Sunday, 5 June 2016

Flora and Fauna

Ask an eight- year old or even a five-year old the following question:
What is the significance of Feb 14th?

..and you will get the answer before you count 1.
Now, ask this question  – What is the significance of June 5th ?

..and I bet you will see blank expression.

It is not the child alone who will blink but even a majority of adults can be seen scratching their heads(and hence become potential models of anti-dandruff  shampoos and creams!).

In a country where the ‘special days’ are celebrated (and this includes Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Friendship Day  and many such ‘Days’…) more to keep cash registers in the small and big malls ticking than out of any real love or concern, it is not a surprise at all that the significance of June 5th is not known to many.

The United Nations has declared the day as ‘World Environment Day’ to bring awareness about our environment.

Though the word ‘environment’ should give positive vibes to all concerned, to many it still remains a ‘dull word’ devoid of any value. It is because we care less for the world and more for our comfort. The fact that both are mutually inclusive is unfortunately not realised by us and the result is there to be seen.

The Gangotri glacier has retreated by as much of 3 kms in the last 200 years. Some of you may know that this glacier feeds Bhagirathi, the source stream of Ganga. The rate of retreat has been alarmingly increasing since the ‘70s(20th Century). The basic reason is the increase in temperature and this is an effect of global warming.

If this is the state of a natural stream which has a direct impact on human beings, let us see the state of other living beings and how we have been treating them. In the ‘National Parks’ like Bandipore and Nagarhole, snaring of spotted deer, peacocks and wild boars is reported frequently. 

Elsewhere- in the TN-Kerala border-parakeets, a beautiful species of birds are smuggled and raised as ‘pets’ in cages. Their wings are clipped (literally and figuratively) and even the beaks are damaged. Apart from this, many animals are poached and killed because of superstitious beliefs that the animal-based medicines will do wonders to the man’s potency and can also act as pain killers.

Such things are not confined to India alone. Just a week ago, 40 tiger cubs were found frozen in a freezer in a Buddhist Temple in Thailand (what an irony!). If we cannot treat the animals on par with us, we can at least let them be the way they are.
Then, we have our most favourite ‘tree-cutting’ which is done most of the times by the people who rule us. But the blame lies equally lies with us too.. We, for our selfish needs do not hesitate to chop a tree. I have seen this happen at times in front of my eyes in my neighbourhood and have felt helpless.

The theme of this year’s ‘World Environment Day’ is ‘Go Wild for life’. Let this not be misinterpreted. It means ‘Respect the wildlife and stop illegal wildlife trade’
If ‘global warming’, ‘animal-poaching’ , ‘wildlife trade’ etc., sound too technical and even beyond our control, we as human beings and responsible citizens can at least ensure that we don’t indulge in activities that we know will affect the environment. Or at least, spare a thought for our surroundings.

The rare gem of the day in fact makes us feel for the nature. Not just feel for it, but also be one with it.

Poonthottam Poovil PeNNin JaadaigaL’ from ‘Nadiyai Thedi Vantha Kadal’(1980) describes the beauty of nature in simple words and beautiful music. This must rank as one of Shailaja’s best, as the composition needs a lot of breath control (isn’t breath a very significant factor in environment and nature?).

I really don’t know how many times I am going to say the tune is great and the orchestration is excellent. But if he puts me in a quandary by repeatedly giving marvellous compositions, what can I do? At the most, I can change the adjectives and also come out with new kind of sentences. Let me try it henceforth. But for the time being, let me have the privilege of saying yet again that it is a beautiful tune with awesome interludes.

The natural sounds he manages to produce in such songs is something that needs a very deep study. In ‘Poonthottam..’, the chirping of birds make us feel that we are in the midst of the forest. But apart from these natural sounds, he also makes the instruments sound so naturally giving us a natural feeling.

Take the prelude. It starts with the humming of Shailaja which in fact gives the sketch of the Pallavi. Even as the chirping of the birds is on, there is that pizzicato on violin. The effervescent flute makes a circular movement. The keys sound(sound he used to give during the ‘70s and early ‘80s) follows and the strings play with delight. What an amazing experiment with sound!

Note that the theme of the prelude revolves around the melody of Pallavi and yet sounds different.

As always, he plays with the rhythm too with the bass guitar along with a percussion instrument sounding ‘ta ka dhi mi ta ka’- tisram broken down as 6 micro-beats. This occurs during every even count of the taaLa with another set of percussion playing during the odd count. Of course, this pattern is seen only in the Pallavi when it is sung in the beginning and whenever it is sung after each CharaNam.

It is the reign of the strings in the first half of the first interlude, and these move with unique elegance even as the flute makes an entry in between. A kind of funny sound from the keys(probably depicting a jumping animal) is interspersed in the melody and after the flute takes a respite, the pizzicato appears again. So does the chirping of the birds.

The CharaNams have delectable lines with the folk-stringed instrument backing the vocals in the third and the fourth lines.

The keys punch with joy in the beginning of the second interlude but it is the violin which literally scores in this interlude. There is pizzicato again and the solo violin plays a kind of offbeat melody making us float in the air.

The third interlude is lilting with his favourite key sound playing a piercing melody first which is repeated by the solo violin rather subtly. The flute plays a different melody parallely though it is also in the same scale and can be called as an extension of the melody played by the violin. Now the keys change the scale and move as if in a trance while the violin continues its melody.

Unnaturally natural?

But in more than one ways, it depicts the diverse nature or to use a commonly used term- Unity in Diversity.

What does this teach us?

Rather than my saying-or even sermonising- as individuals you think about it and put your thoughts into action.

Happy World Environment Day!

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