Friday, June 19, 2009


Last night Shiva and I drove down to Millennium Park to see Faiz Ali Faiz play a free concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion.

It was 72 and sunny.

And it was Shiva's first time at Millennium Park.

The Pavilion is stunning to see, and acoustically perfect. It makes both the eyes and ears feel happy. (Not that we are here to indulge the senses).

We found second row center seats, where we were joined by Student M.

The concert was amazing, and again caused the crown of the head to vibrate. Shiva spent some of his formative years in Pakistan, when he would go to hear qawwali singers, and gave Faiz high marks. He told me how fans would throw so much money on the stage when Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan played that when he stood up at the end it was like he was standing in the middle of a mountain of money.

Within two minutes, the man in front of us got up during a gap in a song, and threw a wad of money onto the stage.

Soon, everyone was doing it.

We were all transported by the music (Faiz and party were wearing shinier, more over-the-top outfits than Sunday night but played just as well).

Again they got a standing ovation after the song posted above.

We stuck around after they finished, and eventually the singers came out. I got to shake Faiz Ali Faiz's hand and tell him "Bodachai" (excellent) and "Sucria" (thank you... in Hindi).

Shiva says there probably won't be an informal meet-and-greet the next time Faiz comes to town; he's going to be big, big, big.

I asked him if he could find out how old the angelic young tablas player was (according to Bindi, you're not allowed to perform onstage until you've been playing for 12 years, and on Sunday we'd decided the boy was 16 and had started when he was four). Turns out he's 25. Then Shiva found how long he'd been playing; 15 years. He too is going to be a huge star.

Finally, the party left the stage and we went to use the loo. When we came out, we saw 3/8 of them (including the young prince of tablas) smoking cigarettes.

Next we visited The Bean, the giant reflective bean that's actually a piece of art by Anish Kapoor called Cloud Gate.

Then it was time to go wading and see the video installations that spew water. Delighted children splashed about here, there and everywhere. An Indian(?) family asked me to take my picture with them, since I was in full Indian dress (including bindi).

I wanted to show Shiva The Bridge to Nowhere, a ribbonlike stainless steel 925-foot Frank Gehry-designed pedestrian bridge that looks cool but doesn't seem to serve a functional purpose. The last time I'd been on it was in the winter of '05, after ice skating.

We ended up on the wrong pedestrian bridge. At the end was a stunning crystal-colored boxlike building that seemed to be made of glass.

It positively glowed, and seemed unreal - like something out of a futuristic fairy tale penned by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

After awhile. we realized it was the brand-new modern wing of the Art Institute.

And there were people inside!

I assumed it was some private party.

Nevertheless, we followed the bridge to its logical end, and kept going.

We went inside.

We had no idea where we were going.

We walked past the security guards. I kept waiting for them to stop us. They didn't.

We felt like we were getting away with something.

Somehow, we ended up in the ancient Indian and Persian art section.

The first thing we saw were ancient sculptures of Vishnu and his consort.

Then we saw Lord Shiva with a very small Parvati on his lap - a version I'd just read about in the Yoga Yajnavalkya.

We saw an ancient scroll, depicting different forms of Vishnu.

We also saw some Jain saints.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Afterwords we went to a garden area that Student M knew about, and put our feet in a long, narrow wading pool-cum-man-made creek. We made wishes and threw in some pennies. No one told us to stop, or asked us for money. It was like being in a parallel universe. Prakriti (the material world) felt like Purusha (God, bliss).

It was still 72 degrees, but dark and clear. The bandshell was lit up in a thousand colors. People were playing on the lawn. The air smelled of trees, flowers, cut grass and other fabulous things.

We swung our feet and talked about yoga, yoga, yoga, and grooved on the bliss caused by the concert.

And it was wonderful.

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