The Geographer and the Astronomer were in the same room as Vermeer for it is in the front room, on the second floor of a spacious house, Vermeer’s mother-in-law’s house, that he produced most of his work.
One good room and in this one good room, a window (usually on the left), a table, chair, cupboard, stool, curtains, draperies, tapestries and a picture-within-a-picture maintained a position, steady, jolly, known, homely, oozing warmth that allowed the artist to mix the pigments well.
And in these two paintings, the two silent globes – a celestial globe with its terrestrial pair for in the 17th century globes were sold in pairs as a direct, neat, calculable link between astronomy and geography was thoroughly entertained – appear in full support of the two sharp owners, a trust built on daily encounters in the same room.
The Japonsche rocken/ Japanese kimono worn by the two scholars here add to the room’s mood and colour; more like precious gifts for a selected few – back then these were not for sale, but presented in batches only to the merchants who were allowed to visit the Imperial Court in Edo (Tokyo) – the robes then feature seriousness, persistence and also recognition.
The ultramarine, cyan shade that colours the two robes, derived from natural lapis lazuli, very expensive, deep, quietly presents the two scientists caught wondering, imagining, getting inspired by a source.
And the artist painstakingly fine-tunes the details, adds layers, swirls and golden dots, folds, peaks and dips, floral touches, tiny tiles and shadowy walls, and signs the painting, sometimes signs it twice.
And the room, sitting patiently absorbing in light and darkness, also signs.
A raag in Indian classical music becomes Time when orchestrated. Glorious instruments, colourful songs and performances, although, when glimpsed at, mute, await patiently for the right Time, right raag.
For a different season, a different raag – Malkauns, Puriya Dhaneshree for autumn and fall, Megh and Miyan ki Malhar for the monsoons, Brindavani Sarang for summer – that captures the weather in wavelengths, letting it communicate ever so freely.
Raag as Time presents itself in a harmonious clock, naturally. Dawn breaks with raag Ahir Bhairav, Lalit, Bilaval… afternoon visits with raag Bhimpalasi, evening with raag Yaman Kalyan and night with raag Chandrakauns, Darbari, Hameer…
Moulding live Time into a majestic melody, into resplendent raags – they sit still. Who all, exactly? Both raag and Time – raag as Time, Time as raag. They sit still, now bursting into true joy, now as fragrant as love, they await, never losing the discipline of being one.
Yes, here comes the structured, palpable, countable, direct, strict form of the raags – notations. Tied to notations, raags sincerely obey the rules set by the masters, always free to improvise and ameliorate the notations. Raags aim for clarity of ever vibrant awareness, presence that transcends.
And who do the masters, gurus, legends and myths obey? Well, life is cyclical – they obey, observe, listen to, be mindful of the raags.
So, the strictness, the structure of notations attempts to keep the raags’ soul alive, while firmly certain that raags’ soul is eternal. And carrying this paradox rhapsodically, the artists move rather uniquely, theirs is a different gait, rich in colours, in fast-forward or rewind mode.
Ti-ha-yi i.e. tihayi, a technique used in Indian classical music mostly to complete a piece.
“Tihais are sometimes used to distort the listeners’ perception of time, only to reveal the consistent underlying cycle at the sam.”
–Music Contexts: A Concise Dictionary of Hindustani Music by Ashok Damodar Ranade
Sam is the ending point/ beat.
Listeners’ perception of time… very true, after all it is done for the listeners, the stage is set for the viewers, the raags become Time for the audience.
Why? So that the sublime connection between the world around and the world within doesn’t break, so that the cyclical journey goes on and on… for no mortal being knows the final destination.
Raag comes from a Sanskrit word that means ‘dyeing’ or ‘a colour, tint, hue’, and so when the right note – beautifully beaded, richly fresh – is played, it touches the heart and soul of the listener, affecting and colouring the thoughts, urging one to act well, arresting one’s hurtful quietness, liberating one from the heavy shackles, boosting one’s spirited self.
An ecstasy when experienced so, in general the raags take a traditional ritual’s shape that often gets dull under the burden of untouchable rules… untouchable for they are pious.
And oh, be careful of rupturing the impeccable quaint charming world.
But they forget the raag becomes Time here, when orchestrated well and as Time it evolves, evolving others along.
Who has captured Time in this ephemeral space? And that too in a sweet honeyed way that in captivity it turns melodious – Time becomes raag…?
An eternal tug of war between the thoughtful and careful, a wave rising and falling, union and separation, spoken and unspoken – there is a raag for every shade, every mood, every subtle change, every sky and every earth.
Together why not we take a dive into this ocean of raag… why not we learn to be as patient as a still raag as if we have been sculpted out of stones, while the atoms within hum steadily the right tune… why not we become in action that ecstatic joy like the raag Malhar, causing the clouds of bleakness to rain, in-turn nurturing our roots… why not each one of us create a unique tihayi that uncovers the similarities at the sam…
Standing next to the giant old tree, its static presence made Saami sombre, more and more.
He cried, “Saami is now one with the rigid, rough and-and dead, yes, dead and gruesome tree bark, Saami has turned into this tree bark… O, but why?”
Resting against the tree now, now hugging the tree and mumbling, Saami stared into nothingness blankly, quietly. He opened his fist – a flint stone chip, equally dead he thought – and started ripping off the bark once again.
“Saami sees it all, Saami knows the limits, Saami’s dungeon is different from theirs, but… it’s all the same”, he announced in pain.
The twittering yellow bird, the prancing butterflies, a distant lullaby, the pesky kung-fu crickets’ funny civil war and the red flowers’ bold stance, Saami turned a blind eye to it all.
Even the crickets stopped their civil war to enjoy the rain and the rainbow that day, but not Saami.
“Fools! Saami knows the pattern, Saami knows hope and destiny are always stuck in a traffic jam, and love…”, said Saami two hours ago.
“Love… love coloured Saami’s world black… black is the absence of all colours… black reflects no light… Saami lives in darkness”, he completed the sentence just when the fireflies lit the jungle.
Some rested on his head and hands, but Saami refused to greet them.
With a dry look, sullen eyes and tired limbs, Saami spoke for the last time, “dead, static tallness, this soulless tree bark hates Saami, this is the death penalty, and the most terrible because Saami is not tied, Saami can move, Saami knows, but not anymore, for Saami has become one with this giant numb stubborn treeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…”
Saami spoke for the last time because the lovely, joyous and calm tree’s branch took hold of Saami’s tired body and pulled him up-up-up… in a gushing blast of speed, suddenly music broke Saami’s heart-heart-heart… ta-rum-pup-pup-paa came the sound and immediately replaced it with a musical hub-dub sensation of a heart.
From the top-most branch of the tall lovely tree, Saami could see melodic colours and no darkness, nothing was static for the entire jungle and the river and the wind and the sky and the stars and the moon and the sun (together) danced to the twee peppy tune – and equally soothing, thought Saami – that the animal orchestra was playing.
Every animal – jamming freely – sitting on the top of some tree just like Saami… Saami who started clapping, swaying along and tip-tap-toeing in the air.
The tall lovely tree finally spoke, “Saami, yoi-knowi-da-cosmic-i-dance-sO-‘ell”; Saami was seen blushing brightly before the curtain was drawn.
Walking down the street with old heavy memories, frozen and hazy, not bothering for a while and the unknown liveliness of the fresh sounds greeting us from all around – the dripping thaw, the golden sunny warmth, the tiny twittering birds, the ‘oh my god’ honking of a dashing car’s ghost that passes by, the hearty smiles and laughter – we blush with hope teasing us, giving us bright ideas, gleaming as we experience our quiet, still mind-pond.
These ephemeral moments of joy, so true and innocent, are hard to capture, harder to sustain, probably that is what makes it so special for and loved by all.
Regina Spektor, the star singer, songwriter, musician, the starry-eyed star, the star magician, knows how to hold such moments very well. She doesn’t capture it, na-na, she only knits a pretty, sweet and soothing melody and then soaks it into such warm moments, letting the melody take this ephemeral colour.
To this colour, she adds free-play, emotions and her pianist-self and, voila, a Regina Spektor song wave is ready.
…And down on Lexington they’re wearing New shoes stuck to aging feet And close their eyes and open And they’ll recognize the aging street And think about how things were right When they were young and veins were tight And if you are the ghost of Christmas Past Then wont you stay the night?
Ne Me Quitte Pas, Mon Chere Ne Me Quitte Pas…
She amalgamates it all so well, life’s experiences, cut both ways and so gently she allows herself to smile an honest smile. How beautifully this song captures time and lets it go.
And she loves Paris, especially when it rains there and so do we all (at least the rasiks* do).
Listen now to “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” –
…I’m walking through the city Like a drunk, but not With my slip showing a little Like a drunk, but not And I am one of your people But the cars don’t stop…
This is nothing but a memory, cold, harsh, but funny in retrospect; one that glares until you glare back at it, acceptingly. And Regina Spektor handles this mixed emotion so peacefully and at the same very eagerly, probably eager for it to evolve.
Also, listen to the live performance of “Dance Anthem of the 80’s”, how sweetly she thanks her audience.
Here, at Chiming Stories, the blogger will be covering Regina Spektor’s musical world in the coming posts, trying to live and relish her songs in your company, so dear readers ‘ne me quitte pas mon chere’ (don’t leave me, my dear).
*A rasik, in Hindi language, is a passionate and thoughtful being.
Jo loves kite flying and he is flying one right now. His kite is bright red and cheerful. Jo is a very skillful boy and he knows all the tricks needed to fly a kite high.
Dramatizing happily, he tells his friends, ‘Look at my kite…soaring high, up above the sky’. All the boys burst out laughing and Theo animatedly sings ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ while an out-of-tune chorus follows him.
These kids are full of fun at the moment. Life is beautiful for them.
The kite flies high. Wind is also playing with it; taking it high and low, twisting and tickling it.
A kite has a wonderful life. Everyone looks at it with awe when it glides and dances along with the wind and the kid holding the string also feels it. A kite is joyous by nature. It brings smile on the face that looks at it. It has only one purpose in life and that is to fly high in the free sky.
Jo knows nothing but one thing that kite flying on a holiday is his life’s purpose. He didn’t even know how to spell the word purpose correctly, his English dictation test is a non-living proof of this fact, but he knew this feeling very well.
It is something to do with passion and excitement and playing well and concentration. These big words are also a problem for him, especially to remember the spellings. Jo knows the feeling and not the spelling of such words, how silly and smart of him to be so.
Jo shouts, ‘I am flying…see I am flying… o twinkle twinkle little star oye, here I come oye’.
A sound of real, innocent, pure somewhat like the rustling of the leaves, laughter filled that lucky area.
Pleasure is all around here. It is a vanilla cake sweet moment.
Slowly the winds begin to get crazier; Jo understands immediately that now is the time to fight and stay alive. All the kites are ready for the battle. Who is their enemy? Not an outsider, they are against each other. Jo tells his kite, ‘Come on… fight hard… it’s an order!’
The bright red kite gets tangled up with the black one which is Mat’s kite. ‘It’s a knot!’ said a kid (who exactly spoke, we don’t know, anyway something more important is going on up above in the sky).
It’s the nature of the strings to get tangled, form knots and then break away.
Jo warns Mat and Mat challenges him. The mad winds knew it, Jo and Mat knew it, and the kites knew it- one will be defeated and it’ll fall.
That lucky area is now filled with exclamations, some funny, some ridiculous.
And without any final announcement it happened. Jo feels it, the string is now loose in his hand, and he looks at Mat for a millisecond. All of them stare upwards. His bright red kite is gliding away with the winds.
To his surprise, it is not alone as now the black kite is also gliding away.
Jo and Mat, half-glad, scream excitedly. Walking towards each other; their little gang members encircle them. Whatever the two say, the other boys find it entertaining.
The kites are gone, says their experience in kite flying. Like mirror images of each other, Jo and Mat begin the debate.
Possession is powerful, it can make enemies (but in this case, just for a while).
Let us leave the kids alone, they’ll be alright soon.
Life is very funny and very fickle minded. It jumps from one emotion to the other. But then this is how life is by nature. The interesting thing is that kites don’t copy life, kites always remain in one state and that is the happy state.
So look where the bright red kite is going. Colour is beautiful and this is a truth. One will naturally follow the colourful kite.
Oh! The way it matches with the dance winds do, is heavenly. It seems this kite wants to reach a selected place. It is driving for itself. But the trees are near now, will it get to rest on a tree?
No! It lands safely in a garden. Who lives here? Someone is pruning the plants there. It is Mr. James. The kite fell in Mr. James little garden.
Don’t know what will happen now. Mr. James is very old. See he walks with a limp and can’t see properly. Oh, he picked up the kite. He is checking it. Is he trying to read the kite? Maybe he thinks it is a newspaper or something.
Anyway, he’ll know what he is holding when he wears his reading glasses. Surely there is nothing to read in a kite.
He sits on the lawn chair, but without washing his hands? He is a clean freak and there is some dirt on his hands.
What is he trying to find in this kite? Perhaps he likes the material of the kite. He is rubbing his hands against the kite. And now he smells it. The kite must have been prepared using a high quality paper.
Mr. James is caught in a reverie. His eyes are looking bigger. Where ever he is, it is a good and happy place. There is a grin on his face. He suddenly looks peaceful.
A bicycle passes outside his gate and rings the cycle-bell. God knows why the bicycle rider did so, surely not to wake-up Mr. James. But see, he breaks out of his daydream. He looks around and gets up. His expression changed, though it isn’t that clear due to the wrinkles. He looks at the sky and then at the kite.
Moving towards the house leisurely, he bends slowly to keep the kite on the top staircase. Then he returns to work in the garden.
Even the flowers and the bushes and the leaves he was pruning could tell that Mr. James is still pondering about something.
After five or so minutes, Mr. James gets up, fixed on the spot, shares with his garden, ‘I know all the tricks to fly a kite high…up above the sky’.
He is now beaming, now humming something, it is not clear. But then it is the nature of the aged people, they have a smiling face, they answer in a mystical style (unclear to others) and they always chew the songs they enjoyed in their life.
When choosing my flower’s colour /
Blindly I pick all – the sun decides /
Which one suits me more.
A storyteller, following the ancient tradition of cave chroniclers, standing in vrikshasana (the tree pose) on a hill top (it is sunny, but windy), breathing in and out stories (relishing it all, but at times overwhelmed), declares animatedly that she will continue to – tell stories, share rare story gems, and connect with the pacy universe while also keeping the website ad-free.
Big thanks to my readers. Stay tuned!
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Chiming Stories (formerly Home Chimes)
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Gabbeh, the 1996 film, is a simple tale of a gipsy girl, her clan and the way their life goes on. Unfolding beautifully just like an artist painting a canvas, Gabbeh quietly touches the grand questions.
Godard… Breathless and Alive
A Tribute to Jean-Luc Godard, the Film Philologist who Reinvented Cinema.
Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid.
Yes fly! For walking on the second track is dull and usual, but dreaming high, high, high requires tools. Tools like the right pair of shoes, a chirpy, gritty soul that eats butter-jam dreams, a soul that drinks milky-milky creams.
Universe’s a Disciplined Place
Silver cascade shimmering the night sky, music to the waves and surreal beauty to the eyes, the Moon loves the art of discipline.
It may be difficult to believe for the Moon’s splendour defies time, it stupefies the clock, it follows the path of a dreamer, but how could this be possible if the Moon knew not discipline?