Living the ‘wait’

My name translates to ‘waiting’ – a verb to the average Hindi-knowing person, because prateeksha means that. To someone more poetic it may mean something else, like hope or ‘looking forward to something’, but the common person is largely prosaic, not poetic. Waiting can be painful unless made otherwise by meaningful investment in one’s time and abilities.

And yet we are all obliged to wait because such is the nature of life, such is how everything unfolds – in its own time, its unique gestation, its inner rhythm which nobody knows for sure about. At every point in time we are caught in a multitude of waiting-s. One cannot even rate them properly, each is uniquely agonizing in its peculiar way. An embryo grows in waiting, an exam result is awaited, a loved one coming from afar is waited for, any activity which is underway is awaiting completion. But then there was can massive seasons of waiting, when so much goes on in every domain of life and so much is awaited. Currently I am going through that mega-waiting.

Laying the thesis to bed

The PhD thesis was submitted on 6th July 2020, and from what I know, it was sent onward to examiners a week thence. Soon it would be two months and agony of the waiting is quite palpable. The next big thing to unfold was a room for me upstairs, as part of a more ‘ambitious’ plan to have a terrace garden. Both these things had one thing in common- a desire to chase the sun in winter. So that activity also rolled out from the 11th July 2020, and is going to be two months soon! Right now there are nearly ten people working upstairs- masons, labourers, carpenter, welders, and others coming in and out. The house is noisy, dusty in parts and doing anything with hammers blowing on top of your head is not exactly easy- neither writing, nor singing.

The pandemic has had another set of setbacks on various counts. The relief I was hoping to experience, post submission is simply not there. It is just one thing after another. Doing a PhD at 48 is not the easiest thing for anyone, especially when there has been nearly NO support, guidance or supervision from most quarters except for a few people to occasionally talk to. Only towards the end my supervisor appeared on a distant horizon but still quite aloof and watching from afar, not really participating. But yes, one colleague or peer, if I may use that word, appeared whose communication was a source of much support in the last two months, especially after I made my pre-PhD presentation on 13th April.

The presentation –

Just as an aside, the (pre-PhD) presentation went extremely well- something I had not prepared much for, because what can one ‘prepare’ more than what one has done in the PhD- it was quite spontaneous and done at ease. My PhD work is something I am finally proud of, it takes me long to appreciate myself mostly. That day was the first time when I really heard the echoes to my work from the academic community and felt a sense of accomplishment and relief, that I was being heard and understood.

The Vice Chancellor of the university congratulated me and said he had not heard such a good presentation in a very long time, (or did he say it was the best he had ever heard? I forget). I am not one who remembers praise easily! My supervisor also became extremely proud of me thereafter because she knew my work by then and was willing to stick her neck out for it. Our relationship never came out of the freezer though as I could not pick up the spirit to walk back to her and befriend her after the hurt of silence I suffered for most part of my four years of the PhD journey.

The satisfaction I gained

I have many sources of satisfaction from the work I have done- the publications only one among them, then the time I took (a few weeks short of four years) to submit the full thesis, but MOST significantly perhaps developing the ability to understand and critique law. When this year began, I was absolutely terrified of law, legal ideas, legal language and whatnot. And I had to write a full chapter about the mental health law of India from my perspective. This was by-far the most difficult writing I have done until today. It took me nearly eight-nine iterations from March 2020 till June 2020 before my supervisor sent the following comment- ” As far as I am concerned, you have earned the doctorate Prateeksha”. Coming from her it was a big thing, for she is known to be economical with her praise/appreciation.

But in general I have heard from Chandramati (the peer who appeared) and also another person about the good word going around about my work/me (?) at the university. So now I am being ‘owned’ by others, whilst all this while I fumbled and staggered alone in the labyrinth. It seems the heroine would have to go through her labours alone and when the baby is about to be born the whole world will start getting ready for the event! Chalo I suppose this is how everyone’s doctoral research is, except that everyone has different set of challenges to deal with and mine were among the toughest. I have finally dealt with at least some of the challenges and emerged, victory will soon follow ( I imagine).

Gardening is another exercise that has taught me the value of persevering and, of course, waiting! How can one not wait after having done the needful. This year I made many blunders but also reaped many a fruit (read vegetable) from my garden. the most successful ones were the tomatoes earlier and now it is the sponge gourd (tori), brinjals (whose saplings show in one picture above) and amaranth (chaulai). I am excited and nervous about the terrace that is being cleared up for the gardening activity ahead and I think it would require a lot of money as well, but let’s see. Will write a blog post soon to note about the outcomes of all these efforts…as I am now ‘in waiting’ 🙂

A decade of ‘recovery’

2010-2019 gets over in a few hours now. An eventful decade, full of recoveries, adventures, love, friends in all parts of the world, flowers, homes, family, books, research and more. Phew! woof! what a decade it has been. Not easy to capture in a blog post, so it would be foolish to attempt it. Instead I will focus on the word ‘recovery’- silly though it may seem.
But then this was a decade which began with my ‘recovery’ – a non-drug dependent recovery from bipolar, in 2010. I did not know then when it all started that I would someday be studying my own recovery, through the lens of a researcher. So this was the decade in which I was slowly morphing from a psychiatric patient, overwhelmed by her bipolar diagnosis, to a self-trained researcher. The testimonies of that started coming in the previous decade when I had peer- reviewed publications, though I had not yet turned the researcher’s lens on my personal story.  Moving out of psychiatric medication also brought about that change. And then came those early attempts at documenting the ‘recovery’ from how I understood it then- three journal publications in 2011, 2014, 2015.

2014 was another year of adventure when I moved with the four dogs I had to live in a village in Goa, and meeting with the Goan countryside was an experience I will remember for long, perhaps until the end of my life. I often think of my landlord Hyginus as the only person in Goa who was really fond of me from the bottom of my heart. Little did I know how attached he became to me and my dogs, and so emotionally dependent upon us that once I left his house after a year of being there, within two months he passed away. Not that I was in any way responsible for it, but his loneliness and sense of abandonment was so acute that it ate into his very soul and killed him. A simple man constantly misunderstood and rejected his whole life, a single child of parents who were extremely poor, who by dint of his labour and traveling on ships for a living gathered a lot of wealth, building four houses for himself and his family- all throughout rejected by his wife and sons, due to his deep dark complexion.

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My Raga stands in Hyginus’s side of the house and on the inner side of the gate was where I lived myself, while he lived on the other> The gate was put here to confine the dogs to my side of the house.

Life can be unfair. Seeing Hyginus and his heart, or how people treated him or how they perceived him, how he struggled to keep up his dignity, living in a small part of the house he had created and letting out the bigger one to one tenant after another got him an income and possibly some company, though not all tenants were like me. There had been an American lady who perhaps stayed there six years and another English couple whose length of stay I cannot recall.

There were many others I met and befriended in Goa, but there was no substitute for Hyginus. However another person who is a dear friend until now is Mina- who interestingly I met at a vegetable vendor’s, in Fatorda, Margao. So we are the best of WhatsApp friends nowadays as I have kept busy with research and writing, keeping away from all friends, for want of my ability to manage time. I remember seeing a very exquisite part of Goa once with Mina, we both drove down in my car, though I forget the name of the place now. Having a car with me in Goa was a great blessing for it gave me tremendous mobility and freedom, without of course the ability to figure out where to go! Google maps were not such a rage then, as they now are and that curtailed me somewhat. Not that I knew anyone anywhere to go visiting them anyways. The Goan adventure was just over two years, which enriched me yet brought me to a place of peril- which became a turning point for me to return back the same 2000 kms I had gone. It was a heartbreak to return and build all broken fences/bridges.

But it was also facilitated by the fact that I had gained entry into a doctoral research, by a sheer dint of fortune (how else to justify it). So at least this was the time when my acumen as a researcher got established as a certainty and I entered university with nearly eight peer-reviewed publications in tow, perhaps the highest a researcher entering into a doctoral program would be having in most parts of the world.

May be there is a time when a person needs to morph from being a producer of research articles to a producer of books :). With the completion of the PhD research I hope to complete that part of the journey of my life. This (doctoral) research has been a very interesting, yet difficult journey of research, replete with spinal issues and another attempt at recovery – of my bone health this time, recovering my lost self from the abysmal darkness of mental ‘illness’ and then diving down at the deep edge to understand recovery more fully, thoroughly and minutely. A few days back I wound up my first draft thesis and sent it to the supervisor, who has finally shown some interest in my work and has understood that I am doing something quite interesting. Otherwise all this while half the time she did not even respond to my emails. Until now we have only had a brief ten minute phone talk once in 2018 I think- which was so useless that I decided never to talk to her again until I reached the very end. Having finished the first draft of course meant that now the time had come to get back to her and share the work I had done.

Coming back to Faridabad has also meant recovering my life from all the lost years, nay decades of life, rebuilding the life of a musician by first setting up the music school (that I intend growing in the new year), and then starting out my counseling practice, from both of which I have so much experience now that it merits another scholarly endeavour of writing!

And this decade has also meant losing Raga, Nikki and Dash and welcoming Rhythm and Floe into our lives. I do not know now whether it is fair or ethical to mourn the ones who are gone, which also includes my grandmother in 2013 or celebrate the new arrivals (which means all the children of my brother and sister as well)  but in keeping with the infinite flow of life we can only bow to the passage of life, and accept the inevitability of this motion. What is here today will be gone tomorrow and the circle will go on unceasing. It is comforting yet not when you lose someone you love. I still ache in my heart about my dogs.

Making friends with wonderful people all around the world has been another enriching experience and I have begun to value the nature of these friendships which bring people together for ideas, rather than other selfish needs or fear of loneliness. And the range of people is big- from scholars, academics, to artists and therapists, students and whatnot. Students have a special pride of place in my heart- not only because of the bond of a teacher-student  but how we enrich one another on a fairly regular basis. It continues thusly.

Andre keeps busy and his & my lives are interwoven in a deep, yet distant manner- My Phd years have been tough on him and us- for I have not had the mental space to accommodate him/us, overwhelmed and forever tired as I largely have remained, for most parts. So this is where things have brought me at the end of the year or decade. Steeped in work I do, passionate about the work, in deep meaningful connections around the world, full of ideas, musical compositions and ideas, always on the move with research and doing all the latter without any financial support from other than family resources. It has been quite a venture really- but well worth it I suppose.

And with this goldmine of knowledge I move into a new decade, whose numbers also look so musical, especially because I am born on the 20th of a month. There is rhythm in this year ahead and there is Rhythm in my home…and dogs go on with their doggy lives, chasing rodents and up with their playful barking as researchers like me turn grey in their locks.

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Rhythm the dachshund

A decade of recovering my lost self, gaining myself back from the suffering of mental illness and a decade which brings me to my emancipatory road of taking this knowledge into the wider world around, with this doctoral research as I now begin to wind off. I hope this earnest labour of years spent alone racking my brains, interspersed with the doggy lives, and music classes will be well worth in the year ahead.

And I hope that anyone who drops by to read this post will also be enriched in their lives further and possibly this post will bring a sliver of hope to some that they can also overcome their suffering no matter how daunting it appears at the moment. It is still meant to be overcome for this is the destiny we are all born with. So here comes a decade of taking the knowledge of recovery wider and catalyzing more people’s recoveries via the counseling work I do.

Thank you friends for reading and for your interest. I wish you a beautiful time ahead and hope that the change of the calendar will weed out the useless and bring in the goodness. May it be so- may there be flowers in your gardens and may all your earnest hard work bring you all the blossoms you have earned.

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A full bed of chrysanthemums  in December 2019, and the dogs and birds on the far side of the photo

A special year, ending…

Yesterday was a special day, or may be this whole week is. I am tired, relieved, at rest, trying to be at rest and in general very relieved. Naturally enough, a long stint comes a full circle. But I think this illustration says it even more succinctly…

 

Ha…but say whatever one can, finishing the dissertation is a big deal for everyone. And that is where I am today, since yesterday. So officially the full dissertation was sent to the supervisor yesterday, 23rd Dec. Three years, five months is what it has taken to get to this point. Oh yes, I must admit the trajectory was something like this

But that is how life is always, yes? So why expect anything different from the Ph.D process. But anyways, the less one talks about it the better it is.

I am so relaxed and deeply tired that I am not even able to savour these moments!! Oh no, nothing of the sort 🙂. Paradoxically I am not tired at all- I was wondering what the matter is. And then I remembered how seamlessly I have woven the idea of peace and joy into daily living, notwithstanding physical troubles, whatever anyone can have with reduced physical activity. In this blog post I intend looking back at 2019, and to the gains I made, the people I met, the work I accomplished, the writing I managed and the plans I now have. No I am not putting the plans down in the post, but in a general sort of a way, just laying a little road map down for me.

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A new unusual lily flowered this year after over two years of just having leaves. This grows in my backyard

All through the thesis writing process I have been itching to write scores of journal articles and quickly get down to working on a book about the work I have done in the Ph.D., document the counseling successes I have been having in these years, the musical ideas that are constantly churning in my heart. It has been a very torturous yet extremely, extremely enriching experience. And the biggest enrichment is the fact that I have done this work sitting at home, surrounding by my loving/taxing family- principally animals, birds, my students of music coming in/out of my home/life, my counseling clients likewise and my family, my partner, and the changing contours of my dog-pack. The dachshunds are extremely young and active, vivacious and full of beans.

The publications that appeared

This year started with a first publication in the EPW. It was an impromptu piece, written as a reaction to something that had garnered a lot of eyeballs then. There is an Indian politician calling another politician unfit to be in politics due to her past of mental illness. Both are well known, and it raked up unnecessary controversy, the way the gentleman Subramanian Swamy is accustomed to! I have shared a copy of the same. It was a piece I wrote in the shortest time in my life, about a few hours. It took a couple of weeks to publish as I had first sent it to The Hindu newspaper, but perhaps I did not send it to a proper email!

Then the editor of EPW invited me to write an article on the occasion of the general elections in India, and I grabbed the opportunity, which was around the 15th of March, and I had a deadline of a fortnight. I managed to meet the same. But just in this March (on the 2nd in fact) my Ph.D. supervisor told me to submit the thesis by November-December. Technically my time with the university is till 28th July 2021, and I was hoping to submit by Feb 2020. But her words made me focus on it like looking at an arrowhead (without looking left or right). But one of the key reasons I bit the bullet (about writing the article above) was that it was an opportunity to question the goal of psychiatric treatment- and talk about ‘recovery’ as a concept, in short advocacy. Anyways by the end of the dissertation I now know how contentious the idea is and why my friends from the West are so appalled at the idea of recovery in psychiatric literature. I have come up with a new sort of formulation, though it is not new at all. It is an extension , or rather mirrors the evidence that began appearing in the US in 1970’s.

The third article was in fact a first I had submitted to the EPW- it was sent in October 2018, though getting to see the light of day in June 2019. I questioned the co-option of peer workers by psychiatry, in some new ‘innovative’ work they are doing in Gujarat! Sadly June was the month when I unexpectedly lost Dash my baby. He would have been 15 this month, but nay his life was suddenly cut short. In a way one could be happy that he did not suffer the way he could have, had he an illness, yet the suddenness does not let me reconcile even till now!

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Here is Dash, another winter, by the spinach and lettuce beds in the backyard

And then came the last, the first in fact, a journal article which first brought me in touch with Canadian academics. An exacting and thorough process that also,surprisingly, gave me a lot of clarity about my whole research, or at least the methodology part of my work. This article had begun in 2017, the usual life of a peer reviewed article. In fact it was April 2017 that I proposed an abstract for it, which was accepted and I had to submit a first draft by August 2017. So finally that article published in July 2019, a true blue journal article after all 🙂

Dash’s loss has been a big one, and Ginger continues to decline steadily. In June she also turned 13. Right now her hind legs are giving way. She was the first pup I brought home and she is with me longest- it is amazing.DSC01275

She is old, fragile, frail and quite dependent- even to pick up her rotis. Flow the little rascal has figured he can steal her food as she cannot run after him and he does manage it if I am not watching sometimes. In other words, I not only have to cordon her off after giving her a roti, but also make sure he is not locked in with her! The baby/dog gates I have around the house are very useful for these little adjustments, especially when you have little rascals doing all sort of thieving around! If you see in this picture I have to keep her hair very short, due to the severe skin condition she suffers from. And naturally she cannot be covered with any clothing. But since she is so senior, she remains in her bed mostly and I on my part make sure she remains covered with one or more blanket or whatever else is required. I have also had to muzzle her at times for otherwise she ends up nibbling on her body a lot. We are also working with her using CBD oil which the younger sibling is ‘supplying’ nowadays. Of course her innovations are going great guns and we are also benefiting in diverse ways. Of late she has also embraced the Chinese Chi-practice and god knows when she would soon be a Zen master as well 🙂

There have been many experiments in the garden and newer adjustments, giving the frugal budget I have had as a researcher, but things are quite interesting. I do not have pictures at the moment but I am growing many new vegetables for me this winter. Currently there is radish, spring onions and garlic growing for the first time, along with the regulars- spinach, lettuce, coriander, and tomatoes. But here I am going to put a gallery of all that grew in the summer and what grows as of today, Christmas eve in the front lawn (not every corner of the house). The creeper that I had grown on the main entrance has also nearly covered the breadth of the gate. The latest changes will show on the next blog, if I write about the winter flowers again or about life in general as it takes off in 2020. So here is a gallery with garden images from around the home until today.

 

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One of the nicer experiences of 2019 has been getting to know like-minded academics from all around. And I am certain I have written about Jasna Russo elsewhere whose work I absolutely admire and love. She recently got her Ph.D from Brunnel University and has taken up a teaching assignment in some German University. But there was another person whose work has been very influential for my work, and that is Canadian sociologist Heidi Rimke. In fact upon reading her and Bruce Cohen from New Zealand I figured that sociology ought to have been my parent discipline. But at the time I was studying I did not know about it and by the time came to know any better I was out of the ‘system’ as an outcast, ‘invalid’ (if I may say so about myself). I find the greatest resonance in Sociology of all the disciplines though I have not worked much in it, or just seen some ideas from a distance and tried incorporating some in my writing. That is why I was even toying with doing a post-doc in sociology of mental health. But I think so much academics will keep me away from working with people directly, something I do not wish to postpone any further- even though consolidating ideas is always interesting to a chronic or, may I say, congenital researcher like me!

I am putting in two more sets of photos, one is of the weaver bird that made a nest in my garden and Andre happened to spot it when he was here and we steered clear of it. I pray to god the babies survived, even though I could not see them. But today when I uploaded the camera photos I realized they were hiding in the nest which was well tucked away from the eyes, woven into the leaves of the chlorodendron creeper.

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One set is of the bird family and in another set I am sharing the animals and birds around this little home of mine.

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So this is a bird’s eye view of all that went around and goes around, leaving little time for boredom and fatigue. When tired I just drop dead like the dogs and then get up to work another cycle of this nutty cycle. There is so much going on in disparate dimensions that one side keeps offsetting another constantly- nothing accumulates, nothing tires me and I hardly ever get bored! And as far as the world is concerned- there is the phone for those close enough as of course the car, and the social media for those who are separated by one degree or several, depending upon the degrees. On the whole it is interesting, colourful, a lot of responsibility and enjoyable.

And even though I have shared a picture of these flowers above, I still insert it once more for this is the latest one from today and even tomorrow morning when I wake up I will see these flowers in my garden. I also wish to share what an email from a friend just said to me. It was such a beautiful message that I want to put it down here, before it is lost in the pile of emails. In response to me sharing that I had finished the first draft of my dissertation she said,

Congratulations, Preeti! This is such wonderful Christmas news. It is symbolic of you as a gift to the world, generously sharing your lived and learned knowledge in this colossal milestone. The first draft is the hardest part, and I look forward to cheering you on as you move to the finish line!
Well done!!

So sweet and kind 🙂 Thank you my dear friend, it is friends like you who have been instrumental in me taking heart to carry onward. for instance had it not been for Ramakant-ji, I would have quit long ago! ON that note I wish everyone a beautiful season filled with love, kindness and sharing. May there be peace and joy to the world.

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Dogs go on with their doggy lives as the cockateils bask in their enclosure, and we all enjoy the sun for whatever it brings to us on a cold winter Christmas eve, while the winter annuals continue their growth in the baskets readying their colorful hues for the soon to come spring.

Meanwhile this is the grim reality of Ph.D life and I cannot say I have been an exception to it-

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Must leave with this beautiful, utterly beautiful piece of music

Peace as daily practice (for me)

In a world filled with millions of reasons for dejection, anger, helplessness, loss, suffering and other such oddments the practice of peace cannot but be a mindful endeavour. We cannot just say ‘peace’ and not engage with it at a behavioural or action level. Only words are mere rhetoric- they mean nothing because they change as the day changes. But cultivating a practice is a difficult task, which requires us to watch each of our actions on a constant, non-judgemental, detached manner, and also change it whether it is out of sync with an inner compass of peace.

I accidentally stumbled upon the fact that today is the World Peace Day. And of course we all associate the dove with peace outwardly.  But how to cultivate such kindness and non-violence is a challenge we have to constantly remind ourselves of. It was good that I learnt of the day early in the morning and I chose to remain aware of my actions for the whole day. This was a practice of wakefulness by itself.

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I happened to have a mixed day- there was a new client for counseling and an old one that I wanted to review things with. There were students of music and there was the big water issue on the domestic front that I have been struggling with for a few days now- which necessitated me to buy water for the first time yesterday and keep calling plumbers every single day- paying money everytime not knowing whether the issue is resolved or not! It is a pain to deal with so much domestic stuff, especially when it jeopardizes the work one is engaged with at the moment.  This is the last phase of my doctoral dissertation- yeah, this time also had to dawn finally. There is considerable work done and more planned ahead. I kept thinking of the idea of peace and whether everyone is really working towards that in their life, or whether it can be achieved in un-awareness.

And these are the thoughts I thought about my actions, of late. The academic work I do is towards searching for a solution in mental illness. In a world full of mental suffering perhaps the way ahead is to help people deal with their suffering and enable them to look at suffering in a different manner, or assist with changing the frame of perception. Well, that is what one can do in cousenling, but in the doctoral research my goals are somewhat different. And I think considering the violence I have faced from my university, the fact that I could still cultivate reasonably good habits, and not plunge into any depression was itself the outcome of a deep inner calmness that I have identified and learned to engage with or recede into frequently. And of course, also to recognize my triggers for anything- whether anger or hurt or pain or whatever else. I cannot say these emotions have not visited me in the three years and more I have been doing this work now. As a matter of fact, they have been frequent and regular companions…yet never could they overwhelm me or derail me to any significant measure.

Peace is not a thought for me any longer, or an aspiration– but a daily habit which needs to be practiced at every level. I cannot shove disturbance in a corner and think about attending to it when I have the time. This produces stress, and a majority of people do that- push the uncomfortable stuff out of sight so that it does not bother them for the moment. Actually it only recedes from sight, but not the mind- creating stress and pressures slowly on the mind and then body.

This is what leads to all health issues as we grow older- the violence we create for ourselves in our day-to-day life, the lies and the deceptions. And people do not even know they are deceiving themselves, at least not on the face of it. Deep down there may be an awareness- in the depth of their heart. But then, most do not listen to their heart at all! So naturally they are tuned out of themselves and their actions tuned out of any sense of propriety, peace, decency and morality.

How to cultivate peace

I cannot say that I have an answer to it already, but certainly it is a quest, how to deal with the daily violence of living in a world full of self-promoting, self-serving and self-loving individuals and not become one like them, at least all the time? Perhaps the only answer lies in awareness. The greater the awareness about every single action we perform, the greater is the likelihood that the action will be performed in awareness that it should not violate anything- neither in thought, speech or action. The greater then is the likelihood of being non-violent. But non-violence should not be confused with inaction- not performing any action, for that is sloth then!

Equally important is the way we spend our time. If we spend our time in killing time (watching TV for instance) and not producing something worthwhile for the world, which contributes in making the world more peaceful and beautiful we are shirking our responsibility. For instance as a researcher if I do not love what I do and I do it because it gives me a degree (which a majority of people in India do research for), and not the absolute love for knowledge, or making a worthwhile contribution to society- then the only love I have is for MYSELF- because I want to embellish myself with the most I can. And since my values are attached to a certain respectability that a degree gets … every act, even of research, is only self loving and not knowledge loving, not love for society or anyone else either. It is only to secure a job or get a promotion or ensure continuity in the job- and that makes the work laboured and insipid!

I feel grateful to my parents who inculcated in us a value for knowledge. At that time they did not know how deep the roots of that love were being sown. Today I feel a deep sense of inquiry and a wish to look at myriad problems with a view to finding ways out, also a great deal via research, or sharing my findings via research in the three areas I work in.

Gardening and peace

Gardening is the closest we can be in nature close to urban living, without considerable effort, and I think gardening is really an activity that  connects us to ourselves, to mother earth and to life in its enormity. Seeing the birth of plants and the completion of their life cycles season after season also tends to impart a certain acceptance of the inevitability of life and death, which makes it appear like a continuum and an endless cycle of rejuvenation, which is not such a calamity after all. Of course, the role played by my little animals is completely without parallel in this domain.

Earlier today, while talking to the new client, he happened to share with me the death of a certain person in his younger years and how it affected him. I remembered how my aunt’s death affected me at 18, and how it slowly built into a huge depression and spiralled into becoming bipolar by the time I was 20. Today I am five months over 47, and there is so much water under the bridge- and such a change of perspective, vision and philosophy. Without philosophy we are doomed, that is clear to me now.

Gardening is definitely a philosophical practice, for in an ethical, sensitive and respectful engagement with plants and what all they attract- birds, squirrels, butterflies, bettles, insects and so forth, we increase our scope to observe and meditate on the motions of life, birth/death, childhood & ageing. I remember suddenly now, how I used to sit on my porch in the village home I lived in, in Goa, and be in reverie and the feeling I had was I was watching enternity .

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birds flocked on many sides too

And I would just listen to the sounds of the birds. It was serene, green and tranquil- a sudden chirp, twitter or crackle would disturb the silence and then go silent again. Sitting amid greenery and nature one sees the eternity of life, like a witness and then we realize that these things were always there- from primordial times, from the time the earth was born and life on it appeared. Only we came much later and our awareness of it came even more late. So now cultivating that awareness towards the eternal and the ephemeral makes us see how limited our time and therefore how gently, how peacefully, how carefully we ought to spend it.

It is Mother Nature which is eternal and the Earth, we are ephemeral and our time limited. So making the most of that time means bringing into awareness our actions, our efforts and our engagements with other people, and forms of life. Am I in any act of mine wounding another or showing my power over them- in speech thought or action? It could be someone who works around my home, a student I teach, a person I meet on the street, a client I engage with in counseling, a member of my family, and even the animals around my home. The choices to be violent and nasty are present at every juncture, hundred times a day. It is only by awareness of another’s humanity and our own, remaining humble not arrogant no matter what knowledge, what money or what power comes to us can we remain peaceful.

Without being at peace within we cannot spread peace around. In that case peace is only a rhetoric which is not followed by ethical practice, best epitomized by politicians (in India) whose every act is steeped in stupidity, rhetoric and self-love, so tuned out of themselves they cannot see how they violate life, civilization and the progress made by millions of humans until now.

Peace is not for  those who are ignorant, because the ignorant cannot reflect on their own actions, filled as they are with deep narcissism. To reflect on ourselves we need to cultivate peace, an aware peace in which we dare to question all our actions, without needing the scrutiny of another. That is what makes an ethical individual, an ethical researcher, an ethical human and a just society. To create a just society is the effort every reasonable, conscientious person would venture into. The rest can go on in pursuits of their little appetites, creating their mental messes that all    else have to deal with! Yet in spite of that we need to remember that even the ignorant seek peace, no matter how erroneous their ways, how short-sighted or self serving. To truly cultivate peace we have to embrace the entire world (vasudhaiva kutumbakam consciousness) and recognize each being’s quest for peace- and that is the quest that unites us with everything in the universe. As the Dalai Lama wisely says that each being wants to be free from suffering, and that is what unites us all. And that is another way to say the same thing. A beautiful reminder of our cosmic connectedness with everyone we choose to embrace in our quest for peace.

(Perharaceps had it not been for this topic I would not have been able to write a blog post at this juncture. So the next time I write another one, it would perhaps be after the completion of my dissertation- insha’allah)

11 years today

On 15th October, 2007 when I was 35 years and a half, I moved to this home in Faridabad, near Delhi the capital of India. It was (and still is) the prime of life and as a single woman I had chosen to live alone with my three girls- Ginger, Nikki and Raga (GnR- yes, guns and roses). It was a sea of uncertainty that I dived into and today that many years later when I look back, I can only see how much I have become the person I wanted to. I even have the confidence to put my website in place which is in my own name, and not any organization’s.

It is not easy to bring everything out in a little piece of writing that can befittingly encapsulate the turning of destiny’s clock for me- yet the change is there for anyone to see, especially someone who has seen me over a span of time. Today, of my initial companions it is Ginger who stands by ; a weak little thing, over 12 years of age and the light in her considerably diminished. But she is a beautiful dog nevertheless and even when I see her weakening form, I cannot but tend to her and love her deeply- remembering all the phases of her life. Right now she is sleeping peacefully, after her meal and walk. Her body is deeply affected by a mange which has become too chronic for treatment I keep up whatever

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support is feasible. This means I give her an oil soak, with four oils combined into one and leave her in the sun and then bathe her. Andre also gave her an epsom salts dip. For years I have been treating her for this mange, but somewhere it could not be eradicated. Then her ears too became infected and the tubes inside fused, so that the ear canals are closed! They are always very vulnerable for pus formation and then the flies come and lay eggs! In the last few months she has had at least two-three episodes of that- maggots and all the rest. Painful to say the least and painful to see her thus- and then taking to the vet and getting the treatments. Ageing dogs break your heart yet give you immense courage for the stoic acceptance of how they handle their suffering. I realize that more than any human being, I am learning from these little beings around me- a peaceful surrender to whatever life brings and lying around gently, eating, sleeping and then moving to the next thing that needs to be done.

This is the time of change of seasons and it also happening in the home -refurbishing and consolidating many existing structures. Today a painter is painting the new fence as well. In this picture one can see  the welders welding and putting it in place.

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The garden is all empty now for this is the interim of planning the winter plants and we are all getting ready in so many dimensions

11 years is a long time and a short time- depending upon who is seeing it, but in this one odd decade everything I completely changed in every conceivable dimension of my life. It is a satisfactory change indeed, but perhaps the wistfulness comes most from the people left behind in the process- who could not remain a part of my life- for what they meant once and what they mean today are again, two polar opposites. And this is especially true for ‘friends’. In a manner of speaking, there is a lot less presence of people posing as friends and in a way there is a relief, because everyone’s size became visible in this span of time and the ones who had to drop off, just did (the well-fed ticks). There is no more time to write this post now, as the writing that I need to work on is calling me to hasten and wind off this little note. IMG_20181012_201209

I do- with a bow to the hands of time that gave me this beautiful house, all thanks to my parents, and the scope, imagination and resources to create a new life for myself. The last picture I share here is the living room – the lights in this picture are a bit weird, which is really not the real lighting here, but it captures the elements- the fish in the aquarium, the cockateils, the dining table, the seating- to imagine that I had an empty house when I came here- bringing this idea of a home into fruition has been a great adventure. And that brings me to the closure of one and the beginning of another adventure. I mean the adventure of having a home for myself in which I could do everything I wanted to has been accomplished. And now from here I begin the building of my dreams, which will unfold further ahead from here.

I came here, an ill, bipolar woman- ridden with anxieties and an uncertain life. 11 years down the road, I am a therapist, a doctoral researcher, a musician, and an entrepreneur- what more could it be?

Four months into the year>>>

From the last time that I wrote on this blog, feeling happy and excited about the new things happening, today I am about to register something of a mixed lot of experiences. And they are all, as one would expect, in my case-

  1. First, Rhythm came into heat- a little over seven months old that she is! I was having a premonition it could be anytime now,  but not so soon (ouch!!!). Couple of times I had broached the subject of spaying with the vet too, but he said, let’s wait until the pups are nine months. So now, they are just a little over seven and here am I- a pup in heat and two male dogs of her size around- certainly no enviable situation for a PhD-er! This Phd is really an eventful one- so much keeps happening with a fair degree of regularity. The boat is always rocked 😦

2. I went and had my first ‘class’/learning session with my new guru- when he was here in Delhi briefly, staying at the India International Center, not the best locations to conduct a class…but at least a beginning was made. When I heard the minute nuances of his voice, my heart just quivered in fear- god, can I even do it, and how will I? Fortunately I will only be meeting him in several months now- which means I have all the time for my own riyaaz and internalizing whatever he showed me that day . But since it is really quite foundational, meaning a significant shift in my singing style, I cannot hurry this up- it will be very slow, the change.

3. A few days later in a phone conversation he told me to drop my Phd and join him on his concert tours. I think it is a great honor to be said this by a senior guru, to a shisya. However, I shared with him that firstly i cannot play the tanpura on stage due to my spine and secondly the Phd is something I want to put behind me, before plunging myself full scale into music- which is really the case. On the other hand, I wish I could just dump the Phd- it is painful, as one would expect it to be, more so in India- where everything is against a Phd-researcher!

4. On another front, quora offered me a (free) subscription to the New York Times as a recognition of the fact that I have been volunteering and helping people who use quora, and made me a ‘top writer’. I never do anything for the sake of recognition, but this was completely unexpected. Not that I have time to read the NYT either, but it is interesting to see that this happened.

5. Students in music are all making progress and yet I had to drop one child from the fold who was taking a lot of breaks, without giving any reason. Often in India parents take the arts lightly (ignorantly?) and most cannot understand that classical music is not like other forms of music, you cannot just begin anywhere and catch up with the group. There is a system one is following and a structure being created here- to think musically and from the ground upward. I had to lay him off in a strange way- it was sad, but a necessary move that had to be planned out. On another front, I am glad and surprised to see the ladies who have joined newly, being so enthusiastic about learning musical notation- it is a great thing  because it inculcates a musical seriousness and discipline. Ok so this is about the students.

6. And last of all, the journal article- which i finally sent with great effort. Responding to the peer review comments this time was very tough, because the field of mental health from an emancipatory and peer perspective is still a new area of study and the intersectionality one has to keep referring back to is quite complex. But simultaneously I am getting to work with many families at present and that makes the whole picture  a representative and well-informed picture at many levels.

Analyzing so much in research makes it relatively easy for me to understand what obstacles people face in their recoveries. How I wish I would have a little more help at home to manage the dogs, so I can just sit down and work on my dissertation. I m somewhat lagging in my commitment that I had made to my university.

The month of May also seems packed with teaching, counseling and of course the ten day break, that hopefully I will be writing the next blog-post about.. In the meanwhile let me just manage to shoo the dogs away from Rhythm, who is confused, as is Flow- about why Dash is interested in Rhythm. Who can explain to Flowie, that Dash is a neutered dog and  you are the real risk to your sister! you donkey!IMG_20180325_211214614

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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Raga, Marwa, and Malkauns

On 31st July, at 20:20, Raga went into her surgery- for a tail amputation. She had developed gangrene and the decision was taken in the morning itself when I had taken her to the vet’s, for a catheterization- to empty her bladder. On a sudden thought I decided to take my electronic tanpura with me, hoping the vet would not mind my intrusion into his surgery!

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I braced myself and asked him, if he would be okay that I played the tanpura to my little girl. He was a little amused that I asked, and asked me, if the dog understands it– I said, yes, I am a musician and this girl whose name is Raga is actually steeped in classical music!

He was amused I am sure and he gave me a nod. But not before asking me, whether I would be staying in the surgery while he performed the amputation. He must have thought this woman is a nutcase! But he was too tired to thrash out anything further, being the fag end of the day for him. In any case I wanted to stay because she was not going to get general anasthesia but a local one and having her in the surgery without me would not have been possible that way.

I played the tanpura and put my arm on her across her neck- two boys held her, and the procedure went ahead. There were three boys to support the vet, and I sang along to my baby. I sang Marwa first- piya more anat des (Amir Khan Sa’ab’s bandish) and then I sang what Khan saheb is singing here-

Obviously I was in no mood to sing the Raga in the sedate way it is supposed to be- my intent was more to keep my girl calm. I was sad, but deeply calm- ditto her. Was she sad? Cannot say, but definitely very quiet and unperturbed.

And then when I felt that things were progressive, and possibly I ran out of ideas of how to do more alap in Marwa, I turned the Madhyam on the tanpura and lo and behold Malkauns popped in front. Jin ke mann ram biraaje, by Khan sa’ab connotes Malkauns to my mind. Another deeply felt bandish, that I sang a great deal once upon a time.

The surgery was over in less than an hour. Raga, me and Imdad bhai returned home- it was a new experience for everyone. My baby was cool enough to come home and have a meal- as I had not fed her earlier as per the vet’s suggestion due to the surgery.

Life and surgeries can go so smoothly with the right melodies…

 

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?