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Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Of songs, soul and cities…

I wouldn’t call it it heavy-duty traveling but I can safely say that I have made love with three different cities in these three years. Starting from the shores of Sabarmati at Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad to the London borough of Lewisham through which passes  the Prime Meridian, I have finally settled here in New Delhi before my traveler soul floats to some place else. Soul. Hmm.

Soul. Soul is what I did not have in Bombay. I will not call it Mu***i and its okay, I don’t like the place (If you have a problem with these two things, I invite you for a chat over free beer  ). The city wore me out in its routine as I got sucked into the endless train rides, train rides and train rides to nowhere. There was no final destination even when there was a destined stop at the end of the commuting. It was a cycle that repeated itself on me every single day I lived there. Like the prisoner of Azkaban, The dementor city sucked through my core making me numb until I was incapable of feeling any happiness anymore. My past blogs have hinted this feeling too. So anyways I decided to move out.

Now is the happy part of this blog cause it talks about love and loads of it that was to come my way! I moved to Ahmedabad in a quite random fashion. All the best decisions of my life are taken in an instinct, I think. I did not think twice before saying ‘yes’ to it. So I found myself in Gandhi Ashram. He has always been my icon. It was only natural that I felt settled as soon as I got there. But this blog-post is not as much about the places as it is about the spaces.

The thing is that every city I have been to in these three years, there has been a particular song that has described my whole journey there and it continues to fascinate me how these songs stuck in my head from the first week in the city and I sing them repeatedly throughout the days to come.

Ahmedabad. I moved to Ahmedabad due to work. I was interning with a documentary film house in Mumbai that works for social cause. My boss happened to be a Gandhian and so much so that he decided to move to Gandhi Ashram and set up base there. His wife and he  asked me once to join them and  I said ‘yes’.  They wrapped up the office while I wrapped up my life in Bombay and we moved in a short time. There was hardly any time to say the ‘goodbyes’. But then there was hardly any time to do anything.

M day in the new city always started with an all religion prayer service at the Gandhi ashram and everyone went about their work after that. The song that stuck to me from here is ‘Vaishnav Jan toh’. It was Gandhi’s favorite hymn and it talks about finding humanity in the pain of others. It was perfect. That is what I wanted, what I needed. Being in Bombay, running around all the time, I neglected the ‘others’ all the time. I needed this. I sang the song throughout the days to come contemplating the deeper meaning in it.  I was feeling happy, feeling loved and cared for, while I tried to make others around me feel the same way. I worked a lot with a community of underprivileged children in Ahmedabad and everyday was a wonderful experience. The kids had their pockets full of joy, their eyes glinting with laughter all the time in the myriad challenges they faced everyday. The kids have no idea how much pain they took away from me every time they touched me, tugged on my clothes and held my hand. They held me. They did. When I think of my stay in Ahmedabad of 2009, I think of all these beautiful things with the hymn playing in the background. The song brings such good memories every time I think of my journey. Also due to some extremely personal and painful reasons, I had stopped singing for many years now and its only in the company of these kids, that I found my voice again. I sang quietly and in broken bits first and then like a crescendo, it all came back again. I sang and I sang aloud for the first time after a long time. It was this song that I did it with in a crowd of 25 people or so. It was liberating. I cried myself  to sleep later that night with tears of joy.

London. London was a big Déjà vu to an extent that I often got confused if I was in a foreign country. I was happy, singing and was ready for the next big thing in my life after all the fight that I put up to get there. The place was a mess when I arrived. Education cuts and recession created a large dissent in the civilians especially the students. Protests, demonstrations, police vans, clashes and library occupations ruled my life. It didn’t affect me as an international student but in solidarity with the ‘pain of others’ , I took part in everything. I fought. While I was representing my home-country in many ways in class and outside, I was also keen to learn the British way of life.  I took to listening radio every night while laying in bed and listening to the heated discussions and debates that churned out of the British society on political and governmental issues.

While it was hard to leave behind my Indian past, I was learning the British way of life fast. Then came Adele. I heard her on radio for the first time singing ‘Hometown Glory’ . I was just struck at the beauty of her voice and the flow of the song. It sort of felt nostalgic and I knew not why. The lyrics of the song instantly answered why. It is about a girl who moves to a new place away from her comforting home and finds herself settling in a new place. The place in this case being London. Adele wrote this song after her mother persuaded her to move to London for studies. I can relate to her as my mom did the same when I was too comfortable back home.

The hesitation in adopting something new in life is so strong and when finally we are a part of that change, we find everything is so new and fresh yet have nostalgic reminders from our past. The song speaks of  that. I found myself referring to India and my recent awesome stay in Ahmedabad in everything but still amused myself with everything London in its social scene. Here are the lyrics: 

I’ve been walking in the same way as I did
Missing out the cracks in the pavement
And tutting my heel and strutting my feet
“Is there anything I can do for you dear? Is there anyone I can call?”
“No and thank you, please Madam. I ain’t lost, just wandering”

Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met
Are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of this world
Are the wonders of my world

I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque
I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades
I like it in the city when two worlds collide
You get the people and the government
Everybody taking different sides

Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit
Shows that we are united
Shows that we ain’t gonna take it
Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit
Shows that we are united

Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met

Are the wonders of my world

I especially relate to the part when she says ‘I like it in the city when two worlds collide,You get the people and the government, Everybody taking different sides.’ That was exactly how I saw it too when I participated in protests and otherwise too when most people back home didnt get why studying this course was so important to me. I wasn’t lost, I was just wandering.

Delhi. 

And now I am here in New Delhi. Working for Greenpeace and loving it. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever want to move to this city of all the places. Its strange how quickly it all happened. The general perception about Delhi is that of being a city where rapists loom at over every nook and crime is waiting to get you in its claws at every step.

But unfortunately, I say unfortunately, I haven’t met any rapists or criminals yet. Its a lively place full of people an beautiful colors. Its less crammed up than Bombay and the best part of the city is its wonderful gardens that stretch great distances and provide you with a beautiful, serene green canvas to let yourself get painted on.

When I moved here, I knew I would miss London thoroughly. When I was in London, each time India won a Cricket match, it was very easy to spot the fact. Punjabi boys would speed their cars on the roads and play loud Punjabi music in celebration. The song they played the most is a crazy number with amazing beats that pump up your mood even though you have a 5000 word assignment to submit the next day! I would rush to my window to hear the song better every-time a car  zoomed by after India’s win. I loved the song, reminded me of celebration and celebrating in the ‘colorful, Indian way’. Since it is in Punjabi, I could never get the words right. I wanted to learn the song so badly. All I had to do is wait a little.

I moved to Delhi. New place, new place and new job blah blah. I have been so happy with this move, I don’t know if I could ever be happier. So while embracing all things new, I stumbled upon the song again one day at a pub. The song was ‘Sadi Gali’ from Tanu wed Manu (I know that now). Like I love the song. For my friends say that I cannot like songs like this but I fell in love with it, I didn’t even like it.  Also my love affair with song continues as a sunny boy explained me the meaning of it the other day. Well, the meaning is not very meaningful for some but who cares… to me, its beautiful.

And so I conclude in hoping that there would be a lot more songs in my life that tell a story of a city in their tunes and rhymes.

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