Two years ago we averaged one hundred spam Comments a day. Last year it went up to one thousand a day. Right now we get between 1500 & 2000 spam Comments a day & I decided to do something about it. Continue reading ‘On Spammers & Blocking them.’
Almost by accident in 1968 I found myself in the peaceful paradise of Swat State in Pakistan. I had no idea that this was the fabled “Urgyen” of Tibetan legend, but I did realise that this was where I wanted to live. By 1973, I’d built a house there and made it my home. The following is my account of how I came to embark upon the journey of self-discovery that would include meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama and culminate in life-changing events.
After studying accountancy, in 1965, inspired by my lifelong friend Kevin Rigby, I decided to take what might now be called an open-ended ‘gap year’ heading overland to India. We hitchhiked overland, eventually reaching Varanasi on the Ganges River by mid-1967 and exploring northern India.
We were not on a shoestring budget as we wore rubber flip-flops, neither could we be described as back-packers since we carried our meagre possessions in a shoulder bag. Nor could we be labelled ‘hippies’ because this term hadn’t even been invented yet! We were refugees and escapees from materialist society, inspired by the Beats, would-be Beatniks; intrepid travellers ‘on the road’ with no real end in view, and no plan to return.
After many a curious diversion on the way, back and forth, sometimes travelling alone, sometimes split up by fate as in Austria, meeting up again by pure chance in Teheran’s main bazaar six months later, only late in 1967 did we ever stop. We spent the winter in meditation huts on the banks of the holy River Ganges near Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, where we studied a large pile of books on the religions of India. Eventually, after following the Ganges down to stay in Varanasi we went our separate ways again. With the hot season of 1968 approaching I felt drawn by the cooler air of the Himalayas in the north. Influenced by the changing attitudes of Indians who had become less accommodating and sometimes openly hostile towards the burgeoning flood of more extreme western hippies now on their trail to Kathmandu, I then took the decision to quit India in the opposite direction and ‘escape to Pakistan’ in solitude. Having heard talk of beautiful valleys in Pakistan’s northern areas I crossed the border to Lahore and set off to walk across its hills and valleys, vaguely aiming for the high mountains and the cool air of Chitral in the far northwest to ‘chill out’.
After several weeks of walking over the mountain ranges towards Chitral, I was tramping through the beautiful pine forests of Ayubia in the Murree Hills when I was kindly invited for dinner and to stay the night by some Pashtoons working at a small government silkworm project. They told me that a huge dam was to be built on the Indus River at Tarbela, a few valleys to the west. On learning of my accountancy training and concerned about my lack of means, they insisted I applied for a job there and kindly wrote a letter of introduction to their village chairman, a Mr Rafiq Khan. He was not only the Chief Camp Commandant of the entire dam site but also married to a cousin of the then President of Pakistan, Mohammad Ayub Khan and a very helpful person. I did not expect to find a job but as Khan’s village, Dragri, was on my route, when I reached the area I dropped in to meet him.
The diminutive Rafiq Khan was, indeed, very kind and helpful. He was seated under a vast banyan tree holding an evening jirga or council with bearded tribal elders seated all around the village square. When my letter was passed to him by an attendant he interrupted proceedings to welcome me. Wearing spectacles, a moustache and a flowing turban, he read the note, sat me next to him and called for food. He commented that my timing was good because a European consortium had just signed the contract to build Tarbela dam, one of the biggest in the world and the first expats were flying in. They were under him, he said, and he would tell them to give me a job. No problem. Then my rice and curry was served, he excused himself and continued with the discussions of the jirga.
Next day he took me to Tarbela in his jeep, where the mighty Indus valley opened up between the foothills and the river debouched onto the Attock plain. He installed me in a large marquee on the riverbank, used by gauge-readers who checked the river levels. Then he took me to the European consortium’s office which was in a wooden shed and introduced me to the Managing Director, who was an Italian. To my great surprise I was given a job on the spot, with the salary I demanded, but they had no accommodation or office space for me yet so I was told to come back in three weeks time to start. Continue reading ‘A Wanderer in Ugyen, Land of Guru Rinpoche.’
At this festive season we gather all those The Flower Raj has remembered; this oral history is one of the main aims of this site, to remember, for our children & for their children…
Those we remember in The Flower Raj Photos In Memoriam Album, bless them all:
If you would like someone else remembered, please Comment below or in our Contact Us form.
Let us hope that they are all enjoying, wherever they are now & whoever they have been reborn as.
The Flower Raj needs funds for our services which include Radio Flower Raj & also our Video streaming hosting; so I am making an appeal, anything from 5$ or 5£ & up would be most gratefully accepted. You can help by using a Credit or Debit Card & of course by Paypal also.
If you need help with donating, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, donations or not, I would like to wish you all a great festive season, it is you who contribute the material, the photos, the videos, the lovely articles & without you The Flower Raj would not go on growing.
Thank you all.
December 22nd, 2013.
Toss Levy lives in Warmenhuizen, a town in the Dutch province of North Holland & maintains & restores Indian musical instruments. He wrote us about how he came to this…
“I was turned onto Indian music from George Harrison with “Within you and Without you” back in I believe 1967. I was then 12 . A few years later I discovered Indian classical music and immediately realised this is what I was destined to follow… the path of Indian music.”
“I went to India in the early 70′s with the magic bus ( 60 pounds one way London-Delhi!) and came back with 2 sitars and no shoes… those were the days.”
“Since then Indian music has been the red line running through my life. I moved to Holland and started lessons on sitar for 3 years with the late Jamaluddin Bhartiya, one of Ravi Shankars top students. I switched to tabla and within a couple of years was accompanying him in concerts. He was a Sufi at heart and I learnt through him in my view the emotional essence of the music.”
“I went on to study tabla under Latief Ahmed Khan and Ustad Fiyaz Khan, both from the Delhi gharana. I got my degree for tabla and secondary subject sitar at the Rotterdam Conservatorium in 1995. I have played concerts with other great artists such as Uday Bhawalker, Lakshmi Shankar, Prince Rama Varma and Roshan Jamal, and besides many European lands have also had concerts in New York , the Middle East and India. As one of the five co-founders of ISTAR Nederland, with Professors Joep Bor and Wim van der Meer, we were responsible for the start of the Indian Music course at the World Music Department of the Rotterdam Conservatorium.”
“I have in all these years acquired a lot of experience giving workshops and lessons in Indian music, and about the Indian instruments themselves. I gave a lecture at the India Instituut and demonstrations at the Tropical Museum, both in Amsterdam.
I have also been involved with the repair and restoration of Indian instruments for almost 40 years and have had several trips to India for this purpose. Having sat with some great builders and musicians to learn the trade, I feel I have accomplished a true understanding of the requirements for the special Indian sound quality production and its possibilities.”
About his web site he writes…
“You will read about the meaning and the profound importance of the sound quality and the process of jawari (the filing of the bridge from where the main sound and overtones are produced). Also you will find a history of the origin of the flat bridge, jawari and its development.”
“I have looked into the tanpura, the drone instrument that supplies the backbone to all Indian music. Its history, building of the tanpura and basic will be found here. Information about playing positions and techniques can be found here too.”
“Studying tabla and sitar at the Rotterdam’s Conservatory in the early 90’s, I wrote my thesis on tabla. I will also share some interesting parts from this paper.”
“And as a service I will explain some basic instrument maintenance. It’s for those of you who are new to the instruments so you understand a little more how to care for them.”
We will be publishing articles by Toss & in the meantime you can enjoy his web site TossLevy.nl
Read a review of a 1980 LP by Jamaluddin Bhartiya (with downloadable tracks) from the excellent Anthems for the Nation of Luobaniya.