Your ghazals transported me to another world of poetry and yearning; where the pain in one’s eyes was able to take verbal form and heal the wounded heart. It was also a world in which the purity of love took on an unparalleled eloquence, making it my go-to destination when inexpressibly happy or gut-wrenchingly sad. It’s so strange this should have happened now; I had just been revisiting a lot of your classics over the past few weeks and finding a lot of peace in the honeyed silk of your voice and your songs.
Thank you for that gift, Jagjit-ji. May your soul find peace for all that you gave us. Here are three lovely songs; a small sampling of the innumerable songs that are imprinted on my memory.
Few can swiftly rip apart particularly fervent strains of idealism like Ibsen can. The Wild Duck is a great case in point.
Relling: You’re a sick man you are. You know that.
Gregers: There you’re right.
Relling: Oh yes. Your case has complications. First there’s this virulent moralistic fever; and then something worse – you keep going off in deliriums of hero worship; you always have to have something to admire that’s outside of yourself.
Gregers: Yes I certainly have to look for it outside myself.
Rellings: But you’re so woefully wrong about these great miraculous beings you think you see and hear around you. You’ve simply come back to a cotter’s cabin with your summons to the ideal; there’s no one but fugitives here.
Gregers: Hedvig did not die in vain. Did you notice how grief freed the greatness in him?
Relling: The grief of death brings out greatness in almost everyone. But how long do you think this glory will last with him?
Gregers: I should think it would last and grow all his life.
Relling: Before a year is over, little Hedvig will be nothing to him but a pretty declamation.
Gregers: If you are right and I am wrong, then life is not worth living.
Relling: Oh life would be quite tolerable after all, if only we could be rid of the confounded duns that keep on pestering us, in our poverty, with the claim of the ideal.
Huh, just 38 minutes and 46 seconds per session? Clearly we expat Singaporeans have got the home territories beat. That just sounds like a lunch break to me.
I don’t quite agree with all parts of Gibran’s essay on love, but there are still some lines in there which resonated and were lovely. And this may be my take on this, but it does seem as though Gibran is referring to divine love, not so much mortal love in all its imperfect, unsatisfactory yet deeply desired forms.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of god.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Today is Day 3 (or Day 2, depending on whether I should trust the temple back home or the Internet) of Navaratri. These nine days and nights commemorate the slaying of a demon, Mahishasuran, by Durga, a manifestation of Shakti, the feminine form of the Divine. For nine days and nine nights she battles him and on the tenth day, she emerges victorious. It’s a festival that’s dear to me because it celebrates the strong, brave and courageous aspects of the feminine form. And it’s a time meant for us to retreat from the illusions of the world and work on slaying our own inner demons.
This Navaratri, I’ve been working on a couple of inner demons that need slaying – we all have them, of course – and I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble upon an old copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet in my room. I had read The Prophet before but something drew me towards this book on Monday night, and I haven’t been able to put it down or stop poring over its lines since. Gibran was born in Lebanon, but migrated to America at the age of 12. His essays in The Prophet have an Ecclesiastical cadence yet are simple in the ideas they convey, making them particularly lovely.
I thought I’d share a few extracts that I found especially soothing and helpful to me this Navaratri season, and hope that you guys might find relevant as well.
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
So, so glad Shankar Tucker’s music is getting more recognition! He’s put together some beautiful musical arrangements and the fact that he plays so many of the instruments is remarkably impressive. I’m also in awe of how he’s adapted the clarinet’s scale for Hindustani & Carnatic classical music, quite amazing.
Take a listen!
I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in the debate over job creation in America watch the extended Jennifer Granholm interview. The former governor of Michigan has co-authored a book with her husband on the current state of job creation in America. One of the key points seems to be that most state-level efforts are focussing on attracting jobs from other states instead of increasing the overall pool of jobs available to Americans. While that ought to be something handled at the federal level, a clear plan that ropes in the private sector to increase that pool of jobs has yet to emerge from the current administration.
And Singaporeans, I think you’ll find her comments on the Singaporean economic strategy as a contrast quite interesting. She talks about how multinational CEOs across the board agree that Singapore has the best strategy to attract MNCs to the country, and she mentions the “Golden Triangle” of partnership between the government, universities and the private sector. Caveat: ignore the stereotypical ignorant American comment she made about our government: “well that’s a dictatorship so we don’t want that”.
There are a lot of questions that arise immediately and of course a 14 minute interview can’t answer all of them. So I’m looking forward to reading her book – A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future - to get some answers. But off the top of my head:
- Sure, Singapore attracts MNCs, but how much employment does that generate for Singaporeans? With lower tax rates and looser restrictions on hiring than the US, there are several critics who argue that the jobs created in Singapore don’t actually go to Singaporeans but to cheaper white-collar professionals from the region.
- Singapore’s golden triangle partnership, where the government plays a significant role in directing and aiding private sector competitiveness, seems doable with a population of 5 million. How does Michigan’s former governor propose replicating this model with a population of 300 million and coordination across 50 states?
- Given the years and years of a failed educational system in the US with far fewer math and science graduates than is needed to drive industries, where does education reform fit into Granholm’s recommendations for America’s economic future?
- Ditto on healthcare.
Watch the videos and let me know what you think in the comments section (if you think anything at all. It’s a Sunday, I’ll allow for a few minutes of thoughtless existence if you’d like).
The Economist’s recent article on high speed rails set off an interesting line of thought – do the economic advantages of high speed rail really justify the significant public investment that needs to go into building them?
The Economist makes several points as to why high speed rail isn’t worth the investment:
- because these trains don’t make many stops, they end up isolating cities and towns on the route that aren’t served and displace economic activity
- when a wealthy city centre has greater access to markets that were previously geographically remote, companies have little incentive to move out of the city centre, reducing economic activity in the suburbs
- the rich are the only ones who are going to use this publicly-funded service, as ticket prices are out of reach for the common man
- upgrading existing localized networks is a better investment than high speed rail
Some of these points are fair; high speed rails aren’t intended to serve every town between the city centre and more remote areas and I can see how that would impact towns and cities along the route. And there is a big case to be made for upgrading local rail networks to see more immediate results.
But I think the Economist gets it wrong in the base assumption it makes about this kind of public infrastructure investment. The economic and social benefits of high speed rail can’t be realized until the network has been built out to cover a significant amount of geography. High speed rail needs to similarly scale up in order for its benefits to be realized. And the beauty of publicly-funded infrastructure like this is that governments can afford to have a long-term perspective on the social and economic benefits of a project to society. By opening up new markets for jobs to people in poorly-connected regions, a government can generate much more equitable levels of income across a country. Lower carbon emissions and fuel efficiency would also significantly reduce the environmental impact of current work commutes.
In the current economic climate, I can understand the Economist’s point that this is a large amount of public spending for returns that are very much further down the road. But I’d like to see more information on the short-term and long-term costs of upgrading existing networks as compared to building newer ones that will set the stage for the next century of economic development.
That does sound really dramatic. But the closest example of infrastructure investment on this scale I can think of is the history of rail transport in America. By 1860, most cities in the northern and midwestern parts of America were connected by rail, and the impact this had on accelerating the Industrial Revolution was significant. Goods could now be transported in any kind of weather (a distinct disadvantage steamboats and canal transport weren’t able to overcome) and people could travel much faster to their destinations than previously. Rail transport wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without this staggering scale and scope.
After a 10 month hiatus from blogging, I’m back. Not because I haven’t been active on the www; there just have been so many other mediums to play around with. My Twitter account for one, or my Google+ account for another, or plain old Facebook. Not to mention actually venturing out into the real world once every 60 days to have fascinating conversations with interesting people on the most bizarre spectrum of topics.
All that said, there’s something about blogging I just can’t quite wholesale quit just yet. If you’re one of the people who’s been impatiently clicking “Refresh” every other day to see if I’d returned, you’ll probably notice there are a number of posts below from earlier dates that didn’t exist prior to this. I cheated a little and backdated them to reflect the time I actually posted these articles on Google+/FB/Twitter/emailed them out. It helps consolidate my thoughts in one place and I’ve found, make it much easier for people to get all criticism out of their systems in one handy little spot. Ever considerate, I strive to be.
So welcome back me! And you too, I guess, if you’re still around. This should be fun