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The Differences Make It Fun

How similar do people have to be to get along? How different can they be?

He is a loner, doesn’t like too much attention and prefers minimalism. I’m the original social butterfly, I thrive on company and drama is my style.

On the surface, our interests seem to match. But scratch that and we uncover big differences. He likes literature, thinks Shakespeare had the groove and enjoys Charles Dickens. I’ve never actually read any Bard originals (yes, kill me) and I couldn’t decide if Oliver Twist or David Copperfield was the most depressing thing I’d ever read (then I read Thomas Hardy who won hands-down). I love pop culture, the flash and dazzle, the kitsch and even the fleeting impressions it barely leaves on our psyche. He has a mild disdain for anything not deep or meaningful.

I read him a bit of my novel. He listened carefully, offered his thoughts and then admitted quite truthfully that it wasn’t his thing. That stung but only in the way that it stings that my best friend doesn’t read my blog or that my dad is never very impressed by anything I do. It’s a sting at best but it doesn’t really hurt. Not really.

To my great surprise, he doesn’t feel very passionately about writing and literature even though I know that he can write (well) and does appreciate the fineness of literature. It seemed quite inconceivable to me that someone who knew this world could fail to be deeply moved by it.

But then we got to music and it started to make sense. I’ve been singing since I was 4, had classical training and guitar lessons and even performed on stage. But it has never been anything more than a pleasant hobby, one I really can do with or without. It doesn’t even rank as highly as art on my list. He, on the other hand, is deeply devoted, nearly fanatical about music. Hip-hop to be precise, a genre that I never understood or (in all fairness) paid much attention to. But it surrounds him where he goes, on his phone and his computer, plugged into his ears whenever he’s waiting for me and in most of his conversational references.

I watched him perform earlier this week, freestyle rapping at a musical Open Mic. Even if this genre is new to me, I can appreciate the gift of spontaneous performance, the ability to hold the audience in the palm of one’s hand. He’s good, very good and that’s something even I can tell. I was terribly proud of him, thrilled at the applause that followed his act and struck by that slightly lovesick thought of,

That’s who I’m with? How did I ever get so lucky?!

He finished, bowed and turned around. A number of people rushed up to him to speak and suddenly, right there, was my Mr.Everyday, shy all at once and unsure about how to handle the bright spotlight. He’s a performer all right but off-stage, he’s just a regular, sweet guy with no fancy airs about him. It was both a sobering and a sweet insight.

He slid into the booth beside me, clearly thankful as the crowd’s attention shifted to the next performer. Then he talked about his performance for a bit and I listened. And we watched the other musicians. Towards the end of the night, he leaned over and said,

“I just realised that you like me, the person much more than you like me, the performer. I like that.”

I found a great guy, I did. Someone who sees both himself and me, beyond our professions and talents and makes it possible for this relationship to be between two real people instead of a competition.

To come back to my original thought, I guess I now understand what people mean when they say they are grateful for their differences. His non-starry-eyedness about my dreams and talents gives me perspective and keeps me grounded and (hopefully) I do the same for him. We have different worlds that we each rule but we walk alone in them. And when we meet, we form something together, that belongs to both of us equally. I never realized sharing could be so much fun.

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A Voice That Shatters Glass…The Glass Ceiling!

Music is an integral part of every youth festival, highlighted by the crowds at Antakshari, and Music Quiz events. The music competition is usually the grand highlight of at least one evening. That we are home to the biggest film industry in the world shows in the fact that the event almost always features exclusive Bollywood songs.

I was an amateur singer in college…jamming, impromptu background scores in classroom capers, singing the national anthem on Republic Day and invocation prayers during college events gave me aspirations towards musical stardom on campus.

Any regular will tell you that there is a collection of 5-6 favorites that are rendered by the participants. There are normally an equal number of male and female singers since the competition (quite fairly) assesses musical ability regardless of gender. Audience response is a key determinant in judging performance so seasoned participants pick songs that suit their temperament and sing them in a way that is proven to move the audience. A good singer can expect a collective sigh over Tadap Tadap ke and only conclude Saara zamana haseenon ka deewana successfully if at least a few whistles have been heard. My male counterparts spanned the gamut of musical Bollywood from comedy (Pag ghungroo bandh Meera naachi – Namak Halal) to melancholy (Tanhaai Dil Chahta hai), classical (Laga chunari mein daag) and romance (Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai).

I tested the waters and quickly stumbled onto hot favorites like Mann kyon beheka (Utsav), Morni bagha ma (Lamhe) and Dil ne kaha chupke se (1942-A Love Story). But as a performer, these songs always left me feeling somewhat…incomplete. I longed for a real, full-bodied song that would let me snatch up the audience like the boy’s songs did. It took awhile to build a repertoire of songs that could get the audience shaking.

Then a male friend inquired,

Why do you always sing songs like this? It’s either cabaret or item numbers!

I protested,

What? I sang Dil Cheez Kya hai last time! It has a classical base.

Pat came the reply,

And it is a mujra.

And that’s when it hit me. There just aren’t powerful solos for women in Bollywood music! The most memorable songs are genteel lovestruck ballads of the sort that depict a delicate damsel awaiting her shehzada on safed ghoda riding to her rescue. Or the semi-soulful/mournful sort of the Na koi umang hai variety alternated by the haunting Kahin deep jale kaheen dil tunes.

And what of duets? For those acquainted with music, even a duet has a leader and a follower. Male and female voices work in different ranges of pitch and it is almost always the female voice that is arranged around the male voice. Symbolically, a typical Hindi duet usually has the male voice as the main, solid body with the female voice as a decorative motif twining around it, hitting the high notes occasionally. It is beautiful in its own way. It is art after all, and we’ve enjoyed it for decades.

But art is also about challenging boundaries and building something new, in thought and in expression. I defy you to name one Bollywood duet that has a female lead. I’m not counting such airs as Chura Liya hai which, while an undoubtedly spectacular classic, certainly does not make a case for powerful female expression.

I managed to find only one song – Hai Rama (Rangeela) which won us a first prize (and a fair bit of male attention coming my way…ha!). I’ll never forget the sheer headiness of singing this song, which my partner could not have shared. It was my song after all and all he was, was the gracious support voice. I got to set the pitch, the rhythm and the tone of the song. And most of all, it was my responsibility to convey the mood of the song. That’s what powerful expression is all about!

But for most part, in duets I had to settle for playing second fiddle (or voice) to such tunes as Humko hamhi se chura lo (Mohabbatein), Dekha ek khwab to yeh silsilay hue (Silsila) and Ek main aur ek tu (Khel khel mein).

There was some leeway in the solos and thank God for the magic of Asha and R.D.Burman! Quite unexpectedly, in my quest to wear the pants in the musical family, I had wandered into Asha Bhosale territory. Her success formula worked for me as well. While Lata didi was ruling the AIR roost with her ‘good little girl’ melodies, Asha entered the only domain left to her –saucy cabaret songs, scintillating dance numbers and generally the kind of songs that Helen and Bindu danced to but would never be picturised on the heroine. I took the stage with Yeh mera dil pyaar ka deewana (Don) and Piya tu ab to aaja (Moneeekka my darling, notwithstanding!). Sauciness was the only recourse left to Asha and it was the only way I could find, to make my kind of music. It just would take Madhubala’s verve to carry off a Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya. But for most part, even in music, the bad girl was the only one who got to taste power.

Popular hindi music hasn’t changed all that much. The few powerful female solos are still camouflaged in melodrama, raunch or abstraction. Think Zinda hoon main, Beedi jalaile, Pari hoon main.

Singing for the opposite sex would be another high. We enjoyed Kailash Kher’s soulful

Tune kya kar dala, mar gayee main, mit gayee main, ho gayee main teri deewani..

But I somehow can’t see Sunidhi Chauhan or Shreya Ghoshal getting the same reaction to a very spirited rendition

Gum shuda…

 

Even assuming that the male-female roles are still rather rigidly defined in Indian cinema, we find even gender-neutral emotions like inspiration voiced by male singers. While Baar baar haan (Lagaan) and Chak de (Chak de) may be too strongly sports-testosterone linked, what of Yeh tara, woh tara (Swades) and Bulla ke jaana main kaun (Rabbi Shergill)? I would have loved to have done a Bas itna sa khwab hai (Yes Boss) but I was vetoed by my team on account of it being a ‘male song’. I still don’t get it…women have dreams and ambitions too! And all we have to speak for it is Dil hai chota sa, choti si aasha (Roja)!

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A version is also posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Manguide 3: Hobbies & Interests

We know where they live. We know what they do for a living. But what do they do that makes their life more than an existance?

I used to wonder at people who had no hobbies or interests at all….I mean, what is that all about???!!! Now I know a new breed of people. The kind who grew up from the ones I mentioned earlier and ‘cultivated’ a few hobbies. I know it is perfectly appropriate to say that a hobby is cultivated but well…that’s just it, isn’t it? As far as I’m concerned, you love doing what you love doing because you love doing it. Simple? Not to a lot of people apparantly. So here’s a sassy ode to my favorite species of lab rats and the things that they claim to enjoy doing! Ha!

The Bibliophile: Okay scream your lungs hoarse, men, before you proceed reading. Yes, tell me that some of you actually do enjoy reading. Fine, now that we have that out of the way, here’s why I don’t believe you. I claim to love reading. I like some authors, some ideologies, some styles of writing and I know why I like them. I think over what I read and I have an opinion. Reading is, I have said before, like sitting inside another person’s head and seeing the world through their eyes. But it doesn’t stop there!!!! I am so sick, sick, sick and tired of men who parrot out things other people have said. Like hello, I know some brilliant people have said some brilliant things but quoting them ad nauseum does not make you appear intelligent, it just reminds me of a tape-recorder. And oh, by the way Peter Drucker, business periodicals and Chicken Soup for the soul don’t count as signs that you are a bibliophile. So for gawdssakes, ladies, before drooling over the ‘intellectual’ find out whether that’s second-hand intelligence that you’re being fed!

The Listener: Likewise actually where music is concerned, as for books. Moreover I want to strangle the person who said ‘If music be the food of love…’ (oh deyaam, was that Shakespeare?). Beware, beware, beware of the specimen that has a song for every one of your moods, women. That’s a man who has been reading ‘How to hook a woman by snooping into her playlist’. Yeah, yeah I’m a cynic. And I’ve just heard too many renditions of ‘Lady in Red’. I have nothing against romantic numbers but its fun to turn around and tell the guy you dig Floyd and Maiden and see what he comes up with then.

The Musician: As opposed to the above species that only listens to music, this one actually makes music. Now he may be good or he may not. I’ve known a few and I can tell you most artists, even the amateurs are faintly temperamental. Which is probably part of their allure (oh, ask me!!) On the other hand, do be prepared to become the audience for the anthology of your new boyfriend’s compositions. Not to mention private renditions of their works-in-progress. A song, just like a building can be a masterpiece when complete. But just like the brick-laying and cement-mixing isn’t pretty, the process of finding the correct tune, getting it right on those instruments is fairly nerve-wracking (especially if you have to listen to ever goddamn plink and wrong boom-thump) Another point to note is he’s likely to have some kind of a band, even if they only play in the car park (we don’t have that many garages here!) And no, if you think you like one musician and you’ll love the lot, you’re likely to be disappointed. It was a musician-boyfriend who pointed out the different personality types in a band. He said,

The lead guitarist is probably a charmer, the smooth talker, who gets in with all the babes. He’s the most visible one of course. The drummer is likely to be anti-social, which is why he prefers sitting behind the huge set up making big noise and not being disturbed by the world.

Ah, and what did my boyfriend do? He was the bass guitarist, easy-going and charming enough to be part of the ‘front’ but not so ambitious as to want to upstage the lead. I validate that as well as his observation of the rest of the band. Pick your musician with care.

The Traveller: Now this type is fairly fascinating for his multiple exposure. I’m however crossed by the sneaky suspicion that he views the world by a Marie Antoinette-esque viewpoint, oblivious to the idea that most people wouldn’t choose to live in shanties, dirty roads et al if they had a choice. Besides, you know what someone’s grandma said (mine didn’t, she wouldn’t have approved of dating!)…”Don’t fall in love with a traveller, I’ll tell you why, he’ll take you to the airport and kiss you goodbye.” Well, realistically speaking this is obviously a man who likes a change in scenery ever so often so what does that say about his stability? Debatable I know, but worth thinking about.

The Conoisseur: Oh god, how I hate/loathe/detest/abhor this type! His muse may be wine, fine art or literature. Whatever it is, you can be assured that you won’t be spared without a lesson at every opportunity. And no, don’t think it’ll work out well if you share the taste. The conoisseur is snobbish about his interest and it defines him. He’ll brook no competition and it will perpetually be a game of one-upmanship of who knows better. Blah, who gives a damn…I know I’ve wanted to stuff the grand interest in some extremely uncomfortable places.

The Couch Potato: Ah, the only real hobby that my generation has. It’s called the idiot box, darling, but the idiots sit outside it not inside. Nuff’ said.

The Monitor Maniac: Okay, this is a tad different from Couch Potato. The internet is a smorgasbord of delights after all. Gaming, chat, blogging and let’s not forget…porn. There’s a whole new world in there! So what’re you doing outside it, baby? Perhaps you met online. Chweet. Maybe you should keep it that way instead of trying to take it offline. ‘Never the twain shall meet. So forget about the “Do you think we should meet?” It spells doom for an online relationship in the exact same way that three other little words do on a real-world relationship.

The Gamer: As specifically different from Couch Potato and Monitor Maniac. Some things that should be warning signs. 1. He enjoys speeding, fighting and cussing. 2. He is thrilled by the idea of hitting a few buttons and changing lives. 3. His latest score defines how happy he is. Once again, he’s similar to the Conoisseur in that his interest governs his sense of self-worth and while he may seem to gravitate to you on the grounds of shared interest, he most certainly won’t brook any competition. Well, go battle it out over the joysticks if you like. I’ve thrown the damn lot out of the window with the remote control.

The Artist: Now this type I do like. Also unlike the Gamer/Conoisseur, there’s no such a thing as competition among those who love their art and are confident about it. If you share the interest, you might even learn something from each other. On the other hand, there is the temperament, weirdness and the addictions that build the stereotype. Ah well, roll me another joint baby…

The Sportsman: This one as different from the Gamer since he plays games in the real world, not on a computer/TV screen/mobile phone. I don’t actually know too many of this type, possibly since I gravitate to the more ‘heavy-head’ types. I imagine the guy would be quite pleasant if he played some sort of team sport though there’s the whole thing of his having way too many ‘boys’ nights out’. I’m mortally afraid (like every other woman) of the locker-room talk phenomena as well. But that’s unfair I guess, men gossip as a rule, behind lockers or water-coolers. On the other hand, this type is likely to be closer to the whole virile-brutal-masculine thought than his less ‘active’ counterparts. Well, if you can bear to live in ‘Oog hunt. Oog kill. Oog be number 1.’ land, then he’s the one for you. Besides he’ll come in useful if you’re faced by a gang of hooligans.

The Gastronome: I never know what to say to this type. I’m after all, someone who thinks that food is fuel to the body-machine and nothing more. Also, the typical Indian man who loves food is scandalised by the thought of a woman who doesn’t enjoy cooking and horrors, admits to it as well! Whatever on earth can be so interesting about eating? I’m flummoxed. But well, this man is probably the easiest to hook with the age-old wisdom of the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach. Hmm, just watch it with the oily snacks though, you don’t want that adage to refer to cholestrol and have him blame you for his deteriorating health.

The Chef: Yes, this type I am absolutely floored by. When a woman can go out and do things that men have been doing for years, what’s better than a man who comes in and does what we’ve been doing for years? A man who likes cooking is a big, big, big turn-on. Besides this is one interest he can’t fib about. 🙂

Have fun with the boys….just check in on how they’re having their fun!

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