April 26, 2007

Chang and I

One of my favourite roommates at my Cooke Town apartment was Chang. Recently he moved from Bangalore and returned to his hometown. He accompanied the Bengaluru Tiger on many outings, ranging from fine dining to special events. His blog, the Buddha Soliloquies, describes three of our adventures together - one day trip, one concert, and one air show. I have taken excerpts from there and added a brief comment at the bottom of each.



"Sravanabelagoda is the first destination. Six hundred and eighteen steps are all it takes to get the top of the hillock to get a glance of the temple and the famous Jain statue. Six eighteen is a large number, and palkhis [palanquins] are available. In true adventurous & religious spirit, I intend to conquer those six hundred & eighteen steps (that I don’t have money to spare for the palkhi is irrelevant banter). The sluggishness of daily life & the sins of zero exercising catches up when only on the 50th step itself, the lungs are screaming for air, the feet are trembling and buckling under their own weight. But grit and determination (and a resolve not to embarrass myself) gets me going anew to the summit. The statue of the Jain Tirthankara stands at 58 feet, much smaller than I expect it to be. One of the largest monoliths in the world, it depicts a naked God with stone vines growing from a rock around him onto his thighs. The posture – erect. The expression – serene. The view from the top? Breathtaking – literally!!!!

The descent is deceptive. Though it looks easy, it is so easy to trip & go rolling down the hill. No Jack & Jill here. One tumble and hello Humpty-Dumpty. As always, hordes of hawkers selling everything from postcards to chess boards to imitation Ganeshas storm troop me. A cold, indifferent glance is all they get…

Surprisingly good noodles for lunch in a South Indian restaurant pave the path to Belur and Halebid. Both these places could pass off as the poor-man’s Hampi. The temples belong to the same dynasty and the same time period, hence the uncanny similarity in the architecture. From a distance, I can’t tell one from the other, but a closer look at the thousands of stone human figures, elephants, warriors, Gods and Goddesses adorning the temple clearly sets a clearer picture. The sculpted inner & outer walls of the temple tell a tale of dedication and sheer hard work by the craftsmen. Each figure is carved to perfection and straining to come to life any moment.

Each figure carries a different story, sometimes amusing, sometimes amazing and sometimes downright insane. Like how once Lord Vishnu was so pissed with a demon that he literally ripped the skin off his face [a la autopsy]. Also, how the word GOD actually stands for the Holy Hindu Trinity –

G - Generator (Brahma)
O – Operator (Vishnu)
D – Destroyer (Shiva)

That one has me rolling on the floor.

Journeys back home after an enjoyable trip are never happy ones, knowing that the getaway from the mundane daily routine has come to an end. The tired body has taken a beating, and it calls it a day."

Arnab's Notes: Being a physical specimen, I was not overly exhausted by this day trip, although the intricacy of the carvings at Halebid did overwhelm my finer senses.



"An evening of perfection
An evening of mastery
An evening of pure magic!

I expect no lesser in a jugalbandi between Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, sarod maestro, and Ustad Zakir Hussain, tabla virtuoso. 2nd March brings "The Tribute to Bangalore" concert. Chaotic traffic and poor parking arrangements are the venue’s decorations, but once inside the mind is set to rest. Ustad Amjad Ali explains how both haven’t had the time to rehearse their show, how they shall play according to each other [a gift of years of dedication & practice] – hence the amalgam music produced is birthed only once and never repeated. The perfect symphony between the two is the stuff of legends. The beautiful rendition surprisingly sounds like impending doom, melancholy, the advent of monsoon and joy all at once. The snail paced compositions pick up tempo to reach a frenzied crescendo. Sure, for a carnatic music ignoramus like me, it is tough to tell one composition from the other but surprisingly, I find myself swaying to this form of music too. Whenever the performance begins to get monotonous, the Ustads conjure a magic-trick from their infinitesimal repertoire that has us cheering and applauding with gay abandon. It is pure bliss to sit there and imbibe the renditions. Three hours pass by quickly in a haze of bliss & wide-eyed wonder."

Arnab's Notes: My second classical concert in India, but the first where true masters were playing. Enjoyable to the ear and soothing to the soul.



"I get to visit The Aero-India show 2007 due to the persistence of a fellow enthusiast. Passes are hard to get by (sold out two weeks supposedly) and we ride off in the eternal hope of getting them at the venue. The ride is long, and the bike unresponsive to the strains of high speed. We finally make it by 10:30 AM and secure tickets too. By the time we get in, a few parachuting maneuvers are all that we have missed. What follows is truly delighting. Choppers and fighter jets whizzing around the display arena at high speeds, performing dangerous and high “aaaaaah” quotient maneuvers. Throughout the event, there is a running informative commentary about the Aircrafts, the pilots having these beauties at their command and the skills required to make possible their majestic flight. It is another matter altogether that with the Jets crossing the sound barrier repeatedly and creating ear-splitting noise, it becomes virtually impossible to hear most of it. Apt music (part military style, part rock) adds to the overall ‘feel’ of the event. The prominent aircrafts on display are the C-17 Boeing, the MIG 29, Sukhoi, LTA, BEL 407, F-16 Viper, Tejas LCA, IJT, Saras heli-team, among others. Truly impressive!"

Arnab's Notes: This aerial spectacle was serene compared to my other avian encounters, but still spectacularly entertaining. Lots of stylish maneuvers were performed, such as a diagonal crisscross among a pair of helicopters coming from one direction and another one flying in a perpendicular direction right between the other two.