Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Viswaguru Sri Vidyaranya Swami Jayanthi-19/11/2022


MY CONCEPT AND PRODUCTION

Recorded this in late 90s. Music by A.K. Rishal Sai and vocal rendered by Malladi Brothers. My humble contribution in the form of concept and production of the above. I was supposed to play the Veena in this recording, in the last-minute Madhya Pradesh government invited me to receive the prestigious Kumara Gandharva award. Hence missed out playing in this recording.


Monday, November 7, 2022

Saraswathi Stotram For A New Life

MAHARSHI YAGNAVALKYA
Yagnavalkya Maharshi's Saraswathi Stotram is a great boon for academic/art/music aspirants. The great sage in His Yagnavalkya Smrithi has stated as follows-" VEENAA VAADANA THATHVAGNYAHA SHRUTHI JAATHI VISHAARADAHA, THAALAGNYASHCHAAPRAYAASENA MOKSHA MAARGAM NIYACCHATHI." The sloka outwardly states that 'the one who is proficient in Veena, has sound knowledge of rhythm (thala) and shruthis (subtle quartertones/microtones) effortlessly attains liberation.' The great sage actually would have hinted at the science behind such expertise- of the union of breath (prana) of the player and the resonance (nada) of Veena which leads to self-knowledge.

The Saraswathi Stotram was composed by Maharshi Yagnavalkya by the Grace of Sun God. This Stotram is mostly meant for people who have discontinued their academic/art pursuits due to the inexplicable ways of destiny. Whether it's a vocalist with a golden voice waking up one fine morning to find his/her voice gone, an instrumentalist whose hands have suddenly lost their magic or a brilliant student who has lost the power of concentration. 

Chanting of Yagnavalkya's Saraswathi Stotram grants a fresh lease of life to unfortunate academic and artistic aspirants by reviving and enhancing their skills. 

The Stotram's phala-sruthi states that even a foolish person becomes wise and intelligent by chanting this stotram without break for one year.


YAGNAVALKYA MAHARSHI'S SARASWATHI STOTRAM-

1. NARAYANA UVAACHA-

VAAGDEVATHAAYAAHA STHAVANAM SHROOYATHAAMSARVAKAAMADAM

MAHAAMUNIRYAAGNAVALKYO YENA THUSHTAAVA THAAM PURAA.

2. GURUSHAAPAACCHA SA MUNIRHATHAVIDYO BABHOOVAHA

THADAA JAGAAMA DUHKHAARTHO RAVISSTHAANAM CHA PUNYADAM.

3. SAMPRAAPYA THAPASAA SOORYAM KONAARKEY DRUSHTIGOCHAREY

THUSHTAAVA SOORYAM SHOKEYNA RURODA SA PUNAHPUNAHA.

4. SOORYASTHAM PAATAYAAMAASA  VEDAVEDAANGAMEESHVARAHA

UVAACHA STHUHI VAAGDEYVEEM BHAKTHAACHA SMRUTHIHEYTHAVEY.

5. THAMITHYUKTHVAA DEENANAATHO HYAANTHARDDAANAM JAGAAMA SAHA

MUNIHI SNAATHVAA CHA THUSHTAAVA BHAKTHINAMRAATHMAKANDHARAHA.

6. YAAGNAVALKYA UVAACHA-

KRUPAA KURU JAGANMAATHARMAAMEYVAM HATHATHEYJASAM

GURUSHAAPATHSMRUTHIBBRASHTAM VIDYAAHEENAM CHA DUHKHITHAM.

7. GNAANAM DEYHI SMRUTHIM DEYHI VIDYAAM VIDYAADHIDEYVATHEY

PRATHISHTAAM KAVITHAAM DEYHI SHAKTHIM SISHYA PRABODHIKAAM.

8. GRANTHA-NIRMITHI-SHAKTHIMCHA SUSISHYAM SUPRATHISTITHAM

PRATHIBHAAM SATHSABHAAYAAM CHA VICHAARAKSHAMATHAAM SHUBHAAM.

9. LUPTHAM SARVAM DEIVAVASHAANNAVIBHOOTHAM PUNAH KURU

YATHAAMKURAM BHASMANI CHA KAROTHI DEVATHAA PUNAHA.

10. BRAHMASWAROOPA PARAMAA JYOTHIROOPAA SANAATHANEE

SARVAVIDYAADHIDEVEE YAA THASYAI VAANYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

11. YAYAA VINAA JAGATH SARVAM SHASHVATHJEEVANMRUTHAM SADAA

GNAANAADHIDEVEE YAA THASYAI  SARASWATHYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

12. YAYAA VINAA JAGATH SARVAM MOOKAMUNMATTHAVATHSADAA

VAAGADHISHTAATHRUDEVEE YAA THASYAI VAANYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

13. HIMACHANDANAKUNDENDUKUMUDAAMBHOJASAMNIBHAA

VARNAADHIDEVEE YAA THASYAI CHAAKSHARAAYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

14. VISARGA BINDUMAATHRAANAAM YADADHISHTAANAMEYVA CHA

ITHTHAM THVAM GEEYASEY SADBHIRBHAARATHYAI THEY NAMO NAMAHA.

15. YAYAA VINAATHRA SANKHYAATHAA SANKHYAAM KARTHUM NA SHAKYATHEY

KAALA SANKHYAASWAROOPAA YAA THASYAI DEVYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

16. VYAAKHYAASWAROOPAA YAA DEVEE VYAAKHYAADHISHTAATHRUDEVATHAA

BHRAMASIDDHAANTHAROOPAA YAA THASYAI DEVYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

17. SMRUTHISHAKTHIRGNAANASHAKTHIRBUDDHISHAKTHISWAROOPINI

PRATHIBHAA KALPANAA SHAKTHIRYAACHA THASYAI NAMO NAMAHA.

18. SANATHKUMAARO BRAHMAANAM GNAANAM PRAPACCHA YATHRA VAI

BABHOOVA JADAVATH SOPI SIDDHAANTHAM KARTHUMAKSHAMAHA.

19. THADAA JAGAAMA BHAGAVAANAATHMAA SHREE KRISHNA EESHWARAHA

UVAACHA SA CHA THAM STHOUHI VAANEEMISHTAAM PRAJAAPATHEY.

20. SA CHA THUSHTAAVA THVAAM BRAHMAA CHAAGNYAYAA PARAMAATHMANAHA

CHAKAARA THVATHPRASAADEYNA THADAA SIDDHAANTHAMUTTHAMAM.

21. YADAAPYANANTHAM PRAPACCHA GNAANAMEYKAM VASUNDHARAA

BABHOOVA MOOKAVATH SOPI SIDDHAANTHAM KARTHUMAKSHAMAHA.

22. THADAA THVAAM CHA SA THUSHTAAVA SANTHRASTHAHA KASHYAPAAGNYAYAA

THATHASHCHAKAARA SIDDHAANTHAM NIRMALAM BHRAMABHANJANAM.

23. VYAASAHA PURAANASOOTHRAM CHA PAPRUCCHA VAALMIKIM YADAA

MOUNEEBHOOTHAHA SA SASMAARA THVAAMEYVA JAGADAMBIKAAM.

24. THADAA CHAKAARA SIDDHAANTHAM THVADVAREYNA MUNEESHWARAHA

SAMPRAAPYA NIRMALAM GNAANAM PRAMAADADHWAMSAKAARANAM.

25. PURAANA SOOTHRAM SHRUTHVAA SA VYAASAHA KRISHNAKALODBHAVAHA

THVAAM SISHEYVEY CHA DADHYOU THAM SHATHAVARSHAM CHA PUSHKAREY.

26. THADAA THVATTHO VARAM PRAAPYA SATH KAVEENDRO BABHOOVAHA

THADAA VEDAVIBHAAGAM CHA PURAANAANI CHA CHAKAARA SAHA.

27. YADAA MAHENDREY PRAPACCHA THATHVAGNAANAM SADAASHIVAM 

KSHANAM THVAAMEYVA SANCHINTHYA THASYAI DADHOU VIBHUHU.

28. PRAPACCHA SHABDASHAASTHRAM CHA MAHEYNDRASHCHA BRUHASPATHIM

DIVYAM VARSHASAHASRAM CHA SA THVAAM DADHYOU CHA PUSHKAREY.

29. THADAA THVATTHO VARAM PRAAPYA  DIVYAVARSHASAHASRAKAM

UVAACHA SHABDASHAASTHRAM CHA THADARTHAM CHA SUREYSHVARAM.

30. ADHYAAPITHAASHCHA YAIHI SISHYAAHA YAIRADHEETHAM MUNEESHVARAIHI

THEY CHA THVAAM PARISANCHINTHYA PRAVARTHANTHEY SUREYSHVARIM.

31. THVAM SAMSTHUTHAA POOJITHAA CHA MUNEENDRAIRMANUMAANAVAIHI

DAITHREYNDRAISHCHA SURAISHCHAAPI BRAHMAVISHNUSHIVAADIBHIHI.

32. JADEEBHOOTHAHA SAHASRAASYAHA  PANCHAVAKTHRASHCHATHURMUKHAHA

YAAM STHOTHUM KIMAHAM STHOUMI THAAMEYKAASYENA MAANAVAHA

33. ITHYUKTHVAA YAAGNYAVALKYASHCHA BHAKTHINAMRAATHMAKANDHARAHA

PRANANAAMA NIRAAHAARO RURODA CHA MUHURMUHUHU.

34. THADAA JYOTHIHI SWAROOPAA SAA THEYNA DRUSHTAAPYUVAACHA THAM

SUKAVEENDRO BHAVEYTHYUKTHVAA VAIKUNTHAM CHA JAGAAMA HA.

35. YAAGNYAVALKYAKRUTHAM VAANEESTHOTHRAMEYTHATTHU YAHA PATEYTH

SA KAVEENDRO MAHAAVAAGMEE BRUHASPATHISAMO BHAVEYTH.

36. MAHAAMOORKHASHCHA DURMEYDHAA VARSHAMEYKA YADAA PATEYTH

SA PANDITHSHCHA MEYDHAAVEE SUKAVISHCHA BHAVEYD DHRUVAM.

(ITHI SHREE BRAHMAVAIVARTHATHEY MAHAAPURAANEY PRAKRUTHIKHANDEY NAARADANAARAAYANASAMVAADEY YAAGNYAVALKYOTHA VAANEE STHAVANAM NAAMA PANCHAMODHYAAHA.

ITHI SHRIMAD DEVEE BHAAGAVATHEY MAHAAPURAANEY NAVAMASKANDHEY YAAGNYAVALKYAKRUTHAM SARASWATHEESTHOTHRAVARNANAM NAAMA PANCHAMODHYAAYAHA.)



Saturday, October 22, 2022

Wahan Kaun Hai Tera......(The Truth Of Life....)


S.D.Burman, whose compositions forever tug at heart strings. Ultimate aesthetics in this song composed and sung by the legend himself...

Saturday, August 27, 2022

VEENA UNPLUGGED



DANCE LITTLE LADY DANCE.                                                                          Karaoke for my granddaughters Shreeya and Shreeja (song features them in the video). (PLEASE USE PHONES)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Smt. KALPAGAM SWAMINATHAN



 With Teacher

Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan (15th August 1922-6th April 2011), reverentially and fondly known as 'Teacher' strictly adhered to Veena Sampradayam. Her weighty gamakas (swara oscillations) are uncompromising, inimitable and unparalleled. A Veena Yogini who played the original acoustic Saraswathi Veena.
Sound effects and amplification tactics in the absence of Veena nadham  (as in the case of guitar-sounding Electric Veenas with magnetic strings) were of no use to her. Her powerful Veena playing projected her ethereal Veena nadham by means of the confluence of her prana and the wood grains of Veena's Jack wood. She believed in hard work as demanded only by traditional acoustic Veenas.  
The field of Veena today has original acoustic Veenas as well as electric Veenas coming under the common name of Veena. The layman is unaware of the difference as the acoustic and electric Veenas look alike. I have posted extensively explaining the significant features and dynamics that define traditional acoustic Veena in the modern field of Veena.

A quick run through-
ACOUSTIC VEENA (TRADITIONAL)-
1.Player experiences spiritual bliss. 
2.Listeners experience the same spiritual bliss invoked by the player.
3.Meant for spiritual upliftment.
4.Resonance emanates from the combined energies of the player and grains in the Jack wood of the Veena.
5.Jack wood which is divine transmits the energy derived from the gut region of the player.
6.Soft sounding instrument.
7.The gut effort of player taps kundalini (prana shakti or lifeforce energy) of the player.
8. Rendition of nuances (kuril-short and nedil-long) which are the most important features in Veena. These features bring out the aesthetics and tap the shatchakras of the player.
9.Taps the inner voice of the player.
10.Difficult to play and master.
11.Very few acoustic players today.

ELECTRIC VEENA (MODERN)
1.Looks deceptively like the traditional Veena. 
2.Entirely controlled by specially designed contact mike/pickup and mike system.
3.Requires magnetic strings.
4.The divine and vital Jack wood is rejected by a specially designed pickup/ contact mike.
5.Specially designed pickup/ contact mike contacts only magnetic strings.
6.Easy to play and extremely popular among Veena aspirants due to minimal efforts in playing.
7. Instrument provides facilities like speed and techniques designed for playing to the gallery.
8. Nuances (kuril, nedil) are partially audible, that too in rare cases.
9.The gut effort of the player is very less.
10.The sound ultimately produced is no match to an acoustic Veena in terms of divinity and aesthetics.
11. Produces an alien tone sounding like a mix of guitar-mandolin- sitar and gottuvadhyam. 
12. Absence of Veena nadham.








 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Journey- (Concluding Part-3)


It is a pleasant coincidence that the concluding part of The Journey is being published only 4 days ahead of our country's Independence Day. My travel experience described in the 3 parts of 'The Journey' is all about peace and harmony. This incident stays in my mind forever. 

Turning towards me the attendant assured me, "Don't worry, I will remove the trash bin from the compartment and request him to dispose off trash in the outside bin near the toilet".

The attendant smiled widely at the tall man. Talking in Hindi he asked, "Saab, hope you are comfortable and everything is fine."

The tall man patted the attendant's shoulder and nodded.

"Saab, please don't throw food inside the compartment. Madam is vegetarian."

The tall man's brows knit in confusion. The attendant added in broken English, "Madam... no meat... only vegetables eating."

The tall man looked surprised and nodded at me. 

The attendant added, "Saab, tomorrow breakfast, what will you have?"

The tall man looked at me while addressing the attendant, "Madam food, same same."

The attendant asked in surprise, "No eggs Sir?"

"No. Same Madam breakfast."

I did not mean to stop him from eating whatever he wanted. Frustrated at being mistaken I addressed the attendant, "I didn't mean to object to nonveg at all. Only to disposing off food inside the compartment!!".

The attendant was not listening to me, focusing on the tall man he asked curiously, "Idli, pongal and vada Sir??!!"

The tall man gestured elaborately with his hands conveying that the names of the dishes didn't matter. He added, "I happy vegetables eat." 

I asserted, "No, no, please have your usual breakfast, I don't mind if you eat nonveg."

The tall man stared and I turned to the attendant to translate.

The attendant told me in Tamil, "Please leave it. He wants to have vegetarian, let him taste our idli, pongal and vada".

"Oh, okay", I said in a resigned tone feeling like a spoilsport.

Guilty, I became tongue-tied.

As I turned towards my berth the tall man started talking to the attendant. His Urdu mixed Hindi was heavily accented. In between I saw him gesturing towards me.  Irked, I mentally decided not to talk anymore and as usual put up with whatever happens as God's will.

The attendant looked at me hesitantly. Irritated with the attendant for miscommunicating I ignored him and sat on my berth.

Approaching me the attendant said in an embarrassed voice,  "Saab is saying that you seem very frightened of him. He's asking you not to worry. He says you are his sister and he will take care of you in the journey."

I was taken aback. Pleasantly surprised and touched by the sentiments expressed by the tall man I felt my mood lighten.

Embarrassed,  I smiled shyly at the tall man, "Oh... thank you so much!!" He nodded seriously.

With the weight lifted off my chest, I thanked the attendant and prepared to lie down on my berth.

Picking up the trash bin the attendant walked out, pulling the shutter-door behind him. The tall man immediately pushed the shutter-door open, looking at me pointedly. His action of pulling the door open was deliberate, as though assertively conveying to me that he meant no harm. The compartment door remained open all through the night.

Finding it difficult to unwind and quieten the Veena inside myself I was awake for a long time.

I was surprised to see the tall man climb up the opposite top berth even though the opposite lower berth was reserved for him.

Feeling totally at ease I drifted off into an uneasy slumber.

Something made me wake up with a start and I found myself gazing at the tall man struggling with the most exotic colorful mini-carpet in the alleyway outside the compartment. The carpet looked like a yoga mat. Baffled and fully awake I wondered what he was trying to do in the dead of the night. My wristwatch was somewhere and I didn't know what time it was.

Somehow feeling responsible to help him I got up and walked to the door.

He glanced at me and continued his efforts in spreading the mini-carpet. The carpet was wide and too big to fit in the size of the alleyway.

It suddenly struck me that he wanted to pray!! Was it early morning? My head felt fuzzy from inadequate sleep and tiredness.

Feeling at ease with him, I cleared my throat, "Excuse me, do you want to pray?"

He looked at me blankly.

I showed in action by raising both hands like how Muslims pray.

He nodded.

With both hands I gestured towards the inside of the compartment, "Please pray inside." I combined my statement with the action of praying.

He understood me clearly. He stood for a moment, pondering doubtfully.

I understood the reason for his hesitation.

Looking at him directly I told in a firm voice," No, No, please pray inside the compartment. Main bahut khush!!" I added in broken Hindi. I combined with elaborate hand gestures to make myself understood correctly.

Not waiting for his answer I bent down to pick up the other end of his carpet. He immediately stopped me with his hands and somehow preferred to pick up the carpet himself. I backed away realizing that probably non-Muslims are not allowed to touch their prayer mat. Before picking up the carpet he bowed to me. When he lifted his head he was actually beaming. His smile reached his kohl-lined eyes that lit up his entire face. 

I felt oddly rewarded by his hearty smile. Feeling odd to bow down in return, I folded my hands in a gesture of 'Namasthe' , smiling back at him heartily. Spreading the mini-carpet between the berths he started his prayers first in a standing posture and bending several times. I pulled my legs up to sit cross-legged, sitting close to the window. Bending sideways I pulled the loosely hanging bedcovers so that they did not come in way of his prayers. Fascinated by his chanting in low tone I noticed that he sat down in Vajrasana. Marveling and admiring him for his steadfast devotion to God, I closed my eyes to meditate on the stillness of Kailash Mansarovar in my heart region. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness I felt an enormous sense of peace descend on me, to fill me, spill out of me to spread its wings, encapsulating the compartment in a golden glow.






Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Journey- (Part-2)




Usually adept at shutting off my surroundings, I struggled to ignore the tall co-passenger's presence. His aura was compelling.

As I opened my food packet the train started its movement slowly. I sat facing the window to stare blindly at the dark glass while eating. I was unable to relish the food and more focused on finishing the food quickly so that I could rest my aching body on the berth.

A strong aroma assaulted my nostrils and I turned quickly to glance over my shoulder. The tall passenger was uninhibitedly opening an assortment of steel boxes containing greasy looking nonvegetarian food. Quickly turning back to my food I managed a couple of more mouthfuls before wrapping up the remaining food. Getting up abruptly I took the wrapped remains of my food to dispose off in the garbage bin near the toilet outside.

The tall passenger gestured wildly at me. My heartrate quickened and I stared at him not understanding what he was trying to convey. He kept pointing towards something. I turned towards the direction he was pointing and saw a small plastic dust bin near the foot of my berth. He was showing me the bin where I must trash my food. 

I was appalled! What a place for a garbage bin!!I couldn't imagine disposing off food right inside the coach, even if the garbage bin had a lid. I shook my head at my co-passenger, softening my refusal with a smile. I heard him mutter something in a strange dialect as I walked out.

Trashing the remains of my food in the garbage bin next to the toilet I looked around for the attendant. He was nowhere in sight. Dragging my feet back to the compartment I entered. The tall man was engrossed in eating.

I reached out for the bedding that was neatly folded and kept on the top berth. Painfully aware of his scrutiny I started to prepare my bed and laid down self-consciously. As I lifted my legs up to lie down the tall man got up from the opposite seat and walked towards my berth. My heart stopped for a second and resumed its beating at a wild rate. He held one of the steel dabbas in his hand and bent to empty the remnants of his food into the garbage bin placed at the foot of my berth. Alarmed, I sprang up to a sitting position, pulling the bed covers close to me.

"Excuse me, excuse me!" my voice screeched in protest.

He turned to give me a piercing look.

My voice trembled, "Please... don't drop the food here!!" I appealed.

His brows knit and he looked confused. 

I pointed towards the doorway, "There's another garbage bin outside." I told him nervously.

He shook his head as though he didn't understand me.

I quickly got up and went in search of the attendant. 

Finding the attendant who was a Tamilian, I explained my predicament to him. "Look, I don't understand his language and obviously even he's not able to understand my English, and my Hindi is bad. I don't want the food to be trashed inside the compartment please. I have  to spend 2 nights and one whole day in the compartment." I added hesitatingly, "It's difficult for me to spend so much time close to a trash can full of stale food, that too nonveg. Please explain to him." I requested.

The attendant smiled, "Oh, avaraa?! He's from Afganisthan settled somewhere in North. He knows little Hindi. You can tell him."

"No no, you please tell him." I requested.

By the time the attendant and myself entered the compartment the tall man was pouring all the remains of his food into the garbage bin near my berth. Horrified, I stood frozen, staring helplessly.

(TO BE CONTINUED......)







Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Journey- (Part-1)

NEW DELHI 2001-
The young man asked eagerly, "Ma'am, Bhairavi is janya of which ragam?" 
"Ma'am what train are you taking?" The organization's secretary asked in an urgent tone.
Both questions came from opposite sides of the dias.
I was  packing my Veena, my hands worked at a feverish pace, tying the knots of Veena cover strings. My heart thumped, I had to rush to the railway station. Audience surrounded the stage and were trying to get my attention, talking and asking questions- all at the same time.
"Tamilnadu Express." I  answered the young man.
He looked baffled. "I asked about Bhairavi...."
My right hand searched blindly for the other end of the string of the outer covering of my Veena.
I had to pull my thoughts back from Tamilnadu Express to Bhairavi. "Oh, sorry, mmmm...Natabhairavi."
I smiled at him and everybody around the stage. I was touched by their affection and regards, and felt bad that I couldn't have a leisurely conversation with them.
"Ma'am what are the ragas you played in ragamalika thanam? At least name 2 of them." A very shy looking Mami bent towards me and asked in a soft voice.
"Aloo Paratha and Kadai vegetable, is that your order Ma'am?" The organization's volunteer who was going to accompany me to the railway station was in charge of the food packets.
I waved at him in affirmation.
I turned towards the Mami, my hands almost completing the job of tying all the knots of the Veena cover.
I smiled at her, "I can't really remember. I played vivadi ragas. Kosalam, Neethimathi and Kanthamani were among the ragas."
"Thank you" she said softly. "Can I touch your hand?" She added shyly.
Without answering her I grasped her hand tightly with both my hands. 
Suddenly bending her head she kissed my hand. Touched, I looked at her not knowing how to respond. I thought her eyes were wet when she lifted her head.
She turned and left abruptly.
Feeling moved, I momentarily felt a sense of vacuum. 
Packing completed I announced to the people standing around the dias with folded hands, "Thank you all so much! Please excuse me, I have to catch a train. I have to rush. I am sorry but I don't have time to sign autographs or answer anymore questions. Truly sorry!!"
As I was about to get up one more book and pen were thrust under my chin.
"You can't say no to signing this autograph, because it's a voucher."
The organization's treasurer laughed aloud at his own joke.
I managed a smile.
After signing the voucher I got down swiftly from the stage, the heaviness of my sweaty silk saree weighing me down. In the greenroom I quickly changed into a light cotton saree and almost ran to the waiting car. After quickly checking that all my bags and Veena were intact I got inside the car and heaved a sigh. 

NEW DELHI RAILWAY STATION.

I played Kanthamani as the main raga in my concert that evening. Improvised 'sangatis' of Kanthamani and the resonance of my Veena  rang in my ears. Waves of tiredness and hunger washed over me.

Feeling ravenous I remembered the packet of aloo paratha and kadai vegetable snuggled in the side of my handbag. I reached inside the bag for the food packet. The compartment door creaked open and my hand stopped midway. A hefty, Afghani-looking man entered the coach sideways. He stepped in with his head bent due to his extraordinary height.

Dressed in a pathani suit, a shawl-like garment rolled and tied around his head and pointed boots, he was extremely tall....much more than 6 feet. His light eyes were kohl-lined , his hair a sun-burnt brown and his leathery skin was fair. Bad at guessing ages I wondered if he was in his 30s. His hefty and towering personality seemed to reduce the size of the compartment even further. Feeling dwarfed and overwhelmed I thought I must ask the TC to shift me to a coach with ladies.

The railway porter who brought the tall man's luggage placed them under the berth with great care. The tall man turned to look around the compartment, his gaze briefly touching my face.

He looked stern, his kohl-lined eyes narrowing when he found  my Veena perched on the top berth. He quickly looked at me and back at the instrument and again back at me. My heart pounded in my chest and I wondered nervously if he had an objection to my Veena. He looked so formidable!

He said nothing but continued to stare at me unabashedly, his kohl-lined eyes fierce in its gaze. His open curiosity made me squirm and I shifted uneasily. 

To my utter relief the ticket collector entered the compartment in his black coat and a pad in hand. He sat next to me, "Ticket madam".

Eager and at the same time not wanting to hurt or offend the tall man, I requested the TC in a hushed voice "Please, excuse me, can I change my berth to where there are ladies? Please??"

The tall man in his gruff voice cut me short. Addressing the TC loudly in a certain dialect with a splattering of familiar Urdu words he wanted to know why the berths seemed narrow in size and about the pantry service.

Struggling to understand what he asked and after replying to him the TC turned towards me again, "Sorry madam, all compartments are full, all families. I can't ask them."

"How about coupe?" I asked eagerly.

"Occupied by two sisters travelling together."

My heart sunk low. 

I asked the TC, "Who else is travelling in this compartment."

"Only the two of you, unless someone boards on the way to Chennai."

I gulped nervously. "Ok".

The Jain meal in my bag lost its appeal. After some thought I felt it would be better to finish my meal quickly and go to sleep. 

(TO BE CONTINUED....)



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