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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Death, Rebirth and Moments that matter

Losing someone you care for is always difficult. But its far, far  more difficult for the family and friends of someone who dies in the prime of their life.
We lost one of our friends, a wonderful lady, a loving mother and wife to cancer some time back. Having lived in Muscat for a few years, the family moved back to India to facilitate her treatment. She fought hard and bravely faced all that was entailed but finally lost the battle. Our hearts go out to the bereaved family and pray that they are able to manage life with all the courage and fortitude that will be required.

Rest in peace my dear friend. You will never be forgotten..

Moving on from that, I reflected briefly on the concept of rebirth, a subject that has attracted a great deal of debate, and this is what came to mind. The Sanskrit word for rebirth or reincarnation is 'punarjanam' and 'samsara' (the round of births and deaths or transmigration of the soul). Researchers have found that memories of past lives are most active during childhood, mainly between the ages of three and five.

Here's a short, real life story- 
A little boy of about three was taken by his mother to Pantaloons Calcutta for the first time, to buy some new clothes. As they came to the kids' section and the mother asked for trousers with suspenders, the little boy turned towards her and said, "Yes Ma, I’ll take this pair because I always wear this particular type.'' But the mother knew that wasn't the case, as she had never bought them for the child earlier. 

So she asked him when exactly had he worn that particular style. His answer shook her to the core. "Always Ma. Remember when I lived in Bangalore? I was also wearing them the day I died." Despite being shaken by the answer, the mother persisted with her questions and soon had the name of the young man, who had died, as detailed by her little boy.

A few weeks and some phone calls later, it was confirmed that a young man of about 26 had been killed in a headlong collision with a truck in Bangalore. This had actually happened just the day before this little boy was born. What was also confirmed was that this young man always wore his jeans/trousers with suspenders. And her son loved playing with cars and bikes to the point of being obsessed. In fact, he still does.

This story is reproduced exactly as this young woman told me. Make of it what you will. One thing is certain, however, as the Bhagavad Gita says: Jatasya hi dhruvo mrityuh – for one who is born, death is certain. Perhaps what Manu wrote in Manusmriti could serve as the definitive answer: 'He who possesses true insight (into the nature of the world) is not fettered by his deeds, but he who is destitute of that insight is drawn into the circle of births and deaths'.

To close, I’m sharing some of my thoughts on what I'd rate as the meaningful things in life. Talking to your friends, and really 'listening' to what they have to say. Or sharing your own 'real' thoughts with them, without couching them in polite tones. Because one does so much of it in maintaining a 'public face' anyway!

Stepping into another person's shoes, and just for a moment realising where they are coming from, and why they think, feel and behave the way they sometimes appear to.(Sometimes to your irritation, perhaps?)

Standing up for another person's rights, because you realise that they aren't able to get what they really, really deserve. And having the courage to and persistence to ensure that you finish what you started.

Giving some of our time, and some of our enthusiasm to those who are lonely. For reaching out to a lonely person is probably the one of those things that make us realise how thankful we really ought to be for all those who we have with us today.

( N B-This piece was originally written for my column 'My Take' in Muscat Daily)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Verdi's 'Macbeth', opens the new season at the Royal Opera House Muscat ( ROHM) with a riveting performance

Any performance at the Royal Opera House Muscat( ROHM) is always superb but the one we saw last evening Sat, (20/9) will remain etched in our minds forever.  The Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM)  opened its 2014-2015 season with a stunning production of Verdi's opera Macbeth, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name.The four-act opera, Giuseppe Verdi's 10th, which originally premiered in 1847 is  based on a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and Andrea Maffei, and inspired by Shakespeare's play. 

This production  of Macbeth directed by Henning Brockhaus, is performed by the Teatro Verdi Trieste in collaboration with the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini, Jesi and Fondazione Teatro Carlo Felice from Genoa in Italy. Conducted by the renowned Donato Renzetti, it stars Michael Chioldi, Csilla Boross and Giorgio Giuseppini, in key roles.

A scene from Verdi's Macbeth

(Pic Courtesy ROHM Website)
The story in in a nutshell-After several witches prophesy that Macbeth will become king, he and his wife, Lady Macbeth, go on a blood thirsty  mission to fulfill his destiny. Fate, however, is stronger than his determination, and ultimately this very ambition and thirst for power become his downfall.

The opera itself is riveting. It's a concentrated version of Shakespeare's Macbeth with good music and packed with blood, murder, and a superb ending. Add to it the superb sets and quality of production and this particular Opera easily ranks  among the best I've ever seen.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are usually portrayed as two of the most evil characters in theatre and opera, but in this Teatro Verdi Trieste production of Verdi's Macbeth, the singers get to explore many sides to this dark couple and their performances are at times jaw dropping and at others, hair rising, in the literal sense.

The stunning interiors of the ROHM

Traditionally, Macbeth is a weak character, easily influenced by others, especially his wife, who easily manipulates him.  Lady Macbeth, who also has blood on her hands, is usually portrayed as the more powerful character, but in Brockhaus's interpretation, there is more equilibrium between the two. 
In this version, it is clear that hat there are two sides to Lady Macbeth, so that she isn't just a vicious, dark and powerful woman. She has a softer, maternal side, too and suffers from the recent loss of a child. The pursuit of power with Macbeth replaces the lost child, thereby renewing the excitement and passion in their marriage.

Memories are truly made of evenings like these

The opera moves relentlessly towards a stunning climax and at the end of it, the performers got a well deserved standing ovation. 

With such a spectacular start to the ROHM'S Season 2014-2015 , here's looking forward to some more power packed performances!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Meeting and bonding with friends in 'real time'

There are so many ways of connecting/re-connecting and then staying in touch with friends in this day and age. 

Whether its on  FB, Twitter, Google, Hotmail, texting, Whats app, Instagram- its all a part and parcel of our daily lives and something which we have absolutely begun to take for granted by now.

And I must confess that like most others, I too am guilty of the sin of omission-that of taking friends for granted on many occasions and managing via all these 'alternative' modes.

But I'm convinced that there's is absolutely nothing that can replace that feeling of warmth and camaraderie that comes with sitting and having a meal/chat with good friends in real life. And I can equally understand why sitting and 'breaking bread' with friends and family has been such a recurring theme with writers and poets over many centuries.

For it really is unique...

Sitting and laughing over silly jokes, eating something everyone relishes, holding a steaming mug of coffee in your hands and then...

Just..Talking the time away....
Coffee with friends-Doesn't get any better!

Try it, if you haven't done it recently. I can guarantee that you will absolutely love it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life's Little Boxes

We all love them, those little boxes that we like to keep our lives organised into because that gives us a semblance of control over our lives. Or so we like to think and believe until something or someone comes and shakes us out of that belief. As I learnt to my discomfort, just the other day.

Life's Little Boxes
( Image from  the internet)

My life is planned to a very large degree and I have certain days of the week allocated for different activities that I’m involved with. Since most of them entail leaving the house by about 8.30am, the cleaner has been clearly informed that the car must be cleaned and ready by 8 am, (just in case I decide/have to leave home somewhat earlier).

And this is an arrangement that has worked rather well for some time. That was until last Tuesday when I reached the car and to my surprise found him just about starting to clean it. The time was already about 8.25 am and I had to leave, with or without that cleaning. Approaching him, I probably had a certain kind of look on my face, and he knew exactly what had caused it. So in anticipation of what I would say to him, he started to apologise, but I wanted to tell him once and for all that being late the next time was a complete ‘no-no’. 

All he did was just lift up his trouser leg and show me a huge bandage covering his foot and right upto his ankle and tell me, “Madam, Yeh chot lag gaya hai.”(Madam, I’ve hurt my foot.) I did not know where to look, let alone tell him anything more. Managing to barely mumble words to the effect that I hoped that he had shown it to a doctor, I got in and started my car. 

But not before I heard him say, “Madam, I’ll finish the job right after you return.”


Then there was this other time when I saw a well to do individual approaching his vehicle in a public parking and start shouting at a poor man cleaning his vehicle. The reason for that - apparently the man was cleaning the car with water that was not too clean. 

That moment will remain etched in my mind and heart forever. The sheer anger and contempt on the man’s face as he shouted at the cowering thin and tired man. But even more, the look of shame and humiliation on the victim’s face as I passed by... 

Life's little boxes-inexplicable sometimes and very hard to forget most of the time.

( Excerpt taken from my column 'My Take' in Muscat Daily.)