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10
imagesBy Smriti
Chanchani
x 100
words& Vipul Rikhi
within / without
The desert is an ideal place to slip within, when the eye has almost nothing external to grasp. And so, s...
singing / listening
‘Sur ko samre jo, use Hari milna mushkil naahin’. One who meditates on harmony discovers Hari easily, ...
sleeping /waking
While sleeping piled together in a room was certainly a communal experience, it also meant impinging into...
young /old
Five-year old Arpita plays the manjiras on stage for Kaluram Bamaniya, her father and Malwi folk-singer, while
...
technical
/
human
As much as the yatris, the machines needed charging. And there were an endless number of them – from
cel...
words,stones,
Three simple words – mind, sky, love. All three crucial to Kabir’s verse. You might say that when love strik...
the informal satsang /gavra devi
If music and song were the heart of the yatra, the informal sessions between the yatris a...
parvathy baul
Magic happened in the informal session on the sixth afternoon in the dhuni of Jageri. Parvathy was singing t...
abdullah bhai
On a warm, generous morning in the sunlit courtyard of an old haveli in Napasar, Abdullah bhai and Musa Para...
let the heart-lotus rain /drench the body-sky
A poetic rendition of ‘barse kamalyu, bheenje aasmaana’, the yatra motto, se...
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10x100 story - ajab Shahar

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10x100 story - ajab Shahar

  1. 1. 10 imagesBy Smriti Chanchani x 100 words& Vipul Rikhi
  2. 2. within / without The desert is an ideal place to slip within, when the eye has almost nothing external to grasp. And so, some of us carried out two journeys within this one. We traversed long, lonely desert roads – like this one – and treaded a bit on the dark, frightening path within, aided by the power of song. The marubhumi, or ‘difficult terrain’, or even, ‘land of death’, is an appropriate setting for a poetry that talks of dying to be born, to live, to be free. Like the figurative pearl-diver, the marajiva, diving into the consciousness ocean, to retrieve a forgotten jewel...
  3. 3. singing / listening ‘Sur ko samre jo, use Hari milna mushkil naahin’. One who meditates on harmony discovers Hari easily, says Shafi Faqir, from the film Had Anhad, speaking to us directly of listening. Music and song are at the heart of the yatra – breaking into bhajans during bus-rides, bursting into dance on a sunlit morning, or the nightly concerts filled with the energy of sound. Yet each evening a documentary on Kabir was screened to set the note for the music, to seek to draw attention to the poetry, the words themselves, challenges to forgetfulness, startling ruptures in the easy flow of melody.
  4. 4. sleeping /waking While sleeping piled together in a room was certainly a communal experience, it also meant impinging into each other’s spaces and snores. Sleep was at a premium. The chill of the nights penetrated into our rajais. Opportunity for shuteye came close to dawn, after long-held music. What did it mean, this all-night wake, a stubborn attention, this vigil over compositions of nothingness? The wonder was being able to find the energy to go on, each day, after such short, stunted nights of sleep. Somehow the eight hours, or lack of, didn’t matter. Three did just as well. Well, almost.
  5. 5. young /old Five-year old Arpita plays the manjiras on stage for Kaluram Bamaniya, her father and Malwi folk-singer, while behind her sits 65-year old Gavra Davi, who performed before them. The wayfarers on this journey came from all ages, backgrounds, and stations in life. There was a whole mandali from Malwa, steeped in Kabir and folk-music; young urban hippies, steeped in the ‘cool’; middle-aged questers for meaning; people of other nationalities, drawn by the music, struggling with the words. The singers themselves were diverse – from local performers to as far afield as Chennai and Bengal. A plurality strung together on a purpose.
  6. 6. technical / human As much as the yatris, the machines needed charging. And there were an endless number of them – from cellphones to (just out of the frame) still cameras, video cameras, digital audio recorders and other incomprehensible devices. One would have thought the paparazzi itself was here, chasing another Diana, as no performance or satsang was free of the technological overload. The mass of pictures uploaded on Facebook is a testimony; the hours of footage generated mindboggling. Even as one is grateful for the documentation which allows one to return and resample, a still, small voice wonders, what happened to simple listening?
  7. 7. words,stones, Three simple words – mind, sky, love. All three crucial to Kabir’s verse. You might say that when love strikes the mind, the sky shatters into pieces, like the stones scattered here. One of the yatris spoke of how her life went to pieces (in a good way) on reading the poetry. Kabir talks incessantly to the mann, this supple, subtle, uncontrollable organism that is neither heart nor mind, but something in between. Sky represents the element of space within, the place where one is essentially free, the gagan-mandal within the skull. And love… well, what can one say about love? wound s
  8. 8. the informal satsang /gavra devi If music and song were the heart of the yatra, the informal sessions between the yatris and individual singers were its soul. The explorations within this small satsang space lent it depth. Here Smriti’s lens captures a dramatic moment of focus around Gavra Devi, the local folk star. Gavra Devi shared her life-story, sang, explained the poetry, and regaled everybody with her devilish humour. Blind almost since birth, she lit up the gathering with the humility, honesty, humour and sheer warmth of her being. Of the bhajans, she said, “maine hriday mein dhar liye” (I established them in my heart).
  9. 9. parvathy baul Magic happened in the informal session on the sixth afternoon in the dhuni of Jageri. Parvathy was singing to us of surrender. And I saw surrender happen in action – Parvathy surrendered to the song, all of us to her singing. Faces changed expression; something dropped. She urged the mind (mann) to return to its nija niketana (its proper abode). Minds quietened. Silence after the song, within the song... Parvathy spoke of how music descends into the very cells of the body in a state of surrender, how the body is able to receive it with a quietness of mind...
  10. 10. abdullah bhai On a warm, generous morning in the sunlit courtyard of an old haveli in Napasar, Abdullah bhai and Musa Para held us transfixed with Sufi songs, the story of creation, of separation (from the source), legends of the desert, and the inexorable fate of lovers... Abdullah bhai alternately transfixed us and moved us (and himself) to tears. His commentaries were even more riveting than the songs. Thus the love legend of Umar-Marui, where a local king abducts and holds captive a village girl, became a metaphor for the mind captivating the soul; for our trying to dominate what we do not understand.
  11. 11. let the heart-lotus rain /drench the body-sky A poetic rendition of ‘barse kamalyu, bheenje aasmaana’, the yatra motto, seen here on the banner behind Meerabai. The ulatbaansi – or upside-down verse – is a stock of Kabir repertoires. You really have to enter the experience to see how it may all be upside-down, how the earth showers on the sky, the traveller walks but the path gets tired, the wet fence dries on the clothes, or how I existed even before my parents could be born. And so there welled up a flow in the desert, the dryness of the habitual drenched with unsuspected meaning for a brief while.

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