Of Planet M, Boyzone and the days we used to pay to posess music

No matter what they tell you… A hot air balloon and god looking boys singing to me…

That’s what I remember of this song. I was a geek who couldn’t get words right in a song back then. Whenever the song played on the radio, I’d pay close attention to their voices which were as smooth as their clean shaven faces… How I longed to own the cassette and just as I finished saving up the paisa, BCCL launched their music store, Planet M. My dad decided that it would be a great Sunday activity to trudge all the way to VT and spend the afternoon surfing. The afternoon turned into late evening as we browsed through CDs, cassettes and what not. CDs used to cost about Rs.600/- back then and the good daughter that I was, I picked all the CDs of the albums I wanted and asked someone to help me locate the cassettes. They cost Rs.125/- which was also a huge amount for the teenager I was, but hey!

My dad saw what I was doing and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘CDs are far better and they are the future, forget the cassettes, get the CDs,’ he told me. He picked up rock and roll, R&B, Rock, Soul and I stuck to Hindi films, boy bands and a load of stuff that a teenager’s music dreams were made of. I glanced at his pile, and I wondered why I didn’t have my dad’s taste in music. I was afraid he’d be ashamed of my bubble-gum taste in music. Even if he was, he never let me feel that way.

At the cash counter, we realized that we had picked up CDs worth nearly 16 grand. No point in being greedy and with a heavy heart we downsized our shopping baskets. Eventually we coughed up nearly 9 grand on CDs and though it was a number that looked better than 16K, it was an exorbitant sum.
“Why can’t simple things like music be free Dad?” I asked, afraid that with my Rs.200/- allowance, I’d never be able to make such a big purchase again.
He shrugged. About six to seven months later, I discovered Napster…

‘Dad, come come let me show you this,’ I gushed about Napster and how music was now going to be free.
‘You’re lucky,’ is all he said. He continued to listen to his CDs and admire his LPs but on his 51st birthday, me and the sister gifted him an iPod. The fat, 40GB one, And all his CDs were sent into a cupboard…

I guess I’ll never be able to thank him enough for being so generous to me. I guess I will never know the kind of effort he’d gone through back in the day to lay his hands on an album he wanted to listen to. I guess I will never understand how he had to deal with parents who didn’t appreciate loud ‘Kiristav’ (Christians in Marathi) music blaring from their very ‘Marathi’ household. But I know this, I will always be grateful to him for making me and the sister who we are today. We will always be thankful to him for giving to us, his musical ear.

I don’t know what spurred this post on… I was looking for something and landed on a pile of Rolling Stone magazines from the 80s that Vivek Kaka gifted me, and then I found dad’s LPs and then I found the CDs we bought at Planet M. It’s always good to give your memories a chance to flow out on paper, isn’t it?

No matter what they tell you… A hot air balloon and god looking boys singing to me… That’s what I remember of this song. I was a geek who couldn’t get words right in a song back then. Whenever the song played on the radio, I’d pay close attention to their voices which were as smooth as their clean shaven faces… How I longed to own the cassette and just as I finished saving up the paisa, BCCL launched their music store, Planet M. My dad decided that it would be a great Sunday activity to trudge all the way to VT and spend the afternoon surfing. The afternoon turned into late evening as we browsed through CDs, cassettes and what not. CDs used to cost about Rs.600/- back then and the good daughter that I was, I picked all the CDs of the albums I wanted and asked someone to help me locate the cassettes. They cost Rs.125/- which was also a huge amount for the teenager I was, but hey!
My dad saw what I was doing and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘CDs are far better and they are the future, forget the cassettes, get the CDs,’ he told me. He picked up rock and roll, R&B, Rock, Soul and I stuck to Hindi films, boy bands and a load of stuff that a teenager’s music dreams were made of. I glanced at his pile, and I wondered why I didn’t have my dad’s taste in music. I was afraid he’d be ashamed of my bubble-gum taste in music. Even if he was, he never let me feel that way.
At the cash counter, we realized that we had picked up CDs worth nearly 16 grand. No point in being greedy and with a heavy heart we downsized our shopping baskets. Eventually we coughed up nearly 9 grand on CDs and though it was a number that looked better than 16K, it was an exorbitant sum.
“Why can’t simple things like music be free Dad?” I asked, afraid that with my Rs.200/- allowance, I’d never be able to make such a big purchase again.
He shrugged. About six to seven months later, I discovered Napster…
‘Dad, come come let me show you this,’ I gushed about Napster and how music was now going to be free.
‘You’re lucky,’ is all he said. He continued to listen to his CDs and admire his LPs but on his 51st birthday, me and the sister gifted him an iPod. The fat, 40GB one, And all his CDs were sent into a cupboard…
I guess I’ll never be able to thank him enough for being so generous to me. I guess I will never know the kind of effort he’d gone through back in the day to lay his hands on an album he wanted to listen to. I guess I will never understand how he had to deal with parents who didn’t appreciate loud ‘Kiristav’ (Christians in Marathi) music blaring from their very ‘Marathi’ household. But I know this, I will always be grateful to him for making me and the sister who we are today. We will always be thankful to him for giving to us, his musical ear.
I don’t know what spurred this post on… I was looking for something and landed on a pile of Rolling Stone magazines from the 80s that Vivek Kaka gifted me, and then I found dad’s LPs and then I found the CDs we bought at Planet M. It’s always good to give your memories a chance to flow out on paper, isn’t it?

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Picture Story : Chapter 2

She didn’t have to open the note to know what was in there. She held the note close to her nose. She could smell the tobacco off his fingers. He still smoked. She smiled and nodded a little before opening the note. In long strokes of cursive writing it said, ‘Do you remember?’
The handwriting, the peculiar scent of cigarettes mixed with a light scent of cologne screamed his name. He didn’t have to sign things to make his presence felt.
She remembered. Of course she did. Those evenings, as the sun set on the lovely beach by their house. She remembered lighting up candles. They had electricity of course, but her grandma preferred candle light. The shadows danced on the chipped walls of their once beautiful mansion. The shadows hid the cracked walls and chipped paint.
‘The candle light makes the house look regal,’ her grandma would say. To her, a teenager about to enter college, the pretence was annoying, but she played along. She also swore that she would one day be rich enough to fix those chipped walls so her home would look like it did back in her childhood.
She remembered switching on the radio in her room, and as the music echoed within the four walls of her room. She dreamt of roses, gardens, pretty dresses and pretty jewellery and fancy things. And she dreamt of a prince charming… She’d lose track of time as the radio played tune after tune for her to dream to. The radio was made redundant the day he walked into her life. He was everything she dreamt of… And she had never switched on the radio until that evening that he walked away… The radio brought back her dreams and with her broken heart, she found those memories impossible to deal with.
She walked out of her room, down into the den. She opened an antic closet and pulled out an old chest. She clicked the chest open and rummaged through some stuff. Bottle caps, rag dolls, ribbons, little books and finally, that little transistor radio. She placed it on the table and stared at it.
Why was he doing this to her? Why was he taking her back to a time she had buried deep in the folds of her memory… Why?

Picture by: @nomadwanderer

Click here to see @nomadwanderer’s photographs. She’s awesome!

Every Picture Tells A Story- A new project

Ever since Phil Collins came into my life, this song title has fascinated me. So here I am, borrowing from @nomadwanderer’s lens… She takes the pictures, i tell the story… Let’s see where this takes us…

Project Picture Stories: 1

She clicked the lock open before walking into her room. Something felt different about the room. She laid her bags down on the ornate love seat and took off her sunglasses with her diamonds studded fingers. She carefully folded them and walked over to her dresser where she placed them… She let her fingers run across the smooth edges of the antique dresser… She smiled as she looked at her make-up, perfumes and jewellery neatly lined up… And in the corner was a small photo. The only woman in this world, she wished she could be.
She glanced at the photo and then at the mirror. She looked similar to the woman in the photo and yet so different. Age had left its marks on the corners of her mouth and eyes, but there was a sparkle in the eyes that she had protected from the cruel hands of age. She looked at the photograph again.
The woman wore black against a black background, making her seem like a floating body.
She looked at the mirror. She was wearing a similar black boat necked dress. But she was missing the beautiful neck piece. She touched her bare neck…
The bare neck was a reminder…
She made her way across to the bed as she hugged herself. The room was a little cold… ‘The heating must be off,’ she thought to herself. She sat down on her bed and hugged herself as she let out a wistful sigh. She hated thinking of the past, but then…
Suddenly something on the table by the window caught her eye. She looked shocked, bewildered and happy at the same time. She walked over to the table, too afraid to touch it. She didn’t want it to disappear. Her hand almost went up to the necklace that lay staring at her. Her diamonds and sapphires seemed pale against the rich green. The green, locked away from the clutches of time, devoid of any marks of age… The green that had adorned her neck when it was smooth like porcelain, begged to be worn… She pulled her hand back and touched her bare neck again… There were wrinkles. Time had touched her, but her memories- they were just as fresh as the green. Then she saw the neatly folded note below the necklace. And she knew…
@nomadwanderer’s picture came from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaurwakee/4218839653/

Happy Birthday, Mariam…

There’s a thrill when you make a major change and land up in an alien environment. You don’t know how things are going to be, you don’t even know if you will deal with them. I was always told that people around you give you the strength to work through that uncertainty. They infuse you with energy, inspiration and no matter how alien or bleak the environment they’ll tell you that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Luckily enough, I have always had people like that around me. But I left them all behind and landed in UK. From being a confident Mumbai girl, I was the latest export from India, a meek, lost girl in the Queen’s land. I’d spent a week with the Kale family but as I drove down to the uni with my family, I started feeling that knot in my tummy. I was scared. I had never lived on my own, I had never been so far away from my friends and I had never ever been friendless. Well, not since high-school, but let’s not go there.

As the car wove through the University of Sussex campus, I was bright eyed and as we located my residences I was nervous as hell. Making friends from scratch, fending for myself, cooking, cleaning and studying all by myself and in addition to that, homesickness. I wasn’t unprepared. I had been warned by many, but it was happening now. This was real. I took a few deep breaths and told myself I’ll be ok. We pulled up right behind a car. A  girl got out of the car. I had never seen her before and yet there was something very familiar about her face, something very comforting. She smiled looking towards the residences and I saw hope.

I got off the car and continued to stare at her. Will she be a friend? Will she be in my school? Will she be…
‘Hi are you studying here?’ I heard my cousin ask.
She nodded, that smile fixed on her lips and excitement dripping from every corner of her face.
‘My cousin’s doing her MA from here. Meet Shakti,’ he introduced me…
She shook my hand, ‘Hi, I’m Mariam. I’m doing MA in Critical Theory. And you?’
There was warmth in her voice. And I replied that I was doing my MA in creative writing and she could critique my work. In my head, I thought, WTF are you saying? I realised this was going to be awkward, making new friends. But then she laughed at my stupid joke and I felt like all be ok.

Little did I know that this girl, the first person I met on the campus, would end up being such a close friend! Mariam Zia, this bundle of energy, hails from Lahore, Pakistan. She’s one of the people I treasure. At times, a mere ‘hi’ here and there tells her what’s going on in my head. She’s like this elder sister who’ll watch out for me, who’ll patiently listen to me whining and then bring a smile to my face. She is the reason why I loved my novel as much as I did.

At Sussex, I made my own family. They were and are still pillars of strength in my life (I know I never email or keep in touch, but they continue to be my strength) Mariam happens to be one of the closest to me. Mariam and Shefali helped me grow up; they helped me be me as I grew up. Of course, Shef deserves a blogpost of her own but Mariam, this one’s for you.

Our countries can’t see eye to eye and yet we see each other to the depth of our souls. My calls or SMS wouldn’t go through to her, we all know why. She lives in Lahore. On her birthday, I couldn’t hear her voice, I couldn’t tell her how much I loved her, all because our countries are constantly at loggerheads. Our friendship is very special to me on an individual level, yes, but I also know that it is symbolic. It is symbolic of the fact that beyond that border, we share a similar culture, similar values. And if we have enough love in our hearts to give and enough room in our hearts to receive, we can share a lovely relationship. I should be able to take a flight and go see Mariam. She should be able to get on a bus and come see me, but we can’t. I haven’t seen Mariam in 4 years. Last time I saw her, we were freezing at Trafalgar Square, right outside National Gallery and we held each other tight. We promised to see each other soon in our respective home cities. We continue to promise each other that even as relations between our countries have turned more and more hostile. In the end what matters is that our friendship, our love has continued to grow strong. And no matter how many of my SMS or phone calls get blocked or however difficult it gets to see Mariam, I just need to close my eyes and I see her. She is in my heart.

Happy birthday, Mariam Aapa (big sistah!) Tum jeeyo hazaron saal, saal ke din ho pachas hazaar. May all your dreams come true, may all the happiness in the world be yours and may you live a long life. And we will see each other soon, I mean it!

On your birthday, words are all I have… So here’s to you, thank you for being in my life…
P.S: Mariam, do you notice the excess use of ellipses? It’s because words, they’ll never be enough…

Woh 7 Weeks: End of a holiday

Past 7 weeks have been pure bliss; ups and downs included. Quality sister time, unique relationship insight (how I love my older friends!), a dash of disappointment, blistered feet, emptied bank balances, crazy credit card bills, tons of food, serving portions I can only dream of finishing, jeans feeling a bit too snug, not fretting about the weight, the beach, pride, inspiration and more than anything LOVE.

7 weeks have passed since I left Mumbai, all starry eyed. And now I shuttle out to Miami airport sobbing. Yeah, you heard me right. I am grateful for all the madness of the past 7 weeks. I sobbed because my sister (she never really was a baby sister) is independent and brave, far braver than I could ever be. Here I was leaving for India, why did it feel like I had forgotten something, someone? The truth is I was leaving behind a big chunk of my heart in Miami.
I hate that I am early at the airport (paranoid as I am, I am always early!) Check-in and security checks, all taken care of, I still have another two and a half hours to kill. I could either brood over how much I was going to miss my sister or see pictures and giggle with glee about the lovely times we had exploring her city with her, going to Disney world or while battling bed bugs (bed bugs was not fun but hey, I m trying to see the glass half full here!)
I could sit and smile about the fun times I had in New York with Roger, Baa and Tarlet. I could think about what an adventure it was discovering what I didn’t want from a relationship… There, I started again. So much happened on the past 7 weeks that I *almost* feel like a whole new person. Okay, I’m exaggerating but, I do feel like Shakti Salgaokar version 8.0.

I’ve fallen in love with solitude and lost my heart to a city. I love Paris, London and Barcelona. But New York, I think we are headed for a serious relationship and imagine the mess that’s going to be when Mumbai finds out!
And yet, I am back to the city I call home. Despite its pollution, dufus governance (the Frenchman working on Mumbai waste management project on my flight brought this to my notice) I love it. There’s so much this city can be if she got the right things to work with, and yet, she sits there, making the best of whatever she’s got. New York is like the sexy woman you want to be. She’s that woman who has the perfect life. A perfect career, she looks hot, so perfect that even her problems seem perfect. Someday, I’ll come back…

And yeah, on this trip I also achieved acute spiritual maturity (yeah, right!).  And I finally figured the prophecy of one my gurus, Mr. John Lennon: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

I’m alright to go where life takes me. No more planning. No more superficial goals. Just one principle- have fun.
Btw, Air France: thank you for being a kill joy airline. The cranky me, agrees to go through the ordeal of 19 hours on a flight for two things. Nonstop movies and eating airline food like Charlie Chaplin (dad, u r genius in discovering that simile. Yes I don’t mind airline food. It helps passtime!). Yeh modern day air travel isn’t so bad because food apparently has gotten better and inflight entertainment is supposed to be awesome. Thanks air France for not having a personal screen on my first flight from Miami to Paris and a little note: Hindu non veg meal means a non-veg meal sans beef or pork. It doesn’t mean you serve me rice, veggies and chicken with garam masala tossed on it!

Anyway, the 8 hour ordeal ended at Charles de Gaulle. And look at me, merrily Bon jour and au revoiring people like I knew French, deliberately struggling to read things in French before giving up and settling for English. Whoa! I miss Nani. The last time I was at this airport, Nani and yours truly had flown in from Barcelona on a delayed flight and missed our connecting flight to London. The lady who reissued our boarding cards, issued a wrong one for Nanchan and I put up a classic performance, being the drama queen I am, and got Nani bumped up to business class.
Such funny incidents happen when me and Nani set off to explore the world. ‘Be nice to your siblings,’ is an underrated line from the Sunscreen Song. Love your siblings, pour your soul into them, because trust me, other than your parents they are the only people who know you, your past, your whims, your fancies, your strengths and weaknesses and yet love you like no one else will. My sibling is a part of me, a part of who I am and what I am. I realise this after years of sibling rivalry, friendship, arguments, fights and much more.

So yeah, Nano, this one’s for you. Love life so much that you can be a 70 year old who can tell tales of her life and amuse people by the sheer presence of life in them!
And in case u want assistance, who u gonna call?

Living a Dream

A day in the life of Shakti Salgaokar: The day that felt too good to be true. The day that was filmy.

A van pulls up in the building. Two girls walk out to the van and hug tight. One of them is dressed a little too much for Miami. Jeans, tshirt and woollen jacket get her some extra attention from people walking around. She hugs the girls in shorts again and nearly chokes up. ‘Have a happy Diwali, okay? And eat well, and don’t be out too late and…’
‘Enjoy NYC. Live it up and have fun okay?’

The girls part. She settles into the van and wipes a teardrop on her cheek. She wanted to see New York her whole life. And she had had daydreams about landing in New York. In those dreams, she always landed with her sister. But then she realised there was no point in fretting. She had to be grateful that she was about to see New York City.

She was early for her flight, so she settled into the lounge with a grande Café Mocha and a chocolate chip muffin. She tried to read her book, but couldn’t focus. A lot had happened around her and a lot is about to happen. Her trip to NYC is a lot more than just a vacation. It has an agenda to it. She has a gut feeling that her dreams are about to come true. She flips through the book: Spouse by Shobha De. A book about marriage and all that one needs to be prepared for. She laughs of many tips that the celebrity authoress dispenses in the book. ‘Why am I reading this?’ she asks herself.

She settles into her seat as soon as the aircraft boards. A window seat on the right, as instructed by her father, she rarely dismisses the father’s suggestions. She has heard about New York from friends, she’s had impressions about the city from movies, tv series and she has painted a mental picture of the city through the songs she’s grown up hearing. But her biggest influence in loving NYC before she’s even seen the face comes from the stories her dad has to tell. She loves seeing the way his eyes light up when he talks about the city. If nothing, she wants to see the city that is such a joy to the person she looks up to all the time.

She keeps staring out the window like a 5 year old who can’t wait for the car ride to end. She keeps staring at the ground below, scanning it to see if NYC is visible yet. And then the pilot announces that they’re ready to land. She sticks her nose to the window and peers. As they close in on the ground, her eyes start to light up. She sees them in a faint reflection on the window she’s stuck to. She smiles, she nearly jumps out of the seat when she realises she is finally going to see New York. And then, some flickering lights make her shriek with delight. Why, it’s Times Square.
She lands, she calls up the one person she wishes was sitting next to her on the plane.

‘Nani, I just landed!’ she says with a wide eyed grin. She knows, she knows its love at first sight, but yet she bounces about into a cab. And takes in the sight of every little thing… Thousands come to New York, why is she so thrilled? Because it was her dream!

I am so dreamy eyed about New York. I love walking the streets with a big smile. I love spending time with Raj and Pratibha and I love bonding with little Tara. I do miss Nani, but hey, we have our whole lives to see New York and many other cities.

Bonds and Memories

Day 13&14, Tuesday 1st&2nd October, 2009

I am sorry. I just can’t fit these two days in a blog post. It’s just so close to my heart, this trip. The story of these two days will be something me and Nani will pakao our grandkids with. Be it the Jurassic Park ride, or missing Ross Geller while reading dinosaur labels. Be it taking mad pictures next to the Cat in the Hat or be it getting drenched on the Popeye ride. Be it being kissed by Chip and Dale or be it riding on a Disney train to Mickey Mouse’s house. Be it taking a flight into Neverland or be it discovering a small small world or be it riding the Carousel of Progress. All these things are meant to be treasured in my heart, I wish I could write about it all but I can’t.

Another reason why I can’t write is that we never got to relish the after taste of the trip. Nani had really bad breakouts all over her body and soon, we discovered a bedbug infestation in Nani’s room. Hell followed. Her roommate wanted to leave the house, the lease was on her name, we found out the landlord was being chased by the FBI and then I wanted to leave the house. We had to wash and clean everything, our luggage, books, clothes, sheets. We had to bake all the books. (I know I love baking, but I never thought I would bake books, damn you, bed bugs!)We had to hunt for a house. And it was hell. My little sister was bitten up, her school had started, she didn’t have a home. And the big sister in me obviously was very very upset. Of course, Moody, NewYorker and Roger were constantly trying to tell me it will be okay and I knew it would be okay. Maybe I was overreacting, maybe I was being obsessive, but the truth is, I haven’t been this disturbed for eons.

We finally did find Nani another place. Everything is ok now as I gear up for my New York trip. But I do wake up at night and see Nani sleeping peacefully despite the red spots on her face, and I get teary eyed (yeah yeah very Nirupa Roy-esque I know!) Why should she suffer?

Disneyland was lovely and strengthened our sisters’ bond, true, but the bed bug issue and the entire upheaval made me realise that joy might bring you closer, but a crisis will test that closeness and strengthen the bond. It’s like the heat-test iron goes through to strengthen it.