April 2013

Books of the month:

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, Edmund de Waal

The Piano Tuner, Daniel Mason

In Spite of the Gods, Edward Luce

Movies of the month:

Guide

Kon-Tiki

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Süskind

Temple Grandin

The Thin Red Line

Unusual fruit of the month (that I had never heard of but immediately liked upon consuming): the feijoa (see http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acca_sellowiana )

Wine of the month: La Pleaide Shiraz 2009 Heathcote = vintageandvine.com/producers/australia/la-pleiade/

Excellent photo of the month:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/

Boulder of the month: Bald Rock, the largest granite batholith in Australia:

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/

which reminded me mightily of Texas’s own Enchanted Rock, the largest pink granite monadnock in the USA:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/enchanted-rock

Refuted myth of the month = that eight-hour sleep is natural:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

April marked my first visit to Qatar, spent entirely in its capital city, Doha, which is preparing itself to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup by engaging in an riot of new construction. Noteworthy among the buildings: the Museum of Islamic Art, in a spectacular building that I. M. Pei left retirement to design. I enjoyed the Souk, the oud oil, the yellow kahva, and the Six Senses Sharq Village spa, and particularly enjoyed meeting a couple of very interesting native Qataris. Alhamdulillah!

April also delivered to me a documentary on Bismillah Khan, one of India’s greatest musicians, a devout Muslim who found no contradiction in being also a devotee of the Goddess Sarasvati, an artist who would both daily perform namaz and daily practice his music at Varanasi’s Balaji temple. Do not let the fact that the documentary is entirely in Hindi prevent you from watching it; you may not understand his words, but Khan Saheb’s sincerety will shine through. And you will love his music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_2pTNJyPnM

Bismillah Khan’s allegiance to the city of Kashi was so complete that he found it easy to resist the temptation to make it big in the West; all that he needed Varanasi provided him. At one point in the film Khan Saheb makes a comment that I dearly wish I had myself made, viz. that the name Banaras (which is a vernacular corruption of the more proper name ‘Varanasi’) should really be understood to mean “banaa ras”. This Hindi phrase cannot adequately be rendered in English; its literal meaning is “created juice”, but what it conveys is that the saints, musicians, dancers, and other notables who have made their homes in the city of Banaras over the millennia have made the place so succulent that the very experience of living in (and surviving) Banaras generates within oneself an emotional juiciness that is truly sublime. Masha’Allah!

Last Modified on July 20, 2015
this article April 2013