“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mian Ki Malhar

Last week my friend Sreekumar gifted me with an album of Hindustani classical instrumental music. The single folder has 16 CDs – 'SAAZ'. 2 CDs each of Tabla, Sarod, Flute, Santoor, Sitar, Sarangi, Violin and Shehnai. Masters such as Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain, Amjad Ali Khan, Shivkumar Sharma, Satish Vyas, Chaurasia, Renu Majumdar, Sabri Khan, Vilayat Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, L Subramanimam, N Rajam, Bismillah Khan – to name a few.

I am listening to Ravi Shankar playing Mian Ki Malhar. It is 1830. Darkness has fallen early today, sky is clouded and rain-laden.

Ravi Shankarji is plucking the strings of his Sitar. I feel as if I am standing before an unplucked bunch of Jasmine and every touch of his fingers on the strings makes me feel that I am touching the Jasmine, flower by flower, as its gentle scent ascends the crevices of my mind.

Death is all around here. A few days back, a former colleague of mine passed away. He had respiratory problems since long. I was working in the bank when I heard about him. Died the previous night, cremation already over that morning, far away in a village near Trichur.

Couple of days back there was this terrible tragedy at Thekkady. A boat capsized and 41 tourists were drowned to death. People from Bengal, New Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and other places. The Malayalam news channels had a field day. Gruesome scenes, heartbreaking scenes, speculations about the cause of the accident, human angle stories, husbands and wives and fathers and mothers grieving.

Thousands, it is reported, are dead in the Indonesian earthquake. Hundreds in a Sunami somewhere in the South Pacific. Obituary columns threaten to overflow the single sheet of the newspaper. Then there are the death anniversaries. People dead, dying.

Sandra Hoynacki is my friend. She lives in the US. Her mother has Alzheimer's. She wrote to me yesterday that her mother is hospitalized due to renal failure. I replied that I hoped Sandy would have the strength to bear such pain and sorrow.

Mian ki Malhar is now at the fast rapid Kaal. Ravi Shankar's fingers are flying over the strings. The Tabla accompaniment is like the rocks in the riverbed over which the stream of sitar flow, joyously, and then it rises to a cresendo and then - gently enters the wide lake of my still mind. There is silence.

There is such peace. I think of the young widowed man crying over his wife. I see the half-opened eyes of a little girl, dead. I see the face of my colleague, asking after my family and smiling. I see the face of the weeping Indonesian woman, waiting at the remains of her daughter's school, hoping she would come out alive from the ruins.

It has started to rain again. Mian Tansen must be singing his Malhar up in the heavens.

You see, there is no need to believe in anything. All you need to do is to listen. To look. To smell. To be aware. To be there, wherever you are. And when sun sets and darkness falls, drop off to the soft earth gently like the Jasmine flowers. Tomorrow, when day breaks, we would be there, hugging Mother Earth.

********* Balachandran, Trivandrum 02.02.2009

(Photo by Victor George)


  1. will u believe,i dare to watch tv these days..i simply dont understand y this much deaths.accidents everywhere everyday evrytime.evry time i dart thru channels i see a crushed vehicle and the news reader detailing.and the house where i am stayng now,they are completly on news channels.wen i go to have food there,they all will b watchg again n again the details of thekkadi accident.
    i wonder y am i still alive.

  2. Balan, I envy you.
    16 CDs of Hindustani instrumental.
    Sangeethathinte perumazhakalam.
    Enjoy it.

  3. @vijayan: Yes, I am; in the morning and in the evening, day after day...!!


Leave a word, please!