So here is what I now propose to do - My Life 365 - As of the first day of May, I aim to start a chronicle. Most days, the posts might be better dubbed as post-lets, tiny vignettes. I shall endeavour to post a photograph along with the post as well.
Some thoughts will be borrowed, others blue, some old and others new - and no, I'm not on a wedding chronicle mode either... I guess it will shape itself as I proceed. This is a series I aim to complete in 365 days - no more, no less. If there are days when I have a longer story to tell you, I shall continue with my other posts as well. Compulsions are compulsions and this blog is my whipping horse. Some days to soar with the wind wild in my hair, on others to canter.
Now wouldn't it be really lazy if my first post of My Life 365 was just a statement of intent? So here goes -
The Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul
My mind still whirls as I think of that chilly night in Istanbul - when I sat in semi-darkness in a large room along with a few other 'patrons', patiently waiting for the men to arrive. They did shortly after, in their Mevlevi fez caps and sombre black robes, arms crossed as if hiding a secret within. The anticipation by the time they arrived was at a fever pitch, for by then the musicians had struck a rather melancholic note, almost plaintive. You wonder at how much depth of feeling three rather unfamiliar instruments can invoke within you when accompanied by sonorous chants of Sufi poetry in Persian that you may not even comprehend.
I caught the dance of the Dervishes or the Sama ceremony at a hotel in Istanbul. The purists might call it an assault, just the way we Indians often think that Bharatanatyam or Kathak performed at a club as a deliberate degradation of the respect that the classical dance forms deserve. However, for me, the whirling dervishes were a revelation - an expression of abandonment as the soul and spirit merge with the elevated sense of being - call it God or the Divine Power.
For those, who haven't heard of the Whirling Dervishes- here is some trivia- facts I have gathered and therefore I shall try to be as factually correct as I can. The Mevlevi order is a Sufi sect that originated in Konya in Turkey. Lovers of Sufism flock there to date, to understand the essence and soul of Islam as preached by the Sufis (though the conservative reading of Islam is hardly tolerant of the Sufi inclination towards dance and music), in particular the 13th century poet Rumi. Those that sink into the sea of devotion that Sufism preaches emerge from it as dervishes - at least that's how I imagine it. If you love to know more about these times and ages, I recommend Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red. Pamuk's protagonists are illustrators not dervishes. However, his word sketches of the Istanbul of the bygone era are so evocative that you emerge at the other side wanting to meet his characters - the illustrators and the mystics, the Sufis and their dervishes. I went to watch the dervishes seeking a momentary glimpse into their union with the force that not only enriches them spiritually but also dissolves them into tame submission.
Through the whirling dervishes, I peeked into the rich past of Islamic history that Constantinople, the Istanbul of yore lived out as present. The white skirts of the Dervishes swept me away too on a psychedelic journey. At the end of the performance, when they bowed their heads with their arms crossed in submission, I realised that I was just a humble speck in the massive tapestry of human civilisation - its culture and chronicles.