No Salutes To Modernity: Moushumi Bhowmik, Her Intimate Cosmos

On July 4, 2013 by admin

Majhi (click here for the song)
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[HUG listens to singer, songwriter Moushumi Bhowmik]

 

Prasanta: Moushumi, it is difficult to say why I am here. Long ago I was thinking about your song Daya Karo—and it was not just about one song that I was thinking, but a particular mode of singing, song writing, carrying oneself that had attracted me, like many who connect with your music, I am sure. So, it is difficult to say what I am looking for. May be to know a bit more about your music which is very tentative and yet very seriously certain about many things—a strange, untimely combination of minimalism and conviction. I think it is about this mode of existence that I want to know more— how this mode is played out in your music, how it may have evolved (and still evolving, I’d think?) and your connections and disjunctions with your surroundings, within the context of a changing India from the late eighties  to the present time. But instead of rambling on, let me direct myself slightly, a little bit, purely for the sake of structuring things and not for streamlining your thought process.  One can start with language of course, the very idea of the vernacular modern—in your case working with Bangla language in the lyric form.  As a lay listener, it seems to me that language has changed in the last 30 odd years quite startlingly, say Chandril Bhattacharya’s evolution from a talented JAM/skit  performer in college fests to writing astute, witty songs and then turning into a deeply anti-intellectual ,  best- selling prose writer in the popular domain is a case in point. Of course, I am talking about the popular cultural scene here and not esoteric writing which is, and will continue to remain, abundant and deeply experimental in the language. But in such a context will it sound conservative and alarmist to say that the vernacular modern is disappearing in this melee of accessibility, particularly in music?

Moushumi: Yes, it could sound conservative, coming from a certain vantage point. See, space is a strange thing. I mean social space. There is a large space where I do not belong; I am not relevant. But there is a small space—and I do not mean local, provincial space, but some niche where I am utterly relevant. Kids—for instance, make a constituency for my songs, and not just Bengali kids too. That is a small space, but we connect. Right from 1994 when I had cut my first album, people did notice my style of writing songs, my ideas, ideologies, emotions—all that constantly informs my music. In fact, even earlier. If you ask other writers and singers and poets—many of them do form communities of sorts of their own—there is a mutual give and take. So, relevance and irrelevance in a changing India is a complicated thing.  It is not a story of crisis.  Wide audience? No. Audience? Certainly.

To be honest, and I am saying this from no elevated height, much of the music that happens in Kolkata actually escapes my notice. Frankly, I do not know. There is this anxiety to be part of a constant visibility—and that is legitimate for someone who wants to make music her career— this actually escapes me. I can afford that, because of my comfortable growing up, my privileged education and I realize that fully. But that has happened. You know, there is this Tara TV breakfast show called Aaj Shokaler Amontrone. They had invited me and I went to their studio for a live interactive program. It was a good program but you will not believe how many people actually commented on my appearance. I mean, why I was unkempt. It was morning and you dress in a certain way—what comes naturally. You have just woken up and that is the natural condition. Your voice has also woken up. That is its natural condition too. I did not even think about it. But that became an issue! The styling, in a certain way. People expect you to look all made-up on a TV show.

I had heard this actually—way earlier—during my first recording with HMV—Babul Rehman of HMV had made similar observations about my appearance. This is not unusual, I realize.  There is this obverse reaction too—see how Moushumi has continued to remain plain and grounded—again a judgement around my appearance—within the rules of the game, this too. I see both ends.

Yes, Chandril. Such a sharp writer. So smart. Some of his early lyrics used to make me smile. But I prefer singing sitting down—on a chair, may be? There are performances and performances, isn’t it? I have always thought that the audience must be included, not blinded with wit. Staccato wit. If there is a single most critical-political responsibility of the singer—then that I feel is to reject arrogance and aggression in performing and recording. May be one can avoid acting like a messiah or distributing nuggets of wisdom or try bedazzling the audience. So, coming back to your question about the vernacular modern—I have tried to work with language without stunning my small audience. The words and phrases I use are freely available; I merely craft them without much fanfare in a manner suitable for a particular song. I am also perhaps not capable of writing quick-witted songs.  To be topical is not my thing.  I realize my limitations.

Prasanta: We can hardly avoid styling though, even the one who is most oblivious to it, isn’t it?  Austerity is a conscious decision to carry oneself in a particular manner, not in any glib sense, but one does present to oneself and to the world a certain way of living—though that might not be always relevant to one’s work?

Moushumi: O yes, I realize that I have styled myself consciously. I am not for a moment saying that I have no presence or no sense of presentation. My styling suffuses a kind of aesthetic probably.  See, the way I was brought up—in the climate of Naxalite politics and early feminism—styling one-self spare and stark came naturally. To remain austere—nirabharan—was very natural. That streak has remained. Not even consciously or as a statement. But that is how I am. So, I have no pressure to conform to the various demands of the music industry. After my experience with HMV, I just put my foot down about structuring my albums.

But I also like naturalness and spontaneity. And that is not austerity. In fact, spontaneity conflicts with austerity. Maitreyi Chatterjee, the late women’s rights activist, told this story once about how a French woman married to a Bengali had asked of her: What about age? And Chatterjee replied: Well, I don’t think about it. So, I am not practicing or professing stoicism, not actively. I feel I am at ease with what comes naturally rather. Now, even this one may call styling—what is natural and so on can be put to test.  Well, naturalness is a kind of negative capability perhaps. To remain happy without complete or much information about all that passes you by, all that is important. And yet you may be full of life and verve.

Somehow such a styling has affected my music, I would like to believe. Both play on each other actually. My music has remained unadorned. There is a commitment—a lonely one—in writing spare, even repetitively spare lyric.  Song after song. A dense involvment I seek from my audience. Round and round. There is something living, throbbing about things and issues that interest me. One can try. One can try to write one single song in various garbs throughout one’s career.

Prasanta:  The related thing is of course sound. Your particular way of composition and instrumentation. It has developed into a style and mode too. How does that happen? Those of us who have heard you over the years, and have seen you develop, can somehow also trace a distinctive sonic space.

Moushumi:  See, music was never a matter of learning for me. It gradually became a matter of looking closely, studying. But not learning. I never thought of it as a career option. It became a part of my intellectual development, now even more so. Till my late 30s I was not even sure what I wanted to do. I was not sure of anything. I remember singing at street corners and being part of Nari Nirjatan Protirodh Mancha, a women’s rights protest group, but I realized that that is not my place. I felt uneasy. But songs came to me. And quite early on I realized that I like singing alone and singing on my own. I had many things to say. As I have said, musically there were many influences but not one of a learned musician’s take.

Here I am reminded of a particular incident, the day when I first met Suman Chattopadhyay (Kabir Suman) in 1989, at his place.  He was yet to cut his landmark album. And he asked me: “So, would you prefer harmonium or a keyboard—as an accompaniment?” I did not have any answer to that. I thought for a while and replied: “I’d rather sing a cappela, in my own voice, if that is all right.”  It is later that I understood that Suman was actually trying to get rid of the ubiquitous drabness that the middle class use of harmonium had brought into Bengali existence. Hence, his love for the keyboard. Anyway, so about instrumentation: I was not ever sure why my songs later were accompanied by a guitar or other musical instruments.  I found that singing in my own voice gives me a particular kind of aaram—pleasurable contentment, just like connecting with a particular informal variety of audience. And aaram is not feel-good, it is rather a chord of affinity.  In fact from Suman, I have augmented my vocabulary so much. I never knew what adamshumari (census) is or how one can play with words like he does in coupling bhogi/abhogi in the song Pagol

Now that you ask me about my sonic space, I think of my Santiniketan days. I had and have an eclectic musical taste and influence. So, I was never a puritan. Ghazals, Cohen, Baez, Sachin Dev Burman—these people I love. And so in Santiniketan, I remained an outsider. In my two years there, I learnt very few Tagore songs and those too, from particular singers. In fact, I was indulging in my kind of performance there. I would sing with abandon as I rode my bicycle along its paths in the dusk. That was my kind of stance. Much later, often I would bump into someone who had heard my itinerant singing and would tell me so. But no instrumentation. It was just my voice.  Then there was this sadhvi phase—I used to don only white sarees—and my styling took a severe turn. But that changed too. But aaram is something I have held on to.

Even lyric—I used to be sometimes quite unsure of odd phrases and lines in some landmark songs. When Suman would sing “abhinoi noi abhinoi noi/safdar hashmi’r laash” [it is not acting/it is Safdar Hashmi’s corpse] that smacked of the moderate mainstream activist left—was it fulfilling a demand of sorts?  “Sreniheen samaj er chirobashonaye” [eternally dreaming of a classless society] —seemed a very odd, forced usage to me. Most of all, I have not lived such a life, never dreamt of a classless society that way. I felt that any situation could turn political. So that cannot be my articulation, I felt. I just could not be dishonest to my way of living.

Prasanta: To go back again to the specific question of sound – what about the kind of sound that is most popular now within the urban milieu, in Bengal at least?

Moushumi: A certain kind of romanticism has percolated and stayed on in so called modern music. Charming and sweet. From Sudhin Dasgupta till date—a jovial, pleased line. A bit of falsetto here, a hint of chromatic there—one can trace. And the urge to fill it all up with harmonization, from time to time. This kind of music has close resemblance to the western-pop genre. Very satisfying and melodic but not challenging at all. See, that is the reason Salil Chowdhury’s “Ei Roko, Prithibir Gaari Ta Thamao” [Hey, stop this spinning car, this earth] will never be popular with the audience. Its disjunctions, both musical and lyrical, need a bit of work from the listener too. It is not just about the ‘singability’ of a line. Rather, a timeless subjective inclination—“I am lonely. Do join me, will you?”—this motif for the popular has remained intact.

Say, “Megh-piyon er bager bhetor” [In the raincloud-postman’s bag] from the film Titli—a good example of a successful song. And on the face of it, not even a love-song. Two things work in the song though. The first four lines are easy on the ear. The words are filled with sweet nothings—a touch of dukkho, nostalgia, the great dream business (By the way, this dream business has actually made my song “Shopno dekhbo bole” [So that I can dream] so popular; along with its hummability. Though there is a direct allusion to a certain kind of political formation—“tumi tumi tumi meele tomra shadalbole sabha korechile”[You, you and you came together for a congregation] —so the dream is actually not romantic in the subjective sense but collective—that ends up in a political meeting/rally. The average listener misses that or is not really bothered about those implications. Anyway, I do not compose such songs any more).  The point is that in this mode of song writing, you are not invited to think along. You go along. The middle section of ‘Megh-piyon er’ is more of an exercise in complicating the melody. And I do not think the listener ponders too much about these complications. If the average listener wants to hum the tune, he will get confused at some point in the middle section and wander. Will go blank, bewildered. That is the point of the exercise on the part of the music director, I think.

deba

I am trying to say, musically speaking, exercises on variations of sweetness are considered to be ways to higher forms of taste/training in the market. How much does one know/appreciate of a modicum of western music? She can play the violin.  He is adept at a number of musical instruments. Such things have always impressed the Bengali. People are becoming ‘conductors’–holding, balancing a stick and making gestures in full glare. With facial expressions too. Eyes shut sometimes. Amazing confidence! With no sense of embarrassment  at all. And others are really getting impressed. I have heard them say with complete nonchalance, “You know, he sings like an opera singer!” Opera singer? How does an opera singer sing? The measure remains the West and a kind of cultural colonization is being constantly revised and an unsaid, tacit consensus arrived at—popularly speaking. That gives you respect and acceptability.

I have heard a bit of Western music. As a kind of medley. Not systematically. Therefore, I will refrain from taking that step to use harmony or inject an odd dazzling bit of chord here and there. This has affected my musical friendships and collectives. I really am unable to work with such artists, even the best of people with such a mindset. After a point it becomes impossible to sustain that kind of a camaraderie. Hence, one chooses to remain aloof, habitually—nijer mudradoshe hotechi alada—in my own idiosyncrasies I stay detached.

Prasanta: But Mohiner Ghoraguli? They did take instruments seriously—not as accompaniments. And were deeply modernist in sensibility too.

mmm

Moushumi: Mohin was lean and mean—medheen. That makes all the difference. “Bhalobashi jyotsnay kashbone chhut te” [Moonlit fields of kash, and our sprinting around] —lyrically very romantic, even sentimental, isn’t it? You can trace the beatniks and the hippie times here—both lyrically and musically.  Along with that a metropolitan desire to impart a certain innocence to rural life, a recurring theme that you will also find in ‘Ghawre pherar gaan’ [Song of homecoming]. Village means childhood: shoishober desh.  And “badhano bot er chhaay-e”[Under the shadow of the old banyan tree]—those who write such phrases can never miss anything of the life they long for. But they do have some kind of imagined homeland within themselves—a kind of utopia and which may not be a straightforward nostalgic trip necessarily. It is indeed there, living, aching.  Mohin is genuine in this eternal yearning. I will not write like that but I savour and identify with such utterances.

This is missing in many other bands that are chic and smart but devoid of genuine feeling in utterances. Chandrabindoo, for instance does work amazingly well with sarcasm I feel; piercing sarcasm is the hallmark of the best of their songs. Their signature songs like Gadha, Jhilmil, Emono basante deene supply us with quotable quotes and reference points. But their topicality is also their undoing. It may have started as a kind of subversion but soon became part of mooldhara, mainstream.  Compositions turn into a series of comments.  The number ‘Duniya dot com’—for example. The dot com era is now past us. That is the reason certain songs have to be modified by some bands in later editions—words and lyrics have to be altered in order to remain topical and saleable—scratch the surface and you can see the language of skit writing underneath. I am not talking about sentimentality. I am thinking about a certain sensitivity.  It is not about mere observation. Perhaps a listener expects a sense of empathy in the composer, a sense of discernment and a relating to our surroundings. A sense of justice even, perhaps an ethical intervention on the part of the artist. It is not sufficient to validate or critique all and sundry.

As far as musical arrangement and instrumentation go, Mohiner Ghoraguli did a lot of experiments; quite evident, that. Yes, they were a kind of ingo-bongo conglomerate.  So are we all. But their kind of modernist experiments were never glib.  No kayda-baji there nor mere wit. And there is a lurking politics. Mohin is intensely nagorik—urban and urbane in their sensibility, so are their followers. Gautam was a restless soul and yet a deeply thinking man—hallmark of an artist. You can feel that in the songs of his time. I love Runway or Telephone, but their later phase, beginning with the edited cassette, turned a bit lighter, easy on the ear, didn’t it?  You can sense that you have made an entry into a different time period, a time when they were resurrected. A premonition about bands to come?

Prasanta: But what then of collectively doing things: singing together, musical collaborations, singing for a cause and so on. Have these modes affected you at all?

Moushumi: I have tried to form collectives—musical collectives—like Parapar, from 2002 through 2011, where instrumentation was an important aspect, which came from my collaborators. We were doing quite well. Coming from such distances, culturally, we were not doing badly at all. But now I feel there was some sort of a fissure in that collaboration. Actually, the way I think about composing, the need that accompanies each single composition and the way people have accepted me—these were not relevant to Parapar. My songs became ‘material’ to work with, in order to create new products. They used to say, Olly often said, “We need new material. Let’s try and write some songs.” But I simply cannot write farmaishi songs: unless I feel like saying something, songs will not simply arrive.

I am aware there are wars, raging fire in the neighbourhood, the shadow of death lurking, rivers have died. why would i write such a song? It is called Na-Phota Santan [Unblossomed Child]. I do feel the anxiety of my time, I see devastation all around and then I want to tell the child i am carrying within that I am there with her, beside her. For this to happen, one does not need to pay obeisance to the actual happenings themselves. No, that is not how songs arrive. Why have I written Majhi? Because I wanted to say something at this time and precisely in that manner. This element was not so important to Parapar. Songs were turning out to be something akin to ‘world music’ or ‘global music’—of that ilk. The local was missing and the yearning, the intensity was being rounded off. As I have said, I seek aaram—in making songs and hearing them too. That element was missing.

I have another collaborator—Satyaki—with whom I am far more communicative, musically and otherwise. May be because our ways and issues are similar, our concerns touch each other and hence, communication is natural. Inside and outside of songs. That just happens. And yet, I would say, I am most comfortable being on my own.  Here, we participate, give shangat to each other. The very idea of a band is a bit alien to us. In bands often the poetry becomes just another instrument. That is surely a valid way of seeing and listening. But for me, poetry matters. I need someone to give me shangat. Because I have a song to ‘tell.’

Prasanta: But there is another kind of collective, may be more intangible, that I would assume must have drawn Sukanta Majumdar and you to give shape to the Travelling Archive Records?

Moushumi:  Travelling Archive Records comes out of field recordings made during a continuing journey through the folk music landscape of Bengal—both in India and Bangladesh and recording stories about singing and listening which comes out of people’s lives. We hope to introduce listeners to a range of voices, forms and styles. An ongoing project, a set of field recordings were done between 2001-2012 and the theoretical and philosophical questions which arise from such recordings are also an act of creation. Sound is our means to learn about matters such as the relationship of music to ways of living, the flow of musical knowledge as oral culture and the birth of traditions and genres. The more acutely we listen, the more we hear.  We are trying to provoke questions about continuity and change, the end of old traditions and emergence of new ones.

Prasanta: Act of creation—how so?

Moushumi: Of course creation! In two ways. The first is philosophical—recording itself , from a sound theorist’s point of view, is an act of creation because whatever you decide/choose to record gets recorded. There is a conscious act of eliminating other sounds and then framing certain other sounds. Recording is always creative, visceral, intuitive.  But our work is creative in another way too: this whole exercise of creating these soundtracks is like writing  an “audio essay”, each is a narrative.We are retelling stories we have heard.

Yes, this is a collective act. Another kind of collective. You have to keep your ego at bay. You gradually discover that your own writings are after all not that special—others have thought before you or are thinking with you about diverse things. Your own work only makes sense in the context of other people’s works. When I composed the tune of the song Khawto, way back—I knew the tune was there in the collective bank. Now I am able to trace it. And it is not just a formation in space, but a collective that enjoins past and future too—in time. Such a loose collective binds time and seeks commonality.

And the recordings have made me think afresh about relationships, human relationships. Sukanta and I often go back to the same places. This is a vertical relationship, the way relationships are formed. Inward journey. As I say in Majhi, after the water-mark which may have vanished (“jwaler rekhai naai”), it is important to stand anew, with fresh resolve. This is the intensely subjective side to our travelling experience. People have grown old with us. They keep track of us and so do we, or try to.

But more objectively, and I go back to your original question about the vernacular modern, we were fortunate to learn about many, many other languages, tones, ways of articulation— within the Bangla language and with numerous stylistic devices and their evolution. Sound cannot be appropriated; it is boiling, bubbling in a huge cauldron, evolving, breaking apart, and building up again. These concerns we are fortunate to have witnessed and hopefully have imbibed a bit of that. See, I no longer use bhetor, for example—it has become bhitor. I simply pay no salutes to modernity. These essential weeds that make our language (“mathar bhetore agacha gojaaye” [weeds grow inside my head] in ‘Kichhu Phelte Parina’ [Can’t Discard] have engulfed us much more.

Prasanta: Since you have powerfully brought back the idea of community and a different idea of collective formation, let me finally probe a little more about the kind of politics that such a way of living and writing might generate. See, there are hosts of people around us, very committed, well read, sometimes shy, sharing, shunning parliamentary forms of politics, but believing in other forms of egalitarian living. And since these people have believed in a principled position, there is an in built ethics in their politics. Often romantic, but also full of conviction. Among other possibilities, this mode is often existential, beginning to form communities of sorts and comfortable operating at the micro level.

Now, those who support progressive politics, are often a little concerned about such a pattern. I can readily think of a couple of issues. The first is a concern with quietism —which one often equates with the formation of a certain kind of community, finding succour in settled ways and so forth. Most certainly, we do not bear any burden of paying homage to progressive politics or to modernity, as you have pointed out. But one wonders what these kinds of close knit ‘sects’ do, socially? Second, that such a mode is fundamentally metaphysical and not material. We may gradually become indifferent to conflicts around us and begin savouring and spreading detachment and nihilism. This is highly infectious. In such a context, how can an artist compose relevant songs without giving us manifestoes?

I am not imparting such a mode to you or your compositions at all. But I see some resemblances, if I may play the devil’s advocate. Now we all know that many of your songs exemplify very intimate and powerful political concerns. And therefore, your songs have always surfaced in progressive moments, in marking the bhasha andolan, in forms of identity politics, in feminist concerns, in addressing the scourge of communalism, in questioning political stasis. We also know, and in fact, you have belaboured here to argue that an artist ought not to be responsible for correctness, topicality or fashion. She stays with her time by transcending time. How do we then address these concerns Moushumi, especially as you evolve with songs like Majhi and Dinante?

Moushumi: Let me begin with your second point—the question of art and what beyond manifestoes? The whole point is about framing the subject matter Prasanta, what am I seeing, how and what is making me think?  Representations may be honest—various kinds of representations. But all honest expressions may not invoke empathy with or relationship to one’s subject.  Think about Mohin’s ‘Runway’—there is a outsized, engulfing emptiness all along the runway. The topos is an abandoned scape. This loneliness, emptiness—is this not political? I would love to believe with Cohen that indeed it is.

Or for instance, in that song ‘Rhododendron’—the epithet ‘thotomoto’, a combination of startled and stupefied—just wakes you up from your stupor, startles you by its application. Shocks you with its poetry, but does not dazzle you, mind you.  There is nothing much that the song says otherwise, does it?  But that single word just holds you, pins you down.  Such magic could have also happened in case of ‘pushe rakho panjrate chora mafashwal’ [nourished in your ribcage, the hidden countryside]? But the question again is of framing the phrase. The whole list in this latter Chandrabindoo song , which apparently ought to wake you up at midnight—is a list where you, the listener, is an item, a passive ingredient.  Nothing more. But Chandrabindoo could not have done anything else with the song. There was no other way. This is their chosen mode. We do not expect anything else from Chandrabindoo.

For me, it is more interesting to place a vignette in front of you. I had once written some lines which I had titled  ‘Pakhir danay ure’ –“ami pakhir danay ure tomar akashe jai/tomar gramer nodi, tomar shahar goli/tomar michhil rong, tomar rod er aalo/tomar premer mukh/ dekhi ami chokh bhore/ ki naam tomar meye?/ki bhashay katha bolo/gaan gaao, path cholo/kake phele eshe tumi kothay cholechho bolo?”  [flying on those birdwings, I reach your sky/your rivulets/your backstreets/your rainbow valleys, streaming sun/the face of your love/wide-eyed I witness all/what do they call you, girl?/what language do you speak/sing, walk around in?/whom have you left behind to walk ahead?]

My job is to present you with a situation and with certain hesitant pointers. Now the song is yours. May be you will place these words in a larger context, perhaps you can feel the presence of some larger reality, humans uprooted from their soil, a tale of a lost world that is harking you back? I have seen something and that I want you to witness too. I am trying to make sense of something and I invite you in that interpretive domain—a domain wide open—in order to give the words and music your kind of meaning?

It is not that I do not write more overtly political songs in my own way: “protita ghar nirontor bandhte chaay/gharer modhye protita din merudandaheen/protita raat koraghaat dorojay/darja khule baire eki andhokar/abar ghar, ghare abar ruddho dwaar/abar ghar, ghare abar ruddho dwar/ abar ghar, ghare abar ruddho dwaar. . . silence. . . dwar kholo bhor holo o manush.” [every home, tireless, tries to chain/every morn in that home, gutless drain/every night a doorman knocks/Open that door, darkness stalks/home again, still the door, slammed and sealed/home again, still the door, slammed and sealed/home again, still the door, slammed and sealed… (silence) morn anew, prise open, O human.]

Spiritual? I am not enamoured of any wishy-washy feel-good spiritualism. But it does talk of the ‘spirit’ for sure, about something bigger than an immediate incident which might have triggered this song. Say, it came out of an unhappy marriage— just as a hypothesis. So in writing this, I am trying to break out of an entrapment. So that could be directly a political action. But no, that is not all. It is more than my own condition. It is a state of the mind; it can also be a state of the State. We are caught in a state of darkness. We can’t breathe. Why? Because we are unable to prise open the door. Not because there is nothing out there, no dawn or light. But because we have been reduced to this state in which we cannot open the door at dawn. Maybe this is what I would sing at Kamduni.

But the political rally will not accept this song. The rally will push me towards singing ‘Shapno dekehbo bole’. So I will try to assemble and erect my own rally.

suk mou

This brings me to your first concern: what transpires in these close-knit sects? I am not sure. I am trying to think.  This inner rally I was talking about now where I can articulate things in my own words, perhaps we try to enact such situations? No group is stable and everlasting. Humans come and go. Other human beings may disappear from time to time. Then you are alone. A sect, a community of a lonely soul? Does that make any sense? However, it is important for me to be part of this process of creating such spaces. Is it trying to create another terrain that is outside of mainstream political formations—left, right, far left?

There are many ways to be political, aren’t there? Once there was this ISF conference in Delhi where I was invited to sing. As I entered, I saw a hall full of young boys and girls. Many of those faces seemed familiar. But I didn’t know them. An old, senior friend of mine nicely put it that this is how it is—this urge to do something, finding meaning in things—is like a room wide open. Those who you see today were not there the last time. And next year there will be fresh wide-eyed faces. But faces there will always be in this room.

I feel that the room is also mutating and transforming itself. It simply cannot be as it used to be twenty years ago. Things do change. But for me, what is unchangeable is the feeling of empathy, drawing connections, acknowledging generosity.  It is with these that we can look at the world. If we are able to appreciate such qualities and if such attributes are within us.

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