Saraswati Mela

Chandrayan , human tenacity and Gulzar

We conquered the moon too. The success of Chandrayaan- II is not only the victory of science but of every human endeavour which has tried to know the world better and to make the world a better place, since the beginning of time. The Chandrayan is like the corked bottle , floating with a message inside, chasing down the horizon. It has flown with the insignia of the hard-work and tenacity of millions of people, taking it to the Moon.

It is an accomplishment of human inquisitiveness and persistence, and also a celebration of both. Humanity, somewhere also stands for the spirit of not giving up which lends the human life its meaning. Taking this further, we turn to the alchemist of words, Gulzar who is also a relentless celebrator of the human spirit. His human doesn’t shy away from difficulties or the good fight but instead gives it all she has, to honour the meaning of being human . She challenges the cosmos and beyond it, she can challenge God.

In front of the most majestic of supernatural powers, miracles and adversities, a small act of human hope and resistance is all that is needed.
Just like the smallest of plants has it in itself to crack the strongest of walls once it firmly grows its roots. You can feel the pen of the shayar Gulzar pulsate with life as it pens down the history of the battles humankind has fought- where his human and our humanity emerge victorious.

Along with the success of Chandrayaan this poem from the book ‘Yaar Julahe is also a celebration of every human achievement and triumph throughout the ages. Please read and enjoy..



Poore ka poora aaksh ghuma kar baazi dekhi maine

kale ghar mein suraj rakh ke ,

tumne shayad socha tha, mere sab mohre pit jayenge,

maine ek chirag jala kar

apna rasta khol liya

tumne ek samandar haath mein le kar, mujh par thel diya 

maine nooh ki kashti uske upar rakh di 

kaal chala tumne aur meri janib dekha 

maine kaal ko tod ke lamha-lamha jeena seekh liya 

meri khudi ko tumne chand chamatkaron se maarna chaha,

mere ek pyade ne tera chaand ka mohra maar liya-

maut ki shah de kar tumne samjha ab to maat hui,

maine jism ka khol utaar ke saunp diya

aur rooh bacha li

poore -ka- poore aaksh ghuma kar ab tum dekho baazi

Khuda ( God)

I turned the whole sky to see the game laid out
You kept the Sun in a black square
and thought had all my pieces beat
I lit a lamp
and found my way.

You took a raging ocean in Your hand and pushed it onto me
I kept Noah’s Ark on top of it
You put forward Time and looked at me
I learned to break it down and live moment by moment , in the moment

You tried to vanquish my Self with a few miracles
A single pawn of mine had your Moon beat

You checked with Death and thought it was checkmate
I shed my body
and saved my soul

Turn the whole sky around
and now You see
how the game is laid out.

(Gulzar's poem translated by Shubhangie Mishra)

Rumi on finding oneself with all sacredness and beyond every dogma

Who gets up early 
to discover the moment light begins? 
But don't be satisfied with stories, how things 
have gone with others. Unfold 
your own myth,
Your legs will get heavy 
and tired. Then comes a moment 
of feeling the wings you've grown, 


Paradise is there, behind that door, in the next room; but I have lost the key. 

Perhaps I have only mislaid it. 

                       –Kahlil Gibran

The eternal quest of humanity has been to unlock the lock to paradise, but perhaps we have not been able to find the key because we have  it too close to ourselves. Creating paradise is essentially being in sync with our true selves and , finding ourselves is actually, creating ourselves. It is a difficult journey to undertake  but one of paramount importance. Throughout the history of civilization we have had poets and philosophers who have stood steadfast, burnt and lighted our paths. The lanterns of ideas and words and thoughts was always kept alight…

Jalauddin Balkhi born on September 30, 1207 in Balkh of Afghanistan was one of these carriers of the tradition of light. Known as Rumi, Jalauddin immersed himself in the dervish Sufism of his time and penned beautiful verses. His poems are the lovesick cry of a lover, the giddying ecstasy of a dervish and the profound wisdom of a saint. Much like the Sufis, Rumi emphasised the need to break the shackles of dogma, convictions and  traditions and experience the truth for oneself . Kahlil Gibran says a beautifully pragmatic thing when he says that – Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see the truth through it, but it divides us from the truth. Rumi implores the reader and the listener to break this window pane, this glass ceiling ( If i may) and touch and hold the truth in their palms.

Rumi returns age old tales and fables to their rightful place and interpretations . He treats them as symbols, albeit powerful ones at that . He urges us to dive in them and return with a newfound understanding of their meaning, the potent truths they hold and ourselves, unfurling and shaping our destinies on the way.

Swadharma ( One’s own nature and duty ) by S.H Raza

Who gets up early 
to discover the moment light begins? 
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms? 
Who comes to a spring thirsty 
and sees the moon reflected in it? 
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age, 
smells the shirt of his lost son 
and can see again? 
Who lets a bucket down and brings up 
a flowing prophet? 
Or like Moses goes for fire 
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?

Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies, 
and opens a door to the other world. 
Soloman cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring. 
Omar storms in to kill the prophet 
and leaves with blessings. 
Chase a deer and end up everywhere! 
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow on drop. 
Now there’s a pearl. 
A vagrant wanders empty ruins. 
Suddenly he’s wealthy.

But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things 
have gone with others. Unfold 
your own myth, without complicated explanation, 
so everyone will understand the passage, 
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy 
and tired. Then comes a moment 
of feeling the wings you’ve grown, 

Only a poet like Rumi could write a poem of such transcendence where water is not enough to quench one’s thirst but just a step to know, desire and achieve something greater; the moon.Among the tapestry of Biblical, Jewish and Islamic allegories, the last one is a personal narrative of Rumi. Rumi had pursued the life of an orthodox religious scholar when in 1244, he met the mystic and wanderer Shams of Tabriz. In his Sohbet , simply translating to company but meaning a state of blissful spiritual exchange and conversation , Rumi was transformed . The stream in him flew open , gushing forward with all its power and glory. Rumi dedicates his poems to this mighty torrent which swept him off his feet and hurled him into bliss and ecstasy. Thus Shams of Tabriz came to be known as his muse and friend. A beautiful ode to the great journey inwards, this poem, just like its mythical symbolism is elevated by Rumi’s love and wisdom to mythical proportions. 



Preserving instruments long lost in the alleys of time – Bygone Beats

We hope that no instrument or music form ever has to pass into oblivion in the minds of people.


Yatindra Mishra writes about the long lost instrument ‘Raavanhattha’in his poem ‘Magical Fiddle”

Just mention this bowed fiddle
and even the dead come alive
on its lilting music reaching out
the faraway sands
one finds footsteps of
the Bengali Baul Saint
called Lalon Faqir
This is no mere instrument to
just play out the notes
but a spontaneous part
of life for long years…
…..Just letting it languish alone
we may forget the names of
who knows how many
Fakirs and Kabirpanthis….

The symbols and motifs which  constitute our culture, develop much like their biological counterparts of an ecosystem. They don’t develop in seclusion but in a symbiotic relationship with a multitude of many other things. Losing any part of it is akin to losing a product of thousands of years of evolution. As Yatindra Mishra says, losing a simple instrument is losing a part of our cultural legacy , losing Raavanhattha is also losing the songs of longing and prayer which accompanied it,  the beautiful writings of the poets and bards which were sung on it. It is also losing the philosophy which forms a part of our shared history and only time knows what else with it. 

With this ache in my heart , I recently came across an initiative by the Music Club of BIT Mesra, Dhwani   . They were working on a project titled Bygone Beats where they chronicled the history of seven instruments lost to time. They researched deeply and made invigorating , short videos on them which would familiarize the viewers with these instruments. They also share rare recordings of the instruments. Their choices covered eastern and western music worlds, Hindustani and Carnatic practices of music. The instruments  covered were Rudra Veena, Lituus, Pena, Bassoon, PakhawajMorchang & theNadaswaram.

Deeply appreciative of the initiative I got in contact with the people behind these projects to know about their inspirations, challenges and rewards.

SM: This is such a novel concept digging deep in the love of music, how was the concept of Bygone Beats conceived?

The loss of any instrument is, in a way, like losing a part of our history, our roots. We felt that we, as musicians, should know about these instruments and their value in music and their importance to musicians and audience. It was also important to understand the causes of their extinction so that we may be able to see if a similar fate awaits any more of the existing instruments or art forms, and to preserve and protect them.

SM:With project of such a vast scale, what is the methodology of your research?

We read about instruments which are lesser known or extinct and selected 7 instruments of various types which we were going to feature in our series. We had even asked our spectators to suggest instruments that they would like to be featured in the series and we included those instruments. We then studied the selected instruments extensively, took help from people who had more knowledge about them and listened to audio recordings to understand them better.

         (‘Nadaswaram’, performed by Mambalam M. K. S. Siva)

 SM:Tell us about  the most enchanting experience of the journey so far. 

 When elders and knowledgeable musicians hear of this initiative and the instruments we are covering, they feel surprised and happy that the younger generation knows about these instruments and is making efforts to spread the knowledge

SM: And your learnings from it ?

Working on this series was quite an enriching experience. Not only did we learn about the technicalities of the instruments, but also their origin and how each of them served as a prominent symbol of the culture of the region where they were popular. It is incredible how musicians spent their entire life devoted to the practice of these instruments and how slowly, imperceptibly, these instruments started losing their touch with audience and musicians alike, until very few people remained who could play them and teach them to the younger generations.

(Morchang Maestro- Rais Khan)

 SM:And the difficulties you faced. 

 Since most of these instruments are no longer played, sometimes information about them or recordings are difficult to find.

SM: How does it feel to recover the lost nostalgia?

 The loss of any art form or an instrument associated with it is a huge cultural loss to humanity. It is indeed sad that these instruments could not survive the changing interests of the audience. But we found the series to be a good way to spread knowledge about them. It was gratifying to know that even people who don’t have the technical know-how of music were interested in knowing about these instruments and appreciated our work.

( Reconstruction of the etruscan Lituus )

SM: What are your future plans and hope from it?

 The subject of music is very vast with numerous genres, styles and instruments, all designed to suit different types of audience and artists. Each of these holds some connection to our deepest emotions and is equally important. We hope that no instrument or music form ever has to pass into oblivion in the minds of people.

The Dhwani Team

Despite all the difficulties and the challenges faced in uncovering the long lost history and performances , Team Dhwani did a commendable job . They have shared various videos and text posts which are available on their Facebook page providing an insight into the times and beauty of these instruments.

To summarise this truly noble preservation initiative , I would again like to quote Yatindra Mishra from his poem In the Boat of Poetry and Music’-

Carrying on their shoulders
the boat of poetry and music
who knows how many
minstrels and mendicants have
been walking piercing the
mist of long centuries
Even they would not know that
what difference they made to
our lives by walking in thus
They were the ones who saved
in their dinghy a tune
of the endless music of life
that had fallen out of our palms
just as though it had slipped from
musical repertoire of the formless one……

Much like the Derveshes and the minstrels of the poem, the Dhwani team brought for us a glimpse of different hues and melody of life’s infinite music which had been previously lost to us. We hope that like the etrenal nature of their name ( Dhwani stands for sound) they lend a new life and renewed spirit to the music, expressions and art which have been buried in the sands of time and oblivion .


Note: All images and video courtesy –  Dhwani – Music Club, BIT Mesra.



In awe of poetry- This is a poem that heals fish

A poem is when you have the sky in your mouth..
A poem ...is when words beat their wings..


Poetry always leaves things unsaid, so that new meanings can sprout from the crevices that are left. It is for me no coincidence that the Irish Godddess of medicine and healing, Brigid is also the Goddess of poetry. She carries a cauldron which signify her transformative powers. Mythology dealt with symbols and the image of Brigid is a beautiful homage to understanding  the healing and transformative power of poetry.

The awe and wonders which lie in the recesses of poetry are combined with childhood innocence and curiousty and explored in an enchanting illustrated book- This is a Poem that Heals Fish.

The book begins with the frenzied cried of little Arthur as he says-

Mommy! My fish is going to die!

Come quickly! Leon is going to die of boredom!

As an antidote to the unbearable prosaic and mundane struggles of day-to-day living, Arthur’s Mom prescribes the most primitive and powerful drug for Arthur’s fish-

Hurry , give him a poem!

And she leaves for her tuba Lesson.

Arthur is bewildered , as he doesn’t know what a poem is. He searches in his kitchen, in his cabinets, among the cleaning supplies, even under his bed but nowhere can he find his poem.

Thus , he goes in search to know what exactly is poem and this is where we , along with Arthur embark on a magical journey.

Determined , Arthur continues his search.

He runs to Lolo’s bicycle shop.

Lolo knows everything, laughs all the time. and is always in love.

Lolo-Illustrations from the book

Arthur  asks everyone of his dilemma and gets vastly different answers from all of them.

A poem , Arthur,is when you are in love and have the sky in your mouth…

Oh! Okay…

Arthur’s friend Mrs. Round the baker has the following answer-

A poem ?

I don’t know much about that .

But I know one and it is hot like fresh bread.

When you eat it, a little is always left over..

Oh! Okay.

Poetry as bread-Illustrations from the book

Mahmoud from the deserts has his own answer to the question.

A poem is when you hear the heartbeat of a stone.

Oh! All Right.

Mahmoud and stones-Illustrations from the book

On the mention of a heartbeat Arthur is startled and rushes to his fish . He finds that his colourless existence has lulled him to sleep. As poetry crosses all the barriers of the possible and impossible, Arthur then heads to his pet canary Aristophanes to seek his answer. The bird obliges –

Puffing himself up, Aristophane chirps:

A poem is when words beat their wings.

But perhaps the most endearing and deceivingly simple reply comes from Arthur’s Grandma.

When you put your old sweater on backwards or inside out, dear Arthur, You might say that it is new again. A poem turns words around, upside down..

Grandma’s Upside down -Illustrations from the book


Then she tells her little grand-kid to visit his Grandpa as he often writes poem instead of repairing pipes. Grandpa has no doubts as he says-

A poem is what poets make..

Even if the poets do not know it themselves.

Poets and Poems-Illustrations from the book

After this Arthur goes to his beloved fish and apologizes that he hasn’t found a poem. But he does tell what he has come to know-

A poem is

when you have the sky in your mouth

It is hot like fresh bread,

when you eat it,

a little is always left over.

A poem

is when you hear

the heartbeat of a stone,

when words beat their wings .

It is a song sung in a cage.

A poem

is words turned upside down

and suddenly!

the world is new.


As he understood what a poem is , the world turned a lot more magical for Arthur and his little fish .With poetry Arthur could talk to his fish.

Leon opens one eye , then the other,

and for the first time in his life he speaks.

-Then I am a poet Arthur.


and my poem is my silence……….

Arthur flying away with his fish -Illustrations from the book

Poetry healed the fish and Arthur went on riding on the back of his little Leon, on the wings of his new found imagination.

For a truly heartwarming experience please go through this book which combines innocence, art and poetry to create magic.

[ref]Saraswati mela[/ref]