The Soundtrack To My Life


I sway uninhibited to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of you as the twins wave bye and leave the house, their linked hands and matching pink boots making me emotional. Laddu is on the high chair drinking milk out of a straw grooving to the song herself. The rest of the morning is a blur as the radio spits out popular numbers interrupted by inane conversations.

My mind however is way back in the past trying to recollect the kind of music I listened to over the years. The earliest I remember is Andhi Mazhai Pozhigaradhu straining through the small National Panasonic tape player sitting on the built in shelf of our dining room of a less than 700 sq ft home. The green print laminate on the dining table. The rickety chairs. The bottles of Benadryl and the strips of Saridon and Dart sitting right next to the the player. The miniature collection of Hindi songs from the likes of Aradhana and Abhiman my amma listened to in the early evenings as she brushed her hair or mine. The memories are stuffed deep inside only to shuffle and resettle each time I hear those notes somewhere.

I remember the melodious voice of M. S. Subbulakshmi as a staple chanting the Hanuman Chalisa or Vishnu Sahasranamam. I remember Nama Ramayanam and the haunting Kurai Ondrum Illai. Most of all I remember the sense of peace I associate with her voice and the feeling that I am home.

As I grew and developed a musical taste of my own, I remember the many TTK cassettes that joined my Amma’s recorded ones. I remember the young Salman and Anil Kapoor gracing their covers. I remember sitting crosslegged on the floor in anticipation of Chitrahaar to listen as much as see. To note down and buy blank cassettes in a dingy room in the heart of T. Nagar and go back to collect my own tape mix a week later.

If Revati jumped and twirled in the rain in Mouna Ragam, I did my version of dancing to the Megham song in my head. I imagined being grown up, older and in love with life. If Madhuri joined Salman in a car ride and sang and danced her way home, I did too imagining a love larger than life and a prince in an open top car. Most of all I realized all these dreams were just that – dreams that disappear when you open your eyes. If my school years were all about Hindi songs, college life was about A. R. Rahman and friendship. My college years would probably be set to Mustafa Mustafa more than any other song. If the notion of romance in school was over the top dreamy, in college it morphed into all about grazing hands and smoke and mirrors. The haunting music of Roja and the arrival of Arvind Swamy gave birth to newer notions of romance. Of soulful looks and occasional words. Of searing angst and blurring lines in relationships.

English music arrived as I did in the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore. My trusty walkman and ear phones were as much a staple as Backstreet Boys, George Michael and Byran Adams. Then there are the songs I listened to on loop as I dealt with romantic rejection and the stark possibility of the single life. Affirmation (Savage Garden), Careless Whispers, Total Eclipse of my heart and other numbers that even today makes me wistful for the girl I once was.

Marriage brought with it Ilayaraaja and the glorious mixtape of the 80s and 90s tamizh music. Music I once sidestepped in favor of Hindi and English. I listened with the thirst of one who has waited too long. I drank in the music, fell in love with Vairamuthu’s lyrics and declared that a life without music was not worth living. The Aiwa system with the double speakers belted out Nee Azhagiya Theeyae and I was transported back to the darkened cinema halls and fresh romance.  Over time the affair with Ilayaraaja’s music gave way to Shankar Ehsaan Loy and the newer crop of music directors. The Aiwa was replaced with the Bose Wave system and streaming through my phone. If I had a falling out with someone close to me Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know got me through it. If I was down and out because of a failed adoption, it was carnatic instrumental to the rescue, the soulful violin connected with me where words failed. If I held back sharing great personal news, I took to the company of the uplifting lyrics and songs that mirrored my feelings.

These days I sway to Ed Sheeran and Justin Timberlake. I sometimes stay in the car wrapped in the music washing over me long after I have parked. I hum as I do my chores and dance with laddu as she smiles in the open toothed way only a child can. Most of all I watch my children take to music in a way I never had the chance to.

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