Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Raag Marwa" by Farah Ahamed (April 15, 2015)

A very good explanation of the Raag Marga in classic Hindu music

You can read "Raag Mawra" here

Farah Ahamed on The Reading Life. Here you will find links to her stories, my posts and a very interesting interview with her

"Raag, in the Sanskrit dictionary, is defined as "the act of coloring or dyeing" (the mind in this context) and "any feeling or passion especially love, affection, sympathy, vehement desire, interest, joy, or delight"? In music, these descriptions apply to the impressions of melodic sounds on both the artist(s) and listener(s). A raag consists of required and optional rules governing the melodic movements of notes within a performance. The rules of a raag can be defined by The manner in which the notes are used, ie. specific ways of ornamenting notes or emphasizing/ed-emphasizing them Manner in which the scale is ascended or descended Optional or required musical phrases, the way in which to reveal these phrases, and/or combine them The octave or frequency range to emphasize The relative pacing between the notes The time of day and/or season when the raag may be performed so as to invoke the emotions of the raag for maximum impact on the mental and emotional state of the performer and listener."  From - a very comprehensive Singapore based webpage promoting Indian Classical music

"Raag Marwa" is the third story by Famed Ahamed upon which I have posted.  I think in order to get the most from this story it helps to know a bit about the complex very classic Hindu musical work known as the Raag Marwa.  ( I placed a link to very good Singapore based webpage on classic Hindu music at the start of this post as well as a link to a performance that helped me to increase my understanding of the music teacher in the story.). The Raag Marwa is a work in which one can withdraw totally into the music, retreating or rising to a spiritual plane beyond the mundane.

There are only two on stage characters in the story, a fifty year old woman who gives lessons in classic Indian music and a man she lives with in an urban apartment, I think he is her husband.  The woman is very anxious, looking out the window at the bus stop, looking for someone.  She begins to play the Raag Marwa, also singing musical tones. Her husband yells from the bedroom, "are you teaching?"

She goes in the bedroom.  He is evidently disabled, rarely getting out of bed.  He had not eaten the food she prepared and she has to monitor his medication, sometimes he hides his pills.  We learn she is awaiting a special to her music pupil, a twenty seven year old attorney.  We sense she is in love with the pupil.

I will leave the ending of this very moving, poignant Story untold.  She does sink into existential despair, brought out of it only by withdrawing back into the Raag Mawra.

Ahamed has crested a sharp picture of two lives, a woman seemingly trapped by the illness of her husband, now largely indifferent to her but as a caregiver.  We also must question her character, seemingly planning to abandon her husband and cynically we must wonder if the twenty-seven year old attorney really returned her love or is she deceiving herself, ready to foolishly through away her past.

I really liked this story.  As in her other stories, Ahamed creates very real characters to whom we can relate.  I felt sadness for the woman and I admit I winced a bit when the wife asked her husband if he had taken his pills, this having happened to me on numerous occasions.

Take the time to listen to the music in the link above.  If one is interested you might listen to class Hindu music radio stations as background while reading.

This story first appeared in The Miss Slate, April 10, 2015.

I hope to post on another of Ahamed's short stories in a few days.

Farah Ahamed is a short fiction writer. Her stories have been published in The Massachusetts Review, Thresholds, Kwani?, The Missing Slate and Out of Print among others. She has been nominated for The Caine and The Pushcart prizes and shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, DNA/Out of Print Award, Sunderland Waterstones Award, Asian Writer Award. She was highly
Recommended in the London Short Story Award and joint winner of the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award.

Mel u


Suko said...

Her short fiction sounds very interesting. Thanks for the intro, Mel!

Farah said...

Thanks Suko!