Monday, March 26, 2007

Le Nozze di Figaro

This past week has been crammed full of a lot of wonderful experiences, several of them very visual. In addition to spending a lot of time on the highway and taking in vast amounts of natural beauty in all its springtime glory, I have had the chance to attend my first ever live opera! I’ve watched operas before on video, and heard several on audio CDs, but this past week, I attended the performance of "The Marriage of Figaro", Mozart’s wonderfully humorous opera. It was a veritable auditory and visual feast!

I can’t help but wonder at how appropriately beautiful it is that my first real brush with the opera should be "Le Nozze di Figaro". I’ve come across it (or references to it) many times. I watched "Amadeus" when I was in Kansas City, and this was one of the many of Mozart’s musical accomplishments showcased in the movie. I’ve heard the opera-crazy Claude Erskine-Brown on "Rumpole..." singing Figaro’s "Non piu andrai" and "Se vuol ballare". I’ve laughed uncontrollably while watching Tuppy Glossop’s silly infatuation with the prudish opera singer Cora Bellinger, who sang Cherubino’s aria "Non so piu cosa son" on Masterpiece theater’s beautiful "Jeeves and Wooster" series. I’ve delighted in the wicked "Via resti servita", and listened enraptured to Susanna’s aria, "Deh vieni non tardar". And the most beautiful bit of it all is that I finally, finally was able to watch in person, not snippets, but the whole four beautiful acts.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Perfect Sunday

I spent a delightful Sunday, doing precisely what I dream of doing on Sundays. I woke up early, tidied up my apartment, planned my Sunday lunch and dinner, went shopping, returned with brown paper bags with heads of lettuce, cilantro and parsley sticking out (like all the glamorous women in the movies), popped some music on, and made a delightful lunch. I ate lunch while watching a period drama. I had a slice of my delicious carrot cake for dessert. After lunch, I vaccumed my apartment, watered my plants and did my laundry. Then I went to the mall with a friend to window shop. Around 4:00pm, I took Jose uncle some of what I had cooked. I returned, and since the weather was delightful, I took a long walk down Elwood. In the evening, I showered, watched "Goodbye Mr. Chips", ate a wonderful dinner, and called some friends. At around 10:30pm, I retired and read several chapters of "My Feudal Lord". I felt drowsy near midnight and settled into a beautiful, undisturbed sleep, and woke refereshed today. It has been the most wonderful Sunday in several years!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

My Feudal Lord

I am currently reading Tehmina Durrani's "My Feudal Lord". , an autobiographical account of her tumultuous relationship with erstwhile Pakistani politician Mustafa Khar. Tehmina was Khar’s sixth wife, entering first a passionate affair with him, and then a nightmarish marriage with a man who was violently possessive and pathologically jealous. The following excerpt is from "My Feudal Lord". The description given there is that of a man that I might be attracted to. However, it has also made me thank my instincts of never trusting anyone who is jealous or possessive, because with that comes anger, and pain follows soon.

"There is a fantasy of a feudal lord as an exotic, tall, dark and handsome man, with flashing eyes and traces of gypsy blood. Images of him parrying thrusts with the fiercest of swordsmen and riding off into the sunset on his black steed set the pubescent hearts aflutter. He is seen as a passionate ladies’ man and something of a rough diamond, the archetypal male chauvinist who forces a woman to love him despite his treatment of her. But fantasy is far from reality and (we) must face up to reality … There is a deep-rooted deficiency in the feudal value system; it must be diagnosed before it is treated."

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Mirza Ghalib

Several years ago, I watched the Hindi film "Mirza Ghalib" on Doordarshan. The songs in the movie were so melodious, that I remember memorizing them all. Talat Mahmood, one of my favorite singers, was the heavenly voice of Ghalib himself. The female accompaniment was the singer Suraiya, who usually sang with a nasal voice, but in the playback for this movie, sings in a voice that is not unlike that of Lata Mangeshkar. The most beautiful song in the whole movie is the mellow "Dil-e-nadaan, tujhe hua kya hai". I knew that the lyrics of the song were from a ghazal that Ghalib himself had written. However, it was not until today, over thirteen years later, that I find that Ghalib's beautiful ghazal was cut in short for the film's soundtrack. The ghazal in its entirety is a masterpiece! Here it is:

Dil-e-nadaan tujhe hua kya hai
Aakhir is dard ki dawa kya hai
Hum hain mushtaq aur woh bezaar hain
Ya Ilahi yeh maajra kya hai
Main bhi mun main zabaan rakhtaa hoon
Kaash poocho ke mada'a kya hai
Jab ke tujh bin nahin koi maujood
Phir yeh hungama aih Khuda kya hai
Yeh pari chehra log kaise hain
Ghamza-o-a'ashoora o ada kya hai
Shikan-e-zulf-e-ambari kya hai
Nigaah-e-chashme-surama sa kya hai
Sabza-o-gul kahan se aaye hain
Abr kya cheez hai, Hawa kya hai
Hum ko unse wafa ki hai ummeed
Jo nahin jaante wafa kya hai
Haan bhala kar tera bhala hoga
Aur darwesh ki sada kya hai
Jaan tum par nisaar karta hooon
Main nahin jaanta dua kya hai
Main ne maana ke kuch nahin Ghalib
Muft haath aaye to bura kya hai?

The other ghazal, equally beautiful, but also ruthlessly chopped for the film, is the ethereal "Phir mujhe deeda-e-tar yaad aaya". Here is Ghalib's version:

Phir mujhe deeda-e-tar yaad aaya
Dil jigar tashna-e-fariyaad aaya
Dam liya tha na qayaamat ne hanoz
Phir tera waqt-e-safar yaad aaya
Saadgi haay tamanna, yaanee
Phir woh nai-rang-e-nazar yaad aaya
Uzr-e-waamaandagee 'ei hasrat-e-dil
Naala karta tha jigar yaad aaya
Zindagi yoon bhi guzar hi jaati
Kyon tera raahguzar yaad aaya?
Kya hee rizwaan se ladaayee hogi
Ghar tera khuld mein gar yaad aaya
Aah woh jurat-e-fariyaad kahaan
Dil se tang aake jigar yaad aaya
Phir tere kooche ko jaata hai khayaal
Dil-e-gumgashta magar yaad aaya
Koi veeraani-si-veeraani hai
Dasht ko dekh ke ghar yaad aaya
Maine Majnoon pe ladakpan mein 'Asad'
Sang uthaaya tha ki sar yaad aaya!

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Hot House

Spring hasn’t graced Ames with his presence yet, and a blizzard coats the world outside my windows white. The trees of Gateway Hills shudder in the cold, and their frozen branches snap like twigs in the blowing wind. However, magnificent Spring must have kissed my home, because my plants are blooming and have started bursting forth in all their glory! It was late last summer when I discovered that I had a green thumb, and though it was very late in the season when I began, more than forty potted plants flourished on my deck. Come winter, I had to be selective about what I could bring into the limited space of my already crowded apartment. I picked fourteen plants to bring home, and moved six to my office. I had to leave the rest to die in the cold. I know that some of them, such as the mint, will grow back. But some others won’t.

One of my fourteen plants, the largest of my curry-leaf plants, perished mid-winter. Three of his sisters survive. An African violet that I had left outside to die, survived the rain and freezing for a month with such amazing fortitude that I brought it in. Omana Auntie, whose African Violets are rather sickly little things, is convinced that mine is a wild plant. All winter, my plants survived, barely growing. But now, my Chlorophytum Comosum is growing at such an astonishing rate that I am afraid, I might have to repot it before spring really breaks through. I had clipped my golden pothos’ trailing stems, and placed them in water. In two weeks, they have grown astonishingly long roots and will be ready to be planted in a week’s time. My bamboos are pushing up new leaves, and the old ones have started yellowing at the tips. And my wandering Jews add a shocking patch of purple to my home. As Charles Ryder said to Sebastian, "My room looks like a hot house!" A new season of gardening is beginning, and I can’t wait to start again!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Sickness Cycle

Being sick is terrible and awful, but has its own strange perks. I have been sick for the past week, and though initially I thought I would take two days off work, I ended up taking a whole week off. I had plenty of sick leave stacked up, so it was okay. Anyhow, I went through a rather interesting cycle. Here it is:

Sunday: First symptoms – Panic about meeting and clients
Monday: Terribly sick – Cancelled meetings – Guilt
Tuesday: A little better – guilt, but with mixed feelings of relief
Wednesday: Fever down, but body aches – extended leave – numb to the guilt now
Thursday: Exhaustion – watching videos like there was no tomorrow
Friday: Almost recovered – grading papers – mulling over horrible week coming up
Saturday: (anticipated) Work on paper – watch more videos.
Sunday: (anticipated) Work on research – suffer extreme SNS
Monday:(anticipated) Back to work – nervous wreck, on verge of needing another week off