I think I was born dreaming. The kind of dreams that envelope you, engulf you, take you far in light-years.
A family of five, like five fingers- each unique, each with its own role to play. My father was the opposable thumb. The one who opposed me the most but who would also hold me when required. I guess that makes me “the little pinkie”! Nobody misses it till one needs to signal for.. well you know. I am the youngest one. Much loved, oh yes! Both my elder sisters, my mom and my dad loved me. They did all that they could to ‘help’ me. But how could they help when they didn’t understand me, or my dreams.
I always dreamt. When I was little, it would be for small things. To go to some place for vacations, to get shoes that I liked or a certain sweet. But there was one constant dream that I had for as far as I could remember; the dream of becoming a musician. I think it started when I saw a new year’s show on Doordarshan, where a group played orchestra. I was transfixed. It was new year indeed! The way movies show a person hypnotized to a point in space while the rest becomes a haze. It was something like that. Everything gets blurred in comparison. The different instruments, the unique sounds they made, the way people moved when they played, the way they played as if they are fused together. It was a whole new world. I wanted to enter the TV set to be one of them. Yes, to be a musician playing in the orchestra. That was my dream for very many years, to be that orchestra man. And I loved my dreams. And these dreams loved me.
When I was 5, my father bought me those cheap plastic guitars that kids normally pose with. He never realized it but he changed my world back then. Till then the moving image on the TV was just a moving image, a far off mirage. That day the mirage turned into an oasis. I held the guitar and struck the strings. Softly at first, and then a little boldly. I think for a 5 year old you might think it impossible, but it happened. Music came alive that day for me. I became the man in the orchestra.
After that New year, every year on my birthday I asked my parents to keep aside some money instead of gifting anything. I kept all the monetary ‘blessings’ that I got from elder relatives. When I turned 13, I went to my father and handed over all the odd dirty and partially stuck chocolate-laced currency notes. At first, he looked at me befuddled. I told him why and he smiled. He didn’t laugh. He never understood the passion behind it, as he didn’t know of ‘the dream’, but he okayed it. That was more than enough. Next evening he got it for me. A real guitar! I don’t know how much it costed and he never told me either. I hoped that all my saved money and all the 8 birthdays worth of money were sufficient. The dream was getting real. Its colors were getting vivid.
I taught myself somehow, somewhat. I played and sang in school and throughout college. Participated in all music events. But they were hardly fulfilling, forget soul satisfying. In between there were diversions and lapses on my part. There is something about a guy with a guitar I guess, because I still can’t explain why and how I ended into relationships. I am fairly simple, I guess. I love what others do- good food, good music, good people. I guess what separates me from others is my passion. When I love something, I LOVE that thing. There’s no two-way about it. Nothing to dilute my emotions. Nothing to squash it. Nothing to adulterate it. It pervades through every cell. When I entered into these relationships there was nothing holding me back. I never knew any other way, the casual way. Perhaps all my relationships failed for this very reason, although you would think that it’s crazy. When we really, crazily, passionately love somebody, so much so that it physically pains you to not see her, then you can smell the trouble. You sense the hesitations. The broken speeches. The flicker in their eyes. You know when it’s time. You can see the guillotine.
None of those lovely girls could stand it I suppose. I loved them. I loved them all. I fell for a second, then a third and then a fourth. They went, but the capacity to love didn’t. But I guess it wasn’t enough or maybe it was too much for them to handle. It left a strange feeling in my chest. Music had always uplifted me, so this feeling was new. Although every time the intensity decreased but the feeling was the same. It would flow out of my fingers on to the guitar strings. I think in some ways it helped me. It made me a better person, a better musician, a better soul.
Love has many expressions you see. You can redirect the force on another. I don’t mean on another person, which you can of course, but on something that resonates with you. And I already had one that lived inside me. Always. That one thing that was diffused in me, lived in me ever since – the love for music. No, don’t mistake me for a regular ‘fan’. I don’t understand that word anyways. I loved music. It has occupied my dreams since that first day on earth. I love the way it makes me cry, makes me angry, makes me come to terms with life, makes my life come alive. It has been my one true friend. It accompanied me when I fell in love, when I had to make myself come to terms with failed relationships, academic failures and career setbacks. Music didn’t leave me like those girls. Instead it did the opposite. It gripped me and pulled me up. Music, my best friend. Music, my soul mate.
I had to do something about it–Focus on the dream–Climb up the music ladder. Thinking that it’s the way to go, I enrolled myself in a school to learn to play. The “thumb” didn’t like that. For a 20 year old this wouldn’t possibly be a way to earn their bread. “But papa it was what kept me alive.” “Rubbish! Find employment to pay for these classes. Do all this in free time.”
Sisters and mothers always soothe you. They did. But they couldn’t understand. How can they when they don’t feel the love? When they haven’t dreamt the dreams. It would have been silly to expect them to understand. It’s all right if they don’t. I don’t expect them to.
So I found employment. Call centers are great you know. They take you in. They pay you. They don’t eat up your life. They allow you to have a parallel world outside work. I don’t know why people don’t get that. Why they frown upon BPOs? My world was split. The shifts worked well. My nights were spent in office, talking with a fake accent to fake people. Days spent with real people doing what was most real. Making music! Making something! It was like Magic!
I never told this before but I had nightmares too. They showed me what would happen if ‘the dream’ never took off or failed. What if I wasn’t good enough? Practice, perseverance and passion I had, but what if I had no talent? The day, I stepped in the class I carried all my dreams, my nightmares, all my hopes, all my reservations and me. The nightmares slowly evaporated and left behind the dreams. Have you seen a solution boil? How the impurities burn away and leave behind pure liquid? It was like that. Hard water had turned soft. They said I was a natural. I guess I was. This felt natural. Guitar was an extension of me. Fingers moved with ease. The cool metal of strings and the warm wood of its body was I. Maybe I was made of wood and metal too.
I now learnt formally too. Love of music helped me learn it. Guitar strings left deep indents on my fingers. The blue black marks of love. The fingers hardened. It hurt in the beginning, till it got numb. I loved that. I loved the pain as much as the happiness it gave me. Call me a masochist but that’s how I felt.
It gave me back in so many ways. I got a family that I didn’t bargain for. In the group of 20 students, there were only a select few who were just like me. They had their dreams too. They had love for music with the same intensity that I shared. I now had two worlds, two lives and two families. The one that understood me and the one I was born to. But I was no longer the little useless pinkie. I had a purpose, a role.
It was a perfect life. I made enough to keep expenses at bay. The job kept all other fingers (read family members) content. No questions asked. No answers given. All was fine. The graveyard shift of BPO kept me hooked from 9 pm to 6 am and sometimes up till 7 am. The travel was about 1 hour one way, but that’s city life for you. No point complaining about it. 8pm to 8am spent on job, it left me 12 hours for myself. I slept for 2-3 hours and went for my guitar lessons at 10am. They lasted all day long; rather I stuck around all day long jamming with my ‘other’ family. The progress was good, they said. I had started playing the songs that had helped me in the past. I suppose in few years I would have learnt it all. Maybe I will form a band to keep it working. I spoke to my other family about it with great enthusiasm,a new being vibrated and together we all now dreamt a new dream. A band was being born, life has never been great.
The pains started soon after the first year. Painkillers are produced for pain relief, isn’t it? I popped one or two every now and then and they worked well enough. They were like my job. They kept me working; they were necessary to keep me viable. After another six months the painkillers stopped working or my body got immune to them, I can’t say. I didn’t mind the pain at all. I had gotten used to it. I thought,I would outgrow it, just like the fingers. Wasn’t it just a way to harden my body; my soul needed no such exercise. My mother wasn’t convinced by my logic. She said I liked pain. Even when I was young, I never cried when the doctors injected me and never asked for any affection or medicine whenever I got hurt. Instead, I played with it, with the blood and the bruise. I would peel, pluck, press, rub or scratch the area till my mother covered it up to make my own body part inaccessible.
She took me to a doctor who ran all tests that he possibly could. The tests didn’t show any issues except a little bent backbone. I laughed at that. A bent backbone!! I showed the image to my father. “See papa, I HAVE a backbone. You always said that I didn’t. Hahaha” While I laughed, he just glared. I spotted a bit of weird contorted expression. Was it concern? Well, it was none of my concern. The doctors said something about taking it easy, sleeping more, not traveling etc. But I was taking it easy. Ideally I should be working on my music all day long, all week long! But look at me. Am I doing that? NO!
My mother made me take a day off that night. The first leave I took in 1.5 years. Nobody complained. I snuck out that night to a club and saw a LIVE performance. That was the new dream! Performing live in front of an audience. Sucking energy out of them. Getting a feedback then and there. Like a tango. In tandem.
Another six months. The pain worsened but I didn’t tell anyone. I have no idea how my mother came to realize. She took me back to the doctor who severely advised complete bed rest and physiotherapy. I bargained for physiotherapy and weekends rest. Agreed!
This worked for a year perfectly. I think the pain subsided somewhat too. My mother also used hot water bottles on the areas. She sometimes would use mustard or coconut oil to massage the affected area. It didn’t help in any way but I didn’t say so. She thought she was helping and I didn’t want to dismiss her emotions.
And then, I broke. It happened so suddenly that none of us had time to react. We didn’t realize it at that moment. I just fell down. Luckily I was home, having just returned from guitar jamming sessions. The doctors confirmed it. The twin-life had sued me. It took away my spine. Literally. I am still I, but just an empty vessel. I am nothing, but I’m something. A body that knew how to love didn’t love anymore. A mind that worked went in defunct mode. A heart that pumped, forgot to pump the magic and the love. It knew passion, love, emotions, tears, and laughter. All that is now locked away. I don’t know till when will my body decide to punish me and for what? Was it the job that betrayed my heart or the music lessons that didn’t make sense to my boiled brain?
The ceiling fan is now my constant companion, a friend. It goes round and round. Never tiring. Maybe it is running after something, or maybe one blade is trying to catch up with the other, like a dog tries to catch its tail. Was I a fan after all? Had I been doing just that? All my life? I guess I understood the word now. I now spend my days watching the fan or my mom’s silent tears. I sometimes request her to pass me my guitar, which she does reluctantly. I place it on my stomach and try and strike. A little sound floats my way. Not enough. My other family has moved on. Last I heard they were playing regularly at some place that I couldn’t even go to, forget playing with them. They are going to come up with a release soon. I need a release too, from this prison of my body. My dream became their reality. My fantasy became their actuality. The ideas I floated, drifted away to attach themselves to theirs. I can’t even complain. Sometimes, I think, would it have been different had my father allowed me to do Music and not search for a job.Would it have been different, if I had rested as advised and not challenge my body pushing it to its limit or is it just plain karma,my destiny.The questions come and go,find myself playing music in my dreams still for as a dreamer I came and dreamer I remain.
The battle of my body and my wishes will continue for sometime, till it’s finally resolved. Who will conquer, I don’t know. I sure will know,one day.