Seven years ago, I wrote a small piece for the DNA Ya! children’s newspaper published by DNA. I gave an account of my family’s history with the Partition of 1947. In it, I recounted the story as was told to me by my relatives. Having matured since then I wanted to revisit it. The piece of writing is short and quite dated in that it is very clearly been written by a child. What stands out the most is a lack of understanding pertaining to the issue itself. I never fully comprehended the horror and tragedy of the situation until now. As a teenager, I still do not have any hate for any side as I am now more comfortable with the idea that the world is not black and white. My reflection on this issue is more personal. As I have gained curiosity about my ancestry in the past few years. I have always wondered what it would be like to go back to my ancestral home and learn more about the origins of my family. For now, I think that this write- up provides a young and unique, if naive perspective on this matter.
Talking Crazy Amazing Dads, Pigeons and Dragons with Cressida Cowell
The morning of February 16, an hour before Cressida Cowell is set to speak about her bestselling series, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. I am reminiscing the little scuffles I would have with my friends to ‘win’ her latest book from the school library. I am about to speak to the author that invoked those emotions of triumph and immersed me into a world of fire breathing, talking dragons, large, horrendous hairy Vikings and a scrawny boy who is not afraid of the bullies and the challenges the world throws at him. I am ready to get to know her. I want to know about how the books we would fight for came to be. Apologies to any of my friends reading this. If you are still sore over those punch ups just remember; to get to where I am sitting now, it was totally worth the bruises. So after a quick, surreal introduction and a fun conversation about my ginormous phones (only one of which is actually mine but both are needed to record this session) we begin. Here are all the wonderful things she has to say.
The Literary festival was held at the NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts) and has been running for a few years now. The setting as well as the promised content had been a source of anticipation for me for more than a week. The centre that played host to it promised quality and provoking sessions under the assurance of its generation- wide walls that had held before praised works that had been embedded into our culture. However, it is the scenic view that on a simpler scale makes for a memorable visit with its location at the edge of the open ocean and the bay yawning outwards (I don’t know whether ‘yawning’ works here but stay with me) most fitting for a place on the canvas of a great artist. This makes sense as it is a centre for the arts. Understand though that the NCPA is one ugly landmark.
All this and the excitement of the crowd created a surreal aura. One that I welcomed as it made me hold my breath (Quite literally as well for about 23s) in an anxious pause. I have been wondering what was wrong with me? People are almost always looking forward to something like this but one might say I was overdoing it. A lot. The truth is that I have attended a few Lit-fests in the UK and other places but I have never done something so heavily oriented around literature in India. Doing this made me feel like I was participating in something that was nearer to my heart. My own culture. I have to admit that India has produced many beautiful works of writing in both its native languages and in English but sadly I have not done much reading of these works. This would be an opportunity to change that and what better way to begin the journey by looking at Literature from and Indian perspective? That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a world view. Every year it boasts a growing number of international guests and a parallel of famous Indian authors.
I want to be clear. I didn’t have much time due to examination prep so I only attended the panels of the first day which captured, in my view a picture of what this ‘Lit-fest’ was about. The first was a panel on a seemingly cliqued question; ‘Can books change the world?’ If this is to be further analysed, it may reveal deeper impressions. What is the essence of change in the world? What do books have that takes to change the world? The two panellists, Germaine Greer and Vikram Seth were the of the right experience to answer the question. Germaine is a renowned feminist and president of a society on bugs’ rights. She is perhaps best known as the author of a world renowned book; ‘The Female Eunuch’. It is said to be an influential text for the feminist movement and is praised by a lot of people. Surprisingly she claimed it was one of her worst books and that it has been made better than it was by her readers and fans over time. This was part of an argument that was headed towards this conclusion: books do not change the world. They’re simply part of the larger change that is constantly ongoing. To counter her wit and brilliance Vikram Seth was present. He is a charming man and has experience writing in a wide variety of genres. If anyone could claim books change the world it’s him. His work touches households internationally with more personal and relatable subjects from childrens’ books to travel guides. It was a whole new perspective for me. I have never really thought about how books affect change. I just like to read a lot. I am inclined to side with Seth on this one. I believe that books do affect change. They can change lives, alter careers and be inspirational sources of willpower like the Bhagavad Gita or equally dangerous sources of destruction like Mein Kampf. Ultimately it goes down to the level of individual change. This would be change in a single person. The slightest shift in thought. After all it’s the little parts that make up the world we know. It is the little parts that when coming together can be an awesome wave.
Boarding schools in India are not uncommon and yet the idea of studying abroad, let alone studying in a boarding school is quite an improbable one. With this idea is carried a certain amount of prestige, also hints of an affluent life. Many people assume that boarding schools are for the rich to place their children in and not have to worry about them. Some think that it is a matter of being flashy and that a famous western school is a namesake or something to boast about. However this is not the case. Boarding schools are popular for a few key reasons. I myself am currently in one and can tell you my parents in their unconditional wisdom made the right choice by shipping me there. It is a matter of value not vanity. What did they expect when they sent me there? Think of an excellent boarding school as an investment on the guardian’s part. What do they expect in return? What do they get in return? Is it really worth sending your child (or me in the case of this study. Haha!) To a Western Educational Institution or is it all just flash and finesse? Let’s take a look.
Firstly, independence. And no, not independence for the parents but for the children. Sending kids away from home helps them overcome the need for their parents and housekeepers who would do the chores, clean the rooms and help out with the homework. A school in the West is best for this as boys or girls can discover their potential while being guided by encouraging educators. Citing a common example would be that of the daily organisation and punctuality that my parents might normally take care of. Now all of which I have to do myself at school. It is integral to be punctual and know the “unspoken” rule that what needs to be done needs to be done. It is also important to realize furthermore that such a lifestyle forces you to become independent by extracting you from your comfort zone. I myself am not saying that I have mastered this but in the academic environment I have seen pupils that clearly have. These boys are able to get from activity to activity without slowing down or flinching. This is an aspiration of what to be in a boarding school. My own timetable goes a little something like this. It begins with a wake- up bell or a personal alarm at 7:15AM for breakfast and a quick dash to prepare for the day and get dressed before I head off at 8:10AM. As the day goes by I sit in 7 rigorous lessons then go off for a sport, or an extra curricular activity depending on the day (I don’t do this that often because I’m not that competitive when it comes to sport but I enjoy squash and I do more culturally inclined things. Then again I’m probably the laziest guy in my year though).
This is followed by 2 hours of study time but since not all the due work can be completed in this period some extra amount of my hours during the day goes into homework. I have to juggle this between culture events, various compulsory presentations and music lessons. Also did I mention that I have Saturday school? How’s that for fun!
Now before I start criticizing the aspects of such a ‘public school’ life I should mention (quickly! You should probably glance over this, no second thoughts) that I am not a star student. I would give that title to many others that are more than worthy of it. Although I will admit it isn’t some title the person bestows on themselves or desires. It is hard work that causes the title to be given to them. However it was hard work in the past that brought me to such a prestigious school. And over the past two years I have become a lot more independent than I was when I joined in.
The second important thing to know about the boarding school system is that it allows the pupil to make valuable friends and contacts from various walks of life. At school the boy will likely meet able sportsmen, academic prodigies and hard workers. People like these are very good company as the student will strive to achieve a higher standard in a certain area of his or her development. It also promotes the idea of healthy competition, which is a good trait to have in the highly aggressive world of today. Honestly, don’t expect to become a child prodigy! You don’t have to be unless you really want to be. You should be yourself but exposure to good company can mean more responsibility and attention from your side. Individuality is also important, however so don’t forget that. From my experience it helps to have a good set of friends in a school, be it any field of the development as in my case. It helps for me to try and strive to do well. The best aspect of this is also that you get introduced to different, maybe even alien cultures due to the abundance of international students. It helped me to understand the lives of my peers and think of more than myself. In essence, it made me a more empathetic and knowledgeable individual. They’re not all 2 Dimensional rich brats you know!
On that note let me tell you about an experience when working to get to the school I am placed in today. I gave a series of difficult tests and an interview, all of which I worked very hard for. It was duration of five years of preparation for the different stages. As a routine in Mumbai when I was 9 years old I came home from a long day of school and academic work… (DRUM ROLL!!!) To more taxing work (I do not know how I made it through this period of my life alive!). That was because since the 1st year of real academic course the standard in English schools has been much higher than in Indian schools. Here’s a fun fact for future universities and employers to gouge out of this screen: I skipped 7th grade (Year 8) and went straight to the 8th grade (Year 9) from the 6th grade (Year 7). But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of working properly or that I can’t go on the potty without being assisted! My point here is to show that it is extremely tough to get into an English boarding school. It doesn’t come easily. While some may argue that a few rich kids do get in easily I will say the majority work for it. Many kids in the school have wealthy parents but they still work hard. Some I know are scholars! It’s about how hard you work! You can get scholarships or a bursary if you cannot afford the fees. The school I’m in is looking for potential in poorer communities where the children are brilliant but cannot afford to even pay the fees. They simply want to impart their knowledge to worthy receivers.
Let us go back to individuality for a minute. One of the most important things for a school to do is help you develop your personality. Be it in the arts or the crafts (I think I can say that?) or music or sport or academics. The list is endless. I myself have an interest in English Literature, Philosophy, Current Affairs and Squash. Most schools in England have societies where you can spend your time with hobbies you take an interest in. These societies are diverse and the options are endless. In this way you can find something, from music and current affairs, to maths and magic society.
In all honesty, there will always be people who will feel a pride and want to show off that their children are in an amazing school (Like Charterhouse School!) but shouldn’t they be allowed to? Its pride that their kids are being taken care of by the best teachers and have good support and facilities to develop that causes them to proclaim that their child is IN GOOD HANDS!
The boarding school and the western education system isn’t just a trendy ‘phase’ right now. It’s the place where your child can develop to be a better all rounded individual. It is where your child’s independence can cause him or her to take more risks and be more entrepreneurial. Isn’t that the idea behind being successful?
You can take it from me.
‘Truth is a mark of fearlessness. Cowards may spin a lie in the hope of deceiving one who can perceive the cons of the latter whereas only the courageous can bring the truth to light for the reason of keeping their karma stainless.
Truth stands alone, proud, worn by the owner of the confession like a great cape, a mark of the pure soul that resides within whereas a lie lurks deep and dark, like a foul stench. Many believe that it is an act, which sacrifices the trust, love and moral obligations that the perfect, honest man believes in.’
This is an expression of my imagination and understanding of Truth. I sincerely enjoy writing and I do it all the time. But if you were to imagine that I became a famous writer, the words I have penned could be one of my excellent works. Many will over-assess and analyze beyond what is essential. But what if there are no hidden meanings in my work or any other author/poet’s work? What if they are writing for self-satisfaction?
For example, it is common for an English teacher to read out a poem or passage and instruct the students to look for hidden meanings in the text. If you were to read a verse from ‘Brueghel’s Winter’ by Walter De La Mare:
“But flame, nor ice, nor piercing rock, nor silence, as of a frozen sea, nor that slant inward infinite line Of signboard, bird, and hill, and tree, Give more than subtle hint of him Who squandered here life’s mystery.”
Many would choose this famous poem to reflect upon. It is a poem written with a lot of emotion. It describes a winter’s day on which it has snowed everywhere. It tells the story of a man who has escaped the clutches of those who are hunting him. It is a poem filled with suspense and silence but there is no verse that gives any indication that the poet, Walter De La Mare was giving any moral advice to the reader.
The second poem, which I have taken from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ may show nothing but just use of rhyme scheme and superior words to make the poem sound interesting, just like many modern children would do today.
“Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over
Thorough flood, thorough fire!
I do wander everywhere,
Than the moon’s sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every
This poem is a classic; it talks about an individual doing a duty for his fairy queen by spreading dewdrops on cowslips, a type of plant. The topic may not catch the eye if read by many but what made it so famous was the use of short, crisp words with the rhyme pattern and a lovely, fictional subject. This is what perfect poets usually look for; either a verse with a deep subject that must be written with great emotion or, a short, precise topic that yet catches the eye of the reader. My verse followed the first rule and I believe it would be quite the rage if fitted into the olden times.
I wrote my verse based on how I felt about Truth. I did not try to include a message. I wrote about an integral value but not on the integral value. When a poem is written only grammar, good vocabulary, rhyme schemes and either a deep or light topic are needed to make the poem a sensational work of art. A poem can describe adventure or fear, suspense or great action. Even mythological or fictional characters may be in or part of the subject. That’s why I call ‘moral-lore’ in poems a Reader’s Myth.
So if anyone feels that they can’t understand what a poet is trying to express or make a connection through his poem, it would be quite safe to assume that all that the poet was trying to achieve was self- satisfaction and artistic pleasure for the reader.
The year of 2014 had brought the Indian nation and its neighbours something to anticipate; and these were not just the elections! During the course of May, London held its 5th Annual Alchemy Festival at the Southbank Center. It played host to various cultural icons of literature and the performing arts and included all the flavor-some effects from the streets of India. Yet one of the most stunning performances was delivered by the dexterous maestro, Taufiq Qureshi. He endeavored; quite daringly to create a performance uniquely composed for the Alchemy “Manch”. This work known only as “Flight,” was completed in collaboration with Kathak dancer Gauri Sharma Tripathi and vocalist Geetika Varde. With the festivities now behind us, Mr. Qureshi dwelled us deeper into his great musical transformation in his cozy studio, here in Mumbai.
1.) Since when have you been making music?
To be honest, a journey for a musician begins from the moment he is born. As a child, music was always present in the house. My father, Ustad Alla Rakha and my brother, Ustad Zakir Hussain were dedicated to their practice, and I admired their loyalty to the instruments even at a young age. I myself would take pots and pans and recreate beats that I heard. As I grew older, I was drawn into the technical aspects of music and professionally learned the art of percussion. I had even created a band, ‘Surya’ which contained members who are famous names in the musical world today.
2.) Coming from a prestigious background such as yours, have you ever been inspired by a musician from outside your family?
The tabla was always present in the family. However, my influences came from all types of different elements. Apart from my father and brother, I admired the Great Buddy Rich, a senior drummer who had made an album with my father and had introduced my ears to a new sound: drums. Later in my life I was inspired by the genius of traditional Indian gurus.
3.) Your father was a man whose life was very much entwined with music. Did you learn everything you know from him or did you develop your own style of music?
Much of my training happened under my father’s wing, but he always advised me to view music as a limitless possibility. With this view, I would see music everywhere “without blinkers”. I expanded my knowledge from all origins. For me, rhythm can be created from everything; “dabba” to “baatli” and even a trash bin or a chair or bench. I have learned endlessly on my own by incorporating elements and exchanging ideas.
4.) You have been known for playing percussion instruments of global origins. How did you manage to observe them back in your youth and how did this come about?
In our time, we did not have the facilities of electronic media. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on instruments from across the globe. So even though tabla was my groundwork, I used God’s given gift for the touch of a percussionist to experiment with these instruments and increased my repertoire of my world percussion knowledge.
5.) Your signature instrument is the Djembe. You have succeeded in mastering Indian rhythms onto this instrument of African origins. How did you achieve this?
I actually had the Djembe with me, as a gift from my brother. I did not however, see it as an instrument to define my talent with. About ten years ago, I found myself playing a tabla “taal”on it. I explored it further and discovered that I could play all three frequencies; the base, mids and highs that combine to make the composition. This revelation makes sense to me, as the djembe is older than most instruments.
6.) What are your thoughts on international audiences?
I have had some amazing experiences with international crowds. I create beat boxing using my breath, and it is a new concept for many people. So I guess they’re just as fascinated with me, as I am with them!
7.) You have won many awards in the past for your compositions. Which are your most recent ones?
I had composed a track in 2009 for the Indian railways using vocal percussion, which won the gold prize at the Cannes International Festival in 2010. I have even done a jingle for Nike, which won the Bronze prize at the Cannes International Festival last year and the Gold at the London International Festival.
8.) Speaking of London, you have performed at the Southbank center on the 17th of May this year for the Alchemy festival. Who approached you for this opportunity?
Yes, I performed in the Purcell Room at the center. The organizers had invited me as a special guest. I thought that it would be a chance for me to be presented as a composer and percussionist. My wife, Geetika Varde and son Shikhar also performed alongside me, so I had all the support I needed right there! The famous dancer Gauri Tripathi was a major part of the project, so it definitely was a “soaring” partnership of music, song and dance.
Indeed, this show turned the polished festival into gold!