Thursday, May 24, 2012

Picking up a fight


Just the other day someone sent a link to a beautiful classical rendition of a Tarana (a style in classical music) in Raag Bhairon.  It was truly a blissful performance by an old guru.  I heard it over and over again.  Then out of curiosity scrolled down to see the comments other listeners have left on the page.  That, I think, was a big mistake.  But then, I wouldn’t have written this piece without that experience.

It amazes me, how easily people can pick up a fight over just about anything… even the most beautiful music.  Classical Indian music has had some very fine traditions based on respect - for the Guru or Ustad (the teacher) as well as for the music and the compositions.  I have had the good fortune of spending some time with an Ustad during my college years.  He was a soft spoken, pious, five-times-praying Muslim.  Knowing well, that I was a rebellious and non-religious person, he still took me as his student without any hesitation.  As years went by I began to realize that his serenity came from his music and his happiness from sharing it.  I do not remember him ever bad mouthing or knit picking anyone - even those who would make him wince by asking him to teach them seven Raags in the two weeks they had taken off from their busy schedule.  He would just smile and say “It took me all these year, but you may learn it faster”.

Once an overzealous, persistent young man asked him how much time would he require to master classical music.  Ustad chuckled, “Only three hundred years”.  The young man’s eyes popped out as Ustad continued, “Hundred years of good listening, hundred years of good practice and hundred years of good performance… and you will be there”.

Through numerous anecdotes and examples, he taught me that the art of music lies in becoming one with it, like a Sufi with his God.  When you achieve that purity ‘of notes and rhythm’, music becomes your lover.  After that there will be no place left in you for hatred.  Though I always saw him as a peaceful soul, immersed in his music, I was surprised when I found him reciting a bhajan, totally lost in it, one day.  Singing praises of a Hindu God did not seem a problem for this pious Muslim.

And here we are mistrusting and abusing each other for almost no rhyme or reason.  Am referring to the comments posted below that beautiful rendition I was listening to.  An aficionado has displayed his knowledge of classical music by listing down the names of classical music Gharanas (traditional schools) however all of them belonged to a particular religion.  It was followed by an abusive post with yet another list of Gharanas, all belonging to another religion and challenging the first one.  The next post abuses the second one and supports the first.  Religious lines drawn, the fight is on and the maestros, whose names they are fighting for, must be churning in their graves.

It is so easy to pick up a fight over nothing - thanks to our fears and mistrust of others; and our insecurities and confusions of being tied to imaginary boundaries that we ourselves continue to propagate.  How does it matter how many names of Gharanas or Raags one knows and the religion they may belong to?  Our claim to fame cannot be cramming some names and then trying to limit them into our self-defined stupid and artificial boundaries and borders.

Wish we could somehow strip ourselves off our fears and dive into music just to become one with it and sway, irrespective of our religions or a lack of it.  But then, it won't be as much fun as abusing another, right?

Parvez Imam