Sep 19, 2012

The power of Music

Arvind moved to Denmark from India about a month ago. He switched jobs to earn more money. Not good at making new friends, he's been feeling lonely out there.

Bored of sitting alone at his house on a Friday night, he decided to take a walk in the neighborhood. It was snowing outside. The breeze caused the snow flakes to move around randomly. They brushed his face and lifted his mood up a bit. "Each snowflake is unique, I've read it somewhere", he recalled. As he walked further with a lighter mood, he started reflecting on his decision to move out of India and about being social.

He spotted a pub on the way. He stopped and observed the pub from across the street as he lit a cigarette. It looked like a happening pub. People coming out of it seemed happy and people going in looked excited. Everytime the door opened, he could listen to the song that was being played inside. The music was pop, his favorite genre. The song being played was also one of his favorites.

He finished his cigarette and threw the butt away. "What will I do inside alone?", he thought and started walking again. He took a few steps further but then suddenly turned back towards the pub. The DJ enticed him by playing one more of his favorite songs.

He sat at the bar and ordered drinks. He spent a couple of hours there, soaked himself in to the music, got moderately drunk, but spoke to none.

Pop music had set the mood for the party. At midnight, however, the DJ surprised everyone. He played a Bollywood song - Mayya Mayya. The song had Hindi lyrics, an Arabic feel and a global treatment to it. 

People looked at each other with amusement and started enquiring with each other about the song. Thirty seconds in to the song, many started enjoying the fresh sound. Two minutes in to the song, they started shouting "mayya mayya". They were alien to the lyrics but they could anticipate when "mayya mayyawould come in the song.

Arvind sat there smiling, observing the new body language of people. He could sense the exhilaration. "Such is the power of music", he thought. A girl walked up to a smiling Arvind and asked, "Do you know the song?". "Yes", said Arvind. "Can you please write it down for me, I have to download it", the girl requested. "Of course" said Arvind and wrote it down for her. She introduced him to her group of friends. Arvind spent the next two hours with her group, discussing about Music, India, Denmark and the song Mayya Mayya.

At around 2 am, he came out of the pub and started walking back to his house. It was still snowing.

"After all, I'm not so bad at being social", he thought.

The snowflakes brushed his face again. "They may be unique in structure, but they aren't actually that different from each other", he said to himself.

Aug 23, 2012

A ray of hope

Karwagarh is infamous for being prone to riots. The mosques and temples of town propagate prayers through competing loud speakers. Owing to its sensitive nature, the town is formed of clusters of houses. Each cluster has houses of either Muslims or Hindus. People try to avoid living at the peripheral of a cluster, so there is less proximity to the people of other religion. Because of the extent of divide, even a discussion between a Hindu and a Muslim is scrutinized in the town.

Amreesh and Faizal work as technicians at the Karwagarh Power Plant. They are neighbors as well - not within a cluster, but at the peripherals of two adjacent clusters. 


Every summer, a farmer from the neighboring village used to visit Karwagarh to run a sugarcane juice shop. The seasonal business helped him earn more out of the sugarcane he grew in his village fields. His wife and children used to accompany him to run the shop. 

The riots that broke in Karwagarh in May 1991 claimed his entire family. For some reason, he chose to stay back at the deserted fort on the hilly outskirts of the town.



It was 1st January, 1992 - a public holiday barring the power plants. Finishing the day's work, Amreesh and Faizal were engaged in a discussion while cycling their way back home. To give their engagement more time, they started walking with their cycles.

Amreesh: "We had to work while many celebrated a holiday today."
Faizal: "What is it about the 1st of January? Does anyone in Karwagarh actually celebrate the New Year? It's a just another day for us. And that is true for all the date specific events and festivals."
Amreesh: "True. But these events are good. They can be celebrated by people irrespective of their religion. In our town, we never celebrate anything in common."
Faizal: "How can we? Even the toddlers swear by religion here."

As they arrived at the fort, they decided to park their cycles and spend some time there. Faizal asked Amreesh to notice the stone-eyed Saint of whom everybody talks about in the town. He was sitting near the huge entrance of the fort. As they passed him by:

Saint: "Over the past seven months, I've witnessed only love birds and alcoholics in this fort. Never had I imagined that I would find a Hindu and a Muslim together. What brings you here?"

Faizal and Amreesh turned back.

Faizal: "We've heard about you. (Pause) How do you know that we are not from the same religion?"
Saint (laughs): "Because you look like a Muslim and he looks like a Hindu - from head to toe. Why are you here?"
Amreesh: "We were in the middle of a discussion. If we'd continued to move downhill, we would have had to part ways before the housing area began. We wanted to spend some time together. "
Saint: "That would be an interesting discussion then. Was it about peace?"
Faizal: "Yes! I wouldn't have said peace, but it was actually about peace."

As the talkative Faizal seemed interested in the Saint, Amreesh whispered in his ears, “He’s mad. Don't you know what people talk about him?”

Saint (loudly, to Amreesh): “What do you know about me? I was a visitor. I ran a juice shop in this town. When the riots broke, my family ran around for shelter, only to find the doors shut on us. People chose not to take the risk of giving us shelter. The same people you're asking him to refer."
Faizal: "What do you mean? I have been to your shop. Are you the same person?"

The Saint kept looking at Amreesh.

Saint: "You discuss about peace. Tell me something. This is a beautiful fort. Why don't people come here?"
Amreesh (hesitantly): "I don't know."
Saint: "Because they hate their heritage. Hatred between people of different religions does not transform in to love between people of the same religion. This hatred manifests itself in lifestyles and behaviours - in existence. Deep down, people of this town hate themselves."

Amreesh and Faizal stood still.

The Saint took a deep breath, got up and started climbing the stairs that go up to the top of the fort. Faizal and Amreesh followed him. Faizal was intrigued with the discussion and continued asking him questions about whether the people will change - whether they can change. The latter ignored him. He just stood firm next to a flag and looked down below:

The housing area began at 500 meters downhill from the fort. It circled the heart of the town with a radius of four kilometers. The clustered houses were faintly visible as the whole town was lit up with night lights. It was past sunset.

The flag waved as a cool breeze started to blow from behind the fort, moving towards the town.

Amreesh pulled Faizal aside and gestured that they depart and leave the Saint alone. They left the Saint and cycled their way back to town, changing routes 500 meters downhill.


Karwagarh was nearing the end of a regular day. Because of being a town with a power plant, electricity made a good contribution to the construct of this "regular day". It kept alive the TV sets, the fans, the lights and the loud speakers. For Amreesh and Faizal, however, it wasn't such a regular day. Not that they haven't discussed things in the past, but their engagement level and the subsequent turn of events were unusual.

They reached their respective homes. They were reflecting over their interaction with the Saint. With no one around to discuss further, they were about to give in to the construct of the regular life. Just then, the electricity went off!

People were taken aback as their prayers got interrupted. Some were surprised of the sudden darkness. Some cursed the efficient power plant for its inefficiency. After some shock, people started adjusting to the situation. 

The cool breeze lured people up to the roof or out of their houses. Faizal and Amreesh also came on to their respective roof-tops. Ordinarily, they ignore each other in public. Today was different - they started talking:

Amreesh: "What happened to the electricity today? Last it went off was .. when? I don’t even remember."
Faizal: "Even I'm surprised! There were no issues at the plant or with the network when we finished our shifts."
Amreesh: "It's been an interesting day. (Pause) And I think that Saint had a point. The fort is our heritage, and yet, it brings no sense of togetherness to us."
Faizal: "Do you see absolutely any sense of togetherness in this town?" ....

People of the town, at this moment, were living literally in the dark.

.... and just then, the electricity came back!

It lit a smile on people's faces. Many jumped on the rooftops and many shouted on the streets out of happiness. Many whistled - in patterns - taking the town in to a state of joyful trance. People embraced the change and for once, the entire town celebrated together. Unknowingly.

The stubborn construct of the "regular day" engulfed the happy celebration in a few minutes. But it left two people out of its grip - Faizal and Amreesh.

They looked at each other and had a speechless conversation. Then they turned towards the fort and aimed for an eye contact near the flattering flag - through a ray of hope.


Feb 11, 2012


"What's the central thought, what did he tell you?" asked Irshad.

"The character wants to follow his dreams but the situations are always complex; emotionally. When he decides to listen to his heart, life ahead looks more difficult. He wants to be free now. Free like a bird. Fly. Like a bird," replied Dileep.

"Hmm .. the journey has to have some uncarved and abrupt elements then, it can not be beautiful or swift," said Irshad.

"I don't know, let's figure that out," said Dileep.

It was a breezy cold morning. Irshad and Dileep were composing a song. Holding a cup of hot coffee in his hand, Dileep opened up the window-

The Sun was yet to rise. The view from the window had a depth of many kilometers. The city life was slowly making itself visible in bits and pieces. The snapshot from the window told you a story - a story of how the city geared up for the day. The noise, the tranquility. The concrete, the people. The tar, the greens.

And the birds.

"Sparrow is definitely 'the common man', isn't it? Flaps its wings all the time, keeps working and is programmed not to relax or reflect," asked Dileep.

"Yeah. It is important although. Everybody is important," said Irshad.

"I know that. Just wanted your opinion. Look at that Vulture. It's very different from the other birds, isn't it?" asked Dileep.

"Yes. Too dispassionate to pull off a Rockstar although," said Irshad.

"Hmm .. Pigeon looks like a mix. Looks unsettled like sparrows but flaps less like Vultures. Did you ever notice that it turns its neck in quantums. May be it looks at the world differently than the other birds," said Dileep.

"Good quality for a Rockstar, you think?" asked Irshad.

"Pigeon .. hmm .. can't be .. just looking at the world differently is not enough. It's life looks fair and simple enough. Situations must force the Rockstar to fly. Fly far. Again and again and again," said Dileep.

Just then, an Albatross flew from double the height the Vulture was flying at. Irshad turned towards Dileep as the latter kept staring at it till it vanished from the field of view.

"You got your Rockstar, didn't you?" asked Irshad Kamil.

"We did!" said Dileep Kumar (popularly known as A.R.Rahman). "Also, we were wrong. The journey need not be abrupt, it can be beautiful and swift," he said.

"But why did you have to find a bird?" asked Irshad Kamil.

"There isn't any true Rockstar in India, and there can not possibly be one. Who do I go to and get a feel of the journey from?" said Rahman.

"Let's start the song with the soul taking off and starting to soar. We'll bring in the protagonist centric lyrics later to put the song in context of the movie", said Rahman.