This article first appeared in Rover, an independent review of arts and culture on 25.04.2013 and subsequently on mybindi, an online magazine of South Asian arts, entertainment and lifestyle.


Publishing a book is like having a baby. We’ve all heard that one, right? Do you recall where? I don’t. It’s an omniscient statement like don’t get wet in the rain, you’ll catch a chill. Or, don’t get involved with a married man, he’ll never leave his wife (not sure what they say for married women, hmmm). Don’t become an artist, you’ll starve to death.

When I first came upon that book-equals-baby pearl, my immediate reaction was, “what a silly exaggeration.” Though not a mom, I have always felt that I know exactly what it is to have a baby. I was 10 when my busy, doctor mother brought forth my baby brother, and everyone’s life went for a toss. (This was small town India.) I think I had the most fun because of his arrival, but I certainly learnt that a baby makes incredible demands even as it brings leaping joy.

When I found a publisher, Guernica Editions, for my first fiction collection – Bombay Wali and Other Stories – after about eight months of marketing and as many rejections, I felt I had fared not too badly. My near and dear ones were thrilled and hearty with their congratulations. The book (baby) would squirm its way into a cruel, indifferent world in Spring 2013. This pregnancy was going to be almost as long as an elephants’, so I decided to put the end result out of my mind.

The bleak and bleary November of 2012 arrived and brought with it the proofs for The Book. What! Already? By the end of the month a heavy cardboard box containing 50 shiny copies had arrived at my door. Having already contributed in innumerable ways, my long-suffering partner lugged it up the stairs.

This baby was a premie. Great – I could take copies to India for my mother, brother and my artist friend who had done the lovely cover. We were visiting that December. Wait! – I had put a website address on Bombay Wali’s jacket. My partner and I quickly added a section to my existing site before catching the plane.

“Hope your book becomes a bestseller,” e-mailed an innocent friend. “When will it come to India?” asked another one. Unfortunately, people, who will hopefully buy your book if they are so fortunate as to lay their hands on it, don’t know the difference between small and big publishers. For most, publishing is Penguin, Random House and Harper Collins; books travel far and wide, their authors taken on grand tours by their multinational masters with huge promo budgets. I had no such delusions for myself.

Instead, I went overnight from glowing new mom to a neurotic mess. The book was here, but so what? When would it get to the stores? Would it even get there? What about Amazon, which was already slashing the pre-order price and had the number of pages wrong? Given the zillion books – prize-winning fiction by new and established authors, non-fiction about Climate Change! Economic Meltdowns! War in Afghanistan! all kinds of trendy stuff that appeals to the average North American reader – who the heck will care about Bombay what and Veena who? Incidentally, Bombay walli means a woman from Bombay.

Why wasn’t my style post-modern, I bemoaned. And with so many bookstores closing down, would I even get to read anywhere? Even if it got reviewed and somehow arrived in the stores and I got to read in public, no one was interested in short stories, right?
Worried sick about my baby’s survival, it seemed to me that infant mortality rates for books by first time authors was as bad as that for sub-Saharan Africa. It’s only a book, Veena. Chill. I tried various tones of voice. Standing before a mirror. While doing Downward Dog. No good. I was as nervous as the proverbial Nellie.

PS: I have become a zealous promoter. Bombay Wali must live, thrive even! Friends and acquaintances are buying and commenting favourably. Reviews and interviews have been promised and readings scheduled. Communities I belong to are taking it on. (It’s not my sole responsibility, it seems. Phew!) The book is on Amazon.

I am not sleeping like a baby yet, but one of these days hope to.

Gd size BW cover

I never met my mother’s father – my aajoba. He died before I was born. His photograph, sepia-toned, hangs in the large, central hall of our wada chirebandi (stone house). This singular image has been a constant in my life since childhood. The wada celebrated its 75th birthday in May 2012. It is in Nasik, India, my mother’s birthplace.

In an age of the image where every teenager clicks away with his or her Smartphone and uploads the photos endlessly on Facebook, it is strange indeed to have this one and only one image of my aajoba. In it, he wears a pagdi (a headdress) and has a serious expression. There is a watermark, a stain on the photo. That, the pagdi and his expression all speak of an epoch that is long past.

Happily, though he passed away over 50 years ago, he springs to life through the memories of his daughters – Suman (my youngest aunt), Pramil (my mother) and Kusum (my oldest aunt). Thanks to their words, I have come to know, love and respect this grandfather whom I never met.

My mother speaks of a man who was wise, dignified and just. He was a judge. Having started as a lawyer, he had the intelligence, work ethic and integrity to rise to the office of a Judge. Kusum mavshi speaks of a man who was disciplined and regular in his habits.

My mother remembers childhood pranks like trying out a bicycle that they were not supposed to use. She fell, and tried to hide the prank from her father. Aajoba learnt about it anyhow. He called her to him, and told her not to be afraid, but to always speak the truth, no matter what. A lesson she never forgot, and transmitted to me.

In an era when girls were married off without an education, my grandfather educated all his daughters. Both Suman and Kusum mavshi became teachers; Kusum mavshi rising to the distinction of being a school principal. As for my mother, my grandfather encouraged her to study medicine in Pune, which meant living away from home all by herself in a hostel. Not something that was common in those times.

My mother told me about another incident the last time I was in India. In medical school she was unprepared for an exam and wrote to her father that since she was going to fail, she saw no point in taking it! He promptly wrote back: I think you should take this exam anyhow to gain this new experience of giving such an exam, no matter that you fail.

No big drama, no but why didn’t you study? Did I send you to Pune at all this expense to hear such words from you? Etc. This man obviously kept a cool head. And chose to send out a message in courage, in facing one’s fears, in learning and being open to new experience.

This then was my aajoba who built the wada chirebandi that has stood solid over 75 years, just as his integrity and dignity shine through after all this time. Was my grandfather perfect? I hope not! I am confident he had his faults. But that does not detract from his greatness or humanness. In fact, it adds to it.

Even though I never met him, I have practiced truth telling in my personal and professional life, as a journalist and writer. I have tried to be courageous, and open to learning and new experience. Unfortunately, I almost entirely lack his diplomacy! But perhaps that will come with time. I am an optimist!

My love for justice may also have trickled down from him to my mother and then down to me. It has led to working with non-profit organizations that advocate peace, equality and a respect for the environment and nature.

Isn’t it fascinating how legacies get transferred? Here is a legacy that consists of values and ideas, not things material. What a precious one!

Thank you aajoba for the inspiration, for holding up such an ideal. It is well worth reaching for.

I won’t be blogging for a while because I got a grant to write my first novel – an intense, interesting, challenging and somewhat scary experience! I started writing this blog because I wanted to experiment with this form. I enjoyed doing it and some of you seem to have enjoyed reading it. Thanks for communicating and appreciating.

The setting for the novel is a Canadian international development project unrolling in an African country. Against this backdrop, I plan to tell the interwoven stories of a range of characters from starkly different backgrounds, often with conflicting needs and desires.

My aim is to make overt some of the contradictions, challenges and possibilities inherent in international development, and life! More than anything, I hope that this will be a compelling story and will actually get done!

I started reflecting more deeply on international development and taking notes for this novel in 2007, as I was finishing up a two-year posting with a local NGO in Tanzania.

Will be back in action next month. Ciao till then.

I am eager to hear from you as usual.

Here’s a confession: I thought of this title and found it attractive; hence this blog entry! It can happen that way sometimes. One doesn’t always start with substance. Occasionally, form can come first.

The subject, as you’ve probably guessed, is menopaws. No, that’s not a typo. I think this is a more fun way to refer to it, don’t you? It was the title of a book on a friend’s bookshelf; a funny, illustrated book. It makes me think of a wild cat walking around casually enough on her paws, but ready to strike if need be.

Since about a year now, I feel rather hot… No, I am not referring to that kind of heat because I am not given to that kind of confession! I mean hot as in getting into the metro and feeling, oh I am so, so hot. It’s a good feeling, given that it’s so cold here half the year. Welcome, menopaws!

I’m positive about menopaws probably because I’ve never particularly valued my reproductive capacity, so the impending loss does not seem that bad. Interestingly, I also seem to be rather “fertile” in these middle-years. I am writing a lot of fiction and feel generally creative. Perhaps this is perfectly understandable, seen from the perspective of maintaining an overall balance of mind, body and spirit.

I am drawn to the archetype of the Crone, who I see as powerful. There’s this crone in me ready to break out, laughing gleefully, with perhaps just a hint of playful wickedness in her laugh!

Many societies have crone goddesses associated with birth, death, destruction and rebirth like the wild, Slavic goddess Baba Yaga, the Welsh goddess Cerridwen, and the Hindu goddess Kali. Hecate, an ancient Greek goddess, is said to walk about on dark nights, attended by a pack of hounds. She reigns over the moon, earth and the underworld. Ama No Uzumi (Japanese) is the Shinto ancestral Goddess of longevity, protection and psychic abilities, while Elli is the Nordic Goddess of old age, who defeated the almighty Thor. The list goes on.

The idea of an inner journey around the middle years is told over and over, practically in all cultures. The North American, aboriginal, medical wheel has four quadrants – North to East, East to South, South to West, West to North. The first quadrant takes a woman to her puberty, in the second she is maiden and mother, the third is a period of harvesting, ripening and maturity, and the last, which starts at menopaws, is a contemplation of the great mysteries of life. There is also a tradition here that the woman who’s going into menopaws initiates the woman who is going into puberty.

The ancient Hindu cycle of birth and childhood, the student years, the years as a householder and the final retirement to a forest to lead a more spirit-centered existence is not all that different from the above.

It’s a pity that modern societies do not mark rites of passage in any profound way. At most people celebrate birthdays. All the stages of life deserve their share of initiation, reflection and celebration. Imagine a concert with Crone Divas belting out variations of You Give Me Fever in a homage to menopaws!

Change, learning, transformation, breaking through, are part of the menopaws story, if we open ourselves to them. This is not to suggest that is an easy, painless process, but there could be a blossoming and becoming, if given a chance.

In the Western world (and among the middle-class in many countries), women now spend nearly a third of their life as crones. There’s also something called The Grandmother Hypothesis:

“Some evidence suggests that hunters contribute less than half the total food budget of most hunter-gatherer societies… so that foraging grandmothers can contribute substantially to the survival of grandchildren at times when mothers and fathers are unable to gather enough food…” (Wikipedia)

A utilitarian view, that! It made me think of all those African grannies looking after their grandkids and other kids in the community after their own children succumbed to HIV/AIDS or other deadly diseases. And there’s something to be said for grandparents just being around to offer love, support and stories. I enjoy being an aunt, and now some of my nieces have kids, turning me into a granny.

A women’s body temperature goes up and down all through her life, anyhow, in tune with the menstrual cycle. It goes up from 98.6 F to 98.9 F and beyond. I could not find statistics on exact temperature rise during the infamous hot flashes.

Anyhow, it’s hot, hot, hot! You guys are really missing out! (There may be some excitement to be had from andropaws if you were to acknowledge its existence.)

Meanwhile, the Earth’s temperature has alas risen by 0.75 C since the 19th century and expected to rise to 2.4-6.4 C by 2100 AD. (Ouch.)

As we approach Earth Day I am recommitting myself to small acts of kindness towards the planet and easing up on my aging, but fantastic body that continues to serve me so well. Care to join me?

Happy Earth Day! Happy Growing Older, but not Colder! (Remember Pink Floyd, The Wall?)

P.S. Ultimately, older people have lower body temperatures and less of a temperature range. Sigh. It just ain’t hot enough for me!

What are you up to this Spring? Is it inspiring or does it leave you indifferent?

Since eons, I have been enamoured with something I associate with this season – Shringar Ras – the sensuous mood in Indian art, and life. Shringar Ras is flirtation, playfulness, dalliance, adornment, artistry, refinement, exploration, enchantment; teasing, tasting, wooing, enjoying, indulging. There is love, romance and erotica involved, but Shringar Ras goes way beyond these, and is not directed towards an individual. It’s a mood that can inform your perception of the world and, like incense, permeate your daily life. What really pleases me about Shringar Ras is its inherent light hearted and light-headedness.

It all started, I think, while watching those “Mogul” romances on celluloid, as a child. Set in beautiful, marble palaces, with fountains and well laid out gardens, mosaics, flowers, pigeon messengers, and poisoned chalices, they depicted the lives of suave young men and beautiful women in swirling, silken skirts and diaphanous chunnis and scarves, who cast sideward glances from behind fans, screens and latticed windows. These images drove me into a dreamy, light-footed state where I felt myself floating above the pleasure palaces, not unlike a figure in a Chagall painting!

How gracefully they could sing and dance and move, those seductresses! My favourite is the actress Madhubala to whom Shringar Ras comes naturally, and Rekha too cultivates it with particular charm. I also found Shringar Ras in Ingrid Bergman. I take my many hats off to these enthralling ladies!

When one speaks of Shringar, can Krishna-Radha be far behind? Eternal lovers, both earthy and divine, they have given Indian music, dance, poetry and art an endlessly fascinating subject. Krishna, with his magic flute and peacock feather, his ability to dance with a 1000 gopis (milkmaids) at once, is a welcome addition to the Hindu pantheon. In fact, there’s evidence that subsequent poets in ancient India added human traits to this once remote God, possibly because they needed an icon around which they could weave the spell of Shringar Ras? The same goes for Radha, who only appears in later stories as a well-rounded nayika (heroine).

What’s wonderful about these ancient poems and paintings is that nature is fully integrated in them, and dark, billowing clouds, prancing peacocks, branches laden with blossoms, writhing snakes and curving rivulets are as lovingly portrayed as the human figures.

It has been a pleasure to develop a workshop around Shringar Ras, which I recently presented to a small but enthusiastic group, in Montreal. The format is half the time devoted to a presentation of the various facets of Shringar Ras through poetry, film clips and slides of miniature paintings. Voice work, music and perfumes have also been employed in the past. In the second half, the participants reflect on the role of Shringar Ras in their own lives and how they can enhance it. I have given other versions of this workshop in Toronto and Ottawa.

Having stayed with this theme over many years, I find that I have evolved with it and vice versa. For example, I can see a direct connection now between the idea of being embodied and fully there in the present moment (Buddhism) and connecting intimately to the world through our senses. I can also see clearly the role of breathing, physical flexibility and good health and posture (yoga) as central to the experience of Shringar Ras. Would a wilting flower attract a bee? Could a forgetful lover ever arouse true passion in his beloved? Could an absence of relaxation allow a real appreciation of the colour of the sky?

With Spring here in some parts of the world, or round the corner (a longish one for us Canadians!), nature is springing to its senses and so should we humans, which is to say: be present, be sensitive, get out of your cocoon and look around you with keen eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch.

Here’s my little contribution to the wakeful appreciation of Spring! It’s a paragraph from my poem “Seasons”, which was published in Indian Voices, An anthology of prose and poetry by emerging Indian writers around the world.

The poem is a humble tribute to Kalidasa, an eminent, ancient Indian poet-playwright, whose words are infused with Shringar Ras:

The sun peeps
through billowing clouds
sending showers; secret epistles
To buds slowly awakening
under dwindling snows
As girls reach for swishy skirts
And men tilt their hats, rakishly

Earth turns to meet the thaw

I would love to hear a story from your childhood.

I wrote one called Munni, which means little girl in Hindi, and it is now online at the Maple Tree Literary Supplement. (How much more Canadian can a name get?!)

This is how it starts:

There are no photographs of Munni, only her image, branded in my memory…
Read on

By the way, my friend Claudia made me aware of this magazine. She has published there too.
Enjoy the story!

Tell me about your experiences and memories of snow!

Today was one of those blessed winter days. Snow outlined the dark branches of bare trees, covered park benches, coated cars, lined slanting roofs and sprinkled prettily on the conifers, making them look like yummy-green, ice-cream cones. Mellow sunlight illuminated the pristine, white winterscape, with not a breath of wind to make things unpleasant, even though it was quite cold at -10 C.

It was a day to celebrate the white stuff – the fifth element – as described by Canadian author, Farley Mowat, in his compelling short text, “Snow.” Air, water, earth and fire do not cut it for Mowat. There is that important fifth element, not only on Earth; it is also “an immortal presence” in the Universe.

To Mowat snow is “the bleak reality of a stalled car and spinning wheels impinging on the neat time schedule of our self importance… the sweet gloss of memory in the failing eyes of the old as they recall the white days of childhood… the resignation of suburban housewives as they skin wet snowsuits from runny-nosed progeny… the invitation that glows ephemeral on a women’s lashes on a winter night… the gentility of utter silence in the muffled heart of a snow-clad forest.”

The text is part of one of his early short story collections called The Snow Walker, which was made into a film. Mowat wrote extensively about the people of the North – the Inuit – and their unique landscape. It can be found online at:

Another story I always think of at the onset of winter is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. The Snow Queen is deadly, rather than ‘sympathetic,’ hence all the more fascinating:

“The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars. She was so beautiful and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling, sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes gazed fixedly, like two stars; but there was neither quiet nor repose in them.”

And here’s a description of her palace:

“The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred halls there, according as the snow was driven by the winds. The largest was many miles in extent; all were lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty, so icy cold, and so resplendent! Mirth never reigned there; there was never even a little bear-ball, with the storm for music, while the polar bears went on their hind legs and showed off their steps. Never a little tea party of white young lady foxes; vast, cold, and empty were the halls of the Snow Queen. The northern lights shone with such precision that one could tell exactly when they were at their highest or lowest degree of brightness.”


Inspired perhaps by the Snow Queen’s singular realm is an ice-hotel in Quebec:

Inside, I am sure it’s quite warm, for blocks of ice fitted together provide splendid insulation, as Mowat informs us in Snow.

Then there’s the telling song by Quebec singer Gilles Vigneault, Mon pays c’est hiver (My country is winter)!

Given melting mountain ice and dwindling glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, we can only admire, with poignant intensity, the power and majesty of the fifth element, displayed in this video clip:

Humans have created an array of religious and cultural celebrations to mark the seasons, tantalize our taste buds and enliven our days. October brought Halloween, November Diwali. We are heading pell-mell into Christmas, even as observant Jews light candles to commemorate Hanukkah.

What’s your take on festivals – do you celebrate them with enthusiasm or just ignore them? Do they mean anything to you? Do you feel they have become too loud, too commercial, etc? I am eager to hear from you!

Don’t miss the links at the end of this blog. The first features magical lanterns, described in the next paragraph. Link two shows facets of one of my favourite Indian festival’s – Navratri, where you can go for nine nights of communal dancing, wearing colourful clothes. Yeh! A Hindu festival, the Indian diaspora has taken it abroad. The third link goes to an article by a Zoroastrian-Canadian friend talking about how she negotiated and transmitted her religion and culture, growing up and raising a family, in Vancouver.

The Magic of the Lanterns takes place every autumn at the Chinese Garden in the Botanical Gardens in Montreal. It marks a Chinese festival dating back to the Han dynasty – 206 B.C.-220 A.D. The lanterns this year were gorgeous tableaus made out of nylon and other modern materials, depicting everyday life in 12th century China. In a post-modern, green twist, the Garden authorities claim that since 2008, a LED (light emitting diode) lighting system is used for this festival, in order to reduce energy use.

My own feelings about festivals underwent a sea change after immigrating to Canada in the 1990s. When I lived in India I took festivals for granted, participating in them mostly at the behest of my enthusiastic mother. After immigrating, I was free, free to continue celebrating, do less or nothing, or incorporate new ones.

Inspired by my wonderful, pagan, environmentalist friends, I started commemorating Solstice and Equinox as milestones on the seasonal calendar. When I lived in Toronto, I participated in communal rituals. Now I go for a “mindful” walk, look at the moon, light a candle or incense, walk through the apartment, perfuming it with sweet grass, a plant that is variously used by native Indians.

I embraced Halloween with great gusto, a time when the partition between the dead and the living thins. Pumpkins are carved and hang out on porches, grinning devilishly, ghosts and goblins come out to play and adults (finally) become more fun as they don masks and costumes to party! It is an opportunity to cross dress, just what a friend did at a Halloween Party I organized once. He was so well disguised as an old woman, complete with mask, wig, dress and falsetto voice, that I failed to recognize him for a few moments! (He happens to be an amateur actor.)

Another invitee came as a “table for two.” He had stuck his head through a square, flat piece of styrofoam, complete with a plastic tablecloth. On the surface he had stuck on plastic plates, saucers and paper napkins! His got the best costume prize.

I have retained Ganesh Puja, very important to my ethnic/ linguistic group, discovering that the pot-bellied, elephant-headed God, with his reputation for dispelling obstacles, is popular everywhere. Come Diwali I worship Laxmi, the Goddess not only of wealth, which is rather mundane, but also of abundance – a word with an exuberant, pagan quality. My mixed fortunes in Canada have made me incline towards her!

We attend certain Shambhala Buddhist ceremonies, time permitting, and attend family gatherings at Christmas. My life is rich in ritual. But why do I care? I deeply appreciate the theme of dispelling darkness to bring in light, that many festivals have. Others recognize the role of nature, draw on particular symbols, push me to pause and reflect even as I recreate a practice, feast, socialize and have fun. As a friend would put it: “What’s not to like?”

Magic Lanterns:



(Click on the names for music samples)

Throw a stone – hit a festival – that’s Montreal. Jazz, African music, percussion, Arabic and North African music, and music from Francophone countries, all warrant a festival each. Apart from the “normal” International Film Fest, there’s Fantasia (yah, far out fantasy flicks), FIFA, a festival devoted to films on art, and another that showcases Haitian films. (Just how specialised can you get?!) There’s literature fests like Blue Metropolis; dance, theatre and modern circus fests, and a comedy fest – Just for Laughs/ Juste pour rire. There is the Montreal First People’s Festival and Accès Asie (Asian Heritage Month in other Canadian provinces). I saw an ad for a fashion and design festival and the latest I heard about was a Nomad fest! Every time you turn around they’ve added a new one…

When I first got here, a wannabe Montreal culture vulture – I threw myself zealously into festivaling. By year two, festival fatigue set in. Year three and I have picked my two favourites – the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Nuits d’Afrique (African Nights).

These, like the other major music festivals, feature free shows; the jazz fest in particular gives away amazing music for nothing. Both have a great vibe. Yes there’s a crowd, but it’s made up of nice folk, there to enjoy music joyously and respectfully, often with the family members.

At this year’s Jazz fest we were blown away by the nimble finger work of award-winning Cuban pianist Rafael Zaldivar and energized by the “we are having so much fun making good music together” gypsy meets techno sound of the Eastern European Slavic Soul Party. I discovered, and Marc-Antoine learned to appreciate Dan Bigras. A Quebecois rocker and former bar singer with a big voice, he put on a big, brassy, entertaining show. He coupled fun standards like Hit the Road Jack with spunky French numbers, among them a bawdy retelling of Red Riding Hood.

I find French and Quebec music that I have come across really different from the music I know in English or Indian languages. The lyrics are poetry, or pieces of text, set to music. Often a kind of musical storytelling which covers a wide range of themes. Most singers write their own lyrics and music, and are then called auteur-compositeur-interprète. No wonder Montreal is home to the famous, English-language, auteur-compositeur-interprète – Leonard Cohen.

The rousing festival finale had a Mardi Gras theme and featured musicians from the New Orleans area, among them, Acadian-French singer Zachary Richard. I was excited as I had been introduced to his music in French class! He was good, though it was the youthful Trombone Shorty‘s (he’s not short!) who stole the show. Man, could that guy blow!

For Nuits d’Afrique we focused on four, emerging divas. Marc-Antoine faithfully went to see Chiwoniso, a Zimbabwean musician he has seen at the great Zanzibar Music fest – Sauti Za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom). I broke ranks to check out Dobet Gnahoré from the Ivory Coast who mixes styles and genres but is very rooted in African traditions. Singing, dancing, looking great (!), exuding a relaxed confidence, she had us eating out of her hand at Cabaret Mile End, a venue worth checking out if you’re visiting Montreal. Both these ladies sing about African issues in several African languages.

The festival “finds” were Hindi Zahra and Nomfusi (and the Lucky Charms). Hindi, a blues singer influenced by her Moroccan background and the music of that sound-rich region, has an original, contemporary style that weaves a spell . Nomfusi brings incredible passion to each number. Her style is influenced, among others, by legendary singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba. Nomfusi comes from the townships of Cape Town, and sings about life here in her native Xhosa. Langa and Khayelisha, the places she mentioned, were the very ones I visited in the recent past!

It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear all these talented, committed artists, who infused our life with their vibrant music for a few days.

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