What do you see (…with eyes wide shut)?

To those of you who found this post because you were looking for Stanley Kubrick’s erotic thriller, my apologies. But, stay awhile. Though there’s no (intended) erotica here, who knows what else you may perceive?

I thought I’d use this post to toss together a few of my ideas about  perspective and perceptions. These two photographs are part of the mix. I’ll come back to them a little later in the post.

sandpile, from a distance

sandpile, from a distance

pavement, after a drizzle

pavement, after a drizzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective and perceptions. What’s the distinction? Well, in my book, perceptions are the ways in which we interpret things, and perspective is the way we look at or approach things, thereby causing our interpretations or perceptions.

I do not intend to dwell on the necessity to expand our perspective and to share and understand perceptions. There’s ample advice of that kind all around (Would that we paid heed to it!) I’m happy just sharing some of the ideas and experiences that cause me to reflect on things (and thereby contribute to my perspective). …..Didacticism, when it happens on this blog, is only incidental.

I’ve used the phrase ‘eyes wide shut’ because it’s an effective way of indicating that there’s often a lot around us that we don’t perceive, either because we’re so caught up with ourselves (and our new body part, the smartphone) or because we refuse to see it.

*

Let me tell you about the lady at Dilsuknagar.

(D’nagar is a predominantly residential locality in the south-east of the city of Hyderabad. It’s the size of a large town. It’s very very crowded, and has, along its main roads, many educational institutions, restaurants, retail establishments and hospitals. Traffic is manageable between 11 pm and 5 am, but is absolutely maddening at any other time.)

Back to the lady I’m talking about. She sits at one end of a block of shops, by an autorickshaw stand, at a really busy road junction. There must be at least a hundred people that pass by her every minute (and I mean that). Yet, no one seems to see her, even though she sits in absolutely plain sight, in such a public place, and even though she’s attractive.

I was guilty of that too. I noticed her only on the tenth or eleventh time that I passed through that junction.

She sits on a square slab of stone in what looks like a saree, with its ‘pallu’ draped across her shoulder and over her head. She’s constantly looking at something to her left, and is as oblivious to passing people as they are of her.

Here are a couple of photographs:

Lady at Dilsukhnagar

Lady at Dilsukhnagar

Lady at Dilsukhnagar - close-up

Lady at Dilsukhnagar – close-up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was, and still am, truly amazed. She’s (at least to my untrained eye) a good piece of sculpture, all from one piece of rock. Most people around haven’t seen her (and many go ‘ho hum’ when you draw their attention to her). The few who’ve seen her don’t know her name, where she belongs, or who the sculptor was. All they know is that she’s been around at least a decade or more.

(In a sense, perhaps she’s benefitted from the indifference. Maybe that’s what has actually kept her from being defaced or vandalised!!)

*

How many, or how much, of the obvious do we miss? What is it about us that we often fail to notice the good things that exist around us, or that people around us do? Wouldn’t it be great if the media actually spent some of their collective energy in making us aware of these things? ‘Good tidings’ doesn’t always has to be an evangelical term, does it?

Thankfully, we do see the good in things, sometimes. Hopefully, we will not lose the ability or cease to recognise its value.

Louis-Armstrong (1901-1971)

Louis-Armstrong (1901-1971)

 

 

Bob Thiele and George Weiss were two people who saw the good. Here’s a song they wrote – ‘What a wonderful world’ – performed by the one and only Louis Armstrong.

 

 

 

*

Santana's first album (artwork)

Santana’s first album (artwork)

Then there are the things that we miss at first, but do see or realise when we look closely, or pay attention, or ask for explanations. This picture is a good example of that. It’s the Lee Conklin artwork on Santana’s first album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can read a little more about it at: http://www.deceptology.com/2011/09/santanas-optical-illusion-album-cover.html.

*

There’s the other side of the coin too, of course – perceptions some have that we often don’t, either because we’ve got ‘eyes wide shut’ or because we don’t share (consciously or otherwise) their way of looking at things (their perspective).            …..But sometimes we do.

 

Michael Robotham

Michael Robotham

The Night Ferry - Michael Robotham

The Night Ferry – Michael Robotham

 

To demonstrate the idea, here’s a small extract from a book I’m currently reading – ‘The Night Ferry’ by Michael Robotham, an Australian novelist. (I trust I’ll get a tolerant nod from him for the use of his lines.)

 

 

Here we go. (The narrator is a young woman, and Cate, also a young woman, is her very close friend.)

 

…She (Cate) could .. make herself miserable by imagining that our friendship would be over one day.

I have never had a friend like you and I never shall again. Never ever.”

I was embarassed.

The other thing she said was this: “I am going to have lots of babies because they will love me and never leave me.”

I don’t know why she talked like this. She treated love and frienship like a small creature trapped in a blizzard, fighting for survival. …

Interesting little piece, isn’t it? You realise there’s perspective and perception on both sides – the narrator’s and Cate’s. What I find fascinating, though, is the last sentence, and not just for the brilliant analogy it presents. With it, Robotham helps his readers understand the kind of insecurity that many people have about love and friendship – that they’re very difficult to find and very vulnerable, (easily cheated, easily led astray, easily harmed, easily lost, easily taken away), and that they need to be cherished and treasured, whatever the cost.

You see what happens once you understand this? You then begin to understand something apparently inexplicable – why some people, so self-assured and capable on their own, lock themselves into relationships where they play second fiddle, or, worse, demeaning ones where they are subjected to disregard, sometimes humiliation, even abuse.

Disconcerting territory? OK. I’ll move back to something less uncomfortable.

J J Cale (1938-2013)

J J Cale (1938-2013)

J J Cale (1938-2013)

J J Cale (1938-2013)

 

Here’s a song that gives us a sense of ‘there’s more in this than meets the ear’ – J J Cale’s ‘Money talks’. His song is from 1983, but this is a live version from 2001, when he was 63.

 

 

While it presents, in wry fashion, a universal perspective, it also presents a few perceptions that should be obvious, but not everyone has seen. For instance: “…you’d be surprised the friends you can buy with small change…”!!

Another one that gives you such a feeling is ‘My favourite things’, the iconic song by Rodgers and Hammerstein, made popular with the film ‘The Sound of Music’.

The lyrics seem deceptively simple, don’t they? What about “….brown paper packages tied up with string…”?

And…

Don’t move on till you’ve heard John Coltrane’s brilliant instrumental version.

And, certainly not least, there are things others see that we don’t, and vice-versa.

If certain schools of psychologists are to be believed, such perceptions are indicative of one’s ‘psychological make-up’ or the state of one’s mind. I’m not too sure that it’s always that complex, though. I think that such perceptions could also be, very simply, indicative of one’s previous experience or exposure.

1st of the Rorschach cards

1st of the Rorschach cards

 

Let’s take the first image from the Roscharch test (or the ink-blot test), for instance.

 

 

Studies tell us that ‘bat’, ‘butterfly’, or ‘moth’ is how most persons tend to see this image. Well, the first thing that struck me was ‘wolf’. So, is the state of my mind really different from those who saw something else, or is my view different from those of the others simply because wolves are what I’ve read more about, and seen more images of, than bats, butterflies or moths?

To give you another example of what I mean –

At the start of this post are two photographs I’d taken in the recent past. I took them because, in both cases, something struck me about what I’d been looking at. Have a look at them. Expand them if you’d like. Think about them a bit. Does something come to mind? What do you see? When you’ve finished, scroll down to the end of this post where I’ve indicated what I saw.

 

I’ll close this post with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both sides now’, in which she presents her version of both sides of the ‘perception coin’.

 

 

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell - Clouds (artwork)

Joni Mitchell – Clouds (artwork)

 

Here’s her original, from 1969, when she was 26:

Something to think about, isn’t it, this business of perspective and perceptions? Whichever ‘way you look at it’, though, I’m sure you’d agree that we’d all be far better off than we currently are, were we to keep eyes, and minds, wide open!!

***

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

India

India

 

So, what do you think?

State of mind?

Previous exposure?

Perhaps, merely the result of a febrile imagination?!

smileysmiley

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Saude Brasil !!

When I began this blog, I’d resolved to upload at least one post a month. I managed that for the first two months, and then went into hibernation for a good year-and-a-half till November this year when I uploaded a third post.

I had, however, out of curiosity (laced with hope, I suppose), kept up with the statistics on the blog. I found that, even over these eighteen empty months, there had been at least one or two visitors a day and, curiously, most of these ‘faithfuls’ were from Brazil!

While I’m happy that my blog draws visitors from Brazil, I have a faint suspicion that this may not always be because of the content. Whatever else the reasons could be (including misdirection), I hope they’re on this side of legal!

And so – the idea for this post! Since folks from Brazil are visiting (or stumbling upon) this blog, I’ll take the opportunity to do my bit to strengthen Brazil-India ties!

Ola Brasil !! I’m sure there are things about India that you love, but you can tell us about them. From our side – How do we love thee? Let us count some ways! (Thanks, Elizabeth Browning!)

I’ll leave it to others to talk about economics, science and technology, BRICS, Embraer, and the like. I’d like to talk of a few things we have in common and a few joys, things that would appeal to the mildly inquisitive – whether Brazilian or Indian!

First – Coffee !

Most of my generation, particularly in South India, grew up believing that our beloved ‘filter coffee’ was the sixth element, and that it was as uniquely Indian as idlis. Chikmagulur was considered the holiest area on earth, since Baba Budan hailed from there, and the Indian Coffee Board was headquartered there. Imagine our surprise when we learnt that, across on the other side of the world, Brazil was where 80% of the world’s coffee was grown. We had a big brother (sister)! With coffee as common language, we’d never be foreigners if we ever went there! And that surprise turned to a happy sense of bonding when we learnt that our ‘coffees’ had somewhat similar parentage:

  • seeds were smuggled out of Mocha in the southern part of Arabia (modern-day Yemen) and brought to India in the 17th century (by the aforesaid Baba Budan, a holy man of those times, who, thanks to his Promethean endeavour, was definitely a saint thereafter)!
  • seeds were smuggled out of French Guiana and taken to Brazil in the 18th century (by Francisco Palheta, who had to seduce the wife of the governor of French Guiana to do so)!

Oh! The lengths that true patriots go to, for their countries!

 

Shared Portuguese heritage !

  • Vasco Da Gama of Portugal discovered the sea route to India” was the line from history that was dinned into the heads of those of us who learnt our Indian history during the period when we were so grateful for our newly gained freedom that we could talk of our erstwhile colonial occupiers without any rancour.
  • And then, with World history, we learnt that what is now Brazil was ‘discovered’ (or chanced upon) by another Portuguese adventurer, Pedro Alvares Cabral, who was, amazingly, in command of an expedition to India! Having staked his king’s claim to (yet to be named) Brazil, he then resumed his voyage and found his way to Calicut in India. He left his mark here as well.
    Cabral's voyage

    Cabral’s voyage

    a carrack (portuguese globe-trotter_16th century)

    a carrack (portuguese globe-trotter_16th century)

The historical difference, of course, is that the Portuguese in Brazil (the colony) and the indigenous folk formed a large nation of their own, wresting independence from Portugal, while the Portuguese in India, though they sowed their oats and left their names at various places in South India and on the West Coast, were overwhelmed by the English. They were allowed that one small colony, Goa, which was later ‘liberated’ and became part of the Indian union in 1961 (though Portugal gave up her claim to the colony only in 1974). However, the Portuguese heritage remains (and is enjoyed and valued) and, small though Goa may be, Goans have played a significant role in the building of modern India in very many ways.

 

Thongs !

  • We’re very familiar with thongs in India. They’re rubber slippers with thin forked straps. We used to call them “hawaii chappal” and our kids now call them ‘flip-flops’. But their generic name, folks, is ‘thongs’. Even the Romans are known to have worn leather versions – leather soles strapped to their feet with strips of leather cord, or thongs.
    Roman thongs

    Roman thongs

    Thongs (hawaii chappal)

    Thongs (hawaii chappal)

  • Thongs are popular in Brazil too, we understand, especially (as we learn from encyclopedic sites on the internet) on the beaches (Copacabana and Ipanema, for example). This could be puzzling, though. Why would you use slippers at the seaside when unshod feet enable you to really enjoy the sand and the foam?!

 

Football !

In India, it’s a game everyone could afford to play, (if only they had access to playing space). In certain Indian states (Goa being one) football is almost a religion. And for those of us who follow the game with any degree of interest, the Brazilians have always been key figures. Only one, however, owns our hearts.

For a decade and a half between the 1960s and 70s, all a movie hall owner had to do, to ensure a full house, was to run a documentary including even a few minutes of a match involving PELE, after the main feature had been shown!

We grew to love this magician who, without any apparent effort, wove his way through the opposition like a knife through blancmange, who, with what seemed a mere touch of his foot, had the ball whip into the net around (sometimes through) outstretched goalkeepers, and who, (shockingly, by modern-day standards) remained as humble in his frequent victories as he did in his occasional defeats.

Pele

Pele

Words would fail me were I to attempt more description. The following link has a video that presents the highlights of the 1958 World Cup final that the 17 year old Pele won for Brazil. I think you’ll agree that it says it all!

http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/blog/2014/09/23/why-pel-king

Today, the younger football fans in India rave about Ronaldo, Neymar, Ronaldinho and Kaka, among others. For me however, and, I’m sure, for many others, Pele is truly The King, of all football!

 

And, though last, certainly not least (especially for me) –

Jazz Musicians !

For many of us in the early 60s, The Shadows (who played guitar-based instrumentals) were the ones who introduced us to electric-guitar versions of famous tunes from around the world.

One of their tunes, called The Girl from Ipanema, caught my fancy. As my interest in music grew, I learnt that the original was composed by a Brazilian, Antonio Carlos Jobim, in 1962. The original Portuguese lyrics were by Vinicius de Moraes. A 1964 version of this song, sung in English by another Brazilian, Astrud Gilberto, took the world (at least, those in the world who listened to jazz) by storm. The song was awarded a Grammy in 1965.

Jobim

Jobim

Astrud (from the jacket of an album)

Astrud (from the jacket of an album)

Here’s a link to the Astrud Gilberto recording:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJkxFhFRFDA

And here’s an instrumental version on acoustic guitar, by Pat Metheny:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1G7DD0WJTs

[[- The story behind this wonderful piece of music is equally wonderful. It’s like a fairy tale – 2 friends who see a pretty girl go by, are inspired to create a piece of music in her honour! The music becomes immortal and along the way brings recognition to the pretty girl who goes on to become a goodwill ambassador for Brazil! It’s worth reading the complete story. Here’s where you’ll find it:

http://performingsongwriter.com/girl-from-ipanema/ -]]

Here’s Jobim himself (with a different piece, though):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ev2VRoq6lFE

Just as the jazz world was recovering from the impact of Astrud’s voice, came, close on her heels, another Brazilian, Flora Purim, who has lent her voice not only to jazz, but also to fusion and rock! (Flora’s husband, Airto Moreira, also Brazilian, is a jazz and fusion percussionist who has played with leading instrumentalists and bands). I first heard Flora Purim sing (and Airto play) on the eponymous “Return to Forever”, the seminal album by Chick Corea and Return to Forever. They generated a truly unique sound. So unique in fact, that you don’t find too many other bands and singers performing ‘covers’ of RTF songs. Flora Purim’s 72 now, and even though her performances in recent years have been few and far between, she remains a key figure on the jazz and fusion scene.

Flora Purim

Flora Purim

Flora Purim (then)

Flora Purim (then)

Listen to Flora Purim –

with Santana:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD8-A_bgsg8

and on an ethereal piece with Chick Corea and Airto Moreira:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFrL2cZMnTE

While there certainly are other great Brazilian composers and musicians in contemporary Brazilian music, I’m familiar with only these few in international music, who feature on various albums in my collection of jazz. This is enough, though, to tell me that Brazilians have had as great an impact on international music as Indians have had.

– = – = – = –

So, is there a message in this post, dear reader? One wasn’t really intended, but perhaps we could get to this:

People tell us that the world is getting smaller, thanks to global interaction and the internet. What should ‘smaller’ mean? That the world’s getting more cramped with not enough room for all of us? Or that opportunities for people to people contact are increasing? I think it should be the second. If the second is the case, then we shouldn’t be looking at it only as ‘the world getting smaller’. It should really be perceived the other way around too – global interaction and the internet can enable each of us to expand our own world, to expose ourselves not only to political, economic and academic thought, but also to culture and tradition, to gain perspective and understanding.

Only when we get there can we move from thinking “Our nation – Our world” to “Our nations – One world”.