An auspicious time

This is my birth- month. Gone are the days when I would see one day in April as significant, for the whole month is so meaningful now. This month is a special month, after a long time. Many new things, a few new beginnings, some pending things getting cleared and new horizons.

First of all, I turned another year older yesterday- that could have been last of all, but like the ‘baby’ that I am – I still like to think of the birthday as a special day. No longer in the public dIMG_20180420_160637868omain- only with family- so it was eating, playing with dogs, watering around the garden and then back to the books- naturally.

So, this beautiful and very light, fruit cake reads- Happy 40-something birthday Preeti. Good line to go with all the birthdays in the forties – all thanks to a PhD for a sister ūüôā

 

Academic

Yesterday an article I had written long ago, and which was going as a book chapter in an edited book came to me, from the publisher this time (Springer) for the final nod- it was a relief. For years there was complete silence about this chapter. If I can recall now, I wrote it at least five years ago!

And of course I am struggling with a journal article – that has been on from August- back to me after peer review, and i have to return it now, in the following week. But fortunately for me, the struggle has been a very meaningful one and in writing down this article I have been able to clarify my own research methodology very thoroughly. So that will help me write the methods chapter, hopefully in a better way now.

My Phd work is languishing for now, but in reading/researching for the article above, I have read a lot of stuff and I feel I can see at least some light in the darkness now! But I think I will fall short of my promise to my supervisor- about sending some of the stuff that I had planned for May 2018! What a pain/pity.

On another front, I will be talking in the Open Dialogue Symposium in Greece about the challenges I face working in Counseling in India, which is a traditional and ‘closed’ society. I am keen to learn and hear what scores of others from different parts of the world are working on and creating useful outcomes for their societies. Let’s see when that happens in due course. For now I have to write the paper down and also read Plato’s Symposium- after all one is going to the birthplace of the Philosopher.

Musically

But the most important thing happened today- the thing that I have been waiting for months (or shall I say years and years) for. I started training with a guru, that I have been in search of for lonnggggg. I found him, first in the world, then on the phone, contacted him and earnestly requested him to teach me- rather give me ‘marga-darshan’ for I have learnt music for almost 36 years now, I teach my own students, I read/write/research and perform myself. But the desire to learn more and with a final degree of finesse never left me and made me consider knocking at many doors. On most doors when the head peeped out upon my knock, the person who opened did not coincide as the person I wanted to learn with- either their singing was too mechanical, or as people they were prejudiced or their terms and conditions were not friendly. So I just backed off and waited my time. And all these people are among the top musicians of this country, all Padma-shree-s (a civilian honor given by the president of India) awardees

After more than a decade of searching, I found the person I started with today. I am not writing his name down at present, because I feel this is not the time for that and besides, I am not sure if anyone who sees this blog cares who I learn with! Of course he is also a top musician, and someone who is senior to me in age by almost two decades. And this is the reason for my current deep elation, without excitement- to understand the extreme subtleties of music- which only master musicians can teach. He told me clearly that he does not teach anyone and whenever he comes to Delhi, he would be teaching me- which is not a frequent occurrence at all. After today, the earliest he would be come may be around August!

However, musically things are progressing. I have four new students this month and the tribe has grown- which is interesting- a challenge to teach older people, all into their fifties and older.

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I must not forget that I had the among the first of my (paid) classical music concerts in March- end recently and the singing was well appreciated. This was at a difficult time- afternoon at 4 pm. The venue was Delhi University and it was a conference in Indian Psychology- so an international affair. I chose to sing two ragas with the same structure, unfortunately because most ragas sung at this time of the day have that structure only- N S G M P N S, S N D P M G R S. I sang Bhimpalasi first and then Madhuvanti! What a pain, having the same structure but different notes.

Even though the ideas are abundant and the mind is so highly wired in so many directions, there is no time at present to write another blog post, and it is a great pity, because I know that someday I would like to look back at life and read through some of my writing- I want to not see blank pages, but pages full of work done, people supported, family loved, dogs tended to and played with…and more and more. Of course gardens nurtured and friends laughed with.

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Oh, and the legs in the picture are Andre’s!

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Feedback that gladdens your core

Of course every feedback is valuable to an artist, but some is more so. The ‘more So’ happens when it comes from seniors who are significant in their own right. Yesterday, by chance, upon listening to one of my ghazals (while sharing it with another dear friend who is equally fond of my music) I thought of sending a ghazal to a senior musicologist, who I got to know last year in the course of writing my (in progress) book. This senior musicologist is Sh.Deepak Raja, who also writes very insightful books (now four) and blogs.

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Deepak Raja, with his guru, Pt. Arvind Parikh- and the former’s fourth book, whose promotional lecture is on 14th July 2017

Books have strange and mysterious lives- they can grow and wane at a whimsical pace. That music book of mine has taken a backseat for now and in the course of it my contract with the publisher (a very prominent one in India) came to an automatic termination, as my health (spine) would not permit me any time on the computer. Nevertheless I have put in a lot of thought, labour and effort in it to whatever extent I have managed it so far, and for now I have laid it to rest and got busy in setting up the school of music and other related pedagological issues. Naturally enough at this juncture other things have taken precedence- possibly my Phd research most of it (it better), and my musical research not far behind (all in the compositional domain though).  Dogs have also contributed to this shift in some significant manner.

So coming back to the issue of the feedback, I sent a ghazal of mine to Deepak-ji, as I had had a WhatsApp interaction with him earlier in the day, for he invited me to a lecture of his to happen in the near future (14th July 2017) in Delhi. The day seems fine to me, being a Friday and I have no teaching classes that day. He will be talking about his book, Raga-ness of Ragas. I may or may not be able to go, but I think I would seriously give it a try. This was the first time I shared my music with him, despite communicating with him on scores of occasions- on email and phone, never in person as yet.

Earlier this morning, I received this email back from him-

Deepak Raja <deepak.raja@ >
to: Prateeksha Sharma < .com>
date: 25 June 2017 at 09:19
Dear Prateeksha,
You are an excellent singer. I am glad you sent me this link. Not an intrusion at all. I will now also hear other recordings. 
Thank you again. 
Warmest regards. Deepak 
Coming from such a heavy weight, it sure is a great honor, and I feel the need to write a post on my blog for I am so touched by his words.

As also that of my friend, who I just call here Ali- a professor of Linguistics in an American University, and a Pakistani by birth, and a  philosophical, deep and insightful individual . Upon hearing the same ghazal, he said this to me-

Thanks for singing the Urdu Ghazal, the way it should. The accompanist: baja, violen and Tabla jelled with the beautiful rendition filled with powerful musical expressions
The best is that singer kept the swaras and lyrics in a beautiful combination
(I have copied his words from my facebook chat with him)
Every appreciation is valuable, as I said earlier- but some are more so. These are two such.

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)