A Decade To Remember

Today, I came across this comic by Gav, whom I regard as one of our era’s creative artists. His methods are simplistic and to the point. His illustrations drive me towards a conclusion that makes me think, introspect about my life and choices.

This time, he features David Bowie, the late singer who departed in 2016, leaving behind hundreds of songs and, in them, his memories.

I have been surrounded by artists and been privy to some of their creative thinking methods in my lifetime.

Few confident artists can deliver the line in a style, Rhett Butler, from Gone with The Wind would have whistled in approval.

At the same time,

Many artists have succumbed to the ‘pressure’ after smelling the sweetness of ‘success.’ The pressure extended by others, who in a way are just being themselves or doing their job.

There is public, a gallery, who perceive, who decide, opine, and critic. We do not think about the handful of those who praise.

Why restrict to artists? It applies to all of us.

Let us dwell into some of the quotes that were recently featured in the comic:

“Never play to the Gallery.”

“Never work for other people at what you do.”

“Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of the society.”

“I think it’s dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. I think they produce their worst work when they do that.”

“Go a little bit out of your depth.”

These lines strike a chord with some of the unusual career choices (going by my peers).

My path drifted a great deal from the norm (again, my peers being the yardstick) with creating a blog ten years ago. I wrote, despite my lack of skills as a writer.

From what I understood, ‘First, there are rules, then there is a room for amendments.’

We are humans; we cannot live by the commandments as we strive for better lives, evolve into something different from our previous generations.

That’s the order – we can get in and create something extraordinary or hold on to some of the antiquated rules sans adaptation.

Late 2006, I remember, my brother talked about ‘venting my feelings’ through a blog. I had a diary, a blog that opened a world previously not seen.

Looking back, I might not yet have a best-seller or a regular column in a top newspaper, nor am I a celebrity blogger.

Instead, I have gotten to know myself better and that, trust me, is a reward.

Happy Birthday Thatha

The tenth day of January remains a special day in my life. Since the late 1980s,  I was made aware of the dates and their use for occasions to wish, celebrate or remember.

My maternal grandfather’s birth date happens to be 10th January.

He had a liking to write – in his case, it was personalised letters, which he wrote frequently. My mother replied to all of them, and my birthday wish to him began with a note – “Happy birthday Thatha,” that’s how I called him or refer him to this day, ‘Thatha.’

And, in the 90s, it was our time to send him greeting cards. My sister and I used to write our unique messages. I wish I had a way to scan those cards we sent.

He retired from his service and lived in rural Bangalore, and thereby much closer to us. We made those visits if his birthdays were on Sundays or else it was still the ‘greeting cards.’

Then came the telephone; he was just a dial away from receiving our wishes.

As I grew up, I fancied riding on a bike to wish him on occasion.

A few years later, we would drive with our family and celebrate with him or have him down to the city to spend time with his children and grandchildren.

By this time, he had a mobile number.

Then it was 2009, the last time I wished him in person. Two weeks later, I left India, and since then, we have kept in touch via a mobile device.

In 2014, just days before his birthday, Tripti and I visited him in January during our short stay in India. We wished him in advance and did call him on 10th January. Who knew what was to come?

He passed away a few months later, in May of 2014. I made that trip to the village; by then, the final rites were complete. He was gone from our physical world. I didn’t know what to make of it. It took me some time to accept that he wasn’t there if I had to converse with him.

Three years on, 10th January remains special. I wish him from my heart and remember him for being such an influential figure in my development.

He was the first person to narrate my stories, the tales from mythology to his encounters with many interesting people he met in his lifetime. I learned how to share one’s experiences listening to him, for he always crafted a story out of nothing.

My love for the movie classics stemming from the 30s were thanks to him. He loved his motorcycle and was patient with a lot of people. There are many more incidents related to him that deserve a memoir; maybe one day, I will pen those thoughts.

For now, I would say, happy birthday Thatha, I miss conversing with you.

The first time when I heard Manna Dey sing

My cousin Harish and I visited our maternal grandparents to spend our summer holidays in a tiny village called ‘Sirsangi’ located in North of Karnataka and were part of the Belgaum district.

My father used to drop me there each year, an overnight journey by bus. I did this religiously until I was about eight years of age, and Harish used to join me over there.

Staying with grandparents for a period over two months was exciting to us. Sipped cartons of Frooti’s; ate unlimited supply of mangoes; sitting inside the official jeep imitating Sunny, our driver; playing in the house garden; visiting places of interest nearby, and of course, cricket.

Not to forget the wrath we faced from our maternal aunt for staying outside for long hours under the sun. We feared her though we loved her because she expressed angst; she used to place her teeth on her lips, holding a stick in her hand chasing us when we refused to come home. We eventually did end up at home at noon because of scorching heat and to have lunch.

Sirsangi being a village, had repeated problems with electricity back then. Although there were quite many historical sites, we seldom went out. Even if we did, I could not recall the importance of those places.

My grandmother was strict and never allowed us to venture outside the community boundary walls by ourselves. We were allowed to play in the vast open field that separated my grandpa’s office and home.

When staying out and playing became mundane (which used to happen each day), we pleaded with our maternal aunt to switch on the TV. And we begged her more when there was electricity. Apart from weekends, the television programmes during the daytime did not appeal to us.

There were no cartoons or no fights on TV. It was boring until one day we saw my grandfather bringing in a new piece of gadget and placed under the TV rack. It was a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR).

With the VCR came a video cassette sent from Bangalore, which played for an hour. It had songs from English, Kannada, Tamil, and cartoons.

If I remember correctly, the fifth song of the recording was a B/W video of a Hindi song. At first, it was boring, and we didn’t quite know how to operate the remote; moreover, my aunt would be away doing her household chores, and she knew where the remote was. Nevertheless, we committed ourselves each time to watch the tape end to end.

All I remember from the song is that – there is a small gathering of people, both kids, and adults, and behind them sat an elderly gentleman rocking the chair. His walking stick is visible beside him, and seen is him patting a young girl’s head seated below next to the chair. A lady is playing the piano, and within seconds, he starts to utter words in phrases that had a sense of melody. Not that we knew anything about it then.

He goes on singing, and the camera shifts to an idol to whom he is referring to in the song. The seated children also join him, forming a chorus that is used as a buffer between his lines and the theme music.

Next scene, I see a young lady away from this group in a room getting up, irritated by the song, decides to shut the windows and frenetically tries to open her room door, but in vain. She seemed unhappy, restless, and doesn’t quite know what to do. As kids looking at this video then, we too didn’t know what was happening.

The scene then shifts to the gentleman who continues to sing. At this point, it becomes unbearable to this young lady who is shown closing her ears, trying hard not just to hear what’s been sung. She is not a happy person from the looks of it. The song proceeds, and parallely this poor lady is shown with her tears locked in a room and unable to break free.

This is how I looked at the video, and each time (innumerable times) I have watched this video, I always wondered why she was crying. I would have asked my grandfather or my aunt about this or probably discussed it with Harish, but the conversation never went on for a long time.

In any case, how would they know; the only thing I remember my grandfather saying was that he had watched this movie before my mother was born.

As soon as this song finished, another music was playing, a new adventure of 4-5 minutes set in a different world with another set of actors, actresses, and scenarios.

And in between these songs from different genres came two episodes of Tom and Jerry and an episode of Goofy.

In 1993, my grandfather retired from the services, and he settled down in rural Bangalore (close to the international airport). The VCR was neatly packed, and I never saw it opened again since the shift.

Twenty years later, it is somewhere sealed in one of the storage cabinets, but no one knows where. It became redundant with each year since the advent of cable television, VCDs, DVDs, and now with YouTube.

Years later, sometime towards the end of the millennium, I heard this song again. The name of the movie ‘Seema’; the elderly gentleman in the video was Balraj Sahni, and the furious, frustrated young girl, so to speak, was none other than ex-Miss India of 1950’s Nutan.

The movie was released in the mid-1950s, and I have not watched this movie, and I do not know the story. My curiosity to know why she suffered during the song also died with time. And yet, even today, the song remains close to my heart.

It might not be the first old song I would have heard in my life, but I am quite sure ‘Tu Pyaar ka Saagar’ is not too far behind. I had watched the video of this song close to 50 times or more even before I turned ten. In that sense, it has been ingrained just like many other songs from that videocassette.

This was the only song in the movie which was sung by Manna Dey. He took his last breath today in Bangalore, and the first thing that came to my mind was this song.  Every time  Manna Dey was mentioned in any of my conversations, this song and the picturisation of the same flashes scene by scene.

Over the period, I have heard many of his other songs on the radio, tape recorder, CD player, and YouTube, but none came close to ‘Tu Pyaar ka Saagar.’

Getting Rid of the Past – Do we have to all the time?

I thank you for having a decent memory; I often ensure it’s put into fair use. There are times when I am all by myself; few scars feel unhealed, although time has gone by, it seems as though they are untouched.

An element called stubbornness in me refuses to accept that things have changed; I don’t want to be judgemental, whether it is good or worse. I believe (philosophically) that everything happens for good, only when no options are left and we resign to what some call ‘fate,’ and few others call ‘destiny.’

There were times when things were different, but life is such a puzzle that only our perspective is the sole solution as to why it changed. Most reactions of ours are as a result of this belief.

It disturbs me that things didn’t pan out the same way it used to. That’s called evolution, maturity, growing up, moving on, etc., etc

Life as television with remote control operated by few friends can be quite an experience. It tries its best to entertain as per the channel desired.

There seems to be a trend with few to change the television with time because it’s antiquated and time for something new.

But, there can also be that life has become so busy that there is no time to watch television. So, what seemed to be favourite programs in the past, doesn’t find a place today. Reality bites, don’t it.

It’s fortunate at times, they get the updates, and few might even interest them.

I guess it’s time to accept that things have changed, and looking back; it was a good time except for the disconnection, not once but twice.

There have been new connections on a brighter note, but as I said, one has to pay the price for having a decent memory.

It’s just that those memories have to be conditioned and aligned so that, when I look back, I will get a reminder that, afterall I didn’t have a bad deal and will know as time goes by what caused the disconnection.

Till then, it’s ok; it’s good to reflect on what happened. Now I realise and thank the two I was constantly in touch with and have not lost any respect whatsoever.

You do get deviled at times, but I promise, I never made any conclusions, and the book is still open.