Out of Station (Away from Home)

It has now been nearly three months since I left for Kokata and it's been a wonderful turn thus far in India.  I'm returning to the beginning of my time here and starting off with this entry as the initiation to my life in India.  My time here thus far has been spent in travel and in upcoming chapters I'll get into the cultural regions and cities I've visited from Kerela in the south to Darjeeling in the north.  I will also touch on all of the inspirational aspects that brought me to India; Ayurveda, Holistic Health, Yoga, and, as I've mentioned at the end of this entry, Indian music.

     It began with the wrong exit off the highway, the wrong terminal, wrong direction on “the link”, and the wrong cue.  My Dad and I were obviously tired, and not paying enough attention.  Not that last night was crazy or anything, unless you think a rousing family game of Wizard is an over the top way to spend New Year’s Eve.

The woman waved me through the security scanner and looked down from my face to the charm of
Buddha hanging around my neck, she smiled and simply said “Buddha?” The simplest security check ever.  The flights, all four (yes 4), went seamlessly, and as I walked out of the terminal I was greeted by the Kay brothers discreetly standing on a wall, accentuating their stature, waving to me; I had arrived in Kolkata with every blessing.

What a feeling to be back in this place, none will be as striking as my first cab ride to our place in south Kolkata, but this time felt more homey.  The streets off the main bypass leading to our apartment are riddled with ruts, potholes, mud, and construction materials, making our ride slow and cautious.  Outside our gate Jonathan went to pull by bags from the back of the antique cab, instantly revealing to us why you let your cabbie get your bag, cracking his head on the trunk lid as it came crashing down; cabbies know their car the best.  Once inside I grabbed my Q-tips, baby wipes, and Nature’s Aid skin gel; the cut was a good one but no stitches needed thank goodness.  It was nearly two in the morning but we were up for a bit making curd (yogurt) for the morning, and having a few homemade cookies I’d made.  The humid night air enveloped the apartment, the temperature stayed cool but by no means cold.  The morning came with the throngs of construction workers clanging away just meters from our windows.  As I sit now hearing the sounds of this place muffled by the welling tones of saxophones I feel all the blessings of India envelop me.
 
I go to Kishan market in our neighbourhood and I stand at the open side of the verity store while the woman gathers the items we want.  I am here but realistically I can fly to Canada any time and never have to walk through garbage, mud, or pass a puppy in a standoff with a cow on the street to buy coconut oil and eggs.  All kinds of people live here including our Guruji (teacher) who lives a mere minute walk from our flat.  Others work in the city commuting on their motorcycles; some are taxi driers, labourers, craftsmen, shopkeepers, and schoolchildren.  We live in a second floor apartment, two bedrooms, two baths, and a good size living dining area with a small kitchen.  We have the most beautiful marble floors and granite countertops, both abundant materials here.  Every window has a ledge with room for potted cacti.  I am still getting settled here, as I shuffle things around to make room for my own.  

On my first night here Jonathan and Andrew and I were invited to a private concert at the family house of one of India’s foremost sweet makers K C Das.  We were treated to the music of the Kolkata Music Academy Chamber Orchestra playing music from Handel and Mozart, to The Beatles and Bob Dylan, through to Indian Rabindrasangeet music.  After dinner was served Jonathan and Andrew played Like Someone in Love, Body and Soul and a blues.  Next visit they have insisted that I sing for their family, I will be only to happy to as upon our leaving the joyous evening we were presented with platters of sweets, flowers and a car to take us all the way back to our apartment.  The next evening again was filled with excitement as we traveled to our Guruji’s daughter, Mitra’s, school to see the artistic presentations from the students there.  Beautiful paintings adorned the walls and several groups of students preformed children’s songs on keyboards. Vendors selling sarees (the Indian ladies dress), jewelry and other handicrafts were set up in the schoolyard and I picked up a saree and a tunic that I can wear to concerts in India. 

 Friday night marked the evening of the, 14th annual Sangeetacharya Radhika Mohan Maitreya Memorial Conference featuring Kushal Das and Kalyanjit Das on Sitar accompanied by Subhankar Banerjee on tabla.  

The fragrance of marigolds envelops the theatre wafting around on sweet sitar sound.  Father and son in matching kurta (men’s long tunic) jugalbandi (duet) their way through the alaap (free opening section), building Raga Malkauns (a collection of melodies) with inspiration from the divine.  The spirits of maestros (great musicians) past reside with us, commemorated with photos like alters on the stage.  Garlands of marigolds loop across the front of the stage and hang to frame the program banner behind the musicians.  The audience is attentive, captivated, transported and thrown into unanimous applause with each thunderous tihai (rhythmic cadence).  No concert is complete without checking the sur (tuning).  Unison lines usher in the tabla (Indian drum).  The sharp light of a video camera panning the audience blinds me.  Outside the government concert hall, between acts, are many walas (sellers) peddling snacks and chai.  Around me sit the maestros of tomorrow, the shishyas (students), eagerly attentive to each line and movement.  The tablas jump from their resting cushions as the tabla solo builds.  Thirsty for more taans (musical phrase), like parched parishioners waiting for the preacher, we drink in the raga pouring the melodious stream of music into our beings in true Indian fashion, without allowing the mouth of the vessel grace the lip, a steady stream of bliss.

My time in India will always be surrounded by music and if you want to learn more about Raga music please visit Monsoon-music's blog http://blog.travelpod.com/members/monsoon-music.  My next entry will include my trip to Agartala, the capital of the state of Tripura India located on the eastern side of Bangladesh. 

Health and Happiness
Shayna  
 


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