Friday, January 08, 2016

2015 - In the Rear View Mirror

As the year hurtled towards a close in the evening of 31st December 2015, I realised with horror that I was not ready with my year-end list at all. The loyal audience of three and a half people who read my blog would be hugely disappointed, it means - a catastrophe, which should be avoided at all costs.

Conveniently, 2015 has given me some truly first-time-in-life experiences, which I could share with my einee, minee, me & mo. So here goes, even though a bit late:

1. Wassup? whatsApp?? - Till last year, sloth kept me away from the chatting app whatsApp, which was getting ever popular. Sloth combined with an old, stupid (that is what a phone is, when it is not smart, is that not?) cellphone. Ergo, peace prevailed, riding on a righteous disdain for people engaged in this "useless activity".
In 2015, however, this app strode in to my life with a vengeance, the result being that at the end of the year, I was being seriously considered for the award for "most whatsapp-distracted husband" in the country.
It was not all bad however. To be fair, the pros outweighed the cons. whatsApp made it possible to bring some of my oldest and loveliest friends together. The companionship and old memories made all of it worthwhile. In the family too, it re-oiled the massive relationship machinery (and thank God for that!) - cousins, aunts, uncles, inlaws.... Everybody was connected, much easily than ever before.
That I could torment people by easily sending them links of obscure pieces of writings or music which I thought they had to perforce enjoy, was an added joy.

2. Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan - In my existence of close to 5 decades, never before had I witnessed such strong eddies of religious & cultural identity engulfing me as they did in 2015. Politicians using religion for their electoral harvest is nothing new but this year, they bettered their own records, plunging to new lows.
Actors, who generally play safe by sticking to their dumb PR lines, came out openly with their anguish. But what actually shook me was the way otherwise harmless, sweet people around me seemed to suddenly spout devilish horns at imagined dangers to their identities. The fault-lines in the societal bedrock looked dangerously exposed.
I can only hope that this churning of emotions would ultimately yield the mythical nectar of better understanding and peace.

3. Play of Raagas and Taalas - My acute interest in the gloriously rich world of Indian classical music (matched unfortunately by my hopelessly inadequate knowledge) received a great fillip when I got a chance to attend Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Sangeet Mahotsav in Pune.

For the uninitiated, Sawai Gandharv Mahotsav is probably the oldest, largest and most popular Indian classical performance festival in India. It was organized in 1953 for the first time by that shining gem of Indian classical music scene - Late Pt. Bhimsen Joshi in the memory of his Guru - Sawai Gandharva. Over the decades, it has acquired a cult status, riding on the brilliant performances of Panditji himself and other great artists.

During the two days I was there, I was lucky to catch some top class performances by greats like Pt Raghunath Palshikar (vocals), Pravin Goskhindi (flute), Rajendra Gangani (Kathak), Shubha Mudgal, Suresh Wadkar and the worthy disciple of Pt Bhimsen Joshi - Pt Upendra Bhat (all vocals). Pt Upendra Bhat's introductory words in praise of his Guru were specially a treat to listen to. Here is the video on YouTube:

What also gladdened my heart was that  my fears of Indian classical arts losing touch with common man were laid to a complete rest. Crowds were thronging the venue - crowds consisting of young and old and singles and whole families including small children - their knowledge and interest clearly demonstrated in their standing ovations and full-throated encore calls at appropriate moments. I am reassured that Indian classical arts scene is faring very well even under the onslaught of, well, "different" music emanating from all around.  

4.  Comic Con Delhi 2015  -   I have been a comic books’ fan all my life. Brought up on the steady diet of Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Bahadur, Lotpot, Madhu Muskaan, Billoo, Pinky – in short, the whole pantheon of Indrajaal Comics, Amar Chitrakatha and later Diamond Comics, my childhood love affair has continued right in to my ripe adulthood. So when my teenaged son this year implored me to buy a couple of tickets to Comic Con Delhi, I jumped at it and brought three – one each for my son and my nephew, and of course, one for me.

Comic Con is an international comic convention, started as a fan convention in 1970 in San Diego, USA and has grown in to variants all over the globe. Comic Con India was started in 2011 mainly as a launch pad for indie comics. The format now includes mainly exhibition stalls by different comic publishing houses or comic drawing artists of India, along with various interactive sessions, workshops, interviews by comic book artists and writers.

What I loved in Comic Con Delhi was the sheer energy and a child-like sincerity of everyone around – volunteers, exhibitors, participants and visitors alike. Groups of young people were dressed up as various comic characters for cos play (costume play) – my son carried a Star Wars light saber himself. So at one corner you could bump in to Arjun and Karna while at another you could be slurping your coffee with Iron Man. Lots of exhibition stalls housed marketing merchandise and others some really talented artists with some amazing works on display. In short, it was an event with unapologetic, clean fun. A rarity indeed.

What I would love to see is more Indian references in the works of artists. I found it slightly puzzling that most of the artists drew on popular western culture and media (tv shows, films) when India offers such a huge kaleidoscope of experiences – be it in politics, sports, cinema, society. It is not a "swadeshi" war-cry but surely, references one could relate to more easily could bring in more visitors. Who knows someday, I might be emboldened enough to saunter in as a balding, paunchy Phantom in one of the Comic Cons to come. Wait, Phantom was an Indian?? Or was he?

Phew.. that is a load off my chest. I might as well start drawing up the experiences' list for 2016! Happy New Year 2016 my dear reader!    


sanjay sharma said...

Keep on sharing your experiences, likhte raha karo.

Anonymous said...

Very well written. Congratulations. The strong feelings have taken proper shape. I really enjoyed reading it. Sharada Bhatt.

K V Bhat said...

This article of the budding writer brings out the realist that he is, perhaps! The simple and un_ostentatious style appeals to me the most.kvbhat

drmuralicp said...

awesome narration!

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