Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Open Letter to Mr Bachan

Dear Mr Bachan

You have every right to endorse any brand. It is perfectly legal and nothing should stop you.

Smoking cigarettes is perfectly legal. You cannot however deny that cigarettes are a cancerous idea. Your endorsement of Gujarat Tourism’s brand falls into this category. You did after all accept the offer at Mr Modi's invitation.

Corporate India will not be able to thank you enough. The corporate world has been looking for somebody who can help them move to Gujarat without having to be embarrassed or apologetic about dealing with Mr. Modi. You made it look like the right thing to do.

The timing is equally bad. Just as the law is catching up with Mr. Modi, you start making Mr.Modi look like a victim rather than the accused, You have the media batting for you as well. You managed to begin the process of changing the general perception about Mr. Modi. He, more than most, needs as much help as he can get in managing his image.

You have done nothing wrong as far as this episode is concerned. This is not about right or wrong. This is about the shades of grey between the two. That said, you will be judged by the company you keep. Some people will applaud you for keeping such company and some people will not approve (me). At the end of the day it is a choice that you will have to make. Whether you like it or not, choices that you make publicly do influence others.

I disagree not just with the choice but your vehement defence of the choice.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Yugan Yugan Hum Yogi

I have uploaded a Song from Shabnam Virmani's Album "Songs of Kabir" (with her permission).

Happy listening!

Saturday, 13 March 2010


I made it to the Kabir Mahotsav!

It’s difficult to write about the experience of the last 10 days. Therefore, let me cut straight to the chase.

The Musical Highlights
  • Mura Lala and Parbhat Jogi
    Mura Lala and Parbhat Jogi are from Kutch. The biggest highlight of the trip was travelling with and listening to these two perform both on stage and to over 12,000 people (at Roopakheda in Dara District) and in the impromptu sessions that they obliged us with on the bus and at Tipanyaji’s residence.
    Mura Lala is a vocalist with a booming voice. You will be moved every time you listen to him.
    Parbhat Jogi accompanies him on the Dholak (never heard the Dholak played so well and in such a unique style). BTW - Jogi Saab has an amazing voice as well.
    Shabnam Virmani has recorded their music and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I did find a short sample of Mura Lala's music on the net here
    Mura Lala
  • Bus Trip from Ujjain to Roopa Kheda
    Kaluram Bamaniya, Mura Lala, Parbhat Jogi, Shabnam Viramani and Narayanji sang through a six hour bus journey from Ujjain to Roopa Kheda! The words “kabir ki gaadi” had a totally new meaning. This Satsang was once in a lifetime experience. The cramped seats, the heat of the mid-day sun, and the sounds of the highways could not drown out the tempura, dholak and most importantly the voices of these artists. For some part of this trip I was sitting next to Mukthiyar Ali!!
  • Kaluram Bamaniya on the Bus (Mura Lala is holding his Tanpura)
  • Shabnam Virmani
    Her performances at Luniya Khedi and Ujjain gave me goose bumps! It is very rare to come across such an open voice. Her ability to connect with the audiences and get them swaying would have made most artists proud. Listening to her was Paisa Vasool!
    Shabnam Virmani recording the Jam Session
The Personal and Political Highlight
  • Finding a friend: Suresh Awasthi
    Made an amazing friend is Suresh Awasthi. At his age, most of us would not have the courage to take public transport. He however, was not only braving the elements but was making sure, that we had it comfortable. The principles with which he has led his life are things people like me can only look at in awe and aspire towards.
    He is exceptionally caring and made sure that both Sudha and I were taken care of (more often than not at his expense). His sense of humour that had me rolling on the floor laughing on more than one occasion. Some of the conversations that I had with him, merit an independent blogspost.
  • Narayanji
    Narayanji was the most politically vocal and articulate of all the people I met. Maybe it was his background with Ekalavya or maybe it was just his own experiences with being brought up a Dalit in a caste dominated society that made him so vocal and articulate. He shared some very interesting anecdotes including one about his planned work with Dalits in Ahmedabad where untouchability is still practiced in some pockets.
    Parbhat Jogi (in turban) and Narayanji (centre)
  • A lesson in courage - “Saathi” Saheb
    When you have 2000 people gathered together, your are bound to attract a few flies (read as Godmen and politicians). On the second day of the festival at Luniyakhedhi, there was a “pravachan” by a godman followed by some gyaan from the local BJP politicians. The audience gave a cold response to both the Godmen and the politicos.
    Then came Saathi Sahed. He took the mike very politely and in under 6 minutes neutralized everything the BJP politicos and the Godmen had said. His argument was simple but precise – the root problem is the caste system and it needs to be cut at the roots. He took the suggestions that the politicos had given and showed exactly how it made the problem worse. He then delicately put the Godmen in place by explaining the danger of institutionalizing the work of Kabir. Unlike the BJP and Godmen, Saathi Saab got the “Jai Ho!” and ovation from the audience. #EPICWIN
    It takes a certain amount of courage and conviction to stand up and speak your mind the way he did. He was an inspiration and a lesson. 
Suresh Awasthi (left) and "Saathiji" (right)

    Acknowledgments and Thank You to
    • Prahlad Singh Tipaniyaji 
      What a host! He was dealing with 1000s of visitors but made sure that each of us was taken care of. He saw me without a shawl on the first evening and was headed to the stage for his performance. He stops, turns around, walks all the way back to his house to get me a shawl.I was touched.
    • Ajay Tipanyaji
      I do not know how he did it. Event managers charge in lakhs for events a fraction of this size. This person organized the logistics with the least possible infrastructure and resources at his disposal.
    • Shabnam Virmani
      The bus ride and Yatra would not have been possible with out her. She was willing to accommodate me and tolerate my "pile on" presence. Thank you for having me on board for a small part of your journey with Kabir.
    Parting thoughts
    The language of peace and tolerance is deep-rooted in India. People in the thousands walked miles to attend a function dedicated to the work of a man who said “break down the temples and mosques and find the god within you”.

    Many of these people, and for that matter even some of the artists are illiterate. However, based on the way they lead their lives they seem to be far more educated than most people who are at the centre of  political discourse in India.

    Jai Ho Kabira!

    PS- For a few snaps from the event -
    KabirMahotsav Photos