Music does that


IMG_20160120_194339It sticks. Like a parasite. It chews on your thoughts, until it eats them all. And you are left with nothing but a fat bloated parasite of a song inside. It’s funny how a few songs just open up a window of emotions you never knew existed, others just slam you down into pits of sadness; then there are those that pull you out from those pits and place you on a soft slice of cloud; those that make you remember, and those that make you forget. I always imagine my brain cells aligning themselves in quick movements to neat formations for each song. It’s crazy.

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A still from the song Talli Pogadhe from Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada

Recent obsessions – A R Rahman’s Thalli Pogadhey is one addictive piece of music. And it turns out, the effect is universal. While I thought I was tangled in the loop, most who heard it, experienced the same. What do I feel? Ecstasy. A free ride to the clouds. It has been three days, and I have heard the song in different settings – in the darkness of the night, comfort of my bed; while writing, doing fitness, walking from my office to the parking lot amid traffic, and also driving. I ain’t tired of it yet.

But soon I will be. That’s always the case. The same happened for (these are just from the top of my head) one of A R Rahman’s previous albums – OK Kanmani, Iron and Wine’s Flightless Bird American Wine, Scorpions’ Winds of Change, Duran Duran’s Only in Dreams, Hero by Family of the Year, Titanic ending music by James Horner, A sky full of stars by Coldplay, Insomnia by DJ Tiesto, Sway by Michael Bubble, Chandelier by Sia, I surrender by Hillsong and many many more.  My ratings of the songs mostly depend on the duration I have obsessed over them. Once I move on, they become like those comfort-nighttime t-shirts; they remain in the list, appearing in between new additions as fillers – and skipped most times.

I enjoy the sway of emotions that the songs bring in; I enjoy it best when they arrest time. Some songs can really do that. They snatch you away from the rotating and revolving earth, to somewhere in the cosmos. And you float. Just you and the song. Such as these – Simple Song #3 by Sumi Jo, Victoria Mullova; Manta Ray by J Ralph and Antony, Ludvico Einaudi’s Elements and Experience, The XX – Intro, Yiruma – River flows in you, Angus and Julia – All of me. 

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Simple Song #3 Youth. Photo courtesy: http://www.youtube.com

And that’s why my vote for the Best song for the Oscars this year goes to Simple Song. Second, Manta Ray. Not that I did not obsess over Earned it by The Weeknd or Sam Smith’s Writings on the wall, but the former two remind me of white lily petals, the soft fur of my neighbour’s dog, my dad’s hands, mom’s young eyes wrinkles, sister’s face. It leaves me dangling in that grey area between the world and outside. A safe space, like a warm womb.

So much in a song


 

IMG_20160119_200559There is always a story. Be it in a visual or a song. I remember listening to Lying Eyes by Eagles for the first time, and cringing a bit when they spoke about a girl cheating on a rich husband for a guy “whose dreams can never be stolen.” That was way back in eighth grade or so. I have the song inside my head like a full feature movie. Another example, Hotel California. Taking the literal meaning, I have a very dark image associated with the song. A death trap is what I see. Eagles, for me, are great storytellers. They package the stories neatly inside their songs. It is like biting into the crust of hot lava cake to see the dark gooey chocolate ooze out.

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Glenn Frey. Photo courtesy: http://www.eaglesonlinecentral.com

This morning, I woke up to the news of guitarist Glenn Frey’s death. There was an ever so light pain somewhere. Like that associated with the word ‘Gone’. It’s like a whisper in the air. Hardly noticeable. But then, as the day went by, I kept going back to the lyrics of the songs by the Eagles, and somehow, I felt a little relaxed. You know, that feeling after you have a LONG conversation with a close friend – it felt like that.

Here are some stories – a few among the many I like.

Lying Eyes

The lyrics talk about city girls opting rich fellows. Right thing to do, they think, given the comfortable lifestyle and secure future. But soon into the relationship, they realise that they are missing their true love, who is waiting on the other side of the town. They lie to their partner about leaving in the night to just give company to an old friend. That’s when the he sings – You can’t hide your lying eyes, and your smile is a thin disguise. I thought by now you would realise, there is no way to hide your lying eyes.’ 

Take it easy

The guy is confused about which woman to choose. He has so many women behind him, but he is just not sure which is the one. Just when he is standing on a street with all this chaos inside his head, he sees a woman driving by, giving him all the right signals. This only whips up the confusion inside. He pleads to her ‘C’mon baby, don’t say a maybe. I gotta know if your sweet love will save me…’ And all the while, he pacifies himself saying ‘Take it easy, take it easy. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.’

Take it to the limit

The guy is midway in his life, and stops on his tracks to reflect on his past. He thinks maybe he has been so busy that he did not even notice the love that had come his side before. Putting all that in the past, he wants to fall back on the life’s track, and try his best one more time. And then there is a point when he doesn’t have anything to believe in, the time is trickling, the youth is fading. He sings, ‘Put me on a highway, and show me a sign. And take it to the limit one more time.’ But my favourite lines in the song: ‘You can spend all your time making money, you can spend all your love making time. If it all fell to pieces tomorrow, will you still be mine.’

You get the best of my love

This can tear you up. It’s about a couple whose relationship is going through a rough patch. The singer dreams about how it was like before and how now, it is so difficult to even have a mere conversation. But no one is to blame. He says that she tried to give the best of her love, and he is also trying to give the best of his. Best lines: ‘Every morning, I wake up and worry what’s gonna happen today. You see it your way, and I see it mine. But we both see it slipping away.’

Desperado

This is a deep one. It’s a call out to those who are too busy “riding fences” (keeping busy) to find someone to love them and settle down. There would be a point, when highs and lows don’t matter, and your prison will be the world – as you would be walking alone in it – and you might just regret on all the love you could have got/given. Best lines – ‘Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy. She will beat you if she is able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet!’ 

My niece


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When my sister and I were small, we used to play these silly games where we would act like neighbours, bumping into each other in a park and talking about our imaginary naughty children. My sister would get angry if I made my child seem naughtier in description than hers. She always wanted the naughtier one. So if there was ever a measure of who was winning in the game, the one who picks sentences like – ‘My son actually rolled in the mud and cane home all drenched and dirty, with a couple of scars, a torn shoe and ripped bag’ – would have the edge.

This was, say, a decade ago. All of it came back to me on December 27, 2015, when my niece was born. I woke up that morning to see a very pink tiny human being’s picture on my cell phone. It was heart warming, like taking a big gulp of hot chocolate. I looked at her short needle-straight hair, pink mouth, and the fur-white cloth wrapped around her. Like a Russian nesting doll. But in a cute way.

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This is how the Russian nesting dolls look. Image courtesy: http://www.etsy.com

The first week, from what I heard from my mom, she did not let anyone sleep. Long spells of wailing, and then brief sessions of slumber. ‘She is crying like someone is hurting her’ – my sister said nervously on call. The next day, I woke up to a miraculous video – she was turning on her stomach, except for her tiny hand, which she couldn’t slip out from underneath her belly. ‘It’s just the fourth day, and she is already turning!’ – my father’s excited voice. I watched that video over five times that day.

She is a US citizen, born in the cold of Ohio. My mother holds her for me in the faint sunlight some mornings, during our Skype sessions. She looks like the swirls in the strawberry softy ice cream. So soft and pink. Two weeks old now. She only smiles in her sleep, but pays attention to claps and loud voices. ‘She is so cranky these days. Sometimes in the night, she suddenly begins crying, and it is almost like she has forgotten how to drink milk.’ My sister is tired, but never gets angry at her. She can’t. ‘She just asks the baby to ‘understand her’,’ laughs my mom.

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Courtesy, the hospital

One day, I told them to keep the video on as they dressed her for her first visit to the pediatrician. Her bed was strewn with a-little-over-palm-size T-shirts, and slacks. Finally, zeroing on a white jacket, my sister slides her tiny hands into each hole of the sleeve. But her hands get lost somewhere mid-way in the over-sized shirt. ‘Every dress is big for her,’ my mom says, taking a neat white thick blanket and wrapping her up. She looked like a momo then.

Sometimes, during the nights, after a long day at work, I wonder what her hair smells like. It just comes like a whisper of thought. Nothing that I dwell upon. Sometimes, even in the middle of work. Just the thought that a little of me, just a little, is in her – almost always cracks a smile on my aunt face. I guess it’s just a family thing.

The drive


It was past 10 p.m. But it seemed like the city was not planning to sleep any time soon. Not in the too-high-to-rest kind of way, but more like suffering from an ailment. Continuous downpour had turned it blue in the face.

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(Sourced from Industrytap.com)

I had covered less than three kilometers in the past three hours. My feet had turned sore, and so had my mind. I looked outside and it seemed like the road had been relaid — an uneven sheet of trucks, cars and motorbikes. If a neat layer of tar was placed above, it would make a nice sandwich with traffic jam oozing out from between.

I was bored. The speakers yelled How deep is your love by Calvin Harris & Disciples. I tried to recollect the scenes. I only remembered a blonde walking towards a disco club in a trance, and then there was a lot of blue. Diving and dolphins.

It began to pour hard, as if it was competing with its last performance. The drops looked stretched. Not the cute transparent blobs that you show your naked face to. These were needle-like. I laughed a little seeing my wiper go mad. It was moving left and right, as if disturbed by an annoying bee.

The traffic moved an inch. I tried seeing what the rest of them were doing inside the comfort of their warm cars. For some reason, every single car had just the driver; mine too. We were monumental contributors to the jam – each person taking triple the space on the road.

Anyway, the inches slowly spread into kilometers. Think evolution. That slow.

The traffic began to melt after what seemed like light years. I found myself alone on an interior road, with water bubbling its way inside the doors. The streetlights were off. I could see a spot of light getting fainter at a distance. A headlight of a motor vehicle! I realised I was murmuring stuff. I was praying. Praying hard. My car waded its way through the brown thick water. A branch bobbed on one side of the road, and a few plastic covers floated on the other. I felt like that boatman who came back to find those alive among the litter of dead bodies after the Titanic wrecked. Except I did not have a whistle to blow, and the idea of honking when in water somehow seemed scary. Like the water will roar back or something.

I increased the speaker volume. I was not listening, I was blocking the silence with some noise. The horror continued till I spotted a familiar gate — my home. I got down into calf-deep water, and opened the gate to park my car. Just when I was closing, a nervous passer-by from the opposite side, tugging his bike along, asked with his brows furrowing a little, “Is it bad down there?”

“A little,” I replied shakily, quickly turning to the stairs, shifting my thoughts to my warm cosy bed.

 

 

 

 

Can You Water Money?


​Does money plant bring in real money? I remember asking my grandma this question years ago, when she had fewer wrinkles and when biology projects were my biggest worry. She never gave a definite answer. Instead she said that for the plant to grow well, one had to steal it from someone else’ pot.
Steal? My dad had asked me with a shocked expression the next day. ‘Yes, that’s what she said,’ I confirmed. He walked away with a disapproving nod and a slight chuckle.

Years later, now, as I sit in my drawing room, I see a healthy green bunch of money plant leaves flowing out of the pot beside the TV. Enter kitchen, there is one on top of the fridge, proceed to balcony, there are at least 20 pots of various sizes with money plants. This is besides the creepers happily clawing on every railing of the balcony, forming a neat money plant curtain.

Money plant glowing in the light of the morning sun

Money plant glowing in the light of the morning sun

All these are works of my mom, who saves every empty perfume bottle, broken cup, and glass, and converts them to a holding pot for money plant. Most of them, she admits, have been taken from our neighbours’ pots without their knowledge. Many guests at my home have asked my mom if these plants actually brought in money. My mom always laughed it off, like it was an issue silly enough to be discussed. Many have come to a conclusion that since the money plants in their houses were not growing well, they were facing the financial crunch.

An array of money plant pots kept neatly aligned in my balcony

An array of money plant pots kept neatly aligned in my balcony

According to the Chinese Feng Shui philosophy, this plant brought in good fortune and prosperity, especially when kept beside the place where you kept money. In the past one month, I decided to try it myself, and placed a small cute pot of money plant on my desk, and placed my wallet beside it every evening after I got back from office. I haven’t observed much change to be honest. However, there is an important lesson which my dad pointed out one evening while he was sipping his tea and I was carelessly browsing through Facebook.

‘Have you observed… this money plant, no matter where you keep it, it grows,’ he said. I thought about the several​-meter long, hard stemmed ones in the balcony, and the dainty small one on my study table. They all just adapted to the surrounding they were kept in​, with or without sunlight, with or without soil​.​ All they needed was little water.

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‘Probably it is this urge to grow, to prosper, that gives it the name?’ he said, before taking another casual sip of his hot tea​, not realising that he had just solved one of the biggest puzzles that haunted me ever since I was a kid.​

Grandma’s Tale


Achamma* lay on her bed watching us all. There were half a dozen of us around her, swallowing our tears and sniffing from time to time. She smiled at a few faces, uncomfortable with the attention she was getting. “What happened? Headache?” she asked my aunt, who kept her forehead cupped in her palms.

That's my achamma, beginning a brand new day :)

That’s my achamma, beginning a brand new day 🙂

A slight breeze from outside swayed the curtains in the room to reveal a stiff cold body inside a glass box in the hall, that of my achachan**. He had passed away that morning in his sleep. “He left us just like that. Not even a slight movement” — my dad, who had sat by his bed on the night of his death, said to all who came to offer their condolences. Following the statement, there were satisfied nods, a few looking upwards to thank the supreme.

But achamma would never know how her husband of over 65 years of marriage passed away, how she wasn’t there to hold his hands, or give him his last cup of warm water, as she had been doing almost all her life. For, achamma now lives in a faraway land, where reality has no place.

Achamma enjoying the 96th birthday feast of achachan, along with him

Achamma enjoying the 96th birthday feast of achachan, along with him (taken in June 2014). He passed away on January 23, 2015, before the crack of dawn

Inside her head, she is young, looking for an alliance for her elder son — my dad. Her husband is in Delhi, and she is awaiting the day he would show up at her doorstep armed with goodies for all her six children. She is a busy woman, managing all household chores under the supervision of her strict mother, who though passed away due to a stroke ages ago, still is hale and healthy for her. “Oh I have to light the lamp, else mother will get angry,” she would say at times, or “Let’s pack our suitcase, we need to rush to mother’s place,”  at other times. Sometimes she would rush outside to the winding roads of Vellinezhi*** village like she was in her early 20s, and sometimes take to washing a heap of vessels, cheating her own health.

Achamma taking a brisk walk along with her one of her daughter in laws and a grandson

Achamma taking a brisk walk along with her one of her daughter in laws and a grandson

On the day of achachan’s death, when dad broke the news to her, she cried her soul out. She passed out after a bout of wailing and woke up to a new world where everything was perfect. She even did the ritual of walking around achachan’s corpse devoid of any grief, like how she would walk to fetch a glass of water from the next table.

The next morning after the body was burnt, achamma sat at the dining table, and asked one of her grandchildren to call achachan from the bedroom for breakfast. A shadow of panic clouded everyone’s face, but only for a while, as achamma had begun to concentrate on her dosa by then. In the noon, when someone casually asked her if she knew where achachan was, she said he was in Delhi and continued massaging her legs with herbal oil. From then on, no one took efforts to bring her back to our world.

Sometimes achamma cracks witty jokes and laughs at it before we do

Sometimes achamma cracks witty jokes and laughs at them before we do

At 86, she laughs more than anyone I know at her age. She doesn’t carry any heavy burden of past, and lives her life in minutes. Probably she still hears achachan calling her ‘Janu’, an abridged form of her name Janaki, from his side of bed; probably, she does get flashes of the tragic news my dad broke to her, but rebuffs them violently inside her head; probably, she is consciously holding on to a world that was complete with happiness — when her mom was around, kids were messy and achachan, a young and handsome man.

From her, I am inspired to hold on to the happy moments in life, and forget the rest. Happy Women’s Day achamma!

*Grandmother **Grandfather

It’s ‘pissing’ indeed


It was a peak summer afternoon. I got inside Bus No 114, a direct one from Vandalur to CMBT. Inside the bus, there were heads dangling from pulpy vertebrae and hands holding on to the bars like withered branches. Not a welcoming sight. I found a corner seat anyway.

The hot breeze through the window forced my eyes shut. Post that I saw everything in a haze. The oily heads and baskets of dried fish at the Tambaram stop would blur into a blank red screen. Next I would wake up to college lads playing tabla on the bus door to some MGR music. This would culminate in a splash of red. Next, a bunch of white ribbons tying the frizzy plats of school girls as they fight to get in. Blank red.

After what seemed like a day, I woke up to a slight nudge on my shoulder. It was a lady who was trying to unbutton her blouse to feed her baby. The kid, well above three, looked at me with her round eyes in despise. Heat does that to people. The innocent start loathing other equally innocent. I turned my face and let the sun brush my face black. The kid kept hitting my elbow as she rejoiced her mom’s milk.

I realised I had slept again when I woke up to a nudge for the second time. I wanted to be rude, but this time I could only see the lady’s back. Where was the kid?

The bus was almost empty with just a few fast asleep. The conductor was busy talking with the driver about a new release. I slightly raised myself up from my seat to get a better view of what the lady was doing? I was almost standing when she suddenly turned and sat straight. I sat back and pretended to adjust my dress. She picked the child from the bus floor, kept her on the lap and hurriedly pulled her shorts up. The kid smiled. A wicked satisfied smile.

The conductor whistled. As the bus came to a halt, the lady got off along with the kid, carefully placing her steps as she walked past to the bus door. Did someone puke?

I slid slowly on to her seat and looked down to see a trail of yellow urine meandering all the way to the back seat.

A landmark at Brussels which shows a kid urinating into the fountain's basin

A landmark at Brussels which shows a kid urinating into the fountain’s basin

Atrocious! I looked around at the empty seats and sleeping faces. Should I tell the conductor? Just then his whistle halted the bus.  School children chattered their way in, their new Bata shoes smudging what was then a lean valley. The chatters grew, so did the imprinted foot marks.

I cringed in my seat. It felt weird to be the only one to know the truth. But I couldn’t shout ‘Urine Urine’. I didn’t want to be a silent spectator, neither did I want to create a ruckus. I did what I thought was sane, got off the bus in the next stop like nothing happened at all. Once out, inhaled in deep, shouted ‘Yuck’, and continued walking.