Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland Picture Diaries: Music in Interesting Times

Rajashree Gore & I on the T2 terminal of the
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
We live in interesting times. These are times of political and civil unrest. Not just in India but in the whole world. Today, on the 18th of September, Scotland goes in for a referendum. There are some moments which define history, some moments that change its course. Tomorrow will be one such moment.

Just two weeks prior to this referendum, I happened to be in Scotland for a programme organised by the Marathi Mandal of Scotland, Glasgow on the account of their Ganesh Festival celebrations. I had been to Scotland once before but only for a brief period of two days.

Rajashree Gore, talented singer and colleague was accompanying me on this trip. Our Emirates flight was to Glasgow with a brief halt at Dubai.

I was aware of the general unrest brewing in Scotland due to my previous trip to Aberdeen last year. At the time, I was told by the Marathi speaking Scottish citizens that Scotland had a party called the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) which they had interestingly compared with Raj Thackeray's MNS.

This time around the atmosphere in Scotland was definitely politically charged with houses, establishments sporting a 'YES' or a 'NO THANKS' sign on their facades. I am kicking my leg for not taking at least one picture of the boards. I do pride myself on being politically aware but missed out the significance of such a vital photograph.

A Street in Aberdeen
We arrived in Glasgow and on the same day headed towards Aberdeen. Aberdeen is a beautiful city on the northeast of Scotland and is known as the Oil Capital of Europe. We stayed with a friend, Vishwas Shinde, a Scottish citizen proud of his Marathi roots. Most of the Marathi immigrants to Scotland work in the Oil & Petroleum industry. I talked to almost everybody I met about the impending referendum. The reactions were mixed. Vishwas Shinde himself was for a YES and his 12 year old daughter was for an emphatic NO. She has grown up in Scotland and gave her reasons (mainly economic) for staying with the Union. The mother was more with the daughter than the husband! So in the Shinde household the majority was for a NO, THANKS with a vote of 2:1!

The next day Mr Shinde took us for a drive to Inverness, a scenic town to the northwest of Aberdeen. Following are some of the pictures that I clicked in and around Inverness.
On the way to Inverness

Vishwas Shinde, Rajashree and I in Inverness

The River Ness in Inverness

Scotland is extremely serene. If you allow yourself the luxury of not thinking, you can virtually experience time stopping. We stopped by this lake and that is exactly the feeling that I got.

A lake in Scotland

Our next visit to Scotland was to Urquhart Castle, which is again a glowing symbol of the fierce Scottish National pride. Read the wikipedia article on Urquhart Castle to know more about it. One is compelled to compare their preservation of monuments with ours. And even the serene atmosphere for a minute disturbs us, when we think about the irreverence we show towards our national monuments.


Castle Urquhart

Even the remains and the ruins are well cared for.

The Lonely Bagpiper (Catch the video below)




What fascinated me at the Castle Urquhart was the presence of a sole bagpiper playing a melancholy tune. I took a video on my iphone. I think one of my best candid catches of the trip.


Prashant Kurle's depiction of Ganapati as Sir William Wallace.
In the evening after the beautiful drive, we paid a social visit to a Ganapati celebration at the residence of Shri Prashant Kurle who had himself made a very interesting Ganesh idol. The idol was dressed in the clothes of Sir William Wallace, a Scottish land-owner who fought for the independence of Scotland. Sir William Wallace happens to be the subject of the Mel Gibson movie, Braveheart. In the times of the referendum, it seemed to be an interesting political comment. In Maharashtra, we see politically relevant 'dekhaave' (visuals) in Sarvajanik (Public) Ganeshotsav Mandals, but Ganapati as William Wallace was still a new one! Notice that in the picture the two towers hold flags of the UK and Scotland, but Ganesh's mouse holds the flag of India! Draw your own conclusions!
Performing in Glasgow

We returned to Glasgow to give our performance. The programme was titled Eka Sangeetkarachi Mushaphiri (Wanderings of a Music Composer). Among other songs, I talked about the Marathi Abhimaangeet. There were no native Scots in the auditorium and yet as I spoke about the song, I got the feeling that the desire to sustain and preserve a language and a culture sometimes overtakes economic compulsions and is a much more powerful emotion. It would be a serious mistake to disregard or even dismiss emotions as being irrational or illogical. Sanity does not always reside in logic. As Alfred North Whitehead so rightly puts it.
"Logic is the soul of wit, and not wisdom. That is why wit is so funny."
After the performance with Dhananjay Modak and Rajashree Gore
The Scottish people are demanding independence not just because they feel that they are in a bondage. They feel that this is their only chance at sustaining their culture and language and as a result, their identity. The English have threatened them in the language they know - that Scotland won't be able to use the Pound once it is granted independence. In doing so, they might have just showed their ignorance about the will of a motivated people. Do read about the concerns of the sustainability of the Gaelic language in this article.

The Marathi Abhimaan Geet received a rousing response in Glasgow. People rose to their feet to clap and some of them had tears in their eyes. There were a few Scottish technicians in the auditorium. I wonder if they could identify Marathi Asmita with the Scottish Asmita!


The next day we travelled to the Scottish highlands and also took a tour of a Scotch distillery - Glengoyne. Apart from the signboards of YES and NO, THANKS, nothing reminded us of politics.


The Glengoyne Distillery

At the Glengoyne Distillery




The Scottish Highlands

Loch Lamond
With Rajashree Gore & Joe Walters
We came back to London for a day where we met my dear friend, musician Joe Walters. Joe has his origins in Scotland. I asked him what he felt about the referendum and he said that he felt 'torn'. I looked at him and nodded. Sometimes, there are no sides to take and no hedge to sit on. I could very well understand his emotion. You just have to watch events unfold.

As my friend Yashodhan Gokhale wrote on his facebook wall, not a single bus is burnt, there is no sign of slightest of violence even in face of such politically charged atmosphere.

That is a sign of political maturity. I wish we displayed at least a fraction of it. Perhaps we will someday.

Looking back I feel that we live in interesting times and are witnesses of some great history unfolding. The only hitch is that we are not aware of it. The awareness might turn us from witnesses to those who shape history albeit in a small or even miniscule manner. On a personal note, the trip to Scotland reiterated my belief that music travels beyond the realm of entertainment.

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2014