Words and Ideas Change the World

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

– John Keating, Dead Poets Society

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The Time Theory of Ragas

Sitar, sarod, tabla, sarangi, raga…: today, they are common words ever in the Western Society. All that concerns with Indian classical music.

Indian classical music has developed through complex interactions between different groups of people, different in race and culture, throughout the history of India.

It is a tradition in which improvisation is what sets you apart from the rest. The written word is not the order of the day, therefore, it is believed that much classical music has been lost throughout the ages. 

Indian classical music, till today, is passed on by the guru (teacher) to the shishya (student).

However, all is not lost. There are many references to musical traditions in historic texts, often with description and detailed, written discussions of classical music.

Classical instruments, such as the sitar, sarod, tabla, sarangi, etc. are generally believed to have fallen into much use during the Early Vedic Age in India. Something of that time that still survives is the raga. 

In music, a set of eight notes make an octave. More technically speaking, if note Z is an octave higher than note Y, it means that the frequency of Z is exactly double that of Y.

raga is like a protocol for music. It lays down a set of rules to be followed while moving up or down the scale, the notes to be played, the notes to be ignored, and so on. 

Within the apparently strict-looking framework of a raga lies scope for tremendous improvisation. After all, as I said before, improvisation is what sets you apart from the rest in classical music. Let me give you an example to help understand. 

Suppose, a raga says that the only notes that can be played are: C#, D#, E, F, A and B. I can now arrange these notes in whatever sequence I want, by changing their order, repeating them, excluding some, and so on. Here are some examples:

  • C# A B F
  • A C# D# C# C# F A B
  • A B C# D# E A F F B
  • and so on.

There is one more thing about ragas that is unique. Before moving on further, please make yourself aware that there are countless ragas in Indian classical music, each with its unique style. And something else.

Each raga has an associated mood. 

The sole purpose of following a raga while playing an instrument, or singing vocals, is to impart a certain mood in the listener. Only if the listener is engrossed in the mood of the raga, only then can he/she feel the strange, calm feeling that one gets while listening to a raga. I have experienced it myself, and it’s a feeling that’s beyond the power of words to be described.

However, there’s a catch. For that, maybe you should ask the psychologist in the university. He’ll say this.

It is easier to impart a certain mood in a person’s mind at a particular time of the day. 

Well, whoever devised the ragas of Indian classical music seemed to be aware of that! Therefore, each raga is meant to be played at a certain time of the day. 

An infographic depicting the time of the day a particular raga is meant to be played. If you’re having difficulty in comprehending this, click on the image to lead to an interactive infographic. Image Credit: ITC Sangeet Research Academy

On a personal note, I play the sitar. It’s an instrument whose existence is gravely at stake, something I’m not at all pleased about. Having said that, I currently know to play three ragas: Bhairav, Yaman, and Khamaj. 

  • Raga Bhairav is meant to be played in the early morning (6 – 8 am).
  • Raga Yaman is supposed to be played in the evening (6 – 8 pm).

I have attended quite many concerts of classical music, and the maestros do follow these timings. I have played these two ragas both during the correct time, and also during the incorrect time. The difference is striking. 

Also, there are seasons associated with each raga! But that’s a story for another time.

Holidays Are In

We’re beginning today. This day was supposed to be the last working day, but the school authorities were forced to take what they described an “emergency decision”. To close down the school one day early.

What sort of a yarn is that? Justified, I’d say. Considering that the Indian Meteorological Department has announced a heat wave this week: predicting temperatures around 41 degrees Celsius, with around 85% humidity!

Speaking of temperature and humidity, here’s a look out of the window towards the blazing sun. Image Credit: Sagnik Sarkar


Temperature is manageable, but humidity is hell! In fact, we people in eastern India are so accustomed to hellish humidity, that we frequently term a 41 degrees Celsius day with 35% humidity “cooler” than a 35 degrees Celsius day with 85% humidity.

I’m serious, mate. Just to illustrate how hellish 85% humidity is, consider this.

It’s like by the time you’ve wiped the water off your body with the towel after bath, you already start sweating!

They say summer in India is not for the faint-hearted. I must say I’m fortunate that I’m quite indifferent to all this business! 

For some (known) reason, which I’m not telling you, I have built up this indifferent attitude towards the blazing summer sun.

For goodness sake, don’t take my words for granted. Of course I’ll not be indifferent if you land me up under the sun in the Sahara!

A satellite image of the clouds over the Indian subcontinent. For goodness’ sake, don’t let me don into the details.  Image Credit: Indian Meteorological Department

See that? Not a single cloud over Kolkata. What the hell is going on? Out of my window right now, I can only see cirrus clouds, those thin fuckers who don’t bring any rain!

A Busy Summer Vacation
Turn the clock back 365 days (if Einstein agrees), and you would find me, a year younger, spending a boring vacation. But things have changed from the second-last vacation I had: during Durga Puja, in October last year.

I choose not to comment on how that occurred. But I do choose to comment on my current vacation, which I’m about to experience.

I’m now in 9th grade in school. Therefore, I’ve got a whole lot of projects and assignments to complete, during the vacations.

Anyways, that would be over in just a week, maximum a week and a half. For the next three weeks, I’ve decided to calibrate more knowledge on my recently-developed academic interests: biotechnology, forensics, and psychology. 

A hell lot of work to do, indeed. Nice. At least I won’t be able to ask, “Mom, what do I do now?” I find it very stupid to ask such questions, and I’ve stopped asking so from last year.

This summer vacation, it’s also time for some fun: writing blogs, Google+ posts, some nice photography, and also some grievances to deal with the government.

Wish you a summer vacation of your wishes ahead!

Shifting Blogs

2012: it was the year I started blogging. I had explored both Blogger and WordPress as possible options for putting up my blog, but I was destined to end up with Blogger.

Why?

I was very much new to blogging at that time, and I found WordPress too technical to manage at that time. So I decided to go for Blogger. Blogger presented me a platform to start exploring the previously-untreaded platform of blogging, and I was only too happy to oblige.

It’s been 2 years I’ve been on Blogger. I have gone from writing just an introductory post to posts that were real  hits, frequency of 1 post a month to about one every couple of weeks.

I have gone from the shabby, drab default theme of Blogger to a theme that is interactive, customized, and  much more pleasing to look at.

It’s Time For A Change: It was towards the end of 2013 that I realised that I am slowly getting fed up of Blogger. Those same old themes, a drab-looking extremely modest blog website, and limited options. I realized it’s time for a change.

Enter WordPress. The same platform that I had once abandoned was the one I now chose to shift my blog to. Now that I’ve spent some time here, I’ve realized how versatile it is, yet simple enough not to spend your whole day managing technical details.

What I Plan To Do

The easiest option, I realized, would be to set up WordPress to import my blogs from Blogger. However, on second thoughts, I beg to differ. The option of manually copying the blogs is what I choose to do, since that would give me a forced chance to re-furbish and update my probably outdated blogs.

I shall be doing that slowly, and surely. Not too fast, maybe maximum once a week, I’ll get my old hoggies down the road to this new home!