Taking a tune back in time

They say music is as balm to the soul, soothing and healing those wounded places hidden away in the deep recesses of one’s mind, and for a while alleviating the bitterness festering within. They say music stokes the fire of desire, bringing lovers together, minds resonating with one another, to places, feelings and emotions shared in times past. They also say music uplifts our souls to planes devoid of language and logic, teasing the senses with fleeting glimpses into a world of eternal tranquility, and if you’re lucky, into the timeless dance of creation itself. The first picture that comes to mind when I think of the bliss that is music, is from Shawshank, Andy Dufresne lounging in the warden’s chair, listening to Mozart, eyes glazed and for a few moments transported into a place nobody can enter or disturb. I don’t think Tim Robbins play-acted this particular scene, if he did he truly is a bloody marvel!

In my case and as probably is for most of you, the tunes I’ve listened to have constantly changed with the passing of time. Most stuff you listen to as a little kid are those which you have no choice or control over. At that stage, the realms of tune and melody are still new, still pristine, you take everything that is given to you with a sense of wonder, unbiased and without judgement. This is the phase of music you probably cannot relate to among your peers in the years to come; this is the time of songs that will take you back to the earliest memories of yourself, hazy and poignant.

The songs I recall from these early periods of my life are mostly from Malayalam movies, played over and over at my grandparents place, and a few Kannada songs in turn at our home in Coorg, thanks to Doordarshan. Next, came an entire generation of Tamil songs by the immortal Rahman, mostly heard on car stereos while I was traveling around during term end vacations. Those days of prancing around to Muqabla muqabla, trying my best to impersonate Prabhudeva are still etched so vividly in my mind. I never stayed with my parents during summer breaks as far as I can remember, and those were conceivably some of the best times of my boyhood — always being packed off to some relative’s place or the other, a welcome hiatus from the music usually played at home.


Faces I grew up listening to!

As the years moved from tape-recorders and Walkmans to CD-players and MP3 Players, my favourite artistes changed as well, following the patterns of “wannabe” teenage gawkiness to the listlessness and indifference favoured among college youth. Those years spent in hostel, a multicultural melting pot in itself, exposed me to a vast assortment of music, and allowed me to pick and listen to several genres, finally leading to the development of specificity in terms of taste (oh, the agony of choice, it felt like entering a supermarket for the first time in my life). It was also here, that I saw and accumulated the biggest collection of movies that could be desired, oh yes! Name it and I had it! This in turn culminated in my gathering some of the best movie soundtracks (OSTs) composed until then. I had one for every occasion, be it going to the gym, running, sitting in the bus, hiking, assignments, unrequited love, depression, loneliness, joblessness and so the list goes on and on (I am pretty sure most of us did and still do this, you should see the names of some of the playlists we carried around at the time!). The working out/pre-exam music almost always began with “Eye of the tiger” by Survivor, tracks from Rocky being absolutely mandatory when doing push-ups or weights. I still hear our rooms echoing to the trademark numbers of Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC, Floyd, Zeppelin, even Rammstein at times when things got really hairy. I’ve lost track of the number of times the tunes from Kevin Bacon’s Footloose and Quicksilver helped me run circles around the football ground. When I listen to these songs today, it feels like a part of me is suddenly transported back into the distant past — to a specific location I’ve associated with each particular tune, and for a moment, I end up looking like Tim Robbins in the Prison warden’s office (oh well, on second thoughts maybe not as cool as him!).


Movies and OSTs!

For some reason, after my undergraduate years, my taste in music seemed to progress in reverse chronological order. When my peers were listening to the likes of Adele, Rihanna, Pitbull, Sheeran and so on (okay, so that’s as far as my knowledge goes), I moved back in time to the 70s and 80s, listening to the likes of Hall and Oates, The Outfield, Beegees, China Crisis, Springsteen, Men at Work, Phil Collins, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Toto etc., Sometimes, I even wonder if I arrived in this world a couple of decades late, but I won’t complain, oh no — especially when I have access to the likes of  ‘Youtube’ and “Spotify”, my gripes just vanish, whoosh! I really needn’t go into how accessible music is these days, right?

Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower have brought many old tracks back to life in the recent past (thanks to remastered versions), I mean come on! – who doesn’t want to listen to stuff like  ‘Hooked on a feeling’, ‘Brandy’ or ‘Come on Eileen’ ? Oh, I could rave about the charms of rock ballads and old man voices all day long! Okay, I think I leave you with that for now, and if you’re wondering why a sudden post (more like a ramble) about music, I’ll just say I found a love song from 1979 which I just can’t stop listening to at the moment (yeah yeah,  go on, think what you will!).


Weekend Reminiscences

Memories are funny things, some ever elusive like the artful dodger, whereas others are always at hand, etched in stone and indelible in their clarity. For most of us, it’s the ones from our childhood that we hold closest to our hearts, the years when our worlds are small and the days stretch out forever without any clear purpose. The earliest memories I have of the big man are both hazy and brief. A pair of Ray-Bans, Woodland shoes, Charagh din shirts, faded jeans, the Brut cologne and the chugging sound of a Bullet bike. In retrospect, it feels strange that all I remember of the big man from those days are things mostly external. Nothing of the person he was inside whatsoever. I was very timid as a little boy and there was scant interaction between us at the time. Could be why I have little recollection of his character or deportment. He was an intimidating figure, tall, broad shouldered, rugged and vigorous. I am sure I must have been quite scared of him.

Even to this day, I vividly remember standing behind mum at the door trying to get a peek at him kick-starting the bike every morning, when he left home for work. It was a test of strength for the bullet never started without making a fuss. The big man always won in the end though. We heard him returning from work from almost a mile away, for in those days there were hardly any vehicles in our little town and the bullet’s thunder made its presence felt without fail. Virajpet was a quiet place and the locality in which we lived, even more so. He worked in a bank and knew almost everyone in town. A stroll around town in his company would mean saying hello to a lot of people. In fact it still is, even to this day!

There were times when he brought his Kodava friends home. They came on their Yezdis, mostly people from the bank and all of them used to sit in the hall, sipping beer and whisky. At the time I didn’t understand Kodava thak and it was up to my imagination to give interpretation to the topics of these discussions. My mom was equally lost during these times, being from Ooty herself. Those were difficult years, both of us strangers in a land of people we could neither understand nor acquaint ourselves with easily. The only thing I truly looked forward to at the time was term-end vacation, when I was packed off to my grandparents’ place. The big man used to drop us off at the KSRTC bus stand. He knew a guy there who would find seats for us and help us with our luggage. I remember sitting in the bus, watching him straddle his bike and zoom away. During these moments, he seemed straight out of a movie set, so much larger than life.

Many years have passed, and now when I stand shoulder to shoulder with him, I feel so much has changed. Yet, sometimes when I look at him, I fondly recall those years when the big man was more hero than human and for an instant, I am transformed into the little boy sitting on the Bullet in front of my father, having not a care in the world!


Of youth and beauty, of days gone by….