Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rahman Mornings

One of the things I've learnt to carefully bypass is any "Raja-Rahman" debate I'm confronted with. I guess it's primarily because I'm not comfortable with my music know-how to even qualify to adopt a position and also because I believe one need not take a stance always. Another reason could be the fact that I enjoy both of them, albeit for different reasons.

I listen to Rahman mostly during the mornings, when I'm up and running for work, when I need to reaffirm my faith in the world and its ways. You know, just to tell yourself that "Yes, this place is going to the dogs but hey, it's a new day and you never know what's gonna happen". Ilayaraja (IR from now on) is reserved for the night when I need to lull myself to sleep -- his songs have this pleasant way of soothing frayed nerves and bringing the night quickly to an end.

It's not like one can't listen to IR in the morning or Rahman at night. It's just that my preference seems to be that way. Any inspiration I can milk out of IR's music in the morning seems insipid, jejune and foolhardy and not the cautious optimism that Rahman espouses (I do agree that the lyrics play a part too, but still ... ). On the other hand, Rahman is too angsty to listen to just before you fall asleep, whereas IR is just about perfect.
Anyway, here's a list of five Rahman numbers I enjoy listening to almost every morning -
  1. Nila Kaigiradhu, Indra, 1995 -- I prefer the Harini version to the Hariharan one. My "Wake-up playlist" has this on number one. Ideal ambience would be to stand on the terrace and watch the sun rise while Harini's voice pierces the ears, rubs the sleep off your eyes and gently welcomes you into the day. Favourite line - indha vaazhkaiyae seedhanam adhil jeevanae thaeyudhae ...
  2. Vellai Pookkal, Kannathil Muthamittal, 2002 -- Rahman as a singer is very under-rated. I agree he kills a few songs with that nasal voice of his (that's more the exception than the rule) but the depth of feeling he manages to summon makes each and every song that he's sung very special. This one is number two on my list. A sort of personal prayer to start the day off. "Hope is a good thing" (Shawshank Redemption anybody?). Favourite line - koadi keertanamum kavi koartha vaarthaiygalum thuLi kaNNer poal arththam tharumo ...
  3. Endrendrum Punnagai, Alaipayuthey, 2000 - The dude song, as I like to call it. The undercurrent of youthful masculinity -- and it's not just the rap -- is so enthralling I would be very surprised if any member of the female species has a soft corner for this song for reasons other than Madhavan. I like to loop it sometimes, especially when I'm walking to work, because there's this mall abounding with women that I need to go past to get to office, and the song suits the situation to a T. Always brings a grin to my face. It was an anthem of sorts in college but then Camus came along and changed all that.
  4. Margazhi Poove, May Maadham, 1994 - Very sophisticated lyrics. And as feminine as it gets. I used to skip this song as one of those "suppressed-woman-gone-mad" when I bought the cassette, but then Rahman is nothing if not insistent and the song grows on you. Moreover, Shobha's voice is so contrary to the kind of effect that the song aims at, it ends up complimenting the music and the mood. And yes, December mornings have never been the same again. Favourite line(s) - aezhai manam kaanum inbam naan kaanavillai ...
  5. Anbendra Mazhaiyilae, Minsara Kanavu, 1997 - A rare evangelical song, and Anuradha Sriram's full-throated yet tender rendition melts you away. It is difficult to come to terms with the song ideologically but the promise that it holds of a saviour is too tempting, so I eventually give in and end up listening to the song a few times continuously. Favourite line - Like the entire song, but if I were to pick, then it will have to be: poarkonda boomiyil pookkaadu kaanavae pugazhmaindhan thoanrinaanae / ... / nootraandu iravinai nodiyoadu poakkidum oliyaagath thoanrinaanae / irumbaana nenjilum eerangal kasiyavae iraibaalan thoanrinaanae ...

An interesting biography of Rahman is here -- a tad too long but fabulous collection of anecdotes and quotes.


Snapped during a weekend trip to Copenhagen.

Friday, May 25, 2007


He wakes up. Looks down at his watch. Ten thirty. "ETA 15 minutes" says the monitor up front. He reaches sideways for the seat-belt, breathes in and buckles himself up.
"There, that's the city," the girl to his side gestures at her grandmother. The old lady sits up to look out the window. He leans back so that she can get a better view.
The plane turns to port, homing in on the airport, breaking through the last of the clouds. The city looms up slowly. All is quiet inside the aircraft. No banter. No calling out to the airhostesses. No watching tv. No talking into cell phones. Even the babies have stopped crying. If silence is prayer, then they were all believers now. Very soon, they will be back to being people, back to their quotidian lives, back to the numbers and words that populate daily existence. But for a little while longer, they will remain passengers, deprived of their egos and the security of their bounded imagination, forced to exchange faith for convenience, rebellion for conformity, time for thought.
He reaches into his jacket and starts his ritual.
Passport. Check.
Did Icarus have a checklist? Did it have a bullet point saying 'Beware the sun at all times'? Was it just testosterone, a fatal transgression committed in the fever of youth? Was it because he wanted to go to heaven without dying that the Gods sent him back? Or was it just disguised suicide? Pity. Someone should have told him. The sun never lets you near. Maybe that's why we glorify him. Flaws shine in intimacy.
He takes his passport out, flips to the visa, looks at the immigration stamp.
That's when they take your identity away, don't they? That's when you take a break from existing, don't you? That's when you become a position on the plane, a statistic curled up inside a spreadsheet, that's when your life remains suspended in this aluminium coccoon where hope is neither absurd nor a refuge, but a compulsive state of mind. Suspended until you land. Suspended until they stamp you back into the assembly line of existence, returning your self to you whereupon you drive away into the welcoming morass of your life.
Wallet. Check. Ipod. Check. Paperback. Check. Ipod. Check.
He smiles when he catches himself double-checking the primary source of music in his life. Music removes him from the mundane, heightens every moment, shades his life with colours he would otherwise not perceive. Music is what he uses to negotiate with the world.
Terms of negotiation. Give and Take. Give, give, give, or take, take, take. At times slave, at times master ... every moment you trade with the world, but then you like to play games on the planes of your consciousness, you don't like to believe that you don't barter, that you are above and beyond human need. But then you need. All of us need. Love, hate, solitude, communion, power, submission ... it pays to adopt an attitude to help you get through your days. As long as it helps you trade.
"Pretty excited huh?" the girl asks him. He smiles at her and nods his head. "Yes."
He'd helped her board her grandmother. They'd got talking. She was touring the continent with the old lady. He was on business. Strangers thrown together for the duration of the flight. And like it happens sometimes in such situations, a common chord had been struck ... You get on this plane or bus or train. You meet people. You strike a conversation. Sometimes you like the other person. At other times, you keep politely skirting the fence of personal contact and decline to venture further. Sometimes you bid goodbye and remove these people from the vicinities of your memory. Sometimes you exchange phone numbers, fall in love, marry, beget children, die. Where is the excitement in all this? Excitement exists in those shadows where the light of consciousness cannot penetrate, in the deluded mind which thinks but does not realize it thinks.
And yet, when people ask him if he's excited, he almost always says yes. He cannot understand why. Maybe it's wonder, a sense of intirgue, a need for confirmation that he feels, but he cannot bring himself to accept that since these, in turn, would spawn excitement. Or maybe he realizes that the glaring light of awareness is too much to bear and that people are better off living in darkness.
So, either way, he says yes. Because he's undecided.
The plane starts dropping. His ears pop. Another reminder of the imminent confrontation with reality. He can feel the plane tense, the metal plates pull together as the aircraft plunges through the stratosphere. All pretense is up now. Anything could happen. The earth zooms up rapidly, streets and houses whiz by in a blur of urban colour. The overhead cabins get rickety as the plane picks up speed. Faster and faster.
And then the feel of rubber on tarmac, the bumpiness of the earth below them.
Touchdown. Deliverance.
Relief in the air inside the cabin as the passengers let out a collective sigh. The plane taxis down the runway to the gates. If it were not for propriety and seat-belts, he believes they would all get up and let out a cheer and pat each other on the back. It brought to his mind a conversation from the past.
So did you like flying?
Depends. I don't like to fly for long. I like the earth too much.
Poor Icarus, he thinks and reaches up for his bag.
In Hannover, Germany on work. Expect posting to be sporadic (as if it already wasn't).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"... and I've been working like a dog."

Work + Half-a-dozen books and the accompanying guilty conscience + Music constantly shuffling its feet in the background + A little travel + A couple of choices eating me away + Genetic laziness* = Zero blogging.

"When you've seen a nude infant doing a backward somersault you know why clothing exists” -- Someone I've been meaning to read for a long time and finally
got around to. Strongly recommended (if I may).
And somebody actually ran a search for this. I'm sure there's a message lying hidden somewhere but I'm not able to put my finger on it.
Be back soon.
* - Blame the genes for everything bad and praise yourself for everything good.