Photo credit: Purabi Das Location - enroute to Pune from Mumbai

When I visit my sister in Mumbai I step into a most coveted position and one that I love and believe is meant for me. I am put in charge of entertainment. Loosely translated this entails choosing which shows to go to, find out venue, date and show times, how to get tickets – my sister then plans the logistics. This portfolio is an extremely important one for both of us – I must make full and gainful use of the three weeks or so that is my quota of vacation time in India, while my sister is equally busy with her various commitments and must juggle a few to keep up with my constant suggestions/urgings to visit every art festival in town. Ah, life….it can be demanding! But, oh sweet bliss – wish this was happening every day of my life.

Anyway, back to what I was trying to say. Every morning during breakfast each of us opens a newspaper, from a pile of four dropped off early at the door by the paper-wallah, and between mouthfuls of toast and tea and intermittent conversation we are soon skimming through various subjects, which will be discussed later at a more leisurely pace. At that time we are both rather rushed for time. I need to go through the entertainment section (I know my sister will fill me in on whatever’s going on in the political scene so I skip all of that) and there is so much. Paper and pen poised I start jotting down shows, dates, venues, ticket information – for we will need to discuss logistics based on my findings.

I chanced upon an ad that caught my fancy last November. Ruhaniyat. I was practically drooling for although clueless to its meaning it sounded like a ticket to heaven. I quickly Googled and was directed to the Banyan Tree website – they were presenting this event in association with Mumbai’s own famed and glorious Museum made possible by a group of major artists from across India. It promised to be mysticism at its best. I wanted to be there. After much planning we decided Saturday Nov 26th, would suit all of us. Getting tickets proved a bit complicated but a few phone calls later I knew where they would be found. Even the taxi driver turned out a real help and drove us downtown to the exact place, a bookstore, where in a corner sat a young man with our tickets to heaven. I still have mine as a keepsake.

The show took place on the impeccably preserved grounds of Mumbai’s Museum. Imagine this: under the sky amidst palm trees and potted plants sit the audience. The stage is well-lit with coloured lights bringing a depth to the ambience. A scene of peace and harmony. The ticket aptly said – The Soulful journey begins….Oh my, one by one performers are introduced on stage and begin performing. The first one was ancient Vedic mantras for Peace and Harmony by Banaras ki Rishikayen, an all-girls group; second was Sopanam by Kavalam Vinodh and B. Krishnadas, third performer was Mukhtiar Ali and Group whose heart-stopping rendition of Meera and Kabir’s hymns had us swaying in our seats. An Indo-Belgian production came up next – combined effort of the Louvat Brothers from Belgium with Mukhtiyar Ali and group. The last performance of the evening was Qawwali by Hifzur Rehman Hakimi and group. We were served cups of heavenly aromatic tea and delicious savouries during intermission.

This was a performance that transported me to a level of euphoria hard to imagine. Ruhaniyat has been performing for quite some time this being their sixteenth year and I was fortunate to have been in Mumbai when the caravan came to that city. The name itself conjures up feelings of eternal peace and love. Sitting among the audience that November evening in the heart of Mumbai city listening to the performers pouring out their souls singing and reciting ancient texts, taking us through a journey of divine love and showing us an emerging light that the world so desperately needs, Tagore’s sonnets, Rumi’s verses and the Psalms from the Bible began to mingle in my awe-stricken consciousness. Yes, we do need that reminder.  That even during the darkest of days when bottomless despair will grip the very soul of humanity we need to lose ourselves in faith of the Divine. Mystics did it for theirs was a life-long search of pure love and peace.

Another performance worth mentioning here that I was lucky enough to witness in Mumbai last year was Chi Udaka. The name signifies Chi or Earth, and Udaka or water. This was a seamless blend of exciting Taikoz virtuosic drumming with the sinuous beauty of Lingalayam’s  Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi dance forms. It was explosive and energetic, colour, rhythm and music of this cross–cultural performance coming together like they belonged to each other, a veritable cornucopia for the senses. What more could I ask for?

I love my portfolio….work involved is hardly anything to speak when the end result succeeds in feeding my ever-demanding appetite for art, culture, mysticism and all things glorious.

Keep Well…..Keep Smiling

                                                                                                                 Purabi Das

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