Noting (knotting?) the Naad in nada | india | Hindustan Times
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Noting (knotting?) the Naad in nada

It was very difficult to grind mental gears and say Hi with a straight face to Devi after hearing FM. But then, speech was Vaak Devi's own gift, writes Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2009 23:24 IST
Renuka Narayanan

Words can be a delightful private hobby with their forms, links and layers. And what beauty awaits us in the Sanskrit words vaak and arth (word and meaning) or ‘vaagaarth’. They are compared to Shiva and Parvati! One without the other is impossible, for word and meaning give each other life. Even 'sound words' (onomatopoeia, ayyo, what a word) like Bang! Thud! Vroom! convey meanings like ‘slammed shut’ (and by inference, bad temper), ‘impact’ and ‘a powerful burst of vehicular speed’ respectively.

Word play is to bounce the language ball. RJs on Tamil FM, as I can vouch for from trips to TN, are in another league; daring trapeze artists who swoop, loop and fly fearlessly with language. My favourite is a guy called Balaji, I couldn't stop chuckling and it was very difficult to grind mental gears and go say Hi with a straight face to Devi at the old temple we had driven to. But then, I reasoned, speech was Vaak Devi’s gift in the first place, we could have fun with it alongside the learning, so it was all right.

But to get back to Shiva-Parvati or Shiva-Shakti as containing each other, just look for one, at the amazing continuity between old Upanishadic philosophy, Bhakti poetry and Bollywood songs.

The Upanishads describe God as the essence of everything, concealed within us and emanating from us as good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Their comparison, which Faithscape has shared before for your pleasure, is ‘Like scent in a flower, oil in sesame seed, butter in milk…’: Pushpa madhye yatha gandam, tila madhye yatha tailam, payo madhye yatha ghrtam… (ghrtam is the old word for ghee).

And Kabir said, ‘Jaise til mein tel hai jyon chakmak mein aag/Tera Sain tujh mein hai, tu jaag sakey toh jaag’.

Now hark at our beloved Bollywood gaana, without which we wouldn’t be us. So many examples come to mind that we can probably theme a whole Antaakshari session on ‘Upanishadic concepts in Hindi film music’ or someone can write a paper or thesis on this - with honourable acknowledgement, I hope, of the Hindustan Times and its Faith page.

Just as two random examples, think of Tu mera chand, main teri chandni and Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga. Taking it further, everything we need to learn as lifecodes is laid out by our modern song writers and many are as deeply informed by scripture as any sant-mahatma could wish.

But also consider this Punjabi radio commercial that is so deeply spiritual if you find that meaning in it. Across the bhashas, nada means drawstring, for pyjama/petticoat/shalwar/underpants, or ‘tape’, the accurate English word for flat strings (elastic being its own kingdom).

The commercial goes like this, if I recall right:

Loud sound: “Ttohh!”

Hassled woman's voice: “Kee hoya?” (What happened?)

Reassuring male voice: “Chhath giriya, sar phatiya…par kachha nai digiya.” (The roof fell down, my head broke…but my underpants didn’t fall off).

Triumphant male voice: “Twadde ijjat de rakhwaaley: KUKKO NADA!” (The keeper of your honour: Kukko Nada!).

If you think about it, isn’t God kind of everyone's Kukko Nada? It sounds more obviously pious of course in a traditional Sufi air like ‘Kaliyarwale, mere Sain, laaj rakhli jo aaj rakhli’ and grander in Kaifi Azmi's qawwali in the film Garam Hawa: “Ghunghat ki laaj rakhna, is sar pe taj rakhna, Maula Salim Chishti, Aqa Salim Chishti.”

I suppose it’s just a matter of tuning in to Vaak Devi’s fabulously layered bandwidth?