Heidi: My friend, philosopher and guide

Heidi was the first book ever purchased for me. I was about 6 or 7 years old at that time, the same age that Heidi is when her story begins. Heidi was also the 16th and the 73rd book bought for me. Yes, you read it right. Till date, I have owned 3 Heidi books and each one has a story attached to it.

Heidi-1 was with me for just a day. Raju, my maternal uncle, had just received his first pay cheque and in a fit of generosity decided to buy something for his 8 nephews and nieces. So what does he do? He goes and buys some books, one of which is Heidi. Only, Heidi is not one book here — it is a serialised version spread over 6 palm-sized books with tiny illustrations and microscopic lettering. He then distributes these 6 “Heidis” to 3 of his nieces and nephews in a random manner. I am one of the recipients and get books 2 and 5 of Heidi.

We 3 recipients of the Heidi books were so thrilled with the gift that neither its random distribution nor the impossibly small lettering bothered us. We could squint and read, couldn’t we? It was a Saturday that day, so we didn’t have to worry about school either. After lunch that day, we got down to reading the books in serial order, with each one reading his or her books aloud for the others. I still remember the instant connection I felt with Heidi — her spirit, loyalty, adventures and love for her family and friends proved irresistible. At the risk of sounding corny, I knew that I had made a friend.

I am not sure whose mother discovered the books that evening. The small lettering was deemed unsuitable for us children and were confiscated, never to be seen again. My poor uncle got an earful from all our mothers for buying something so child-unfriendly. And that was the rather dramatic end of Heidi-1.

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My ‘now’ song: Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least. I have this with music—it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my ‘now’ song, and the ‘nowness’  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My ‘now’ song is Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D and I present 2 versions here. The first version has the Canon being played by 3 violins, as it was originally meant. The second version is an adaptation of the Canon by the London Symphony Orchestra for a full orchestra. Both versions are equally beautiful.

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A Sufiana experience for the mind, body and soul

Sufism is neither a religion nor a cult. Any person who has knowledge of both inner and outer life is a sufi.

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sufi philosopher and practitioner)

It is Thursday evening and I am at the NCPA Mumbai’s Tata Theatre to attend an evening of Sufi music. The above words by Inayat Khan leap out of the beautifully produced and informative programme brochure on “Sama’a The Mystic Ecstasy: Festival of Sufi Music” as I read it to familiarise myself with the programme. Though I have listened to some Sufi music over the years, I have never attended a live performance. I also do not know anything about the  history of Sufism or Sufi music, for that matter, except for the fact that music is central to the core experience of Sufism. The programme brochure states that

… music is regarded as a means for the believer to get closer to the Divine. Sufi music therefore is music of the ‘soul’ by the ‘soul’ and for the ‘soul’.

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Mumbai Lens: Sunset and chana chor garam at Nariman Point

I was early for a concert at the NCPA at Nariman Point, Mumbai, and couldn’t go in as my friends who had my ticket had not yet arrived. Besides, I was feeling all sweaty and sticky from the train and taxi journey to Nariman Point from work and didn’t really want to go into the theatre till I had “cooled” down.

I was wondering what to do when, almost on cue, a gentle sea breeze sprung up tugging at my attention towards the sea front. I decided to walk across and was rewarded with the beautiful colours of sunset as well as a view of Cuffe Parade area at night. I regretted not carrying my camera and had to be content taking this picture with my Nokia 5220 XpressMusic.

Sunset at Nariman Point

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Travel Shot: Cross Bones Graveyard

All cities have a past that they would rather forget about and not acknowledge or  showcase it to adoring tourists. The Cross Bones Graveyard in London is one such place.

July 25, 2009: The "festooned" entrance to the Cross Bones Graveyard

Located in the Southwark borough of London, near London Bridge, the Graveyard was an unconsecrated site for burying over 15,000 prostitutes and paupers of medieval London. Though the site was never a secret, it came into prominence in the early 1990s when it was dug up for construction of the Jubilee Line of the London Underground. Excavators found an unusually “crowded graveyard with bodies being piled on top of one another”. Forensic tests showed that most of the buried had suffered from some disease or the other.

I visited the Cross Bones Graveyard one July evening as part of “The Other London Walk”, a guided walk conducted by a homeless woman. She led our group to the sites of London’s other history, a history not showcased to tourists—a London of the deprived, the homeless, the sick, and the disadvantaged.

The simple memorial plaque affixed to the gates only says what the site is, but the gates which are “festooned” with ribbons, and messages and prayers convey a far more powerful and poignant message.

A competition, two surprises and a Sunday

Last Sunday, instead of waking up late and pottering about the house the whole day doing that and this, I did something different. I co-judged the city-level Classmate Ideas for India 2010 competition held in Mumbai.

An initiative of the ITC as part of its centenary celebrations, the Classmate Ideas for India 2010 competition has youth in the 14–21 years category present their ideas for the “betterment of India”. These ideas are in the fields of Science and Technology; Environment Protection; Education for All; Encouraging Social and Religious Tolerance; Infrastructure for a Better Tomorrow; and Emerging India.

The first round of the competition saw the competition receiving over 60,000 ideas from all over India. These ideas were then evaluated on the basis of originality, feasibility, practicality, and impact factor and then whittled down to 500 ideas equally divided over 10 cities and their surrounding regions. For example, the Mumbai Idea Presentation had entries from Maharashtra and Goa. Each city’s Idea Presentation would pick out a winner for the National Finals to be held later this year in December. The entire event is being managed by KrayOn, an event management company for kids and youth events. They were the ones who contacted me to judge the Mumbai event.

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