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Sufferings of the world and musings of a reclusive western classical connoisseur

It started with Alan Furst�s �The World At Night�. I was traveling a lot this month, so though contrary to my usual taste, I had decided to pick a spy thriller, something I find easy to read even under influence of what I call �cramped economy-class stifled leg-room fatigue� (which we�ll refer to as CECSLRF for sake of brevity). This fast paced novel is set against backdrop of invasion of France by Germany in 1939 and narrates the tale of an ordinary civilian (a film producer, Jean Casson) drawn into the murky, racy world of espionage. Since then every book I�ve laid my hands on, has coincidentally (and occasionally consciously) had holocaust or suffering of human race as its theme, backdrop or inspiration. Nineteen Eighty Four was chilling, grim yet brilliant but somewhere in my subconscious mind, I knew that it was fiction so all the torture that our protagonists suffer in the end actually never caused anyone any physical harm (no human beings were harmed during writing of this novel :-)), which makes it all a trifle bearable.

My next books were Fall of Berlin and Che Guevara�s Bolivian Diary respectively (not sure if �respectively� is the right word here because I am still reading both of them almost in tandem) and my myth of �fictional� torture was shattered. Mankind has belted out every imaginable form of torment on fellow beings. Disturbing things I shudder to think of, leave aside mentioning them here. Just when I consoled myself with thoughts that though World War II was human race�s darkest, most somber hour � it was nothing but past � that being one of the God�s most elaborate creation, we are bestowed with ability to learn from our follies and would not do any of it ever again, I came across this article in Newsweek about rise in suicide bombings in Chechnya � increasingly by women suicide bombers. Women who are widows (rather �black widows� as they are called) of Chechen soldiers killed in conflict with Russia (Chechnya has been trying to declare �independence� from Russia for last 150 years). Grim realities of World War II repeating themselves yet again � the time, place and cause might be different but the atrocities remain unchanged (or keep getting worse). While I am not in a position to tell who is right (and perhaps never will be), I fail to understand why senseless suffering and barbarism should even occur to us as means of resolving a conflict.

With number of conflict zones increasing throughout the world, and US spreading itself too thin, there is increasing talk of using private �outsourced� Armies. Companies that hire mercenaries and make them available for combat for dollars. Men who kill men not for a cause or conviction, but because their next pay cheque depends on it. Already, they are involved in �non-combat� functions in war-zones � like training civil police, but then in a war-zone like Liberia, Kosovo or Iraq the line between what is �non-combat� and what is not is thin, hazy and increasingly diminishing.

Having reflected enough on vagaries of world, I must end things on a musical note. During a conversation on Beethoven�s String Quartets (I am currently listening to Op. 59 - the �Razumovsky� quartets and they are BEAUTIFUL!), my cousin recommended that I listen to Samuel Barber�s Adagio for Strings (that I should be listening to it soon was reiterated by its (yes, coincidental!) mention in �The World at Night� on Page 199!).The piece was composed in 1936, which makes it the one of the more recent western classical works that I am listening to (and one of the very few 20th century classical works that I�ve really liked). The most modern western classical piece that I�ve ever enjoyed is one that was composed in 21st century � its called �Waltz far a Romance� and is part of Lagaan�s Original Soundtrack (A. R. Rahman is the composer). Western classical aficionados are a shrinking minority � of all the music sold worldwide, only 3% is classical and of which how much is �contemporary� classical, no one quite knows. This somewhat explains the increasing disarray, Planet M�s western classical section is � at least here in Bangalore, from what I�ve heard/seen, things are no better elsewhere (and if you happen to ask for something specific from the incompetent helpers, you�ll get those scornful �I_don�t_know_which_planet_you_are_from� looks coupled with unintelligible answers � the emphasis being on bemusing you rather than on admitting that they don�t know or don�t have, what you are asking for, in stock)

I feel increasingly secluded trying to explain pleasures of waking up to gentle riveting sound of Bach�s 4th Brandenburg Concerto or sweet intoxication of gradually slipping into sleep with Beethoven�s Fur Elise or the sheer elation of watching fine misty spray of a drizzle with Eric Satie�s Trois Gymnopedies thrown in for interludes� is anyone listening ?!

posted: 31.8.03

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