As I'm writing this, I'm currently quarantining in Upstate New York with my mother, two cats, and a parrot who is currently serenading me. It's raining outside, and I can hear more birds whistling outside in the pine trees while cars drift by my window on the highway road my house sits on. I'm reflecting on the adventures of the last two years. So much has happened since the last time I checked in here. I'll start with the epic journey I took in fall/winter of 2018.
Thanksgiving of 2018 I was here in Rochester again, the first stop on my trip. Nervous excitement filled me as I spent the days trying my best to prepare for the education I was setting out to find: reciting formulas, studying music, and making promotional content for my upcoming gigs. Yet after my busiest year, this felt like a respite. Spring of 2018 was an incredibly dense construction: In my final year at UNO, I was tasked with high-profile school performances with Bela Fleck, Marcus Roberts, Herlin Riley, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Elliott Sharp, Jamison Ross, and many other incredible musicians. Also as president of our local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), I worked with the organization on at least three major projects: mobilizing our student body to take action in support of a city resolution to divest from human rights violators, hosting lecturers from the International Solidarity Movement one of whom I boarded in my home, and setting up a mock Israeli checkpoint in the University Center. The same year, I played over 200 concerts in New Orleans.
In New York City I got to briefly listen to and meet with the great jazz drummer Ari Hoenig at Smalls...too bad I missed most of the show because I took the "A" train the wrong way! He introduced me to Karina, another great drummer who connected me with Sri Vidwan Umayalpuram Mali and Sri Dr. S. "Ghatam" Karthick. I also got to visit my aunts Lea and Jane with my dad and little sister. Then it was off to Chennai for the big adventure.
After Chennai, I flew to Mumbai, a city where anything can happen. I got the opportunity to perform my first gigs as a leader outside of the US with some of the best jazz musicians in the city. In between, there were so many adventures with my friends Jason D'Souza and Karim Ellaboudi. It's amazing that in this huge city of over 20 million I ran into my friend Sumit Schitoll whom I had met the previous year at a birthday party!
Sadly I had only planned to be there a few days before heading off for the final leg of the trip in Kathmandu Nepal, where my friend Birat had graciously offered to host me at his family's house. The city of Kathmandu lies in the valley of the Himalayas, with immense mountains on all sides. There we saw beautiful massive temples, encountered armies of monkeys, and smoked wild fresh-picked ganja on the top of Mount Jamacho. I was also lucky enough to be there for the yomari festival where we ate tons of delicious sweet dumplings and momos! I also got a chance to check out the jazz scene in Kathmandu. There are some great players in the city!
Writing this now, I'm filled with nostalgic longing. I miss hearing the sounds of Carnatic music, listening to the wisdom of my guruji, seeing the temples and the mountains, eating dosai and dal fritters, and the constant sense of wonder and discovery that filled my spirit each and every day. Most of all I miss my friends. At a time like this when we are all so isolated from each other, we naturally feel an intense longing to share ourselves with each other. How can we do this now?