Monday, 29 April 2013

Haaris' Weekly Round-up - 6

Yup, it's still called a Weekly Round-up. I've spent three whole months in Bangalore and I have spent most of that period fixing things. Dealing with machines is tough because there are so many things that can go wrong. You might have a huge and complicated miracle of German Engineering producing high quality low cost products with interlocks and warrantees and all that it takes is one needle bearing to feel blue for the entire plant to come to a standstill. I've fixed a drier with a Hungarian dude who had one eye on the job and the other on how I could get him to a place with hooters (don't ask). I've had an entire pressure vessel replaced and tested with a tighter-than-a-dwarf's-bum schedule (I worked 14 hours for a month without holidays for that one). I've completed a crash course of sorts in kinematics. I've experienced week lag - a unique condition where you can't tell the day of the week because you've been working without any respect for the global convention of relieving weekends and frustrating Mondays.

Life couldn't have been harsher. A smart reader will now expect me to say something on the lines of, "And yet it was a brilliant experience." I will do nothing of that sort. It was stressful, strenuous and tortuous. I lost 8 kilos and a lot more besides fat.

I think I should stop right there. I was about to embark on another round-up and I ended up wasting valuable blog post material. Some other post then...

I'll soon be celebrating May Day with a mid-week holiday and here's the sort of links you should read if you are also part of a factory establishment (failing which you'll probably be on your way to work or to an exam).
  1. A brilliant response from Chris Anderson who is the curator of TED to "fears" expressed by luminaries such as Deepak Chopra on TED's apparent censorship of "speculative" subjects. A must read.
  2. Vincent Vega's red car from Pulp Fiction, Lost and Found.
  3. A defence of the emoticon by a guy who really doesn't seem to like them so much.
  4. The moment we all would have waited for if we had known John le Carre was writing another book. I did mention him in a previous round-up and I have read some of his other books since. Here's an abridged version of A Delicate Truth in the Guardian.
That's it for now. I generally like to have five links but I haven't managed to read anything worth putting here.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Remembering a Great Voice

On 24th April, we lost one of the most unique voices in Indian mainstream music. I am talking, of course, about Shamshad Begum. With a voice that was as surili as it was raspy she will always be remembered for some memorable songs. In this short post, I wanted to upload one of my favourite songs, Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat from Mughal-e-Azam. It's a contest between Lata Mangeshkar (Madhubala) and Shamshad Begum (Nigar Sultana). Discerning friends will also remember this song from a question I asked in the first Haaris Quiz.

Shamshad Begum wins the contest IMHO.

Another great but somewhat obscure (nowadays anyway) song with the same pair singing would be Door Koi Gaye from Baiju Bawra but I would recommend you to listen to the song since I couldn't find a video that did justice to it.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Break a Leg

I am not sure how to start this post so I'll let the video do all the talking. The first time I ever danced on stage. Milestone.

Not too bad for starters.


(Update: I am the guy who enters from the right in Urvashi and moves forward. Forward right. Stop looking at the others.)

(Update-II: I am the guy at the center later in Muqabla)

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Fairness of Art

Is Art fair?

The cherished ability to make money and have the textbook “good life” seems attainable even to the most deprived individual even if the chances of “getting there” are slimmer as you slide down to the BoP. People are driven. They’ll take great pains at disguising it as a path to some higher salvation and autonomy. They’ll grind out the hours and become unconditionally loyal to their ambitions. They’ll get to the top through their job or they’ll start a start-up and hope to get to the top. Whatever they do, they’ll want success with that irresistible cocktail of power and means.

The knack of experiencing the overbearing and uplifting enormity of an act of creation is, alas, much rarer. To see a stunning painting, one that captures the senses, one that seems to convey all that is inconspicuous to the conscious mind but is the true reason for adding authenticity to the description, is scarcely seen. You can go deeper. The layers beyond your conscious radar add an element of unfamiliarity, one that sprouts from the artist’s imagination, instantly and subtly inscribing a signature that pulls out the work from the clutter of imitation.

Is the ability to genuinely feel the above undemocratic?

One might argue that it is a provenance of the rich. Surely, the art connoisseurs and critics are generally no ordinary individuals. Their lives are those of privilege. Looking at them, one would not be exaggerating in feeling left out, in feeling that the taste of Art is artificial and lies outside the boundaries of experience of the majority.

And yet, we all go through moments of ecstasy; moments of unhindered, uninhibited joy; moments that transport us to a higher Truth and give us a transcendentally extraordinary realization.

It may be through a dusty old book, a book written originally by an author in a different tongue in a different time and place. The words attain the equivalence of a painter's brush as each stroke defines and conveys thoughts that seem so strangely familiar but would never be expressed with the same lightness of expression and depth of thought. It may be during a music concert when a strange radiance permeates one's thoughts and gives us a ridiculously short lived stay in paradise. At that moment, the lyrics blend together with the music to produce something that goes beyond ordinary expression.

There is, to be sure, a primeval understanding for the beautiful even in the most uncouth of individuals. It is a strange mystery to wonder what sharpens the mind - what tunes the senses to appreciate the beauty of Art. And, what do we gain from it?

Greater people have come and pondered over this matter, not least in the period of the Enlightenment. Let us call upon Jean Jacques Rousseau,

For all the rest of the day, wandering deep into the forest, I sought and I found the vision of those primitive times, the history of which I proudly traced. I demolished the petty lies of mankind; I dared to strip man’s nature naked, to follow the progress of time, and trace the things which have distorted it; and by comparing man as he has made himself with man as he is by nature I showed him in his pretended perfection the source of his true misery. Exalted by these sublime meditations, my soul soared toward the Diviniy; and from that height I looked down on my fellow men pursuing the blind path of their predjudices, of their errors, of their misfortunes and their crimes. Then I cried to them in a feeble voice that they could not hear, “Madmen who ceaselessly complain of Nature, learn that your misfortunes arise from yourselves!”
And he goes on to say,

“If nature has destined us to be healthy, I almost dare to affirm that the state of reflection is a state contrary to nature and that the man who meditates is a depraved animal” 
Rousseau's stand is interestingly contrarian to his own standing as an intellectual. In brief, what he says is that the very act of erudition pushes us into misery. It is an affliction or rather, an addiction. A person who has experienced the bliss of higher beauty or the comfort of knowledge will no longer feel content with basic material joy. This "state of reflection" is a curse, an irresistible power that forces normal primitive man to yearn for that which is beautiful, that which is fulfilling in a deeper sense. Talk about paranoia. And yet, if you ponder over it you would realize that there is more than an inkling of truth in his words.

For all of us are born with a fuzzy appreciation of the beautiful but it is the refined person who truly grasps the layered subtlety of Art. And a person need not be refined by the brute force of wealth. He may do so through a manic desire for learning, or the courage to discard the merely convenient.

A recent article in a popular newspaper quoted an agent of a mainstream novelist as saying that it was an elitist illusion to assume that "Victorian" literature and style was what counted as good writing. What people really want, he alleged, was a read that was more grounded and easy to parse through. That's true, in a way. A good writer is tiresome- he'll make you stop occasionally to let out gasps of amazement, she'll make you re-read entire sections for correct comprehension and also make you use that dictionary you've had decorated on the drawing room shelf. Those who make that effort, who can afford to pause and not check the ending page number of the story, will find themselves bequeathed by something more substantial and longer lasting than entertainment. They'll feel enriched and inspired. Not that I hate the Meluha trilogy (it's all real good fun).

I surrender to the chains of this addiction. I cannot hope for others to follow me- it is good that they don’t. What I know is that every time I read a piece of classical poetry, whenever I ponder over the intention behind an artist’s portrayal of a war or when I see a Roger Federer winner I am transported to a place of pure ecstasy, one that I want to come back to again and again, at the risk of losing touch with the unadulterated joy of normal success…

I believe I am in a position here to write many more pages on the value and fairness of Art. I don't think anyone will read more. If you've come this far, I appreciate it tremendously. Let's talk some time.