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An Extraordinary, Ethereal Experience: Stories that Stirred My Soul

Over the last few days, I’ve been sharing some stories on facebook – about my love and admiration for a special singer/musician. His name is Mir Mukhtiyar Ali. These stories took a queer and curious turn when couple of occurrences unfolded making me marvel at the power of an earnest, yearning heart.

How much do you have to pine for the universe to answer those prayers? I don’t know. But, I do know now that you’ve gotta give your heart a chance and then one more. You gotta trust that little kid. You gotta feel your feelings.

In this article, I’m sharing all those Facebook posts – complete with context and history – for they make for a powerful story for me, my life. And, a powerful inference too, which you’ll interpret your own way by the end of this four-story series.

Just to give you some context, this son-of-the-soil artist Mukhtiyar Ali is from my native Rajasthan – born in Pugal, a small village in the North West Frontier of India. He blends the Rajasthani folk idiom with refined classicism to sing the poetry of Kabir, Mira and Sufi poets such as Bulleh Shah. I’ve been listening to his music for a long time now. And, then got diverted for a while before I came back recently to rediscover the meaning and beauty in his music as it holds true for me now.

This time around, it was not just his music that fascinated me but his mind and soul.

It so happened that my growing interest in the life and times of Kabir, the mystic poet from 15th century India, led me to the Kabir Project – a set of documentary movies made by the filmmaker Shabnam Virmani. The Kabir Project “brings together the experiences of a series of ongoing journeys in quest of this 15th century north Indian mystic poet as well as other Bhakti and Sufi poets in our contemporary worlds.”

And, one of those movies feature Mir Mukhtiyar Ali right there in his earthy, humble home, set in the sandy dunes of western Rajasthan – accompanied by his harmonium and flanked by his folks playing Sarangi and dholak. In this film, Murtiyaz Ali talks about his disinterest in organised religion, his belief in oneness of humanity without any boundaries of Hindu, Muslim, Shia or Sunny. In simple, sincere, direct talk, without mincing words or display of intellect, he conveys timeless wisdom of love, of living in harmony and living true to your purpose. What more could have I asked for of my beloved artist.

A gifted singer, a beautiful human being.

So, every night as I tuck Sufiana into bed and wrap up the kitchen and chores, I turn the music on, liste to this God-sent singer. I listen to a song or two and then listen some more…and more. Can’t seem to get enough of him.

Enveloped in his all-pervading magical music, I can’t help but express myself by writing. And, I share those written expressions on Facebook.

I wrote one night. And, then more comes my way. I share that too. The best was still to come. So out of turn, so surreal, so ethereal was that event in its presentation, it sent me into a tizzy. Those who read that post of mine on FB sprang up and nodded their heads in disbelief!

Here’s my facebook diary. I’m laying it bare for you all to read….

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Dec. 19

What divine voice and what divine music and words. I feel my soul stir and my body shiver with the combined experience of listening to such rendition at this hour of the night. Music such as this, in the earthy sweet and sincere voice of Mukhtiyar Ali – from the North West frontier of India – transports me back to my native Rajasthan and I picture myself wandering on the dunes – my body and spirit feeling-experiencing the wisdom of the ancient grains that the sand-dunes are comprised of…
The ‘chadariya’ my body and soul is made of becomes a little more pure and transparent…as written by Kabir in this beautiful poetry.

Do listen…to feel one with me!

Listening to this, my friend Hema Gopinath Sah wrote back, “Transcendent. His face, that voice, the passion and ecstasy and the how sweetly the sarangi sang. Tears flowed freely down my face. I imagine if I were there my feet and body would on their own start to sway and dance like those whirling dervishes. And I would float away into nothingness.”

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Dec. 20

Here’s a man after my own heart. Oh, Mir Mukhtiyar Ali! I was/am in love with his voice, his music and renditions. But, after I got a peek into his heart and thoughts – I feel like saying here’s a man who’s more beautiful than beauty herself. I tell you, this world feels more hopeful when you meet such men. A rarity – if I dare say!
Such grace, when he pauses to explore the deep recess of his heart and says, it’s the holy books that distance you from the divine. The uneducated has direct access.

Do listen. We need more men (and women) such as him -who’re in sync with their feminine – to rescue this ailing humanity…

 

Listening to his thoughts, my friend Dola Dasgupta wrote back, When I watch these kind of men, my heart feels great tenderness and also I realised the presence of fear in my heart for their purity, their voices, their love, their lives, in a world that is so hell bent on decisive religions and morality!”


Dec. 22 (afternoon)

O my beautiful heart! I’m feeling it pound so hard in my chest today, I can barely focus on any other senses…can’t work, can’t listen, can’t even breathe. I can feel the adrenalin rising from the pit of my stomach and making me dizzy, excited, nervous all at the same time. I feel like a teen in love!
Been this way since morning. Ever since Avie called me to say, “Mukhtiyar Ali is performing tonight at Serendipity Arts Festival!”
Wow, can a heart send out vibes and messages so intense that the universe makes it happen within hours! I’ve been immersed in the voice and music of Mukhtiyar Ali for days now. Day and night! I’ve been yearning to meet him, see him, hug him for the music that he creates. For the human being that he is. For the gentle, ever-smiling, wise and tender man-heart that he carries within that masculine body.
When I love somebody’s art, music, intellect, sport, or anything else for that matter, it means a lot to me to know what kind of a human being he/she is. This is the crux for me. If not, I lose the inspiration, the love.
And, Mukhtiyar Ali is that artist. His mind and soul is as beautiful as his voice and music. This makes him irresistible to me. I feel connected with him through ages. And, I’m grateful to my beautiful, wise heart to send out pleas so earnest that I get to see him tonight and hear him live.
How can we not trust our hearts then? Why do we not trust our hearts, friends?

Here’s one song by Mir Mukhtiyar Ali that encapsulates my emotions right now…


Dec. 22 (late night/early morning)

The Musical Mystical Evening

And so I now know what it is to sit in the quiet of the night reliving an evening drenched in the most beautiful soulful music by an artist I so love, respect and admire! Mir Mukhtiyar Ali.

Here I sit, still wide-eyed and dazed by what happened today. Still connecting the dots. (read my earlier post if this interests you).

While there were thousands of music lovers clapping and swaying to the songs Mir Mukhtiyar Ali sang, I felt I was the chosen one – not not in an arrogant way, but because I felt I’d sent out a prayer to the universe. It felt to me as if this evening was specially curated for me by the universe. After all I’d pined and pined for this, hadn’t I!

Sitting there in the second row, after he’d sung two songs that he wanted to, I broke the seeming barrier in the audience. As the thundering applause calmed down, I mustered up some courage, with cues from Avie, stood up and shouted out loud, “Mukhtiyar Ali Saab, ‘Chadariya’ gayiega, please.” As it is, I just wanted to interact with him – even if just a few words; perhaps make him aware of my presence, even if that wouldn’t have meant a thing to him!

And he, obliged!

That was the first song on request. I could see he felt respect for this request, for he shared the context, the story behind it. He explained the metaphor of ‘chadariya’ in the way kabir has used it to describe the body that houses the soul.

Thereafter, the audience warmed up and requested one after the other. And, he humbly kept singing each of them.

Now, there was one other song (which I’d shared in my previous post – ‘sanu ik pal chain na aawe..’) and I wanted him to sing that one, but my mind suddenly went utterly blank. I couldn’t comprehend the words to be able to request that song.

In that moment, I did something. In my heart, I felt-said, “oh please, please I hope you’ll listen to my heart and know what song I want you to sing. Please sing it for me.”

But, requests kept raining and he kept singing what the audience wanted – all foot-tapping, joyful, jubilant types but not this bitter-sweet-sad song. And, I felt a little let down. I mean, I loved those songs and enjoyed thoroughly. But, to me, its the sad songs that make you feel all the things that ‘love’ wants you to feel.

So, anyways, the show was nearing an end. It seemed his music permeated every heart present there. The environment was overflowing with spirited energy. And then, he announced he’s going to introduce his team members. But that’s when a few guys screamed, “once more, once more”.

It was already past the 10 PM mark set for show closure. Mukhtiyar Ali saab went on to introduce his team, and when it was evident that they were all going to stand up to fold their hands and say, “shukriya”, he suddenly grabs his harmonium and with a huge smile on his face and stars in his eyes, breaks into this – “Sanu Ik Pal Chain na Aawe…Sajna Tere Bina”. The same song I was wanting him to sing but couldn’t recollect the words for the life of me!

I was stunned, speechless, euphoric and yet sombre! Sombre because the mysticism of the universe was folding right in front of me, and I wanted to take in the sight, the meaning, the message from it all – however shrouded in mystery it seems, and perhaps continue to do…

(I just needed to express all this while my five senses are still soaked in the experience….)

This is what readers/friends on FB said, after reading this. 

Hema Gopinath Sah: OMG…this happened just for you, didn’t it?! The universe totally created this moment for you or the yearning in your heart just dragged MMA to Goa, didn’t it. So happy for you, my darling.

Hema Bharadwaj: This. Is. It. Always in and thru my life, more and more. Ask and you receive. The art of asking and staying in full knowing and trust that it will come. So happy for you. Felt your presence at the baithak and the energy that coursed thru you as the synchronicity unfolded.

PS. Here’s one of the many songs he sang at the Serendipity Arts Festival. I’d recorded some of the songs at the venue. But, the audio has some background disturbance. Hence sharing this video from YouTube.


Those four stories. How do you feel? Have you had such experiences where the universe heard your conscious, sub-conscious pleas and made it happen for you in the most unexpected ways.
Do share any such story that you’ve been enchanted by.

 

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