Music at my earstep:

I look around me and I dive into my daily routine of work and other chores. Move along in silence with my work surrounding me. The silence of my mind is no different either and I feel pure silence in all it’s melodious self. It has been many a time when this sojourn is interrupted with a brief melody. By melody I am paying more attention to the fact that I am exposed to music rather than the style of music. So the term ‘melody’ is superfluous here.
In these brief instances of exposure to vibrations there have been different kinds of ripples created in the lake of my mind. To start with, there are memories related to music. This is particularly the case when I listen to a piece of music that I have listened to previously. This might be sometime in the near past or probably in the distant past. The more distant they are in my memory, the greater is the magnitude of ripples created in my mind. This is probably because of the greater misfit between my present sate of affairs and the past. This in turn creates a great sense of nostalgia in my mind about the memory raked up by this piece of music. The examples that most commonly create this would be a Tamil song from an old film which I would have listened to maybe 15-20 years back. Add to this the fact that I have been travelling the most part of my life due to the nature of my father’s job and my job prospects. Interestingly one thing leads to another. The song reminds me of those years and those years remind me of a thousand different things. It is something like sitting in the middle of a pile of cinema reels and I randomly pick up a reel and all those reels are interconnected in myriad fashions. In short there is music which is nostalgic.
Then there is music which instigates unique emotions. Just to give an example, there is a very peculiar music which is played during ‘Jallikattu’, the bull-fight festival in the Indian State of Tamilnadu. This music has a very interesting nature of instigation and adds to the overall aggression of the bull which is further accentuated by other actions like spraying of chilli powder/ lemon juice into the animals eyes. Interestingly, the same music is played when people suffer from bouts of hysteria in Tamilnadu. To close your eyes and listen to the music intently will help one appreciate the effect of this piece of music. Emotions-so on and so forth.
If you look at it closely, memories are by themselves cobbled up emotions. Then You would be placing before me a fundamental question, why all this small-talk? I have a question for you my dear reader,…what purpose does this serve? Why do we keep thinking about the past so much and for so long?
I have a few answers, but they do not seem good enough.

music

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Meditation diaries

concentric_circles1There have been numerous interpretations for the word meditation. I am sure you would have a fair idea of your own. I have something to say with respect to my understanding of mediation. 

In my opnion, meditation is the ability to catch hold of a concept and delve into great depths to be able to arrive at a fundamental understanding of the subject at hand. Let me take an example.

I have heard of a chant or mantra-‘Neti neti

The translation of this goes by either

1. ‘Not this, not this’ or

2. ‘Neither this nor that’

I remember having read this while I was reading up a lot of books on spirituality as part of my preparation for CAT. Now during the past few years of meditation, I have undergone so many different changes in my conceptual understanding of things. To take an example, I was of the opinion that religion had a lot to do with symbolic worship of pictures and objects in various avenues. The worship meant prayer to an external God, represented by pictures, statues and umpteen number of rituals surrounding these pictures/ statues.

I saw these symbols of worship and tried to understand them at a slightly deeper level. I asked myself questions,…

1. What do these statues/ pictures represent?

2. What do the chants and mantras represent/ mean?

I got a few answers like the fact that symbolic worship of statues/ pictures are meant for the average person who might not be accustomed to concentration of mind and hence there needs to be an external object in the form of a picture or a statue onto which they can focus all their attention. I similarly got a few questions for some more questions.

But the critical part of the larning process was in saying ‘Neti neti’

The moot question was if this was the only answer to the qeustion. Another way of looking at it was if this is too simplistic an answer. Are there points that I am missing in trying to arrive at a simplistic answer to my questions.

To look at the question above, I see that the answer is not that simplistic. The fact is that the fundamental diference between humans and animals in the fact that animals meander in their basic urges, which are food and procreation. Whereas, humans are able to move much beyond these basic impulses. This is chiefly because of our ability to postpone gratification. This ability to postpone gratification happens due the ability of humans to concentrate their minds and hence exercise control over the mind when the body craves for basic needs such as food and procreation. To take this forward, the act of prayer is an exercise in concentration of the human mind.

Now all humans are not born with the same ability to concentrate and like there is different grades in school for children of different ages, ages being a surrogate for mental development, similarly religion has different systems to help people in concentration. For most of the average people who cannot focus on an abtract object, religion provided them with images and stories which have temples and edicts as physical manifests of these systems, to help them concentrate.

By saying ‘Neti neti’, I have been able to move from one level of understanding to another. This shift in depth of understanding by holding onto one idea and never stopping with any particualr understanding of a concept is, in my opnion, a very good understanding of this chant.

This ability to be able to catch hold of a simple concept which has barely two words and apply them to gain greater depth in understanding is, in my opinion, a very good explanation for meditation.

People I know

I have had many a rumination about the way people act and the motives behind the same. Let me tell you a story then.

Damu comes from a very decent background. His father is an established lawyer and his mother is a renowned artist. His lineage is as established as his love for his whiskers. He has been the one eye through which both his parents have seen the joys of parenting and the ensuing responsibilities.

Damu is in college and is part of a discussion.

Damu says to his friend,

‘Can this be a work of the beatles?’

Kris says,

‘ But I am talking about politics’

Damu says

‘You must be a fan of Bob Dylan then..’ Damu snickers away to glory.

Damu likes everything which is associated with intellectual coolness. Say what about the retro posters and marked verbal and non-verbal overtures alluding to a liking for the late-twentieth century association between music and cultural movements across the developed world. Interestingly he is funny guy, one who is able to make people laugh with him rather than at him. 

But what has really made me write about Damu is illustrated in the following conversation.

Damu saya with a note of brevity and nonchalance

‘Things like this tend to happen’

Ron says with a note of surprise at Damu’s attitude to an event of personal grief to Damu

‘But aren’t you worried about things like this happening to you?’

Damu maintains his air of nonchalance

‘Do I look like I care?’

But I sit back and think about another event that had happened sometime back.

Damu says with a note of concern.

‘Don’t talk like that to me. What will people think of me?’

And I know if Damu cares or not. I know if Damu is really cool or not. I know.

But then human emotions are like water. They rise, drop, flow, rise and ebb in unstoppable continuum with very little rhyme or reason. I now know that it doesn’t matter if I know or not.

Damu is a jolly good fellow.

Chennai Diaries

It has been almost a year since I left Chennaioldmadras to start work in Bangalore. The memories are faint and the emotions are in traces.

I remember many a nice day spent rollicking in my grand parent’s place in Annanagar, Chennai. It is now a faint remembrance of what it used to represent a decade or more ago. A decade ago it would be a potboiler of childhood fantasies. I used to spend hours with just about a patch of mud, building imperfectly perfect castles and cavernous pits to snare that imaginary thug from tales of yonder. A couple of rupees from my mother could end up in hours of budgeting all the goodies that I could afford with that money. The sound of tinker-bells meant either ice-cream lollies or better still, candies being sold in imaginative, bulbous glass containers. The same sound at night could only mean Kulfi, which was sadly out-of-reach for the reason of persistent and menacing common-cold. Grandpa’s snoring could only mean that we could go to the terrace and jump on the roof so that he would come thundering out the the house cursing all of us as he couldn’t possible beat all of us.

All I remembered is an instant, like worn out photograph-negatives that you find in run down boxes from the attic. The trail is missing and so are the players.

Chennai…Ah!