great feeling to keep hearing bird songs, and see them eating away the grains I scatter for them. But as I silently moped over Raga’s onward journey, I saw a new flash of light right here. She became very interested in the birds. Of all the dogs in the house she is the only one, who has any interest in them. To the extent that when I IMG_20170423_070457072bring up the birds’ trolley anywhere close or towards the back lawn she would get up from her supine posture and chase them on the trolley, by inching forward step by step.

I wonder if she objects to the birds around. I cannot say for sure, but she is certainly animated and I am glad that at least some dog has shown some response to the new creatures in our life. The other dogs could not care less. They go about unperturbed.

The birds are also relatively indifferent to Raga’s proximity and while she tries snapping at them behind the wire mesh of the cage, they don’t even bother to move away. This is the only time when she sits up. The back lawn is quite barren unlike the winter when the flowers were abundant. But thanks to the birds, Raga sits in the back area peacefully instead of trailing after me helplessly.

There is the inevitable prospect of change staring at me with all dogs showing some of the other infirmity. I try finding comfort in the thought that they have had a good life with me and I am doing the most I can, while we still have time. New life is springing around me- in new birds, new students coming, new people seeking counseling help, newer connections on intellectual and artistic journeys. If there is a deep sadness it is taken care of by the routine of managing so many sides of life- which do not allow much time to brood anyways.

I am reading some excellent books along the way, in mental health related issues. The areas of MH are extremely vexing and sad. I have also started a new blog to document my reading, writing and work related to mental health, with particular focus on recovery from all types of mental illness. This is my commitment to people to help them recover from their shattered selves and create beautiful, peaceful, serene lives for themselves and their families. I hope someday to offer my counseling for free- but for now I do not have the means to support that work in this manner.

I am only just beginning, and like mother says, just subtract the twenty years of ‘illness’ from your life and think yourself to be 20 years younger. Yes I love the spirit, wish I could. with all the pains in my body, it does not let me forget how old I am- but I do feel this is just the beginning this way or that way.

The long and short of it is that…

  • SwarGanga is born as the school of music
  • Raga is happy about the new birds in her vicinity
  • I am happy doing what I am in many domains
  • Life goes on and … Andre keeps coming, as do the rest of family
  • Nikki is looking fine now
  • Another blog (!!!) is born, exclusively reserved for my research in mental illness, recovery, my counseling on lay forums like quora, research articles and books I read and of course other media such as YouTube videos which I want to share and so forth.

No wheels for my girl

In these past few months Raga has progressively deteriorated. So now, this is her most common posture. But that does not mean this is the only posture she adopts in the course of the day- there are at least a few others.dsc00257-1

But while the common posture is what she maintains for the better part of the day, she also moves around. When she has to she pulls up her front legs and using them as her support propels her body forward. And she manages that for the entire house- she can pretty much go all around that way.

Only on the stairs and when I take her outside the home, I lift her hind legs with the loop, supporting her hind legs and give her the speed. Then she really gets the fillip to run around unfettered. She actually runs…with me trailing behind balancing! Many a time when I look at her I wonder at the miracle that we are back home to Faridabad and not still living in South Goa. What if I had to still be in that house there , where we all slept on the first floor. What would have happened to my girl there? How could she have climbed up and down?

Yesterday I took this picture of her- she seems calm and relaxed in the garden outside our living room. It is the same location as the picture above, except that what is now in the shade in this picture, is where she sat in the earlier photo above.

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Taken 25th Feb 2017. Now if you look closely on the top left you see Nikki, the labrador lying peacefully.

It feels like a blessing to be here this winter- all my dogs can bask in the sun, and I do not have to worry about the cold all the time, even though they are all senior canines now. The house is FULL of flowers and they all have a lot of things to engage their minds with, including running after the birds & squirrels that come to feed on the bajra seeds that I spread on the grass for them. The home is full of flowers all around- it is spring after all. All our labours of the months bygone have produced colours everywhere. The back lawn has at least seven different varieties growing, the first time so many in this part of the house.

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Back lawn, having six varieties of flowers and lettuce, coriander and spinach growing. Flowers here are petunias, verbena, marigold, salvia, dogflowers, suneneria and the ones on the creeper whose name is always a mystery. Of course the grass here is a mess, due to reduced sunlight.

Petunias are also growing very profusely now in the front lawn- at least five or six varieties of it.

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Pic around 20th Feb 2017

I have never paid too much heed to the petunia plant. But in this picture here, where one can see Raga propping herself up and Ginger being medicated by Andre, while Dash is sitting further up, on the floor…the blossoms are very colourful. It feels great to wake up every day and see the colours around.

The first thing I inadvertently see is the back lawn, as it is right outside my bedroom door. And I have to take Raga over there to ease her bladdar first thing in the morning, which I always do, so that she is ready to eat something after that. This below is the posture she adopts to move forward. Earlier I was worrying if I were not doing the wrong thing in not buying a doggy cart to help her move. But having a protracted dialogue with the vet convinced me we were doing the right thing. He had told me that doggy cart is best for those dogs who are paralysed. Raga is not- she has a degeneration in her hind limbs, as a result of which her legs have gone limp. She trail behind her limply as she moves forward with her front legs.

A couple of days ago I saw the dog in our neighbourhood who has practically lived on wheels for a long time. He was sitting under a tree. I realized, due to his dependence on the wheels, he simply does not move without them. At least Raga will not become dependent on an external aid for her mobility and she will keep propelling herself till the end, because she has already accepted this posture. Plus the vet also told me that the carts can have painful

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Picture from 12th Feb 2017 when we took Raga to Noida to the vet James Rappai. In this picture we were at Monica’s home in Sector 29, and Raga was moving around in their garden

side effects, like sores on the animal. As it is this girl has a mammarian tumour- I cannot think of anything pressing her sides and causing her any further discomfort. She is eating well, growling at anyone (of the dogs) if they think of coming too close to the food- the way Dash does when he senses she is showing no interest. She is also still interested in chasing the outside dogs, Chhotu, Black and Lily, and also the former’s father. So notwithstanding a change in style of movement Raga is still moving, eating, having regular bowel and bladder movements and life is on an even, though declining keel.

I of course chose to engage in disability studies as part of my life and work, but little did I know that I would have to experience disabilities in my dogs too. First it was Dash who had been waist down immobilized (though it was a lesser issue than this one’s) and now it is Raga’s turn. Ginger is getting better with her skin issues and Nikki also is asking for a little care due to her weight issues. I am toying with putting her up on Glucosamine already.

This post had to be about all our disabilities- canine and human and how I learnt the art of patience, and calm acceptance from my little baby- Raga. Little baby , yet big girl now- gentle, intelligent and full of play still, at ten years and a month above. I am feeling the better for it now- my dogs, my home, the abundance of flowers and butterflies, the phd research (which was chocking me till a few days ago) and my other writing- all seem to make sense together. I am not despondent about Raga’s condition any more for I know this is the most I can do for her and I can see her ease and inclusion in everything. She knows she is not alone in her suffering…or so I hope and believe.

Pains, plans, and gains

I never thought chikungunya was something to worry about till I got it. And today after more than a month of contracting it, I went online to check what it is all about. What I read and figured was not comforting in the least. So that leaves me with the lurking suspicion that this nuisance is here to stay. My joints are in utter pain and I am quite low on energy. By joints I meant ALL joints in my arms and legs, including the multiple joints on my fingers and the wrists and shoulders and you name it! I cannot lift my arm if I try- so I have to hold my right hand with my left one to lift the arm! Wow- never thought life could come to that. Naturally enough I cannot drive- so I have hired a driver. But wasting money on driving seems like a luxury.

HansFon Logo

So while I was (NO, am) dealing with the pains without respite (and crying out in the night due to an excess of it) and all my writing/research is completely stalled, I thought let me be a bit useful and go offer my counseling services- let health catch up. Of course one of the reasons for return from Goa was to get the non profit (Hansadhwani) off its feet, now that we are both around for long enough. So the first thing which I have been building on is the counseling or mental health arm of it.

To concretise the work further I decided to work with juveniles in observation homes and women who have faced violent crimes or in general are experiencing some domestic issues that they need resolution for. I went and met the two people who head these two different organizations- one was the superintendent of the home for the boys and the other was a police inspector at the women’s police station, in Faridabad. Among women I hope to focus on trauma, in particular rape victims and among boys there would be all sorts of issues. On the first day of meeting the two people, they pushed me to counsel two sets of people each in their respective facilities- one in the boys’ home and the police station. How much work is needed in society- if only we step out of our little cocoons we will know. For every little thing one can offer, there are so many takers. So last week I ended up talking to four different sets of people, and what a glimpse of life it was- from murder charges, to elopement, marital conflict and petty crimes.

The best way to take one’s mind off one’s own suffering is to look at the struggles of others. It offers us courage to bear our own. Of course bodily pain is a different thing than a crime- whether you are a victim or perpetrator. But the common factor lies in the suffering that is an outcome in every case. So I hope that by listening to the stories of others I would also broaden my horizons further and who knows what outcomes emerge with the dialogues that I facilitate- am certain there would be a social value addition, even if no reduction of personal anguish. But then the personal will always kill us, while the social will give us meaning. That is my hope always.

Shivmat Bhairav

From the start this has been a difficult year in terms of health. First it was the ‘breakdown’, then came the Phd admission, then the spinal problems and now the chikungunya. Wow! talking of living in a ‘poor’ country, one cannot but worry about how the average person lives here. Everyone seems to be sick in the city of Delhi/Faridabad. The government is giving out its own statistics, but the reality of life seems so different. In every family I am fiDSC00940nding people having fever, and body aches. I myself was suffering from immense body ache at present, and it seems as though the body has been hollowed out- without life in it.

Notwithstanding that I have been chipping away at my writing- the book on music, that is, and today I also plucked the courage to  start singing once again with my guru- Madhuriji. It must have been in March or April I did some learning with her. And after that long a gap- now. It always takes awhile to pick up a new raga with aunty, because she dislikes certain and then does not think all ragas need to be sung elaborately. I wanted to pick up either Anand Bhairava or Jogiya. But she said Anand Bhairava was only sung by Jitendra Abhisheki and nobody else! and Jogiya is a a raga for thumri, nothing else! So that made my choices somewhat limited. In any case eliminating made choosing easier as well. So between a number of ragas, since I wanted to learn something new, we settled for Shivmat Bhairav.  It belongs to the Bhairav family, having both gandhar , both nishad notes. It resembles Jogkauns somewhat. (That reminds me that I have to go over Jogkauns all over again as my illness seems to have obliterated the memory of that raga in my mind for now).

The world of Hindustani ragas is so vast and colourful it seems endless- there is so much to learn, to teach, to share, to write about, to create and whatnot. And here I am grappling with chikungunya- sleeping with body ache and lifelessly so- in my bed. The book is going around in my mind at most times. Yesterday I was writing about the folk songs of women of Garhwal and thinking about the role of folk music in the life of people. It is so deeply entrenched, yet so overshadowed by the popular reign of film music and other forms of music from the cities. There is a reason to be worried. I am writing this down in the book, because if a country does not preserve its folk art and music, it is sure to be lose its voice and identity.

What is diversity if not difference from the dominant prevalent culture which is handed down by civilizational leaders? Currently the leadership comes from the West to the rest. That leadership permeates every field- including artistic and musical traditions. Foolishly enough people in third world countries think they can and ought to follow the trail of the (Western) leaders because they are markers of civilization, advancement and development. In that self doubt and self conscious assessment, they marginalize their indigenous knowledge and traditions. It is happening all over the world and India is no exception. Even Indian music is not immune to such self conscious assessment. In part one has to hold the planning around art and culture responsible for this lack of self confidence and need to be accepted by the Westerner before we can accept ourselves.

And though I am delving into the deeper end of the current, in search of newer ragas and compositions, my heart is in pain to think of how the average person is so far removed from the immensity of experience that our music brings. In talking to many people for the writing, many points of view emerged- especially on the issue of whether our classical music is our real music or should it be some folk form of music. Ramakant-ji told me that this is a classical tussle in all traditional forms of knowledge, particularly in language and mathematics. So I do not have to dig the well again, but understand the work done by linguistics and mathematicians in the realm of finding a compromise between folk and classical traditions, rather than depriving the average child in the country of both!

The book is half way done. I mean I have written just over 20k words and I need to write equally as many. It is not the easiest of books to write, though when I had sent the proposal it did not look so confounding. It is a great learning and covers a big range of topics, yet the learning has come from most unexpected quarters for me- the fact that writing a book proposal is so different from executing it! Sometimes it is so easy to nail down a broad outline, but try filling up the outline and you know what a tough challenge it can be. I have only learnt this now. Of course writing the first book was a different sort of challenge- something that I am about to embark on once again! Of course, nobody needs to do that if you find a publisher at the outset. But since I want to change the entire book, it is asking me for that sort of effort.

The PhD does not budge

If anyone asks me how my phd research is going, I feel annoyed, because honestly speaking what are they thinking? Do they think it can get over in a day? The truth is that apart from reading and outlining a few preliminary articles, I have not really embarked upon the road in any earnest manner. Shifting home 2000 kilometers, setting up a new home, falling sick and all sorts of adjustment issues that I have had to deal with these past few months do not make research the easiest things to start. SO I am staggering under the various burdens- but slowly gravitating towards an equilibrium- one part of which includes counseling with my clients.

So life goes on thus…(will write later as someone is at the door)