Friday, October 19, 2012

Being a Global Soul is not all bad

The immigrant experience can be isolating, given people never feel like they fit into mainstream culture, and often pine for their roots. This article from the Harvard Business Review, albeit for global leaders, provides a refreshing perspective that I thought I would share in this blog.. Being a global soul is not all bad Leelia walked into my office to introduce herself as one of our new Russian interpreters. In a million years I could not have placed her, given her personality is so endearingly global. I was absolutely stunned when she spoke to me in chaste Hindi and I could only stare while I stuttered a response that was grammatically incorrect. Leelia grew up in Russia, moved to Israel to explore her Jewish roots, and ventured to New Delhi where she pursued a graduate degree in Islamic Studies. She has numerous languages under her belt, is a connoisseur of all the cuisines of these familiar cultures and can fit in and adapt anywhere. She is what Pico Iyer refers to as a Global Soul! The following article states that a global soul “becomes familiar with local and global communities, and uses neither to escape the other. This takes physical and emotional presence. It requires staying put long enough and traveling a fair amount. Spending time with those who live nearby and staying close to those who are far away — showing and being shown around. Leaving a piece of heart with people and places, and keeping them in your heart wherever you are. Hard as it may be to reconcile local and global homes, it is a privilege to have a chance to inhabit both. “

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Have you been to the Pacific Mall?

Today I wandered into the Pacific Mall, which is located in Markham just North of Toronto. I have lived 10 minutes away for 15 years and have never walked it's corridors. Talk about a cultural experience. With tiny cubicles filled with "random crap" (to use Uttara's coinage) from China and other Asian nations which abut the Pacific ocean, this was our go to place to set right a shattered front screen of an iPhone. This not so legal activity is carried on with great aplomb by young Chinese women who look like teenagers but manipulate those iPhones with the competence of Sensei, their delicate, dexterous fingers performing surgically precise operations to save the injured phone. It was 6 p.m. on a Monday night but we saw a long line forming behind us. The experience was utterly surreal. I had been transported to the Far East with hundreds of Chinese, Korean and Indian customers milling about me. Some Hong Kong rock star was belting out a song and the smell of pancakes wafted around us -teasing and tantalizing. We deposited the phone for what we were told would take half an hour and discovered more of this "mall" which had all the features of a Malaysian night market. There were piles of knock offs of every conceivable designer item, pirated CDs and videos, booths that will unlock your phones and hawker stalls which beckoned with interesting aromas of a wide variety of food prepared in tiny hole in the wall outlets. The whole place had the feel of transience as though this was reality being streamed in technicolour, obsolence built into everything on display and with stalls that can immediately be dismantled based on a tip regarding a possible raid. This thriving and bold haven of what is considered intellectual property fraud in the West, stands tall with no dearth of satisfied customers who leave it with a smile on their faces, mission accomplished. I obviously cannot admit to whether ours was. Whatever else it is not, the Pacific Mall is a cheap trip to the exciting East where commerce is done based on a different set of rules.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The gift of music - the gift of. tVS

There are some moments in life which you want to capture in some tangible way to re-live in their entirety.  Not just in a video recording but in a very real sense with all their accompanying poignancy.  Last night is case in point, when I came home to T.V. Sankaranarayan seated in front of our altar pouring his heart out in virruttams set to my favourite raagams – Hindolam, Shama, Brindavani and Hamsanandhi.  He rendered Paasurams from the Divya Prapandham in these raagams and gave me commentary on the meaning of this most beautiful form of divine tamil poetry -  Aandal’s courting of  her consort and her father Periya Azhwar’s devotion of him.  I was moved to tears and felt humbled by this simple man whose surrender to music and reverence for his guru, his uncle Madurai Mani Iyer, is so complete. Sukumar and I have known T.V.S for several years now and host him every time he visits Toronto.  I have never felt intimidated in his presence since he is so guileless and childlike regaling us with stories about his early adulthood and his tentative entry into the daunting world of Carnatic music.  Until our close encounter with him I had no idea about the courage it takes to delve headlong into this world where you are only as good as the concert you sing today and memories of your glory days are short.  That effortless flow of music can never be fashioned in the intellect and rehearsed but has to emerge from a wellspring of inspiration that is between thought and action.  And yet it is the intellect that stores the body of knowledge, polished and perfected through years of reflection and nuanced use of vocal chords.  It takes a self effacing man who sees himself as a conduit for the flow of this divine music to demystify this most challenging art form for us lay people.  However, the concert he gave, with little planning for order of songs, but with constraints based on conventions in Carnatic music was replete with mystique -heartfelt and moving, an homage to his guru, a romantic tryst with his God, a conversation with his audience and an expression of gratitude for the gift of music.