December 22 2009
(completed at the New Delhi Airport on Dec 30 2009)
The GurmatSangeet Blog has been silent for more than a year. Not for a lack of stimualting events ! It has been an eventful year for the GurmatSangeetProject. The Boston Basant Darbar, The Tanti Saaz Workshop in Boston, The Gurmat Sangeet Darbar in Salt Lake City, the trip to the Sikh Youth Symposium in Detroit, the unforgettable Youth Gurmat Sangeet Darbar in Boston and my recent trip to Australia to The Parliament of the World's Religions. All of these were wonderful, enriching experiences, but it seemed that the Muse had deserted me for good !
Personally, this has been an eventful year for me as well. The most significant event of this year was not a happy one. My father, who has been the epitome of energy and vitality his entire life, was struck down with a severe heart attack, accompanied by a stroke and cerebral hypoxia. By Waheguru's grace, he survived and has recovered remarkably well, but anyone who has been thousands of miles away from a sick parent can appreciate the toll this takes on one's psyche. The reason for my visit to Mohali is a follow up medical procedure that my father needs to have in a couple of days.
The last two weeks have been particularly eventful. It was a great honor for me and the GurmatSangeetProject to be invited to attend The Parliament of the World's Religions as a Sikh delegate and make a presentation on the Preservation of Gurmat Sangeet. It was an opportunity to rub shoulders with many Gursikhs that I have admired for years ! I met old friends and made new ones and was delighted to learn that the Australian sangat is aware of and derives pleasure from www.gurmatsangeetproject.com !
Musically speaking the last two weeks have been wonderful as well. I had multiple oportunities to listen to and hang out with Bhai Kultar Singh Ji, who is a dear friend. (I have to digress here and note that Bhau Ji, Bhai Swarn Singh Ji unequivocally possesses the warmest hug in the world :-) It is always jusch a joy to meet him !) Bhai Kultar Singh and his Jatha were an awe inspiring presence at the Sacred Music Concert in the Plenary Hall. Serendipitously, the Chardi Kala Jatha happened to be in Australia as well. I had heard them breifly at Shamsher Singh's wedding earlier this year and had heard wonderful things about them from many, including Bibi Amarjit Kaur Ji. It was a pleasure to listen to them in Australia ! Recordings will be up on www.gurmatsangeetproject.com upon my return to the US. The short visit to Harballabh was memorable as were the couple of hours I spent with the veteran instrument maker, S. Gurdial Singh Ji of Jalandhar.
Despite all of these great experiences I was in a very dark place mentally, when I arrived in Chandigarh. I was going through the motions, attending to my father, meeting people, even attending a wedding, but nothing seemed right. Then one morning, I decided to go visit Amrit Musicals in Sector 15 as I had a long shopping list of Tablas, Joris, Harmoniums, Tanpuras, Flutes for various friends. I bought a Tanpura and on a whim, asked the wonderful S. Amardeep Singh of Amrit Musicals to loan me a Vajja.
The large, empty home my father built, before he took ill, now started filing up with the strains of the tanpura in the morning and in the evening. Our neighbors got wind of this and decided that we should get together for Kirtan at their home, with the whole Mohalla in attendence :-) Scrambling around for a tabla player, I was delighted to be introduced to S. Paramjit Singh, a Music Professor at Punjab University, by the gracious Pandit Yashpaul Ji of the Agra Gharana (more about him in another post later). Paramjit Singh Ji readily agreed to accompany me and one chilly Chandigarh evening several of us got together for sangat in our neighbors house.
It is awkward to write about deeply personal experiences and my friends know that I am a fairly reserved and private person, but I feel that this was something I need to share. That hour was truly transforming. Its not that my singing was any great shakes ! But the experience was unforgettable. First of all, the pall lifted and for the first time in weeks, I felt truly happy. When a kirtaniya enjoys singing, Gyani Dyal Singh Ji often says, so does the sangat ! This is so true. I have written about this earlier when I talked about Veerji, Prem Singh. This was definitely one of the 10% days; I felt connected with the shabad and the sangat and when it was all over, the gloom was a distant memory.
All of you who sing and listen have probably have had similar experiences. Everything can become routine, even singing the Guru's praises ! The epiphany for me was that happiness is never very far away. We just have to know where to look.
I would like to wish all of my readers and friends a joyous 2010 ! This will be an eventful year for the Gurmat Sangeet Project. Watch this space as well as www.gurmatsangeetproject.com