30 August 2009

There was a tea shop. Then there was a tea shop owner. There was a man in love. There was a woman who swore she wasn't in love. There was a card sharping father. And then there was the village pickpocket. There were two quirky love stories. There was Moonshine. And then there was Skytoffee.

On 28th, 29th and 30th of this August, at the New Hazlett Theater Pittsburgh, Sandhya Krishnan weaved her magic and showcased the interwoven love stories 'Moonshine and Skytoffee'.

Originally based on Vaikom Muhammad Basheer's work, the stories are about two unconventional love relationships - one between Kesavan Nayar and Saramma, and the other between Zainaba and the infamous Muthapa.

Kesavan Nayar (played by Christopher Cussat) is a pure romantic ... the 1940s black-and-white lover who could give his life to prove the unblemished nature of his love. But Saramma (played by Monica Jogi) seems to have no regret in taking away Kesavan's life. And herein lies the problem. Love's labor lost. Saramma reciprocates to Kesavan's poetic outbursts in very ungrateful manners.

However, for Zainaba (Jackie Omotalade) and Muthapa (Arvind Suresh), it was love at first sight. How could Zainaba protect herself from the titillating pickpocket's charms? It would have been a walk-in walk-out love story had not the unforgettable Otakannan Pokker (Sam Nicotero) stepped in between. How could a card sharper, a master at his art, who had amassed enough money to have any son-in-law he wished for, give his beautiful daughter away to the village scoundrel?

But very few understand the boundaries of love ... because it has none. Neither the Pokker, nor the 'playing hard to get' character of Saramma, or any other circumstance prevent this flow of love. And the love flows on... be it when Saramma blows the hand fan ensuring her Kesavan gets a good night's sleep before 'their' journey the next day ... or when the shrewd Muthapa beats the Pokker out of his own game (thanks to Zainaba actually) pushing the Pokker into yielding to this wedding.

The acting was fantastic; the use of variable shades of lighting did a lot to add to the moods of the scenes. Zainaba and Saramma were classic; you couldn't help feel for Kesavan with his mystical abilities to move mountains for his love and yet fails to impress his counterpart. Muthapa was a treat to watch ... his uncanny abilities to convince you about how pickpocketing is a selfless art must have made a lot many in the audience seriously re-consider their professions. Pokker, as I keep saying, is unforgettable.

Two adorable love stories ... two adorable couples ... one tea shop ... the unforgettable Pokker ... Moonshine ... Skytoffee.

It was a jolly good show!

26 August 2009

Music can noble hints impart,
Engender fury, kindle love,
With unsuspected eloquence can move,
And manage all the man with secret art

~Joseph Addison

Coming from a family which DOES boast of a few musicians or at least those who could appreciate good music (actually there’s nothing called good music; its either music or its noise), I was surprisingly dispassionate about it. Of course, I did admire the occasional musical flicks of bollywood but that was the ‘be all and end all’ of my tryst with music.

Don’t mistake me for those ignorant souls who cannot distinguish one musical instrument from another. I’m not that bad really. I have certainly enjoyed some ‘jugalbandhis’ especially the instrumental ones. However, I also hold the record of falling away into deep sleep in a symphony (waking up with a jerk that disgusted the eloquent limousine-owning upper class); I also am popular for dying with laughter watching the ballet; and for breaking apart a ‘veena’ (the musical instrument of Goddess Saraswathi – no wonder knowledge keeps failing me) when I was rolling around the bed in deep sleep.

But today was to be different.

Every once in a while, I had seen a girl standing near the lobby of the Cancer Center where I work, playing the violin. I never bothered to stop and listen. But today was to be different. I was frikkin late to lab and to my horror saw my professor standing close to my desk talking to a coworker. I could dare not walk in then. I had to wait till he got back to his office. So I took a stroll to the cafeteria, and right below me, the violinst played her music.

She was playing surprisingly beautiful music. Surprising because I never had listened to it before. I had heard it alright, but never listened to it. At the end of her first composition, she looked around and spotted me … I just gave her a smile. She smiled back. “She plays well” I thought. The second composition was even more beautiful. She looked up again … I gave her a little clap. And then the third was magical. And then another one. And then one more. She kept on playing … and I kept on hearing, oblivious to the fact that I was gonna be even more late to lab than I already was. It got into my head that leaving now meant insulting her music.

I finally rushed into lab, threw my backpack, grabbed my jacket and rushed down. I watched her play for some more time. It just kept getting more and more beautiful. The variations, the subtle changes in tones, the high and low pitches, some sounds gave me adrenalin rushes, some saddened me, some just made me really happy. She’d look at me at the end of every composition, as if she expects a judgment on her performance. What could I say? For a person like me who thinks ‘Do Re Mi Fa Sol…” sounds really funny, her music really shook me hard.

She said her name was Pooja and she volunteered to play at the Cancer Center. I promised her I’ll stay for one last composition but then I had to leave. I wish I didn’t have to. She’s a part of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra and a volunteer at the Hillman Cancer Center for Healing Power of the Arts. I never realized what power music can have … when that starts flowing, everything else in this world becomes less important. That’s one lesson I learnt today.

06 August 2009

Legend speaks thus of Lord Krishna and Draupadi:

Lord Krishna happened to get a cut on his hand (perhaps a paper cut or he fell off his bicycle) and Draupadi, upon noticing the oozing blood from Lord Krishna's hand tore off a strip of her silk sari (total filmy style) and tied it around his wrist. Krishna was so touched by this action that he vowed to repay the debt and protect her from evil. He sticks to his words when he blesses Draupadi with meters and meters of sari during the 'vastra haran' after Yudhishtir loses her out in a gamble. Lord Krishna thus pays his debt towards the 'rakhi' tied by Draupadi.

And thus begins 'Raksha Bandhan' - an unbreakable vow of a brother to his sister to safeguard her, protect her against danger and to be bound to her by eternal love. Of course, there have been different stories behind its origin; but the vibrancy of the festival remains the same. To top it all, celebrating it in America adds a complete new dimension to it.

The lamp glittered bright and resplendent. The vermilion with its bright red colors filled our eyes. And then there was the rakhi itself - symbolic of a loving and caring relationship between a brother and a sister. There were sweets, there were photographs, there was mirth and laughter, songs of happiness. There was symbolism, there was bonding - not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's lives. There was love. We were 8000 miles away from home. And yet, there was Raksha Bandhan !

Thank you so much for making this day special!