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Archive for September, 2012

Thank God for Cassettes!! (and Music)

I still get my daily dose of music from cassette tapes. Seriously. In this age of iPods and whatnot, I think I’m stuck to my cassette tapes. Now that I think of it, I think it’s in my destiny, karma, fate, whatever. That I continue to lug around my collection of 100+ cassettes from way back wherever I go is just incidental.

I think they don’t even sell them anymore and I am pretty sure many of the kids out there have probably not even heard of them. I know that even my collection of 100+ audio CDs have become redundant in this age of youtube, iTunes, etal and the internet where you can download any song you like. But I’m stuck with my old faithful cassettes. Not totally out of choice, I must admit.

Let me explain. In Tokyo, I drove a Toyota Corona which, for some reason, only had a cassette player (and radio) and I happily continued using my cassettes (https://ruolngulworld.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/rockin-in-tokyo/). Then when we transferred to Hanoi, I bought a Daewoo Magnus Classic and the first thing I noticed when I went to check it out was the lovely CD player. I looked forward to finally being able able to play my CDs in the car and even made a mental list of what CDs I’d take with me when I finally took possession of the car from the lovely Ms Eun of the Korean Embassy.

Finally the day arrived and I, armed with a handful of my favourite CDs, took possession of the car. As I drove away and slotted in my favourite Deep Purple CD and turned up the volume, instead of Ian Gillan’s ‘Highway Star’, the only sound that came out was the gentle hissing sound the CD made as it vomitted out of the player which showed ‘error CD’ on its display panel. I, of course, immediately and impatiently pushed it in again but, despite several tries, the player simply refused accept the CD. That’s when I knew I’d have to unpack my cassette collection again.

And so, here I am, again, probably the only one in Hanoi (and, possibly, the world) still listening to music on cassettes on a daily basis. Not that I really mind, mind you. Because I have a whole bunch of really great music cassettes in my car, all personally selected from my CD collection as well as selections downloaded from the Net and burned on CDs which I have recorded on several ‘collections’.

The mode of delivery may be ancient but the contents are quite up-to-date. I even have the very latest Adele, Katy Perry, Pink, Gotye…. all courtesy of my daughter who shared all her latest music with me before she left us for college. I put them on whenever my thoughts turn to the time she was with us (which is most days) and I am transported to the wonderful times I had with her when we’d put on her music full blast on the car stereo and sing along full blast as I drove.

Though I can’t sing to save my life, music remains and will remain a central part of my life. I simply can’t think of my life without music. My car stereo is never ever turned off. I tell my family and friends that when you sit in my car, you listen to what I am listening. There is no option. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would immediately turn on the stereo as soon as I reached home and only to switch it off before I drifted off to sleep. But now that I’ve ‘met’ Abraham, I suppose I’ve mellowed down and I rarely turn on the stereo at home now. Though I still catch ‘The Voice’ or any music show on TV if they happen to be on when I’m watching. I even watch Chinese songs on Channel V (which, for some reason, is what is shown on our cable in Hanoi). Though I don’t understand a word they are singing, they are not too bad, by the way, reminding me of the latest Mizo hit songs in a way.

All these thoughts came as I was checking through my old files and found something I wrote seven years ago. 26 Oct 2005, to be exact. Back when we had just returned from Africa where we lived without cable TV for almost four years and among the pleasures of being back in India was cheap cable TV and, in particular, VH1 channel, when both MTV and V had all turned desi.

Reading it after all these years made me realise that, musically, I am stuck somewhere in the 90s or the ‘pre-rap’ era. Whatever post-90 or later music I now listen to are basically a continuation of the same old type or genre – new releases from the same singers/groups along with new ones I picked up along the way, but still of the same genre. So, at the risk of this post being too long, I present below something I wrote back in the days…….


They no longer play my songs. Songs that could make you soar and fly ‘high, high, like a bird in the sky….like an eagle that rides on the breeze’. Or songs that bring back many ‘precious memories…..(how they linger)’. Now all they do is ‘rage against the machine’ or rap it up ‘doggy’ style. They no longer have those mellow tunes that could ‘bring the tears to my eyes’ or ‘sunshine on my shoulders’ to make me cry. Its not just ‘the end of the world’ but the end of the world, ‘as we know it’.

My car stereo may be the only place where the ‘strictly rhythm’ Guitar George still plays his stuff with the ‘Sultans of Swing’ though ‘ol Mark is still around doing his thing. The ‘Revival’ has been forgotten, ever since Fogerty left, ‘chooglin’ off ‘around the corner’. Its been a long time since I’ve ‘seen the rain coming down on a sunny day’.  ‘Maybe, someday,….we’ll never know’.

I may not miss ‘Billy Jean’ but what would I not give to ‘beat it’ back to those times when the highlight of the year was the Grammy on DD. Love has nothing to do with it, and I certainly do not miss the long, crammed DTC rides where I would dream of one day owning and driving a scooter which would have been nothing short of getting on the ‘stairway to heaven’.

Life was simple then and all that mattered was somehow finding the right excuse (and a few bucks) to see the new movie playing in Chanakya, and the occasional letter from home, from her. ‘Asiad 72’ was all there was, the ‘bagpiper’ still played his tune even as some of the more ‘spirit-ual’ ones poured out their hearts to the ‘old monk’, while the ‘desi’ from Uttam Nagar would make an occasional appearance towards the end of the month. ‘Kingfisher’ meant a bird in those days while ‘Castle’ meant a big house where princes and princesses lived out their ‘happily ever after’ lives.

Maneka Gandhi had just become a bahu and probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if all the ‘stags’ in India, ‘royal’ or not, were hunted to extinction. The only soda we knew was something that made your ‘changalhme/baih’ foam and give it its fantastic taste. Tonic was something you gave the kids to make them grow faster. ‘Beafeater’ was anyone from the northeast whom you would find making his way to Uttam Nagar every weekend, getting his quota of so-called beef for the coming week. Only the few who were lucky enough to have the right kind of foreign-returned friends had made their acquaintances with Mr. ‘Smirnoff’ and the only ‘label’ we knew were stuck on the back of our collars.

I no longer ‘want my MTV’ which, except for the logo, turned desi many moons ago. Even ‘V’, which hung on for a while, followed MTV, leaving many broken hearts. Then VH1 parked itself in its rightful place in my TV, on Channel 12, and became THE channel we all watched day in and day out. After four years living in the ‘dark continent’, being able to once again watch my old favorites was pure bliss, and finally ‘happy days’ were back.

Except for the occasional, brilliant pieces that can really make you forget your blues and transport you into the ‘zone’, I can no longer appreciate or understand some of the latest, so-called ‘hits’, however much I try. Except for the occasional ‘jewel’, which tells me, ‘…don’t move, this mood is a painting….’, I eagerly and patiently wait for old friends who now appear only in the ‘classics’. They transport me back to those simple, good old days, when ‘heavy metal’ meant workers struggling to push a ‘thela gari’ laden with iron rods from ‘Thangzam Hardware Store’ meant for someone’s pucca building somewhere in town.

It was a time when there was still hope in the air, and people were building for the future. It was a time when metal was still metal, when the only guns you saw were either airguns, which the fortunate few who owned one used to shoot birds with, or policemen with their ancient WWII vintage ‘303’ rifles, or the occasional double or single barrel ‘ulbun’ guns meant for big games, ceremoniously taken out on occasions to be cleaned while the owner would boast of the many animals he had shot, but mostly hung on walls to impress guests. Our village road had just become a pucca road for the first time and even the fact that potholes appeared almost immediately did not take away from the pleasure of walking on a pucca road, because we walked with hope in our steps. Hope that the future held wonderful things for us – that it would bring wonderful things for us and our society, for our children.

Those were the days, my friend…… We thought that the times, they were ‘a-changing’, for the better. Little did we know. Yes, the times, they did change, but the change has been for the worse and our only option now is to cling to our own hopes, if not for a future, at least for a return to old times when life was much more simpler and hope was in the air, the future before us. Our only option now is the hope that ‘someday, somewhere, together’ we will ultimately make it. We can only hope that the time will come when we will carry on from where we left off and finally start rebuilding our shattered lives and society. It would be ‘just like starting over’.  (Delhi, 26 Oct 2005)


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