About sudhagee

I write about this, that, here, there and everywhere... Come, explore my world through my blog, my Facebook page, on Twitter and on Instagram.

A city called Nukus

Nukus was my first halt in Uzbekistan. The 6th largest city of the country, it is the capital of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region within Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan covers a third of the area of Uzbekistan, which includes a major portion of the Ustyurt Plateau, and the Kyzyl-Kum Desert. The Amu Darya river is the lifeline of the region and flows through the city of Nukus.

Nukus is not known for its tourist attractions, but there was a reason I visited this city. More about that at the end of the post. It is located about 1000 km northwest of Tashkent, or a two-and-a half-hour journey by air from there by a propeller-driven plane, like the one in the photograph below.

Hukus, Tashkent Domestic Airport, Propeller PlaneHukus, Tashkent Domestic Airport, Propeller PlaneWhen I saw the propeller-driven planes waiting on the tarmac of the Tashkent Domestic Airport, I got all excited as I had never flown in one. But 5 minutes into flying, I was reaching for ear plugs for they were incredibly noisy. It didn’t help that my window overlooked one of the propellers.

Once the initial excitement of the propeller plane had worn off, the flight was uneventful and monotonous, just like the landscape on ground below. Apart from a road or two or a cluster of dwellings, I didn’t see anything to break the sandy ground below.

Nukus itself arrived rather suddenly and if I didn’t feel the plane descending, I wouldn’t have known that we had arrived. It is only later that I found out that the city is quite spread out and away from the airport, and one of the reasons why I didn’t see anything from the air.

When I landed at the rather small and quaint Nukus Airport on that September morning, I had been travelling (or waiting for a connecting flight) for almost 20 hours, and sleep deprived for even longer. It had been a long journey from humid Mumbai, to hot Delhi to cold Tashkent to dry and arid Nukus. I should have been sleepy and tired, but thanks to the numerous cups of coffee and excitement at finally being in Uzbekistan, I was not only awake, but also alert and ready to explore. :)

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Dear Uzbekistan

Many, many years ago there was once a quiet, little girl who was happiest among books, especially picture books. She hadn’t yet learned to read, and would always be asking her family members to explain what she was ‘reading’.

One day, her father came home with a stack of magazines. The little girl went through them all, one by one. She was particularly mesmerised by the cover of one of the magazines. It had a picture of a blue dome against an even bluer sky, and she liked it so much that she wanted to see the dome for real.

Uzbekistan, Samarkand, Samarqand, Blue ribbed domeShe went up to her father and told him of her intention. Her father looked at the magazine cover and said, “This is in a place called Samarqand. You want to go to there?”

The girl nodded.

“It’s quite far from here. Why don’t you wait till you are grown up?”

“Okay,” said the little girl. “I will go to Samarqand when I grow up.”

The years went by. The little girl grew up, the magazine got misplaced, her father passed away, but the blue dome of Samarqand and her dream of seeing it was not forgotten. Friends and family, who knew of this, would often ask when she was visiting Samarqand. Her answer always was, “I don’t know when. All I know is that one day I will.”

That day came four decades after she had first declared her intention to visit Samarqand. Last month, the now not-so-little girl made that trip to Samarqand and other places in Uzbekistan. There was a touch of the unreal when her plane landed in Tashkent and she couldn’t help but wonder if she was part of a dream. The fresh, cold air that hit her when she exited the aircraft convinced her that this was no dream, but the real thing ! :)

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Travel shot: Mahatma Gandhi at Geneva

In a little park, near the United Nations’ offices in Geneva, Switzerland, is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi reading a book and with a look of utmost concentration on his face.

Nahatma Gandhi, Statue, Bronze, Geneva, Geneve, Switzerland, The statue was unlike any Mahatma Gandhi statue I had seen or come across before — I had always seen his statues in a standing or walking position. This one of him reading seemed more like one I could relate to.

And to think, in retrospect, that I almost missed seeing this. Let me elaborate.

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My “now” song: Umraan langiyaan / Chhan chan chankan

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My current “now” song is actually two different songs —  Umraan Langiyaan and Chhan Chan Chankan — by different composers and lyricists seamlessly blended together into one composition for the purpose of a Coke Studio Pakistan performance.

Someone (and I can’t remember who) shared the link of this “song” on Twitter. I listened to it once, then twice, then a few more times to try to identify the raagas (Bhoop for the first song and Shuddh Kalyan for the second) in the composition. Before I knew it, I was playing this composition on a loop, and even though I didn’t understand the lyrics, it didn’t come in the way of my enjoying or appreciating the music.

About a couple of weeks back I came across the behind the scenes video for this composition. The video opens with the singer of Umrah Langiyan, Ali Sethi, explain that the song roughly translates into how an entire lifetime has passed on tiptoes waiting for something/someone. That something could be one’s homeland or and the someone could be a beloved. It could also be something that one has yearned for a long time.

Recently, I travelled to Uzbekistan (blog post coming here soon), a place I had been wanting to visit for a long, long time. In other words it was a trip to my dream destination. When I had my first glimpse of the Registan Square at Samarqand, Umrah Langiyan just came into my mind — a yearning that got fulfilled. And Chan Chan Chankan was the thanksgiving for the dream come true.

Just apt and perfect. :)

PS: I still don’t know what the lyrics mean, but I think they reflect the sentiments I’ve described above.

For more of my “now” songs and my other writings on music, do click here.

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A Saturday in town

I love South Mumbai, or town as many of us refer to that part of Mumbai. It is one of my favourite areas of the city and I’m always looking for excuses to head towards that side of the city. Need to buy a book? Want to stock up on dry fruits? Buy a gift? Meet a friend for coffee? No, problem. I just make a trip to town. :)

I haven’t been needing an excuse these last couple of months. Every Saturday, I head to town for my PG Diploma in Indian Aesthetics classes. Though they are in the afternoon, I try to combine it with other ‘work’ or explorations in town.

South Mumbai

About a month back, I had a minor fall that left me with a sprained ankle. Nothing serious, but my doctor didn’t want me gallivanting to town in local trains or walking around and straining the ankle, especially since I was due to travel soon. (I leave today. Yay !). That meant that my forays to town had to be restricted to going for class and coming straight back home. It was a depressing thought !

A couple of days later after the fall, I got a mail from Blacklane, a car ride service referring to an earlier email exchange. Sometime in June, Blacklane had reached out offering me a ride anywhere in Mumbai. Since I didn’t need one at that time, I declined and we left it that. The second time around, I didn’t decline, Blacklane offered me their services a couple of Saturdays back.

This is an account, in pictures, of that day in town.

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Woven Wonders of Varanasi: A ‘beautiful’ disappointment

I love museums. Regular readers of this blog will know that museums have played a very important part in developing and furthering my interests and knowledge in art, culture, history and sometimes, even deciding where to travel to next. Though not all museums have been uniformly good, I have never left one without having learnt something new there, something that has added to my knowledge. Till recently, that is.

About 10 days back, I went to see an exhibition titled “Wonder Weaves of Varanasi” at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. The aim of the exhibition was to showcase textiles and weaves from Benares / Varanasi as part of the larger ‘Make in India‘ campaign. It had been curated by Shaina NC, and was organised in association with the Ministry of Textiles of Government of India, and supported by Lakmé Fashion Week.

Prior to my visit, I had seen tantalising pictures of the exhibits on social media and then came across this newspaper report, which got me all intrigued about the exhibition. Since I knew next to nothing about weaves from Benares / Varanasi, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with them.

So, it was with great excitement that I arrived at the Museum, and my very first view of the exhibits justified that excitement.

Woven Wonders of Varanasi , Make in India, Shaina NC, Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mubai, Soecial Exhibition, Benarasi Weaves, Handlooms and Textiles

However, when I left the Museum after viewing the exhibition, my mood was very different — puzzled, disappointed and a little angry as well.

Let me elaborate.

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