While we wait in the temple courtyard, we are welcomed, first in Farsi, then in English. We will enter the Temple while the previous group is exiting through the front of the temple. It is important to move quickly because the faster we find our seats, the more time will be available for the service, as a new group enters every fifteen minutes.
Once we are in the temple, the doors will be closed and we will not be able to leave except in the case of an emergency. There will be hosts at all of the doors to assist anyone in difficulty. The prayer service will last approximately five minutes. There are to be no photographs, no recordings, and all cell phones must be turned off and kept in our pockets or they will be confiscated. At the end of the service we will be directed to the exits by the hosts and it is important that we leave quickly because the next group will be entering behind us.
What is not mentioned is that there have been terrorist attacks at several sacred sites popular to tourists recently in India, and this is one of them. Ironically, because they are a multi-faith organization devoted to peace among all peoples and religions, they are a target for extremists of every religion. But the Baha’is who built the Lotus Temple refuse to shut it down because they believe that it’s important to keep open a temple devoted solely to peace among all races and tolerance for all religions, especially when temples are under attack and people are killing each other in the name of God.
Young women with brightly colored silk head scarves and white satin saris patrol the aisles inside the temple, wordlessly directing people with an open palm, using mime to remind us to turn off our cameras and cell phones, drawing a finger across their lips to remind us to remain silent. Whenever one of them catches me watching her, she smiles and raises her fingertips to her lips and mouths the word Namaste (“I acknowledge the divinity in you as the same divinity in me”) and slowly bows. Then she smiles again, and turns away. Since I am doing the same thing, for a moment we become mirror images of each other—and for me it’s a gesture that’s never felt so natural or as light-hearted and joyful as inside this temple.
Bluebirds glide through the silence to nest among the rafters.
The service begins. A young black woman with a head scarf sings something from the Torah. A western woman sings a prayer from the Koran. An elderly dark-skinned Arab sings one of Solomon’s psalms, and the service is over.
I follow Bill and his wife up and out of the temple back in the sun. At the top of the steps he turns to his wife and says, “Well, that was a waste of time.”
New Delhi Airport Waiting Room
Our group is getting smaller again. We became six when we flew off to Nepal, and now we are down to me and Susan and her friend. They live in different states but they met on a trip to Morocco years ago and were good travel companions and now often travel together.
We are the last ones from our group in the New Delhi Airport, waiting in the main airport lounge for our different gates to be announced, about to say goodbye forever,. They are entertaining me with stories from the trip. In one, they use a nickname that I don’t recognize and I stop and question them. When they tell me the real name behind the nickname, it is so deliciously nasty and at the same time spot-on and smart that I can’t help but laugh and gasp at the same time. So then of course I have to find out all of the nicknames and each one is just as smart and true, but when they get to the end there is one name missing. “Okay,” I say, “What’s my nickname?” They look at each other and shrug. They didn’t have one for me. “Oh, come on. Just tell me. How bad can it be?” They look at each other and make a face and Susan takes a deep breath and says, “Well, for the first few days, before we got to know you better, we called you Bubble Boy.” “Bubble Boy!?” “Well, it was like you were in a world of your own. You’d get on the bus, you’d get off the bus, you’d eat with us, but it was like you were never really part of the group. But that was before we got to know you better.” “So,” I sigh, “Bubble Boy.” “Yeah,” she sighs, “Bubble Boy.” Then she reaches out and gasps, afraid I might get the wrong idea. “But we never called you that!”
Modern Non-Classical Music of India, Volume V
Mohit Chauhan: Mai Ni Meriye
Mohit Chauhan is an Indian ballad and playback (film) singer who has twice won the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer. He was born in Nahan in Himachal Pradesh. Although untrained in music, he has taught himself guitar, harmonica, and flute. He recorded two albums with the pop group Silk Route. Their album “Boonhein” (1998) debuted at number one in India and featured the hit “Dooba Dooba.” After Silk Route disbanded, Mohit continued to sing as a solo act until A. R. Rahman asked him to sing in his film “Rang De Basanti,” beginning his career as a film singer.
Bombay Dub Orchestra: Journey
Bombay Dub Orchestra is an electronica/orchestral group featuring Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay.
Jasbir: Putt Jattan Da
Jasbir Jassi is a Punjabi singer and actor, born on February 7, 1970, in Dalla Mirjanpur Village, Punjab, India. He has a Masters degree in classical Indian vocal music from Apeejay College of Fine Arts (Jalandhar, India).
Ali Akbar Khan & Asha Bohsie: Guru Bandana In Desh Malhar
Ali Akbar Khan was born April 14, 1922 in Comilla, East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to a famous Indian classical musician and teacher, Allauddin Khan. He was a Hindustani classical musician who was taught by his father to play the sarod and other instruments as well. He made his first public performance at the age of thirteen, and first performed with Ravi Shankar in 1939, at the age of sixteen. With Shankar, he is credited with spreading Indian music throughout the world. He first came to the United States in 1955 at the invitation of violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and moved to California. In 1956 he established a musical school in Calcutta, and in 1967 he founded the Ali Akbar College of Music, now located in San Rafael, with a branch in Basel, Switzerland. He was also a professor of music at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He scored Satyajit Ray’s “Devi,” Merchant-Ivory’s “The Householder,” and Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha.” He was the first Indian musician to record Indian music in the U.S., and the first person to play sarod on U.S. TV. In August 1971, Khan performed at the Concert for Bangladesh along with Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha, and Kamala Chakravarty. He was nominated for five Grammy awards and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts’s National Heritage Fellowship in the U.S., and was awarded India’s second highest civilian award, and was known throughout India in the last decades of his life as Ustad (master). He is quoted as saying, “If you practice for ten years, you may begin to please yourself, after 20 years you may become a performer and please the audience, after 30 years you may please even your guru, but you must practice for many more years before you finally become a true artist—then you may please even God.” Akbar died of kidney failure in California on June 18, 2009.
Asha Bhosle is a playback singer who has sung over 12,000 songs (by 2006) in 21 different languages in over 1000 films since 1943. She was listed as the “Most Recorded Artist” in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009. She was born Asha Mangeshkar on September 8, 1933, in Sangli, Bombay to a father who was an acclaimed actor and musician. She has recorded with Boy George, Code Red, Kronos Quartet, and performed a duet with Michael Stipe for One Giant Leap. Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” is about her, and samples of her singing have appeared on tracks by Fatboy Slim, Nelly Furtado, The Black Eyed Peas, and Sarah Brightman,
Bombay Jayashri: Zara Zara
Jayashri Ramnath (known as Bombay Jayashir) is an Indian vocalist and composer, born in Kolkata into a family of musicians, and also plays the veena. She composed some of the music for Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” and received a Grammy nomination for one of her songs in that film.
Niraj Chag with Swati Natekar: Khwaab
Niraj Chag is known for his documentary soundtracks, including “One Night in Bhopal” (2004), “The Age of Terror” (2008), “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” (2008), and “The Story of the Continents” (2013). He has also composed music for the “Sex and the City” TV show. In 2006, he was awarded the Asian Music Award for “Best Underground Artist” for his album “Along the Dusty Road.” In 2008 he created a piece of music for the official Olympic Torch event on London’s South Bank with opera singers, a 40-piece brass band, and 600 vocalists. I have no information on Swati Natekar.
Sanjay Divecha with Kailash Kher: Naino Sey
I have no information on Sanjay Divecha. For information on Kailash Kher, see the January 2013 edition of “A Poet’s Progress.”
Satish Vyas: Homeward Journey
Satish Vyas is a santoor player who was born into a musical family, including his father, Pandit C.R. Vyas, one of India’s best classical singers.
Susheela Raman: Nagumomo
Susheela Raman is a British Indian Bhakti and Sufi musician born in London on July 21, 1973 to Tamil parents. The family moved to Australia in 1977. Susheela formed a funk and rock and roll band in Australia, and began to sing both blues and jazz as well. In 1995 she moved to India, and returned to London in 1997, where she lives today. Her first album “Salt Rain” was nominated for a Mercury Prize, and one of her songs were used in the film “The Namesake.” She has recorded songs by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Jimi Hendrix, Can, and Throbbing Gristle. In 2013 she appeared at the Alchemy Festival at the Royal Albert Hall.
Newtopia staff writer RANDY ROARK worked with Allen Ginsberg for the last 17 years of his life, first as an apprentice, then as his teaching assistant, and finally transcribing and editing 28,000 pages of Ginsberg’s poetry lectures, currently available on-line through the Ginsberg trust. Following Ginsberg’s death, he worked with artist Stan Brakhage, producing art events featuring his films until his death. Since 1998 he has worked with Sounds True as a producer, where he has edited artists such as Alex Grey, writers including William Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, and a wide variety of spiritual teachers, including Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, and Lakota Elder Joseph Marshall.