For 25 years, Teed Rockwell wrote a monthly column for India Currents magazine on all aspects of Indian music, ancient and modern, classical and popular. His goal was to be an ambassador for Indian music, as Leonard Bernstein had been for European music, aspiring to make it comprehensible and enjoyable to everyone.
This book is a collection of Rockwell’s best columns, grouped by subject matter, with additional commentary written especially for this book.
The first chapter is devoted to the Allauddin Khan Gharana, which includes Ali Akbar Khan, his sons Alam and Aashish, as well as Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka Shankar.
There are articles on Classical Indian musical styles, such as Dhrupad, Thumri, and Qawwali, as well as introductions to Indian music theory that could be used in college or high school courses. There are chapters on Indian folk and contemporary music, from Bollywood, to Bhangra, to the world fusion music that arises when cultures collide. And there is a chapter on the complicated relationship between music and Islam.
The book’s recurring theme is that India, like America, is a country that nourishes creative individuality. Just as Americans have been inspired by the archetype of the Cowboy, who wanders the open spaces in search of a dream, so Indians are inspired by the Yogi, who wanders inner spaces in search of realization.
The essential difference between the two cultures is that Americans demand freedom from rules, and India is a country with lots of rules—that everybody breaks. Indians praise obedience to tradition, but when push comes to shove, it is always the inner voice of intuition that wins out—an intuition that, at its best, inspires each individual to preserve the essence of the tradition as he or she changes it.
“I had the pleasure to edit Teed’s music column every month. As someone who knew little about Indian Classical Music, I enjoyed learning something new every month – Kirtans East and West, Who owns Bhangra, along with profiles of Hindustani and Carnatic music leaders, and so much more. “The Cowboy and the Yogi” promises to be a delightful read.” – Vandana Kumar, Publisher of India Currents
Teed Rockwell took hundreds of classes with Ali Akbar Khan, Shahid Parvez, and other great Indian classical musicians, He is philosophy lecturer emeritus at Sonoma State University, and his writings on the philosophy of cognitive science have been published by MIT press, and in numerous academic journals. He is the only person in the world to play Indian classical and popular music on an instrument he calls the touchstyle Veena. His music videos can be found at www.bollywoodgharana.com
When it comes to leaving India – there is a storm of mixed emotions. I want to fill up my pockets with all the beauty that exists here and leave behind the few things I hate. Global Indians and NRIs understand the duality of leaving a place like India. Having lived in India my whole life, there are a few things I’m unwilling to give up. Digging deeper on what influences my life, here are six habits acquired from Indian culture that stick with me, regardless of where I go.
CHAI – THE MIGHTY CUP OF TEA!
‘Chai’ should be declared as the national drink of India. The joy of drinking the carefully brewed tea with milk in clay cups is beyond this world. With a dash of spices like ginger, cardamom, holy basil, pepper, and cloves – it’s not just healthy, but mystifying. There is nothing as soothing to the senses and calming to the mind as a hot cup of tea in the morning. It rejuvenates!
World food chains like Starbucks and Teavana have gloriously adapted to the Tea Culture and now serve Indian Style tea labeled as ‘Chai Tea’ around the world. Being an Indian knowing the drill of making a mighty cup of tea it’s difficult to love the taste that is brewed abroad. My love for chai stays with me wherever I stay in the world!
INDIAN FOOD & THE HABIT OF EATING WITH HANDS
Unlike the world, India doesn’t have a cutlery or fork & knife culture. Most of the Indian cuisines are designed to be eaten with bare hands, lapping up the essence of the taste. While the luxury of using the fork and knife shall remain in restaurants, the habit of eating the food items like Rice, khichdi, chapatis, etc., with hands, shall remain.
The certain communion with the food, enhancing the digesting abilities is the main aim for the use of hands. Hands help in texturing the food, making the partaking of sustenance, more intimate. Seeing it scientifically, the use of hands for eating is advisable to a certain extent, as the flora present on the fingers is swallowed, beneficial for the health of various parts of the body like mouth, throat, and intestines as fingers release various digestive juices. This practice of eating with hands is something I look forward to, as I go around the other parts of the world, for its benefits and digestive advantages.
BARGAINING AT STREET SHOPS
Street shops are the powerhouse of all things fashionable at budget-friendly prices. In India, all the latest home décor, clothes, and jewelry are available at great quality and cheap price at the street shops. ‘Cheap’ because the hefty prices quoted by the shopkeepers are bargain-able. Travel anywhere in the world, the most authentic shopping experience lies in street shopping. Being trained in slashing down the prices by almost half in street shopping, the ability to bargain stays as a habit for me. No matter where I go, the trips to street shops would come as a choice, and bargaining will be something I will stick to.
YOGA – THE ART OF LIFE!
Yoga originated in India centuries ago. From ancient yogis to the modern-day yoga instructors, Yoga is a gift of Indian history. The benefits of Yoga for health and life balance have been mind-blowing. It aids in the balancing of the body, mind, and soul for a fulfilled life.
Having grown up in India, Yoga has become one of the daily rituals that keep a check on my physical health and fitness alongside my mental health. The ritual to spread that yoga mat and start practicing with an intention is something I would not give up for anything!
Yoga is fast becoming popular even in the West, for its ability to secure spiritual, mental, and physical health. However, not all its aspects have been tapped in the West; with physical fitness regime widely practiced, to attain body flexibility and stability.
AYURVEDA – SECRET OF NATURE!
Deepest darkest of nature’s secrets rest into the arms of nature! Ayurveda, the science of nature has been of close relevance in India. From home remedies to ayurvedic supplements and medicines – it is something that treats us to live a healthy life.
My Indian living has brought me closer to ayurvedic recipes like that of Turmeric milk, neem leaves, aloe vera extracts, etc, for a healthier life. While the world is educating itself on Ayurvedic benefits, my little world of ayurvedic knowledge stays with me.
The major benefit of Ayurveda is its ability to not harm the patient’s body with the side-effects of the prescribed medicine. Apart from its natural and organic way of healing, it also prescribes better eating habits for a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing.
ADDRESSING PEOPLE WITH RESPECT
Indians are used to calling every other man as ‘bhaiya’ or brother, especially when they aren’t related to you. This brings in a sense of respect and affection for the person. So when I address a driver, cleaner, shopkeeper, or any man of service around me – it would go as brother or uncle.
For women, the words are didi (sister) and aunty. Instead of addressing people by their names or surnames – I would stick to this personalized call to utter respect in conversations. And yes, ‘Namaste’ wouldn’t be forgotten too!
Greeting and meeting people with warmth is the basis of such a practice. It also binds two (or more) people, with sheer kindness through soothing words. Another way of looking at it is, giving respect to every human being, irrespective of their status, and creed.
Some habits inculcated from childhood are a gift of being born as an Indian. No matter how much I travel or turn into a global citizen – the 6 habits stay with me when I leave India!
Abhishek Bade is a writer and a rover with a passion for writing. He is adept at writing travel-based content which is informative and insightful.