A Child’s Wonderful World

Remember when you were a child and how easily things amazed you?

The hues of blue in between the leafy branches of the tree in your backyard which reminded you of the seaside. Wobbly jelly castles that you could hold in the palm of your hand. The comfortable scent of your grandma’s sari, especially when you buried your face in it to cry. Crying your heart out just to make yourself heard. Making flowers with spiro graphs. A magic slate that erased everything when you shook it.

Colouring pencils. Asking yourself what the hell the white pencil was for. Water colour and water colour palettes! Pouring water into miniature whisky bottles to be used with a sponge to erase your slate when you were at school. New slates and asking your uncle to help you draw permanent lines with a nail and a ruler so you could learn to write on a straight line. Lunch boxes. Colourful juice bottles. The teacher explaining division by using apples, or multiples by using match stick bunches. Getting a star on your maths test. The nice flowery hand writing of your school teacher. Being able to buy three confi (mango) slices with one rupee.

Queuing up to have a go at the slides, swinging away and imagining you could fly, feeling your head spinning and spinning on the merry go round, happily forming part of the screaming, running children in the school playground. Falling down and grazing your knee and being taken to the nurse.

Walking to the municipal library and spending hours looking for just the right selection of books with just the right mixture of catchy and intriguing covers and watching the stern looking librarian date stamp the first page of each.¬† And when you really really loved a book, tearing away the tiniest portion of a back page so you could keep a piece of it with you forever. In that tin biscuit box where you kept those shiny marbles and other secret stuff which you’d like to keep forever.

Cousins, when we were best friends. Cartoons that made you travel to mysterious places. Characters with whom you still relate to at 27. Beautiful places that you dream about at night. Worlds and scenarios which you invented to amuse yourself. And that treasure hunt in your garden, with a map just like the one in Treasure Island. Stealing bilimbis that have been carefully laid out in the sun for pickling, eating too green mangos or litchis and falling sick afterwards. Being threatened by rotin bazar (some kind of bendy stick) when you were naughty.

Long December holidays, when your cartoons started early and you rushed to the corner La Boutik Sinoi ( Corner shop held by a Chinese) to buy a list of your favourite snacks to savour during the shows. Never failing to marvel at the wonders beneath the glass panes of the table in La Boutik: all colours of Gato La Gom (some sort of marshmallow), Losti, Gato Piaw, shiny Zanimo or shell shaped chocolates, bonbon lapin, Gato Dile, the list goes on and on. And the cartoons at the time were not the mindless trash aired nowadays, they were really thrilling, mostly japanese style animes translated in French, with well crafted plots and real values: Les Mondes Engloutis (this one I only vaguely remember), Ulysses 31 (the Odysseus, but set in the Universe), Les Mysterieuses Cites D’Or (A spanish boy called Esteban looking for Eldorado), Taotao Le Panda (A cute panda and his friends in the forest), Nils Holgerson (A boy cursed into a minaiture tomte who flies on the back of a flock of of wild geese), Les Moomins, Au Pays de Candy, Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer (this is how we knew and loved the classics), and my personal favourite, Anne et la Maison Aux Pignons Verts (Anne of Green Gables). Man, we learnt so much from these great stories.

Try as you may, not being able to write a perfect letter “e”, having to practise over and over again so your handwriting got prettier and prettier. Believing everything you read was possible, hating school. Having your teacher tell your parents how talkative you were at school, or how timid, depending on their mood. Standing in line to go back into class after the afternoon breaks, getting free cheese and disgusting tasting milk which the teacher distributed from a ladle which he plunged into a big steel milk container. Potato and sack racing sports day. Learning all about the Dutch, French and English colonising the island during EVS (Environmental Studies).

Being somehow given a money box for every birthday so you could learn the value of money, and spending all of it on Panini and Sailor Moon stickers. Collecting all kinds of shiny barettes of all sizes and shapes and colours, and also all kinds of pencil cases, fancy erasers and pencil sharpeners. Piggy tails, pony tails, french braids, anybody remember the very popular laker brinzel? (which literally means eggplant braids, which are piggy tails pulled up a bit like Princess Lea style, but with braids, uh does this make sense?)

And most of all, being in such a hurry to grow up and become an adult so you can stop going to school, earn money and no longer have to listen to your parents…

A Musical Love Affair (1999 – 2012)

It all started out with a Limp Bizkit tape which I bought for Rs40 in 1999. You know the good old walkman times, when you shut yourself up in your room to get away from your parents and the world and you listened to one tape over and over again, till you learned all the lyrics by heart. These lyrics will end up getting scrawled in specific places, such as on your silver pencil case, on school desks during a stealthy moment in boring 3 period classes when the teacher had her back to the class, maybe on the walls of your private tuition teacher’s garage, which was already scribbled all over with insanities anyway, and maybe during a quiet free period time, with blanco (whitener) on your favourite bench in the school yard. Chocolate Starfish marked the end of the Nick Carter and boys band phase and the beginning of a more “meaningful” kind of music phase. My supposedly rebellious side got a kick out of Parental Advisory Explicit Content types, which, even if I hate to admit it, also included Eminem’s Marshall Mathers album (back when Eminem’s constant laments felt genuine, and he would not even JOKE about ever featuring Rihanna in his songs).

Then, I got introduced to Guns N Roses, Metallica and … Nirvana. I developed a serious case of Kurt Cobainism. I was 15 and I was totally touched by the story of a deranged poet with sexy blond hair and soulful eyes who pioneered grunge music and shot himself in the head in 1994. The mixture of fated death, the beauty of his lyrics and the pain in his voice wooed me over. That was when I grew out of the bad boy phase into the wounded poet phase. Bleach, Nevermind, In Utero, Nirvana Unplugged were albums I listened to over and over again, the songs talked to me and I talked right back to them, there was a real connection. I walked, breathed and wrote about Kurt Cobain. Then there were Guns N Roses, Nirvana’s nemesis at the time, The November Rain trilogy, Sweet Child of Mine, Paradise City… good times with the most amazing guitar riffs. There was no better fantasy than a guy with a guitar… I wanted to learn to play guitar, bass, drums, anything that could make a place for me in that fantastic world of rock music. I settled for scribbling poems / stories¬† instead as I listened to each track. I made up a scenario in my mind and a little story for each song and made up my own lyrics when I could not make out the mumbles.

The music became anthems, and the lyrics my own personal slogans. What could be a better hymn to life than Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters? The opening riffs to that track still gives me shivers, wow. That, and the 3 Unforgivens, classics! We were still during the Walkman and Diskman Era. Tapes and tapes listened to over and over again, going to school, during school, after school, in the bus, hours and hours of bonding with these lyrical masters. And when the batteries of the walkman were threatening to die out, the trick was to roll them in your palms, or even chew on them (I still doubt whether that one really worked) to make them last a few minutes more. When you met new people, the first question and only question you were interested in asking them, would be what kind of music they were into. Do you like alternative? I have their last Live in Seattle concert on CD! Oh you like Manson? Which album? Do you play guitar?

That was during my years as a teenager. Then came cable TV, and with that the likes of MTV and MCM, and along with that the MP3 era. We used to download on Napster, Ares and iMesh. Man, I used to download a whole lot of songs, even videos. The time of tapes and CDs were gone, now you could download singles and specific tracks. That way, you could discover more bands. And with cable TV, American series like Smallville, Roswell, Dawsons Creek, and their respective soundtracks became really popular. A whole lot of good songs came from these sountracks, mainly more or less mainstream American alternative bands. Some bands I came to like were Incubus, Creed, Lifehouse, Switchfoot, Live, 3DoorsDown, Dishwalla… These songs bring back nice bittersweet memories, albeit less deep than the classics, but still, they were good music. Movie and series soundtracks became a great way to discover bands, special thank you goes to One Tree Hill and The OC soundtracks.

During my university years, I had the chance to attend a few concerts. Experiencing a song live with thousands of other people is kind of unique. It’s great when you already know the song, but it’s also quite amazing to discover a new song that way, and realize instantly that you like it! I discovered Imogen Heap and The Parlotones that way. Facebook is a great way to share music and discover new bands, especially when you know that some people share the same (fantastic) taste of music. I also like indulging into Youtube playlists. You wake up one Sunday morning wanting to listen to U2 songs, best way is to load their Youtube Best Of playlist.

Now that I’m an office rat, I kind of stick to what’s in my Ipod, that’s all of the above, including a considerable percentage of very random favourites ranging from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Kaya, Manu Chao and much more. I have recently discovered Arctic Monkeys and Foster the People, I have to admit the new kids have talent, it’s a shame that I feel like these belong to another generation. I guess it’s because I am so out of touch with new music now as compared to my adolescent years,¬† the new kids make me feel very un-hip.

My taste in music is definitely eclectic, but I like the depth of rock music. I recently watched Romeo+Juliet (1996) and was struck by how deliciously well Radiohead’s Talk Show Host fitted in the soundtrack. It would be difficult to find a better song to portray emotions ranging from love, anguish, hope to fatality. I feel that artists, the real ones, must have gone through a great deal of soul searching, pain even, to be able to convey so much through a mere combination of words and sound.

Studies say that music, just like food and sex, makes the brain release a chemical called dopamine, which gives pleasure. I think that music brings much more. It can help you make a friend, express your feelings to a loved one, music can help you feel better when you are feeling down. It’s a comforting thought to know that someone somewhere might have gone through the same thing. The thing with a really great song is that all you need to do is find yourself in it, and it becomes yours forever…