This is a sign of laziness that one thinks of writing about something quite amazing, and then takes a few weeks to get round to doing it. Especially when it is an amazing performance of the Krishna Leela, the story of the life of Lord Krishna.
As children, there are certain things we hold in very high esteem. Could be a restaurant, a particular shop which we went to with our parents, and which we thought, as children, to be something so amazing that we look forward to the day when we go back to those things as grown ups. I am sure all of us would have something which fits this description. Then life takes you away from those places or things, and after a gap of a few decades, you happen to have the chance to revisit those grand places that you so admired as a child. Usually, though, they dont quite seem to be the same, grand places that were painted in your mind’s eye. But this is an amazing exception.
I remember, as a child, watching the Krishna Leela … the story of the life of Lord Krishna. This was performed by the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, and the performances used to happen around the time of Krishna Janmashthami at the Pearey Lal Bhawan, right next to Shankar’s Doll’s Museum. I also remember having been to performances of the Ram Leela, the story of Lord Rama, which used to happen at the place where the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Terminal stands today. And i remember these performances being grand, and quite a treat to watch, as a child.
Recently I got a chance to watch the same Krishna Leela after more than two decades, and nothing of what i have written seemed to hold true. The performance was every bit as grand and fascinating as it was, and enhanced by the use of technology which is available to us today.
In this performance, the story of Lord Krishna is played out in the form of a dance-drama. There are no dialogues, except only at specific points of the performance, to make specific points, and the entire story is told in the form of a play which is enacted in the form of dance. A number of dance forms, from across India, including Kathakali, Odissi, Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Chhau performed by the players to enact different roles in the life of Lord Krishna. And each of these blend into each other quite nicely, so that you dont get the feel of a patchwork of dance forms which might happen when such disparate dance forms are brought together. Rather, you find the story being compellingly told through the brilliant harmony of the different dance forms, and the way they blend with each other, and the usage of the appropriate dance form to portray particular characters in the life of Lord Krishna.
Here are some images:
As you can see, no words are necessary. The art of the dance is used to the fullest to powerfully tell a compelling story. And these pictures are not from the performance (photography isnt allowed inside the auditorium), but as you might have guessed, these are photographs of the posters of the performance.
The same Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra also delivers equally powerful performances of the Rama Leela, so if you are in Delhi during the month of October, leading up to Deepawali, do make it a point to explore the wonderful story of Lord Rama, told beautifully.
Delhi is a city of varied colours. And this can be said not just in the metaphorical sense, but rather in the physical sense, too. Delhi, as a city, is a little different from Mumbai. While Mumbai is the melting-pot, Delhi is much the salad-bowl. The ingredients of this salad-bowl do acquire much of the taste of the dressing, the aromas that the city sprinkles on her people. But that said, you can see how they manage to keep their individuality, while at the same time, being the Dilliwala. So you would see Delhi as being a salad with the Tomatoes, Radish, Parsley, Coriander, smelling refreshingly of themselves, while letting you know clearly that they are all beautiful parts of the same salad.
In this manner, Delhi is the ideal city to be the capital of a country like India. Where all communities are at once Indian, while at the same time Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, or any other community, whether based on region, religion, or any other basis. Ok, so you must have heard these thoughts, or something similar, being spoken so many times, you are wondering why i am even writing this.
If you are still with me, let me just write on. For all the romance which Calcuttans generate (at times much more than what one would think required, this having said that Calcutta is one of the most charming cities in the world), or the hoopla people from Mumbai tend to create, the romance of Delhi is something which isn’t written about as much as one would, if one just looks around the city.
Now, the romance of Delhi itself is multifarious. The romance of Delhi is Divine, and it is material. It is of this world, and of the Beyond. But it is definitely not commonplace. To begin with, Delhi shows immense capacity of displaying so many facets of it’s romance … With the Lord, and with the world. And Delhi loves with all her heart. As the song from Delhi 6 goes …
Ye Dilli hai mere yaar,
bas ishq mohabbat, pyaar …
Ishq, mohabbat, pyaar, and much more is Dilli. And she shows it amply. There are many things you would see in Dilli. After all, Dilli, as we know it today, is not one city, one seven cities, from the time of Indraprastha, to the time Of Lutyens, and on to Punjabi times … Dilli has all the fragrances. Whether they are the Langars celebrating the Equality of all humanity to the Divine Father, or whether they are the Chhabeels … Delightful and refreshing rose-milk … Quenching parched throats in the name of God.
Whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish … Delhi embraces all. Whether you are seeking God through the Akhand Paath … Wending your ways to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, or the Gurudwara Sis Ganj … Or you may be the devout Hindu … Whether Faith draws you to Hanuman Mandir, or to the Kaali Baadi, or the LakshmiNarayan Mandir, or the Malai Mandir … Or if Faith draws you to the Jama Masjid, or the Fatehpuri Masjid, Idgah … Or if Faith draws you, in the spirit of Dilli … To the by-lanes of Nimazuddin … Where you may take your fariyaad to the great Saint … And none shall ever leave empty-handed the doors of Hazrat Nimauddin Auliya! And Delhi bows in reverence to all the manifestations of God. And continues the Divine romance … Whether serenading the Divine Beloved through Bhajans, Jagratte, Shabads, or the Qawwalis … Dilli has a flair for singing her love. Bas ishq, mohabbat pyaar …
With love more material … Dilli derives her name from the heart of the matter … The Heart … Dil!
Kaun jaaye aey Zauq, Dilli ki galiyaan chhod ke!
Or so asked Shaikh Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq, the legendary poet, who graced both the Urdu language, and Dilli.
Dilli dilwaalon ki hai!
Or so said Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib!
Such is the magic of Dilli … Whether it be cricket in the streets, or Pakode with Saunth, or Chhole Bhature … Chaat, Tikki, Kulche Matar … Tandoori Chicken, Kadi Chaawal, or Rajma Chawal … Or Fish Fry, or Fish Cutlets … Or if you prefer Dosas … Or Paya, Nihari, or Nargisi Kofte, Shammi Kababs, Galouti Kababs, or Seekhs … With soft Rotis … Or whether it’s Lassi in tall brass glasses … Or Desi Ghee ki Mithai … The flavours of Dilli … Mughlai, or Punjabi, Bengali, or Tamil, or the quintessential Dilli … These are all flavours Dilli calls her own. And many more, of course.
Whether it be the Laal Qila, Chandni Chowk, Hauz Qazi, or it be Ajmeri, Kashmiri, Turkman gates … Or the Jantar Mantar, the Delhi of Lutyens, or the Purana Qila, Humayun ka Maqbara, or Safdarjung ka Maqbara, Jamali Kamali, or the Qutub Minar, or Mehrauli, phholwaalon ki sair, or Tilak Nagar, or Punjabi Bagh … All of these tell the story of a city which says …
Bas ishq mohabbat pyaar …
If i were to sum this up, it’s simple to say that Delhi is a city which straddles multiple worlds. You can hear, probably only in Delhi, the strains of Bhajans wafting from one direction, and the melody of the Qawwali from another, Bollywood from a third … And Delhi is the city which straddles the world of Qawwali and that of the Commonwealth Games. With a number of new-age symbols defining the city … One of them … The Delhi Metro. And the city lives, and loves on … In the past, the present, and the future … And continues to live, and dream, in myriad worlds … Many seemingly different from others, and yet, in Dilli, as in Delhi … These worlds yet continue to live on.
I was seeing this program on travel & living channel … This program is called Feast India. I don’t know what its supposed to be about … Feast gives the impression its about food. But I guess the program is about the feast that is India … A feast for the senses, body, mind, and soul. From the Aazaan at the Jama Masjid … Or, if you have lived in Darya Ganj, the Ghataa Masjid, or the Zinat-Ul Masjid … To the Langar at Gurudwara Sis Ganj, the Jawan Gurdwara at Darya Ganj (from where my Grandmother would get a cup-ful of Kaadhaa every morning, only small portions for the rest of the family, the rest for me …), or at any Gurudwara anywhere you might go … Feast again for the senses, definitely for the body, and the soul.
What am I writing about? Nothing in particular. Quite a few things in general. Having born and grown up in Darya Ganj, I have experienced, and continue to experience, the magic of Dilli … Or Dehli, if you may. From the fruit juice shops of nayaa Darya Ganj, to the small shop, with some of the best Mutton on offer. From Bedmiyaan (Pooris stuffed with ground Daal … Which is also called Pitthi) at Jain’s next to Ansari Road, to the Seekh Kababs sold on carts in the neighbourhood of Jama Masjid, to the Mutton Korma and Nargisi Koftas at Karim’s, or the Rabdi Faloodaa at Akashdeep, to the Giani’s Fruit Cream, and of course … Pindi de Chholle Bhatoore … You can be assured of a feast.
So much for the feast for the palate. Now, to the senses. From the bylanes of Chandni Chowk, Khari Baoli, Chawri Bazaar, to the chaos and magic of Meena Bazaar (wikipedia doesnt have an article for Meena Bazar … at least, not the original one). That’s an expression I quite liked … Chaos and Magic. Describes Dilli to the T. So, chaos and magic it is. Or, is the chaos part of the magic? Or does the magic spring from chaos? I don’t know, and maybe, beyond a point, I would just call this semantics. What I do know … I am Hindu, but I do miss, at times, the wafting of the strains of the Aazaan across rooftops, carried forth by the breeze, accompanied by those beautiful kites.