I am knitting furiously, trust me, but no visible (or bloggable) progress is being made on any of my current projects. So more distraction from – what else – Youtube!
This song is from Awaara (the Vagabond?), one of Raj Kapoor’s most famous 50s films. Kapoor was one of the leading directors of the post-Independence generation, his films becoming popular not only within but also outside India. We all used to hear, growing up, that the Russians loved his films. Just after I came to the US, I was walking along Harvard Sq. in Boston one day and I heard a familiar film song from one of his films being played on an accordion, by a Russian street performer. On the accordion it sounded vaguely like an Eastern European folk tune (which tells you how much I know about *that*, but I digress). Dang it, I thought to myself, I had no idea Shankar-Jaikishan, the incredibly talented composers for many of Raj Kapoor’s film music, had lifted some tunes from elsewhere.
After he was done, I asked the man what he had just played. Delighted, he yelled, arms wide open, “Raaaj Kapoooooooor!!” After I recovered, I sat by him and asked him if he knew any others. The next hour was spent happily, him playing many of my favourites from Kapoor’s films and me humming along.
This one “dam bhar jo udhar mooh phere, woh chanda” (If only the moon would look away for a moment) is one of those classics, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. It is no secret to my friends that I am not a Mukesh fan. His nasal voice always hovers on the brink of the right note, never quite striking it or going fully off key. This one is typical, but still, the song survives him. Both Raj Kapoor himself and Nargis, his leading lady in many of his films and widely rumoured to be the same in real life as well, sing ostensibly to the moon, telling it to hide behind the clouds so they can be alone. Although later songs would often trivialize it through crude depictions of flowers crashing into each other or worse, this song is, in my opinion, one of the best expressions of the Bollywood aesthetic that hinting at physical intimacy was more sensuous than actually showing it on screen.
Seeing this clip after so long, I’m struck by the chemistry between Raj Kapoor and Nargis: they were good actors, no doubt, but they look totally in love. Kapoor also took on a Chaplinesque persona later on that was intensely annoying, but here he still looks quite handsome inspite of the weird hair (he’s a rakish thief in the film) and the early onset of the Kapoor obesity curse. And oh, I totally didn’t notice the strategically placed anchors on Nargis’s shirt earlier.
From an old box, actually. I’d bought one of those disposable CVS digital cameras long ago and taken pictures of various knitting projects of, and then promptly lost. It surfaced today, along with a few other prints of other project photos. I got the camera developed, but need to find a scanner for the prints. Clearly, either that camera was particularly bad, or my snapping skills have improved since then. But lookee:
I don’t know why they look like they’re too shy to fully emerge from the closet, with my black kameez in the second pic as if hanging from a meathook, but these are sweaters I made a few years ago. (click on them for larger images: they look better). The fuchsia (it was not as bright as the photo suggests) was adapted from the Wonderful Wallaby pattern and made with Brown Sheep cotton fleece. The kit was my gift to myself on defending my phd dissertation and made mostly on a road trip from Ohio to Colorady by way of Chicago, Minnesota and the Dakotas. It got really loose after a point and I have no idea where it is now. But it was darned comfy.
The black hoodie was a traumatic project and continues to be. Made from a pattern in Hip to Knit (thanks to Spud) and Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride, it went very fast, but the pattern and I didn’t see eye to eye on many occasions. Also, getting the pockets to line up properly made me weep several times. To say nothing of trying to sew in the zipper, which, I have to say, ranks right up there will frogging lace in being a total bitch to do. All that was nothing, though, to the amount this yarn PILLS!!! It’s like a grizzly bear, a very angry, bristling one. It’s not even that soft, but it is warm and comfy.
I stumbled across this thread and this one on a knitting forum about a recent spat between two distributors over the cashmere content in some popular yarns. It’s not clear yet who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong; accusations are flying back and forth, but in the whole mess (and I’m really resisting the knitting puns and metaphors here), one thing really stood out: the amount of cashmere content that seems to be under scrutiny in yarns that (are claimed to?) have cashmere in them: between 5-10%!
That’s just laughable. True, the industry standards require a minimum of 3% so no rules are technically being broken, but talk about proportion, eh? The amount of mark-up that companies can claim just by that little content and the resultant "luxury" tag: it’s not for nothing that most of these yarns have "cash" mentioned in them. I find it hilarious everytime I see either the owner of the brand or the distributor insist, "there *is* cashmere in there"! Sure.
Anyway. I spent another weekend hurtling across the country by plane, this time for the large desi wedding annual South Asia conference in Madison, WI. Which was surprisingly subdued, actually. Saw lots of friends: sepoy, pdcs, pandit among others, and collected more entries for my Weird Things Academics Say and Do series. Daku, if you’re reading this, you were sorely missed!
And I managed to finally start my cartridge rib pullover. I began with the sleeve. I had some gauge issues. I was getting 6.5 spi on the pattern, but it also stretches easily, and slightly stretched the gauge was 5.75 spi. After some tortured maths, I settled for 6 spi, figuring the stretch would take care of the fit.
Am using Ann Budd’s generic pattern for saddle shoulders, but with lots of mods. Cast on 64 plus 2 selvedge stitches, and instead of her staggered increase, am doing an even increase every 6th row from the beginning. (Aside: when patterns say "every 4 rows" does that mean every 4th or 5th row after one increase? That always stumps me.)
I also did the first twenty rows on size 3s for greater tension at the wrists, and now am on size 5s. I cast on at the airport in Oakland, and this is where I was when I landed two days later. I might just finish this before December…
And finally, I’m at the point where I begin the nupps for the Shaped-triangle-turned-Swallowtail shawl. Seeing Lobstah’s gorgeous Flirty Ruffles shawl has inspired me to really finish this quickly. I switched to size 4 addis for the border, just to make it drapier, and 38 more rows to go. I have a feeling it’s not going to be large enough, as my MIL really wanted something to drape around well, but I am so sick of this laceweight. I’m going to finish it as it is, and if it isn’t suitable I’ll make another leaf lace or flower basket shawl in sportweight (and keep this one for myself!).
This title inadequately paraphrases a song I like very much, Nain lad jai hain to manwa ma kasak hoi bekari from the film Gunga Jumna. Yesterday I met some old college pals after a long time, and one of them was, like me, a total old songs buff. We sang many songs together for hours like we used to in college; even though his voice is suited to Talat Mahmood and Hemanta songs, we also remembered and sang this one by Rafi. Of course, I found it on Youtube today.
It’s in the Bhojpuri variant of Hindi, and the video makes the song’s meaning quite clear. Gunga, the hero, is having a good time with his friends, just after having realised he’s fallen for the washerwoman Dhanno (Vyjantimala, who smiles shyly simpers at the end). This was one of Naushad’s most popular soundtracks, using folk tunes and rhythms of eastern UP and Bihar. I love the off-beat whistle and Rafi’s alaap at the beginning and end. The choreography was by Hiralal, who often collaborated with Naushad, and the male dancers’ moves are typical of his style. I like how the colours are quite drab, quite unlike some of the over-the-top costumes and jewellery that typifies today’s Bollywood. The film itself is quite interesting; describing a young man’s turn to crime in the face of rural exploitation, it struck an early note of pessimism against the Nehruvian utopias following Indian independence.
The song features Dilip Kumar (real name Yusuf Khan) was a lot older by the time this film was released in the 60s, but who was the blockbuster star of the 50s. He looked a lot better in b/w. He, more than any other Hindi cinema star, had an excellent sense of music and rhythm. A pukka rasik, you can tell, in all his song sequences. Before Amitabh strode across the screen he was easily my favourite. He also sang beautifully himself; listening to his melodious Laagi nahi chhoote chahe jiya jaye from the film Musafir makes me wish he had sung more. His voice resembles Talat Mahmood’s a lot. He clearly had a ball filming this song. I hope you enjoy it!
Remember the blurred picture I showed you of a project I finished for a friend last week? I went on a brief visit to upstate NY earlier this week for a talk, and met up with her. Hanging out with her and giving her the gift, and the stunning fall foliage totally made up for the dismal work trip. Seriously, flying cross-country and airport food apart, there is little more depressing than not getting good questions or feedback on some research that you present to an audience of your peers with great enthusiasm.
Specs: One skein of Louet Gems Merino Sport (100% wool) in black and one skein of 80% llama/20%silk from Double K Diamond Llamas & Fiber, held together. It took me approx. 160 yards of each skein to make the hat.
I bought the llama blend at Estes Park a couple of years ago (Spud, this was when we went together.) It’s not that soft, but blended with the Louet, it makes for a very squishy and warm hat. My friend had asked for a black hat, but I added the greyish flecks with the llama to give it some body and texture.
Gauge: slightly bigger than that specified in the pattern, but it didn’t matter too much since the hat stretches anyway. I used size 6 addi circulars.
This pattern is great! Grumperina’s blog is just a teeeeny bit annoying at times (I can’t place my finger on why, exactly, and I still do read it regularly), but she is one talented designer. This is such a simple, intuitive and elegant pattern and the ribs swirl beautifully into the crown. Very neatly conceived, and a smart twist (heh) to the standard ribbed watch cap. Took me 2 days to make and I’d definitely make one in a lighter colour again. I left out the beads, though, because they looked a little gaudy to me.
After a long time, I had one of my favourite comfort foods, which said friend made for me: Thalipeeth (lit. Marathi for "flour-in-a-pan"). Hot, crisp and nutritious, it’s a quick dinner fix when you don’t want a whole meal, and with Marathi kakdichi koshimbir (cucumber raita with crushed peanuts) it was just heaven.
Does this happen only to me, or can I count the following phenomenon among the many unexplained mysteries of this universe: your phone is silent for hours on end. Then as soon as someone calls, two other people call within seconds, making you dance around call-waiting buttons. Similarly, you spend several days and weekends by yourself (blissfully knitting). Then comes one weekend when friends from all over the world you haven’t seen in ages decide to come into town and ask if you’re free to meet. None of them knows the others well, so it’s difficult to throw them all together for the evening. You want to meet all of them, cannot decide whom to ditch, and you agonise wildly about how to meet everyone and not go crazy. Next weekend is a case in point. Four friends from three countries all converging on the Bay area; plus a music concert that I made plans to go to with two others! I have no idea how I’m going to manage it all, but am determined to, somehow.
I knit the popular Rogue pattern last summer, but was really unhappy with the way it turned out: too short overall. I had another skein and a half left of the yarn, so I decided to lengthen it. I undid the two inches of the hem and with a deep breath, cut it at one of the corners:
I then frogged the hem up to the beginning of the cable pattern, picked up stitches all around, and knit a couple more inches down in stockinette (you can tell where the yarn is joined, no? Hopefully a wash will take care of that). I also added a small detail to the cable (if you’re familiar with the pattern you can already tell where I’d modified it earlier as well):
Also, I hadn’t liked the hemmed border earlier; it made the sweater too heavy at the bottom, so instead this time I added an I-cord edging. It makes it lighter and more manageable, somehow. I am working on the sleeves, but have hit a snag. I need DPNs to do them in the round, and although I have two pairs each of size 4, 6, and 7, I don’t have what I need: size 5s. Typical. I tried with two circulars, but cannot bear them flapping about as I try to figure out which of the four ends to use at any given time. I was hoping to have the fully reformed Rogue on display, but looks like that won’t happen for a while, because in the next two weeks I have no time to go to a yarn store. But I’m delighted that I was able to repair it to the length I wanted!
I liked posting the knitting obsession film so much that I decided to make a habit of it. I’ve become addicted to Youtube, and it’s wonderful collection of old Hindi film music videos. One song reminds you of another, you wonder if *that* one will be there, and perhaps *that* one, and before I know it, hours have passed. So I thought I’d periodically share some of my favourites with you.
I saw this one after a very long time. From "Tere ghar ke saamne" (In front of your house), a light-hearted romantic comedy where the hero, an architect has to live up to some silly promise he makes to he heroine about building a beautiful house right opposite her father’s palatial bungalow. Stupid story, as most popular Hindi films go, but like most films of the 1950s and 60s, some of the most wonderful music. This one is a solo by my favourite male singer Mohammed Rafi, and picturised on Dev Anand, who was quite the hottie of that generation (and also for a lot of us who grew up after he was past his prime). His slightly-startled expression, the bobbing head, all of it was lapped up like crazy. The woman he’s serenading is Nutan, also a major actress of this period. The stairs they are ambling down are those within the early 13th century minaret in Delhi, the magnificient Qutb Minar. It’s such a simple and impossibly romantic song, I love it.