Featured podcast episode

Movement, Mountains, Metamorphosis and Music

Siddharth Pandey, a writer, artist, and historian, extols the wonders of moving, and allowing oneself to be moved. The simple act of walking becomes radical, with the potential to shirk Nazi commands in Munich, to reclaim fresh air and majestic mountain views from imperial exclusivity in Shimla, to change, create and stir the imagination.

As he moves through the mountains, Siddharth challenges their apparent immobility, not just in the liveliness that they host and nurture, but in their very genesis. Every step he takes literally shaping perceptions and perspectives, the scene constantly adjusting itself, illustrating another gift of movement: the affordance of variety, of diversity, and of perpetual newness. A transformative magic Siddharth explores in his book, Fossil.

Attuned also to non-generative transformation, Siddharth tackles the ostensible contradiction in celebrating the glory of mountains as we hurtle forward into the maw of the Anthropocene. Drawing on the work of Harvard critic Elaine Scarry, he shows how beauty “decentres”, for we are no longer the focus. Our initial focus on the beautiful object is followed by a cultivation of care; an act of movement in a growing field of relations.

Music is an important expression of the innate rhythms and cadences of these landscapes. From the Himachali folk songs that Siddharth’s mother sang to him in his early childhood, to the sense of vastness and longing so typical of the desert panoramas of Rajasthan, or the uplands of Celtic Europe. Earthy tunes that seemed to literally stem out of the landscape they sang of. Mountains far near and far inspired a need to compose. And Siddharth heeded that call, creating tunes that captured journeys through his beloved Himachali landscape and beyond. Some of these tunes are generously intertwined in this story.

This story was produced by Tushar Das. You can find him on Instagram and his work on the Brown Monkey Studio website. We also thank Vaaka Media for their logistical support.

Music in this story:

The piano compositions in this story, A Ride to Annandale and a fragment of Flow, have been composed and performed by Siddharth Pandey.

The Himachali folk song Udi Jaaya has been performed by the folk artist Anita Pandey (on the vocals) and Siddharth Pandey (on the piano).

About Siddharth Pandey

Siddharth Pandey is a writer, cultural historian, visual practitioner and musician hailing from the Shimla Himalayas. Educated in India and the UK, he holds a PhD in Literary and Material Culture Studies from the University of Cambridge. His first book Fossil was published in 2021, and was a finalist for the 2022 Banff Mountain Literature Awards.

You can find Siddharth on Instagram or write to him at spandey_87@yahoo.co.in.

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