Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Music Dies... Life Goes On...

I stood at the edge of the platform and bent ahead. Many others were bending too, hindering my view of the tracks. I could see the purple and white monster in the distance. Yes, a monster! That's what the train is, just rushing ahead without looking at anything in its path, devouring whatever comes in its way.

Back to reality! Can't think about anything else when a train's approaching! There's always someone ready to push you down just for that window seat or the standing space by the door. It's worse than a rat race.

There! The train entered the platform. I had to get into the fourth compartment. The first class. Had to time my jump properly today though. I didn't want the window seat, not going to Churchgate. Have to alight at Borivali, so have to stand at the door.

There. The first compartment passed by. Now the second. Here comes the ladies' coach. The next is mine, Better get ready. Oh shit! It's too fast. I'll try the second door. Yes, got in. Don't go too far. Stand by the side. Ouch. Big mistake. People are still getting in.

"Look at this crackpot. Standing at the side."

"Push him," said another bald guy.

"Arre, uncle, I have to get down at Borivali," I protested.

"So what? This is our regular place, don't you know that?" said the baldy.

"Arre how will he know?" said a man wearing a pink shirt, "He's the kid who jumps early to catch that window seat. What happened today?"

"I have to get down at Borivali."

"Aww, let him stand here, Tawde. Bachcha hain. Anyway, it's just two stations away."

Praise be to Pinky! These "regulars" can be irritating at times. Frustrating too. But then what can a single person like me do? They might as well throw me under the tracks and no one would dare say a word to them. But well, that's Bombay, throw me under, life still would go on!

"So Tawde," Baldy spoke, "Where's the kirtan book? Hope you brought the mini-tabla today."

"Yes, I did," said Tawde profusely.

Damn it!!! I forgot. This was the second door. That's where the bhajans happen! Why did I miss the first door?

"Here, today's prasad is also special. My maid came back from Shirdi," Pinky said with pride, as if it proved that the maid's trip made him overtly religious, "Today we are blessed much more."

Well, you are also cursed much more today, thanks to me!

The train honked, time to leave. Luckily my destination was just 15 minutes away, and my headset would hopefully deafen the outside world. Ah! First song: American Pie! Bliss!

People were still approaching the door to get in. But there was no space at all. That's what the fools at the door were telling them. Actually in here there was plenty of space. For our Bhajan members to sit down in peace. And disrupt other's peace!

The train gave a final honk and it slowly started moving. Just then Pinky shouted, "Hey, Shrivastav's coming. Hold him and let him get in." Shrivastav was probably a member of the bhajan party. That's why he was getting a VIP entry!

I could see Shrivastav. He was wearing red and running towards the train in full throttle. The train had already caught up good speed though. Tawde put out his hand for Shrivastav. Shrivastav tried reaching for it and just got hold of it. And then the unthinkable happened.

Shrivastav's foot slipped off the footboard. Tawde's hand fumbled too. Shrivastav fell. Under the train. The monster had devoured his latest meal. Someone immediately pulled the chain. The train stopped. Everyone at the doors looked out. People at the windows too tried to get a look. The people inside were wondering what had happened. Everyone peeped out like one would in a street fight. Only this was worse. Much worse.

Tawde was on the platform, totally aghast. So were his companions Baldy and Pinky. I didn't get down to watch the body unlike others. I wouldn't be able to handle it. I just wouldn't.

The train halted there for another ten minutes. The hamaals came but they couldn't take the body unless the train left. They spoke to the motorman, who immediately blew the train's horn. The train was ready to leave. Again.

Tawde, Pinky and Baldy stayed back. After all Shrivastav was their friend.

There was no bhajan that day. The music died that day. For them. Especially for Tawde.

I had had an unusual morning today. But then this is Bombay. Everyone has an unusual day once in a while. This is Bombay - the city of uncommon, unusual extraordinariness.

There was no one hanging at the door now. Fifteen minutes for my destination. I hung at the door. Waiting for Borivali. Life goes on.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Melodious Raconteurs

Rarely does one find songs that tell a story; a good story is even more difficult to find. Around a couple of days ago, my friend Zena forwarded me a song which told a very beautiful story. (The song will be mentioned in the post). I then started thinking about the other songs which recite a story. And though I already knew some, I decided to find a few more. I downloaded the ones which caught my interest. And now I shall name those which I've come to like.
P.S.: For me, a song should have not only good lyrics, but also a good tune. So my favourites list here will have those songs that tell a good story as well as bear a melodious tune, though I will mention the other one of which I did not like the tune but had good lyrics.

1. Song: Cat's In The Cradle, Writers: Harry Chapin, Sandy Chapin, Version I Like: Ugly Kid Joe
And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin home, dad, I don’t know when,
But we'll get together then, Son,
You know we'll have a good time then.
Besides referencing three nursery rhymes in the chorus, Cat's In The Cradle talks about a deteriorating relationship between a father and his son. I'm not going to outline the entire story, for that you can check the lyrics and download the song, but just wanted to point out the way in which Sandy Chapin (Harry's wife) had brought to the fore the problems among parents and children in general. I really liked the cover version by Ugly Kid Joe.

2. Song: Last Kiss, Writer: Wayne Cochran, Version I Like: Pearl Jam (No doubt about that! Never heard of a single person who liked, or for that matter even heard, the original)
Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world. 
This is one of my favourite love songs too. Talks about the idea of undying love in a way no other song speaks of. One of the best stories ever, according to me, the original, I felt, was devoid of the emotion that should accompany it, which Pearl Jam's cover magnificently added to it. Plain magic!

3. Song: Coward Of The County, Writers: Roger Bowling, Billy Ed Wheeler. Version I Like: Kenny Rogers (the original)
"Promise me, son, not to do the things I've done.
Walk away from trouble if you can.
Now it won't mean you're weak if you turn the other cheek.
I hope you're old enough to understand:
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man."
This was the song Zena forwarded to me and even though I'd heard this song many times before I never knew what its name was. The lyrics of this song brought tears to my eyes. Enough said! (Not being melodramatic, and by the way, boys cry too!)

4. Song: Whiskey Lullaby, Writers: Bill Anderson, Jon Randall, Version I Liked: Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss (the original)
We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die
And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby
If Last Kiss was about undying love, then Whiskey Lullaby is about broken love and its consequences. Set to a tearful tune, it is also beautifully sung by Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss.

5. Song: Fast Car, Writer: Tracy Chapman, Version I Liked: Tracy Chapman (the original)
You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way 
Tracy Chapman has always been hailed as one of the best songwriters ever. This was her first single and it immediately made an impact. A storyteller of class, this song is "not really about a car at all... Basically it's about a relationship that doesn't work out because it's starting from the wrong place." (Chapman's words)

6: Song: Stan, Writer: Eminem, Dido Armstrong, Version I Liked: Eminem & Dido (Duh!!!)
See everything you say is real, and I respect you cause you tell it
My girlfriend's jealous cause I talk about you 24/7
But she don't know you like I know you Slim, no one does
She don't know what it was like for people like us growin up
You gotta call me man, I'll be the biggest fan you'll ever lose
Sincerely yours, Stan -- P.S.
We should be together too
Funny, in your face, hilarious and yet scary, Stan is a gem of a story. And to think rappers otherwise only talk about money, women and sex; Stan stands out among rap songs.

7. Song: Mockingbird, Writer: M. Mathers, L. Resto, Version I Liked: Eminem
Now hush little baby, don't you cry
Everything's gonna be alright
Stiffen that upper lip up little lady, I told ya
Daddy's here to hold ya through the night
I know mommy's not here right now and we don't know why
We feel how we feel inside
It may seem a little crazy, pretty baby
But I promise momma's gon' be alright
I'm not a fan of Eminem, I don't like rap much as a genre, but Eminem is a really good songwriter. If Stan showed his humorous side, Mockingbird shows his serious one. More than a story this was a personal confession though, but a very sincere one at that.

8. Song: Hazard, Writer: Richard Marx, Version I Liked: Richard Marx
We used to walk down by the river
She loved to watch the sun go down
We used to walk along the river
And dream our way out of this town ... 
Hazard tells a depressing story of a lost love, it's a story that can really make one feel sad. Even Richard Marx's voice and the haunting music adds to the entire feel of the song.

And now some songs that did not make the list:
1. Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue'
2. Billy Joel's 'Scenes From An Italian Restaurant' (This is divided into 3 parts, the 3rd one is the place where the story occurs)
3. Madonna's 'American Pie' (Yes, I know the original is by Don McLean, and people might consider me insane for liking Madonna's version over McLean's. But well, that's my choice. About the lyrics, good storytelling, but somehow didn't feel it good enough to be on my list.)
4. Pat Boone & Trini Lopez's 'Speedy Gonzales' (Could this be counted as a story? That's a question mark, actually. But the song does tell us a story if you read through the lyrics. So I put it in this list.)
5. Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler'
6. Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley's 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light'