Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Goa Trance: The Phenomenon

This article was originally meant to be published in the Goa Guide that i was working on. But when the articles were submitted to the Govt (the Govt being our client) for their approval, certain conservative fractions believed that Goa had nothing to do with this "Hippie" culture!!! The result was deleting this article from the book. Now, a muck condensed version of the original article is here for you:

In the early 1960’s, hippies started flocking to Goa in such large numbers that they were popularly termed “new colonists”. The general attraction of India for the hippies was both to its spirituality and to its hashish, which was legal up to the mid 1970’s.

It is generally believed that around 1968, a man popularly known as “eight-finger-Eddy” and other ex-pats found a warm beach and a paradise like heaven in which they could enjoy a life free from other distractions. These people started to have “parties” on the beaches and the jungles. Another pioneer, Goa Gil, was one of the originators of the famous Goa full moon parties. At the beginning of the 1980’s he introduced the first post punk experimental electronic dance music and electronic body music. Goa techno trance actually originated from hard line, electronic body music, groups like Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, Frontline Assembly and as well as from Eurobeat.

In general, the structure of a typical Goa trance track is reflective of a journey, both in a mythological sense and as a LSD generated stream of consciousness. Like the archetypal hero setting out on his quest, the song begins with subtle undulations of sound, intensifying slowly with constant timbral evolution, carrying the listener along the narrowly defined pathway of the trance experience. The listener, just like the metaphorical hero faces challenges on the way, guised as periodic breaks in the trance flow, often containing some mysterious text quotation or chant. This is designed to involve the mind on a different level to that of the otherwise constant pulse of the music.

The tracks are generally around eight or ten minutes in duration, reaching the climax around the seventh minute after which it moves towards its end. In the same way as each individual track takes the listener on a journey, there exists an expanded level of this process in the party/rave itself. The classic Goa full moon party can last eight to ten hours. It starts usually around 10pm when the energy and the mood of the party is relatively restrained, but it slowly builds over the next four or more hours until around 2am to 4am, when the highest energy levels are attained.

In the late 1980’s and the 1990’s a typical rave had a PA, a few coloured lights, some black light and occasionally some psychedelic banners. There was one dance floor and the music generally started around midnight. Now the aesthetics of the party has changed. Raves today are much larger, with booming state of the art acoustics, laser imagery and novelties like theme-based events. Anjuna beach, the “freak capital of the world” is popular for its nightlong trance parties. The amiable climate and the pulsating music system here, make it the venue of many raves around Christmas and New Year. Other than Anjuna, Calangute, Tito’s at Baga, Ziggy’s at Colva, Lido’s at Dona Paula, and Temptations at Red Cab on Vagator are other popular party destinations. Terms of the party can vary from place to place, but generally all places do charge a sum for entry and additional amounts for liquor.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


As has been the usual case with me, i begin this new initiative with an apology. When i first started writing a blog for myself, it was somewhere in July 2006. The initial zeal resulted in a few sketchy posts and a couple of decent ones. The last one - Rationalizing Dada, was written somewhere in September 2006. After that, its been big nothings.

So, this is my second coming onto blogosphere and hope this time its more measured and most importantly, more sustained in its efforts.

Rationalising Dada

This is something I wanted to write on for a long time…and then a rare not-so-busy day in office gave me an opportunity to do so......

I, like many other cricket loving kids in
Bengal, i grew up watching, admiring and copying the style of Saurav Ganguly. We Bengalis, emotional as we are, built castles around his persona and one day when the castle was ransacked, we burst out in discontent. This shall be my attempt at rationalizing the entire aura and the madness around Saurav Ganguly, the cricketer.

Bengalis are, without an iota of doubt, the most political and the most argumentative of the Indian people. This spirit was clearly visible in the struggle for independence, the partition and more recently, during the Naxal Andolan. While on one hand we had hordes of ideologically driven student-intelligentsia fighting for an agrarian revolution, on the other hand we had the state machinery, under the then Congress CM, Siddartha Shankar Roy, leaving no stone unturned to suppress it. And it was suppressed, and along with it was suppressed the voice of young
Bengal. It was the blow from which Bengal never recovered. The backbone was shattered beyond reconstruction.....

Art flourished nonetheless.... Bengal kept producing writers, poets, painters and economists par excellence. Some of them like Mother Teresa and Amartys sen went on to recieve the Nobel prize....but the writers and the poets and the economists remained restricted within the educated middle class of the towns - the bourgeoisie. Nobody among them had an unanimous appeal..and then there was the historic test match at Lord's...

He broke through the class structure...(Aye, that thing exists, much to the discomfort of our communist friends running the government) and rose above politics and dialectical materialism.
Suddenly, there was someone who the youth could relate to - attitude, aggression, style et all. It was as if he was the expression that resonated around this part of the country.

The definition of the game had changed for us. And let me make a confession here: the moment he got out, the whole match lost its meaning...such were the emotions… farmer suicides suddenly lost all relevance, lack of micro credit seemed trivial, and politics, mundane. The "Face of Bengal" was not any of the comrades but a cricketer, Saurav Ganguly.

This is for the man who taught us how to dream and dream olive branch to you, Dada!!

P.S: skeptics and Aravind, stay off!!


The following is the entry on my journal, dated, 13th April 2006, my last night in my room in the college hostel:

I think it was the day before when i resorted to a bit of theatrics to experience that ambiance for this "one last time". The whirring of the fan in the low hours of the day, when everything around you is silent except the rustling of the leaves, sounds of the birds and the occasional voices of people in the corridor. It is that suspended state of being which has got attached to you without your knowing it. I wish i could shout out and cry just to unburden myself. How i wish this moment was delayed.

I was thinking about U-24, about the first year and about the last month when the family tree came about. Strange room it in which I cried bitterly after a humiliating and disgraceful session with a bunch of seniors; one in which I lay down at night during the first few months and let my mind loose on the wonders unfolding before my eyes; one in which i waited eagerly for letters form a now vanished person. The other day when i went there, I recognized the familiar notch curved into the armrest of one of the chairs, which at one point of time used to be "mine". I was glad to still see my name written inside the cupboard. It was like chancing across a flotsam from a seemingly distant childhood.

It's been a journey from a state of ignorant, blissful innocence to a state of mature, cautious innocence - innocence nonetheless.

Last night in V-25, Mukherji West, St, Stephen's College. May i sleep a few last hours of a departing identity in peace.....AMEN!!!

P.S: I have soiled fingers this moment.

In the Name of The Name

I knew what my name meant, but was never aware of the aura of myth, legend and history that surrounded it, well, until now at least.

In strictly canonical terms, a Bodhisattva is defined as an individual who discovers the
source of the “Ultimate Truth” better known as
nirvana, but postpones his own enlightenment until he has guided all his fellow beings to this same source of fulfillment. A formidable task, to say the least. The path of the Bodhisattva is thus one of extreme self-denial and selflessness. According to the Lankavatara sutra:

He has taken the great Vow: "I shall not enter into final nirvana before all beings have been liberated." He does not realize the highest liberation for himself, as he cannot abandon other beings to their fate. He has said: "I must lead all beings to liberation. I will stay here till the end, even for the sake of one living soul."

The word 'Bodhisattva' itself is prone to a rich etymological analysis. It is composed of two words 'bodhi' and 'sattva' both of which connote deeply spiritually meanings. Bodhi means "awakening" or "enlightenment," and sattva means "sentient being." Sattva also has etymological roots that mean "intention," meaning the intention to enlighten other beings. Thus the composite word bodhisattva signifies the very essence of the divine beings it refers to.

Buddhist aesthetics, very much like its literature, brings home spiritual truths in the simplest manner graspable by all. The various Bodhisattvas too dominate the spectrum of Buddhist art, illustrating this abstract conceptualization in as hard hitting a manner as do the various myths surrounding them. The most prominent Bodhisattva in this regard is Avalokiteshvara.

The word 'Avalokiteshvara' is derived from the Pali verb oloketi, which means, "to look at, to look down or over, to examine or inspect." The word avalokita has an active signification, and the name means, "the lord who sees (the world with pity)." The Tibetan equivalent is spyanras-gzigs (the lord, who looks with eyes). The text known as Karanda-vyuha (8th century AD) explains that he is so called because he views with compassion all beings suffering from the evils of existence. It is interesting to note here that a dominant feature in the description of Avalokiteshvara is his capacity to "see" the suffering of others. No wonder then that he is often represented with a thousand eyes symbolizing his all encompassing ability to view with compassion the suffering of others, thus sharing in their sorrows, a first step towards their ultimate alleviation. Not only that, he further has a thousand hands too which help in the mammoth task of delivering innumerable beings to their ultimate spiritual fulfillment.

In addition to Avalokiteshvara two other important bodhisattvas are Manjushri and Maitreya.

Manjushri is the embodiment of the transcendental wisdom and knowledge that are required to attain enlightenment. His principal attributes are a sword, with which he destroys ignorance, and a book, symbolizing his knowledge and profound insight.

Reconciling Manjushri's actions with his status as a bodhisattva we realize that here we see a rare but distinctly significant affirmation in Buddhist thought of an existence composed of normal and 'ordinary' family life rather than that of denial. The carrying out of one's duties is as spiritually fulfilling an activity as any other 'Bodhisattvic' deed. Consider for example, the activity of cooking. The Bhagvad Gita says that one who cooks for others acquires the highest merit, while that who selfishly cooks food only for his own consumption commits a sin. Likewise the temple cook was engaged in an effort of the highest merit. Indeed for contemporary times this is an ultimate tribute to those women of the house who diligently provide us with sustenance, which fulfills not only our physical needs, but also nourishes us spiritually.

According to some Buddhist traditions, the period of the Buddhist Law is divided into three stages: a first period of 500 years is of the turning of the Wheel of the Law; a second period of 1,000 years is of the deterioration of the Law, and the third period of 3,000 years is the one during which no one practices the Law. After this, Buddhism having disappeared, a new Buddha will appear who will again turn the Wheel of the Law. This future Buddha known as Maitreya is beloved to be still in the Tushita heaven, in the state of a bodhisattva. It is believed that Gautama Buddha himself enthroned him as his successor.
The word 'maitreya' is derived from the Sanskrit word for friendliness. Thus this bodhisattva is fundamentally said to embody the qualities of amiability and an attitude of well-meaning sympathy.
The notion of a bodhisattva sacrificing his complete physical self or at least parts of it conforms to a similar notion expounded in ancient Buddhist texts. For example the 'Shat-sahasrika Prajna-paramita' (5th century AD) says: "Besides wealth and material objects, a bodhisattva should be ready to sacrifice his limbs for the good of others, his hand, foot, eye, flesh, blood, marrow, limbs great and small, and even his head." Indeed in the Jataka tales which are legendary stories about bodhisattvas, there abound numerous instances where they are shown sacrificing parts of their bodies or even their lives to save that of another.
A persistent paradox regarding Maitreya is his visualization as an entity of the future. This presents a contrast to much of Buddhist practice and teaching which emphasizes the importance of the present, the current moment. This is sometimes referred to as the timeless eternal. According to the Buddhist viewpoint time does not exist as some external container, but is the vital expression and enactment of our own being right now. Time does not exist separate from our own presence.
The Samadhiraja-sutra (4th century) explains why a Bodhisattva does not feel any pain, even when he mutilates himself for the good of others. When Buddha was asked how a Bodhisattva could cheerfully suffer the loss of his hands, feet, ears, nose, eyes and head, he explained that pity for mankind and the love of bodhi sustain and inspire a Bodhisattva in his heroism, just as worldly men are ready to enjoy the five kinds of sensual pleasure, even when their bodies are burning with fever.

Stream or Consciousness?

These are pictures of the debating trip we had in Gwahati. We went to Cotton's College for the prestigious Manik Chandra Barua Memorial Debate which we eventually won. The day before the debate me and my partner, Amrit went to this small island in the middle of the Brahmaputra (then in flood) called Umananda. It has an ancient temple, to reach which, you need to climb a flight of almost 250 stairs. However the main attraction of the island is definitely the Golden langurs which inhabit only a limited area in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

After the darshan, it's time for you to climb down the rocky slopes of the island, right to the water's edge, and it is here that the river overwhelms you, makes you feel helpless. All of a sudden you come face to face with force way beyond your comprehension. You feel like sitting down on a rock and admire the beautiful shapes made by the river's churning currents, shapes that appear only for a fraction of a second before disappearing or transforming into another. Almost like thought. The river, to you, becomes a stre

am of consciousness.

At this point of time, the river takes you over. You are hypnotized by its beauty and its monstrosity, and the tide rises. (For all of you who did not know, rivers experience tidal cycles too). First, there's a hint of a chill at the very end of your toes which are pointing downwards, resting on a sloping rock face. Soon, the chill changes into the feeling of the cold water. As the moments go by, the cold water climbs up to your ankles, then to your shin and by the time it finally reaches the knee, you know that the river has had enough of

you, sitting by its side, feeling like James Joyce. And you get up and head for the waiting log boat, to ferry you to where the rest of the humanity is.

Train of Thought

What fascinated me the most in "Meghe Dhaka Tara" was the repeated appearance of the train, slicing through the silent scenes. The train imagery is used by Ghatak in most of his movies....repeatedly. He was deeply affected by the partition (1947) and the plague of the families severed from their roots. The partition single handedly moulded his political and aesthetic values, which was reflected in his movies and plays (in his early years as an IPTA activist).

One of the most powerful symbols of partition is the train that aided the "cultural displacement". So the train, for Ghatak, was the rift, the dividing line, the epitome of plight and also the line that separates existence from ideals and so was Nita. In addition to this, the train represents the distance, between Nita and the family - a gap that was too wide to bridge. There exists a monotonous rhythm in her life, between work, tuition, the mother, the sick father, the brothers and the tiny scrap of paper to which she has pinned all her hopes. The sound of the train heightens the effect of the monotonous, mechanical rhythm, much like the sound of the whip that we hear when Nita walks down the stairs of Sanat's new apartment.

Finally, the train represents melodrama, which, according to me was given a new definition by Ghatak. The last scene of the movie, where Nita holds on to Shankar and shouts out her urge to live, is in my view, the most brilliant use of melodrama in indian cinema.