Monday, June 23, 2014


Melodious memories

I’m sitting at the Bagdogra airport as I write this, on the brink of ending a memorable week-long vacation at Sikkim and North Bengal (Poschimbongo?). This was a mega family trip- 11 of us driving through the breath-taking hills and sheer valleys of Darjeeling and Gangtok. The distribution was simple- aged relatives in one SUV, hep youngsters in another. The latter had come equipped with all kinds of electronic contraptions to ensure a steady flow of musical numbers. At Rahil’s repeated requests, the songs Monta re and Manmarziyaan from Lootera found themselves being played multiple times, including a couple of renditions by the soon to be college boy himself. As a result, these two songs are now synonymous with the trip in my mind- the opening chords immediately bring to mind pictures of lush green tea-estates, serene lakes nestled between cloud-kissed hill-tops and the solitary cactus garden thrown in for good measure.

As I mentally sang kaagaz ke do pankh liye for the umpteenth time, my mind did one of those once frequent thought-provoking jaunts that end up finding their way onto the orange backdrop of this soon to be dormant blog. Memories, I realised, have a number of signposts, each evocative in its own unique way. Photographs, of course, have a way of tugging heartstrings like few other things. Small unheard-of towns have this tendency to light up faces of the select few who have forged eternal bonds with them. Gajar ka halwa and aloo ke paranthe are the evergreen copyright of the Bollywood Maa, yet to progress to Mutton Biryani or bread pizzas like her real life counterpart. Similarly, the journey of life can well be one long playlist, with us shuffling from one tune to another. And it’s a worthwhile thought experiment to try to reproduce your own playlist and see what memory is attached to which melody, which chord is a collective recollection and which sound is a sole smile-bringer.

My own playlist will always have Jungle jungle pata chala hai as a reminder of idylic childhood Sundays. Mere khwaabon me jo aaye will always be preceded by shuru karo antaakshari, lekar Hari ka naam- the memory usually also accompanied by load-shedding and punctuated by tic-tic ones. Didi tera dewar deewana and Ek pal ka jeena will be throwbacks to that still-practiced nuanced form of child-abuse euphemistically known as New Year dance programmes. Chingaari koi bhadke will eternally be the beloved Nani’s soulful humming, a memory cruelly not shared by adulthood. I’ve a feeling I’ve mentioned this before, but Paayega jo lakshya hai tera will be reminiscent of the drive from Amity to the FIIJTEE coaching centre after writing the JEE screening exam, an in a larger sense, reminiscent of the two years of slogging away with the IE Irodovs and ML Khannas of this world.

Numb and Aadat stand cheek by jowl as custodians of the tapestry of first year of college memories, to culminate in the eminently groove-able Let the music play as the fest gets underway. The bottle of RS will be incomplete without Sumedh’s insistence on playing Superchor or Sajal’s discovery of the Darbari mix. The heartbreak of leaving college will somehow be inextricably linked to American Pie and Leaving on a Jet Plane. Come B-school and the memories will be incomplete without Iktara or a combination of Alif Allah chambay di booti and Nahi re nahi on an infinite loop on PJ’s speakers.

The playlist acquires an international setting with time. Let it be is an entire pub in Singapore, chorusing away over mugs of San Miguel. The Euro-trip is incomplete without Fireflies being played on Victor’s laptop, waking up an ever-asleep Lefty snug in his sleeping bag. The first-ever seen flakes of snow, illuminated by the streetlamp in Louvian-la-Neuve, were all the more ethereal because they were falling down gracefully to the tunes of Sweet child of mine. Mujhe to teri lat lag gayi is a beautiful girl waltzing away without a care in the world on a starry night in Thailand, or possibly a mirage caused by one glass too many of the choice of poison. The picture-prefect roads of far-off Tasmania are best viewed in a sedan driven at well over 150 kph with Abhijit insisting on playing Daaru desi again. Zambia and Mexico both share the paradoxical meaning of life discovered with a little bit of help from Mary Jane and friends as Ik bagal and Raat ke musafir play discretely on in the background.

And then of course, there is always Pyaar humein kis mod pe le aaya

My flight is almost at Delhi now, bringing to an end both the mega family trip and this particular thought excursion. The melody is far from over obviously. New notes will find their way into the playlist of life, set against lands new and old, sung by people who give meaning to the music. Just like looking at old photographs is a treasured family pastime, this playlist too will find its own unique way into becoming a musical Pensieve that lights up dreary November evenings. The greatest joy however, will always be that particular song unexpectedly played on FM, when navigating the ever-worsening Capital traffic, replacing the curse imminent on ones lips with a nostalgic smile. The uncouth idiots of this world will, for however short an instant, cease to exist as one dives into the musical Pensieve and relives that stolen moment. A tune, a thrill, a tear- what more does a man want, before the idiot behind him honks to gesture that the light is now green and like the bitter-sweet symphony that’s life, he too must move on.

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