by Arati Chokshi
I have just returned from Kabir Festival in Baroda...it has been two days and the blood is still singing in my ears - a potent, joyous singing of abandon, singing of live-streams, surging rivers and breaking oceans - breaking and reforming in me - instantaneously eternal.
Baroda festival drew me for all that was on the offer - Shabnam's movies of her journeys into the transformative world of Kabir, music by an amazing array of artists including Madhup Mudgal in classical strain, Prahlad Tippanya, Moora Lala Marwara and Mukhtiyar Ali in their very diversely flavoured folk singing of Malwa, Kutch and Rajasthan.
The Festival also drew me for the very special Kabirean imagery that had haunted me since the Learning with Kabir Workshop in Bangalore, last month - the art work of Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh! I was drawn to the still and melancholy face, the colors dominated by prussian blues, and the images embedded inside - fleeing deer, fort, paper boat...maybe this is what drew me the most - to confront the real-images - just to stand and stare!
To say that the Festival surpassed all expectations would be to reduce it to lifeless ordinariness of precise prose.
We rode on journeys with Shabnam, once more; were stunned with the razor edge scholarships on Personal and Political Kabir by Purshottam Agarwal and rode with the poetics of Kabir by Ashok Vajpayee. I stood and stared at the images I had come so far to see - till satiated. However, beyond all of this , was the music - the earthy, connecting, relating music of Malwa with a sense of questioning, exploring, enquiring by Prahladji; the resounding, resonating music from Kutch that reached heavenwards, in wavery, clear, ringing voice of Moora Lala, and finally the finale with Mukhtiyar Ali - strong, sweet, and undeniable - the Sufianna refrains, lilting Rajasthani melodies. He sang of love, loss, searches in the bleaklands, joys of surrender, drawing us towards the unreachable and the unknown - with blasphemously Kabirean dohas on leaving aside the Ram-chant and letting the Ram chant us, while we sleep!
Back at home, I now sit and take stock, reflect, and assess this slippery Kabirean slide that I now ride - in free fall, in exhilarating, accelerating abandon, consciously out of control, propelled into the unknown - the dangerous free-ride with Kabir - a Kabir craze, singing Kabir, walking Kabir, sitting and sleeping with Kabir melodies, swarming inside, spinning the sun and moon in their crazy dances, swirling the starry heavens to disco lights.
This world that I inhabit is at odds with my regular, ordinary and mundane life - the anchor that holds me firmly grounded even as I soar, inside. I will myself to give up this world inside - the Kabir that I am into, or have let into me - but cannot. I realise that the world that has opened for me is an addiction, intoxicating, boundless, limitless, the discovery of the watchful me, rapturously watching the enraptured me...