A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Musical retreat in Haldwani & a (benign) road accident

From 20 to 27 September, I went to Haldwani for a week with my violin teacher Sukhdev, his eldest brother Pt. Kishore Mishra (a famous Banaras tabla player), his nephew Amit (tabla player), two of the most famous Banaras Kathak dancers of with one of their disciples, and a very well-known Khyal singer. Haldwani is located near Nainital, just before the Nepalese border at the foots of the Himalayas. The musicians were invited for a week to run workshops in a newly-established music school and to perform in concerts. I had not had any violin classes for almost two weeks after my guru's father's passing, so he invited me to come along. Apart from the train tickets everything was free, as I would be housed and fed with the musicians in the organiser's family house. Needless to say I was very excited to spend some privileged time with seven of the greatest Banaras musicians!

The first event of all I guess, was the accident... I haven't told many people and neither of my family because I didn't want to worry them unnecessarily, and because none of us got hurt anyway. Sukhdev, Kishore, Amit and I had arrived in Bareilly by train at midnight (they others were already in Haldwani) and a taxi driver was waiting for us at the station to take us to our destination for a 3-hour ride or so. We loaded the car, Kishore took the front seat, and Sukhdev, Amit and I sat at the back. I was on the middle seat so I had no seat belt, and being Indians none of the others wore theirs. The road was pretty bad and the driver was driving pretty fast but I didn't really take notice of it. I was sleepy and for most of the journey I tried to rest as best as I could, leaning my head back onto a blanket because my seat was low, and focusing on my breath with my eyes closed. Every once in a while the car would jump on the uneven road, but I just got used to it. At the beginning of the ride at some point, the driver just avoided colliding into a car he was overtaking as it wasn't running straight. "He's falling asleep!", our driver complained, as though to prove that he knew better how to control his vehicle. I got a fright but quickly lied back down to rest. Later, Sukhdev told me, we almost bumped into a cow but I was too sleepy to notice anything. And then, only about 25 km away from our destination, the car suddenly jumped a lot more loudly and violently, BAM! BAM! BAM! I heard Amit screaming asking his his father was OK. I woke up wondering what the hell was happening but for all those few seconds I was aware that I was fine, and everything was over. It was so quick and I had been so sleepy that I hadn't had time to get scared that the car had stopped. Sukhdev, Amit and Kishore were shouting asking if everyone was OK and got out of the car, but I had one single concern in the midst of all this chaos: "My glasses, my glasses!" I shouted. Sukhdev hurried me to get out but I couldn't stop looking around and shouting "Chasma, chasma!!!" "Something so dangerous happened and you're just looking for your glasses?!" he shouted, laughing. "But I can't live without my glasses!" I shouted back, whilst scanning the floor from as close as I could to try and see something. I had slipped my glasses onto the top of my jumper to sleep and they had jumped away during the accident. After five minutes of shouting for my glasses I found them between the front seat and the gear lever, but one lens was missing. Being cheap Indian glasses (20 euros!) the lenses sometimes pop out of the frame and I can put them back in easily so that wasn't a worry... as long as I did find the missing lens, that is... I looked some more, now shouting "My lens, my lens!!"... My companions were all out of the car looking at the damage, but I still couldn't possibly get out! Normally I always have an extra pair of glasses in case when I travel, but this time I had found it to be a waste of space, as I never use them anyway. "Well, that'll teach you!" I thought.

After less than five minutes of panic, Kishore came back to the car, and with the coolest of attitude, asked me "Are you looking for your lens?" "Yes!" I shouted with a hint of hope. "There!" He took the lens out of the pocket of his kurta and handed it to me. I was startled. How was this possible!? Could he have had the alertness to see my lens and put it in his pocket to save it before he had got out of the car after such a shocking moment!? No, of course not. After he had got out of the car, he explained to me, he had plunged his hands in his pockets and felt something hard in one of them. He got the thing out and was shocked to discover a lens from my glasses!! He immediately came back to the car to give it to me. Now then, my lens had LANDED IN HIS POCKET during the accident!!! How mad is that!?!? For the next few weeks, this was my guru's best story to tell whomever he met...

After I had found my lens and popped it back into its frame (only 5-10 minutes after the accident!) I finally came out of the vehicle and joined my companions. "Wow!!!" I shouted when I saw the front of the car. It was pretty badly smashed with the right part of the windscreen in pieces. Yet apart from a couple of bruises on my thighs I had nothing. Kishore, even more miraculously since he had been sitting behind the right side of the windscreen, came out with just a 1-cm scratch on his knee. Sukhdev was slightly sore on his lower back, and Amit on his right arm, but that was it (and the following day after I gave them reiki their pain disappeared). It was 3:30am and we were standing on the side of the road while the driver phoned people up. We weren't far from our destination so a new driver would just come and pick us up. I had no idea what had happened because I had been too short-sighted and too sleepy to see anything! A big white jeep was parked on the side of the road with us, apparently because we had bumped into it, but it wasn't so damaged. After a few phone calls and a look at the motor, its driver took the road again and we were left alone. The Indians kept recalling the event frantically and thanking God for His grace which had spared us. "Bhagwan ki kripa, bhagwan ki kripa..." they repeated. It took me a while and a number of questions to understand what had happened. Actually, the car had bumped three times: Firstly we had ran over a cow (and probably killed it, gulp!), then we had bumped into another cow, and then we had bumped into the white jeep which was stopped because it too had bumped into a cow!!! This particular road was famous for its wandering cows and we were not impressed with the driver, because he must have known about it. A cow indeed was sitting in the middle of the road with a leg badly injured, but she finally managed to get up and walk away... We kept waiting and waiting. It was night time and I had no idea how long we would stand there in the middle of no-where, but I had the most surreal of feelings: I was completely quiet, peaceful and alert, and I was grateful, surprised at my lack of fear. After a while we noticed that our driver had quite a lot of pain in his chest. Sukhdev told me that his body had hit the steering wheel. Right after the shock he had not felt anything but now the pain was starting to wake up. He was keeping a hand on his chest, and now he clearly look like it was disturbing him because he couldn't stand quite straight. I felt uncomfortable because I really wanted to give him some reiki, so after a while to help myself go for it I asked my teacher if he thought I could give him. (I regularly give reiki to Sukhdev and he loves it.) The driver kept saying he was OK but kept his hand on his chest so eventually I stopped caring about being socially acceptable and went to put my hands on his chest. I would stand there with my hands on his chest for as long as we would have to wait. I think it really soothed his pain a little because he didn't push me away. It was the weirdest thing to keep my hands on a male Indian stranger's chest in the middle of the night on the side of an empty road, but I kept going and I felt a lot of energy in my hands...

Eventually, I have no idea after how long, the new car came to pick us all up and on we went, leaving the damaged car where it was. We finally reached our destination at about 5am. The organiser and his friend welcomed us in their best kurta-pajama (at 5am!), touched their gurus' feet asked if we were all OK. After dropping us the new driver took the old driver straight to the hospital. We were invited to sit in a very well-furnished living room, and to make my time even more surreal, the three Banaras dancers came to greet us, half-asleep in their night clothes!!! It was quite an amusing sight compared to how I am used to seeing them on stage, with fancy make-up and shiny clothes!!! After the musicians hugged one another happily and loudly we drank some hot, comforting chai, and Kishore, Sukhdev and Amit agitatedly recalled the night's event in their best Bojhpuri (the Varanasi dialect). While the others were still talking about the accident, Sukhdev burst out laughing and told everyone about my glasses story... "Bhagwan ki Kripa se, thanks to God's grace we are all here!", Kishore repeated. I loved that they were talking about God's grace, because somehow I hadn't even thought about it. Perhaps it had all been so surreal that my mind had not been quite in place. And it was almost 6am and I was now very sleepy... With great relief I collapsed on my (assigned) bed and into the most comforting realm of, aaaah... Sleep...

I woke up quite early the next same day because I couldn't sleep more, but until evening I intercepted awakeness with two or three more naps. It was just a weird, recovering day. Around lunch time I was called to sit with all the musicians on a semi-circle of red plastic chairs at the entrance of the property. Two journalists were sitting in front of them taking pictures and asking questions. As soon as I sat, still feeling odd and sleepy, one of the men started interviewing me about my musical background. It felt a bit like a joke, considering that I was sitting next to eight of the most talented musicians of North India!!! The next morning at breakfast one of the dancers told me "Wow, your face came out really nicely in the newspaper!" Hey? What? I went to look... Shocking! Just a day after I had arrived in Haldwani, my face - only my face - was in the newspaper. They had been taking photos of all the great musicians, yet they had chosen just my wee face... Those silly Indians, in owe of anything western!!! It took some time getting used to!!! Of course they misspelled my name; they even invented that I was 22 years old!

The whole week passed smoothly, a like a musical retreat. It was very interesting to get to know some of Varanasi's greatest musicians, including my guru's brother and nephew. I was fed delicious food, although by the end of the week I really missed salad and fruits. The surroundings were quiet and beautiful. I was very-well looked after. I attended a beautiful vocal class from the khyal singer, delighted to hear his sweetest voice in the intimacy of a bedroom for the first time, as it sounded way better than when it's over-amplified! I sat during tabla and Kathak dance workshops; I took daily classes with my guru and practised alone as well. On the third day I accompanied my teacher in concert (following another two newspaper articles featuring my wee face), and my performance was well-received by the audience and the other musicians, who were all very encouraging and just lovely with me. I kept telling them it was no big deal, that many foreigners learn Indian classical music in Varanasi, but as one of the dancers told me, "For us it is a big deal that you drop your culture to adopt our tradition, and to even to learn our language so well." This went straight to my heart and I decided to accept the compliments... Whenever I felt too shy to sit with the musicians in their rooms during break times (not only because they were great, "inaccessible" musicians but also because they were Indian men), I spent time with the family's women. Of course, as Indian women always do because I look fair and beautiful in their eyes and my Hindi sounds sweet, they absolutely loved me. One day, Sukhdev, Amit, Saurav and I were invited to visit Nainital. It was a fun day and we took a boat tour on the city's famous lake. Nainital is higher in the mountain and I was happy to be able to wear my jeans after hot and sticky Varanasi.

After a few days into this musical routine the whole accident episode just felt like a dream. It turned out that our driver had broken two ribs, by the way, but he was OK. As I remembered the event, for me it was as though this accident had happened to us to justify the law of Karma. I couldn't explain how and why, but it felt clear to me that it had happened because the driver had had to work out something in his karma, and we had been his passengers to facilitate his task. Of course all of us musicians had been spared because it was not our karma, just the driver's...

On the car ride back to Bareilli, we all wore our seat belt...

1 comment:

  1. I also compose songs and written some nice ones.mail me if you want a music collabration..mail id is - dreamz_vickyboss@yahoo.co.in