Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vinyl Dreams

My birth was marked with the purchase of a Gramophone record. Of the 1963 film Dil Ek Mandir. The record had the song Juhi Ki Kali Meri Ladli on it, my father’s song for me. My father bought that record the day I was born and put the date and his signature on it. And he told me that story forvere after. That is how my association with Vinyl records began. And that is how early my association with music began.


Image courtesy: vinylmelody.com

We used to own an HMV gramophone record player earlier. It used to play at three speeds – 33 and ½ rpm, 45 rpm and 75 rpm. But by the time I was 6 or 7, it had been used well enough to go into repairs…and never return to play. We still have the speakers I think, charming wood finish ones with the well-loved HMV logo on them.

So my father went and bought a Videocon 3-in-1 deck in the late 80s. It had a cassette-player, radio and a gramophone record player. It also came with the facility to record straight off the radio and my parents could then record many sessions of Bela Ke Phool, Binaca Geetmala and the likes from the radio.

And that’s how memories of music started to get woven into the fabric of my memories. The earliest memory was that of Boney M’s Brown Girl In The Ring playing from a small 45 rpm record while I danced to the tune. There were also Sunday afternoons every few weeks spent cleaning the Vinyls. Anything could be playing – an old Hindi film soundtrack, ABBA or some ghazals. All the Vinyls would be restacked, the big ones and small. Stories about how some of them were acquired would be retold. There was the story of my record. There was also the story of how my father once took my mother out to dinner in the early days of their marriage and Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan’s Hungama Hai Kyun Barpa was playing in the restaurant. My mother liked the song so much that she requested my father to buy the record. That is how that record landed up in our collection. Some of the records in the collection had scratches on them from being played too many times. Some of them would make the needle jump. Some were even bent a little. And yet, we were and are immensely proud of this assortment of Vinyls that we had…pure unadulterated sound wafting through the house with every rotation of the record.

There was something magical about holding each of those records, there was something precious about pulling them out of their jackets, there was something elevating about the art on those jackets…it was old world but there was something eternal about the feeling.

And that is why it is extremely heartening to see renewed interest (rather renewed coverage of interest that never died) in Vinyls, most recently covered in The Economist and Forbes. I really hope they outlast CDs and digital media and vindicate all that is old world and pure. That’s my Vinyl dream.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

No Name Face

He didn’t even have to look today evening. Or maybe I didn’t see him see me. But my glass of tea was ready when I reached the counter. It always is. Because the guys at the counter know that’s what I always order…at least they believe so. So on an odd day when I feel like coffee I don’t bother; I can’t bear to tell them they went wrong with their assumption or took me for granted. I quietly pick up my glass and pay. Sometimes they make conversation…small talk really. Have I had lunch, it’s raining very badly, they finished lunch long back, have I finished work. They seem to mean it. What else can we, with half a minute on our hands and with a constant stream of parched employees flocking the counter for their preferred beverage, talk about? Lots if you ask me but we just keep it this way. I don’t even know their names and they don’t know mine. We are no name faces.

There are the security guards. They seem to change every day and a new guard seems to check my bag as I wait to enter the facility. But they catch me unaware sometimes with questions like why am I so late today? I mumble something and move on, mostly pleasantly surprised that they seem to care enough to remember who comes in when in a building with 10 floors and more than 2000 employees. 

The guys at the snack counter always, always remember that I need my salads/chats without onion in them. Or that 90% of the time I eat Chopsuey Salad. The lady clearing the salt and pepper shakers off the lunch table during the late lunch hour smiles as she picks them off my table and watches me eat with my book for company. 

There are so many such faces – the lady at the grocery store, the guy who runs the bakery (and asks before I utter anything – ‘Maggi?’), the breakfast counter folks at college (who have, in 4 weeks, already started to ask me if I don’t need Frooti that one odd time when I don’t buy it and also know that tea goes with both my breakfast and lunch orders), the guy at Snoways laundry in JP Nagar (who knows we almost always pick up our orders late and even lets us enter the store to look for clothes we gave in a few weeks earlier).

No name faces. They populate that space in our lives that is truly no man’s land. No names to call anyone by. No relations. But they know something about us that the closest of our folks miss sometimes. Even if it’s just a habit. They seem to care when they are least required to. What does one call that space and residents of those spaces in our memories? It is an understatement to say that they don’t matter to us. Recall that time when the laundry guy or the guy at your neighbourhood store changed and you were left looking around even if for a few seconds for that familiar face. What does one call those people, those relations that make a difference in inexplicable ways?

Lifehouse did me a service by calling their album No Name Face. Because that’s the only term that fits. Unpolluted by a term to call each other, I will always remember these folks by their smiling faces, for what they did and how they showed their care in small ways down this difficult road called existence.

Dedicated to them all, Somewhere In Between by Lifehouse from…No Name Face.

Somewhere In Between by Lifehouse on Grooveshark