Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I too tried to understand ‘What the Raags told me’ – And all because of Prof. Vasudev Murthy

Before I talk about this lovely book that I amazingly read, finished, and even understood to an extent, I must frankly admit that I have, whatsoever no understanding about Indian classical music or the various ragas’ that are used to compose them. Neither did I have too much of an inclination, until just a few days back when I found myself thinking about ‘What the Raags told me’.

Though, I must admit that as a youngster, my parents did try making me learn Hindustani classical music. But their efforts were in vain. Not that I did not have an aptitude for it but I refused to learn. The reason - My teacher an elderly gentleman was more intent on scaring his students, with his impatient gestures and negative stance then really making them see and understand the beauty of Indian classic music. We found it boring and incomprehensible. I, (together with few others), rebelled. My parents might have tried convincing me but to my great relief my father got transferred to another station. That was the end of the matter. And I never felt like going back to it again. Until I came in connection with Prof. Murthy.

Strangely, I connected with the extremely wise and talented author of this beautiful book on Face book, through another friend, who informed me that Prof. Murthy and I shared the same publisher. But even after connecting and few ‘formal’ chat sessions later, we had not moved much. One day however, he sent me a link of a recorded Oudh play. It was him playing the Oudh. (Incidentally, he is a great violin player too and has been playing the violin since the age of 7), Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link and to my surprise thoroughly enjoyed what I listened to.  The piece was refreshing, soothing and non intrusive. I loved it. I must share with my readers that while writing my books, I like to listen to soft music. But the Oudh play he sent me surpassed all the songs and musical pieces I have heard thus far. They all have their benefits and are nice in their own way. But I found the Oudh play better only because of its pleasing effect it had on my senses, while I worked on my writings. I found, I could concentrate better. The thought clarity was greater. Also, one of my best poems of which I am really proud of - ‘Boat without oars’ (which you can look up on this blog itself), was written while listening to the Oudh play. The poem titled – Boat without oars, itself was taken from a conversation with the author in which he advised me to think as if ‘I am on the sea in a boat without oars.’

Now I was so charged up with my above experiences, that I became quite curious to read his book. (I already knew, his book was on one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music – The Raags). And so I bought it. Still, at the back of my mind there was this apprehension of whether I would be able to grasp anything from it. So very hesitantly, I randomly scanned the pages.

The first thing that caught my unsure eyes was the vibrant hues sprinkled throughout the book. The beautiful illustrations. The imaginary pictures of the different Raags were fascinating and gently egged me to learn about them. So I began. And once I did, there was no looking back. I was drawn into this story of a person, a gentle soul, who after many sessions of playing his tanpura every morning finally decided to release his spirit in order to seek and learn about the music of the land and then return back to enlighten him about them.

His spirit (which was etched by the author quite adorably), traveled wherever it pleased. No specific plans. It traveled according to its own wishes. But the aim was clear. To understand, learn and report back to its master all that it has learnt. Often, the spirit brought back the essence of one or the other Raag with it. The lovely Raag then slowly revealed its own secrets to the seeker.

I found myself completely enjoying this journey in understanding all there is to know about music of my land and expressed in simplest and most engaging manner. I loved Raag Kamod’s cheerful nature. And how it loves to spread joy and laughter. I was deeply moved by Raag Chandrakauns and how it reminded the narrator of his own adolescent daughter. And then the Raags Gaur Sarang and Raag Bageshree, both meant for lovers to take inspiration from. They can make even the non believers fall in love with their romantic and erotic melodies.  There were some extremely powerful and deeply introspective Raags that were also covered by the author that impacted me – Raag Bhairav, serious, serene, destroyer of the ego, Raag Jogiya, all powerful and which only aims to merge with the Absolute at any cost and then Raag Jhinjhoti and Raag Bhairavi – the former being the raag of experiences and memories and the later mother of all the Raags.

By the time I was done with the book, I had got an inkling as to what the raags were trying to tell me – They were gently asking me to appreciate the music that plays in our land. They were also asking me to live life humbly, compassionately, lovingly, wisely, peacefully and joyfully. And for this great understanding, I thank the author deeply.

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