“The winds of grace are always blowing. You must hoist your sails to catch them.” So said Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836 ~ 1886).
|Ustaad Anwar Khan Saab, Mansoor Khan and their troupe|
I was, yet again, reminded of this beautiful perspective on Life last evening. A friend and his family had organized a concert by the Manganiyars – a community of folk singers from Rajasthan – on their rooftop. It was an unusual evening in Chennai – it was still very warm, but as the sun set, dark clouds gathered and very strong gusts of wind blew over the city. It didn’t rain. But it came menacingly close to raining. In this backdrop of the game of hide and seek that nature played, five Manganiyars performed at their soulful best. There were no additional lights on stage, no mics and no speakers. The artistes just jammed – led by the supremely talented Ustad Anwar Khan Saab on the vocals and the world-renowned Mansoor Khan on the Dholak. The other three artists played the Kartaal and the Sindhi Sarangi between them. As Anwar Khan Saab sang he lost himself to his music. And held all of us in the audience in a trance. His deep voice, the rhythmic beats of the Kartaals, the sublime strains of the Sindhi Sarangi and the unobtrusive yet unputdownable presence of the Dholak made the evening truly magical.
I picked up a few learnings.
The first was humility. Anwar Khan Saab is one of the most feted Manganiyars. Yet, as he began the concert, he humbly looked at each of the other four artists in the troupe and asked them: “Izzazat ho, toh shuru karein…” Meaning: “May we have your permission to begin…” There’s an Urdu word called ‘tehzeeb’ which actually means ‘culture’ but combines the essence of being ‘humble and dignified in demeanor’. Khan Saab embodied that word ‘tehzeeb’ in the way he spoke, he sang and he conducted himself last evening – he personified humility.
Second, I re-learnt the value of respecting a senior. Mansoor Khan is younger, is more relevant and hugely famous across the world. Yet Mansoor let Khan Saab lead the whole concert last evening and do all the singing. It’s the kind of difference in appeal that would exist in the cricketing world between Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar that is there between Mansoor and Khan Saab. Even so, Mansoor was content with just being the Dholak player yesterday – happy to share stage presence with the Ustad and sing for the joy of singing alongside the maestro.
Third, I felt the grace – yet again – in my Life. Not that it is ever absent in any of our lives. It is always there. But we are so busy earning-a-living, running on our Life-treadmills, that we miss this grace. But I have realized that whenever I have let go, whenever I have just let a higher energy draw me in its direction, hold me in its sway and take me where it wants to, I have felt the grace. Last evening, I almost did not make it to this home concert of the Manganiyars. It had been a tiring Sunday at home. And all I wanted to do was have a drink and watch television. But our hosts are very, very special. And the Manganiyars are our favorites – particularly Mansoor Khan. So, despite my body protesting, I completely let go as Khan Saab began. For the next two hours it was a pure bliss and grace show! My wife Vaani concurs with me. How else do you explain such great weather in Chennai in the middle of June, such great artists jamming in front of you with no commercial trappings, such soulful music and us in the midst of all this – when we can never quite dream of buying tickets to a live performance of this class, given our fragile financial state?
As the concert ended, I took a swig of Kingfisher beer that my host graciously offered. And then I looked up at the sky and smiled in gratitude and joy. I was reminded of what the Buddha has said: “When you realize how perfect your Life is, you will look up at the sky and laugh!” Indeed, I don’t think that we will ever have a perfect Life – the way we want it. It is always what it is. And if you can accept what is, you will have raised your sails, you will then have felt the grace in your Life, you too will then perhaps look up at the sky and laugh….!