Over the past few years, my fondness for the absence of music grew quite deeper than I anticipated. I do listen to most things that fall behind, between, and beyond Bohemian Rhapsody and My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard. But it’s mostly a background process even when there is nothing running in the foreground.
Somehow, listening to muted fireworks at a distance or my floaters squelching in mud brings me more joy than moments with a pre-recorded soundtrack. At times, even incessant birdsong is too much. I’ve often found myself trying to spot a tweeting sparrow so that I can kick-punch it in the face.
The other day, we were taking a family road trip towards Kashid, harbouring some general beach-hopping intentions. We, six adults and one micro human, were also sardine-ing in the Maruti Swift; a task that would have been a cakewalk in the past. But ever since I spent a year and a half in Punjab and gained ten kilos just by breathing the sweet Malai-laden air, things have not been the same in the backseat.
Since the music player wasn’t working, R3, riding shotgun, was playing the few songs he had on his phone, on a loop. The loop featured, along with Axwell and Co., Coldplay’s cultural-appropriation-debate-triggering song. At some point I opined something about their new music video being a visual treat to R3 and he vehemently retorted that he doesn’t usually listen to ‘that pop music stuff’.
There is this thing in movies right, something triggers a flashback and there’s a close-up of the eye and we get sucked into another scene. That happened here. And, the memory wormhole took me back to 2013, the last time R3 and I were under the same roof for an extended period of time. From morning to evening, for days, all I could hear was the Ashiqui (the then new one) soundtrack blasting through the walls.
A lot of us renounce and then refuse to acknowledge our past taste in music. There was a time when my heart used to melt as Ronan Keating flipped his blonde mane and warbled about rain falling in Africa. Nick Carter singing about getting down and moving it all around, while balancing himself on a flying disc, also did the trick.
DD was the one who brought Boyzone and BSB into our lives. In the next few years, DD went away to college, I entered my teens, and both Gingi and I outgrew our boyband phase. Once DD was home for a semester break and we met. She no longer listened to boybands; dissed us, assuming that we still did, and looked away into the horizon dreaming of Ghulam Ali.
In high school, Soumya and I, two relatively early adopters and renounce-ers of boyband music, made it a point to make fun of all the late majority. By that time BSB was on their way out with the Black & Blue album, Keating had already released the Notting Hill solo, Westlife was becoming popular, and Blink 182 was putting All the Small Things in perspective. After a while I started cringing if I chanced across their old music videos. I too had rejected them completely.
However this changed one day, a few years ago, as I watched three full-grown and drunk men passionately singing ‘Quit Playing Games With My Heart’ on a karaoke stage. A memory wormhole popped up- watching MTV for music; being nine and losing my innocence after seeing the close up of Howard’s gyrating abs in the rain; giving up eating mutton because Stephen Gately (may his soul rest in peace) reminded me of a goat.
I realized that by rejecting this past, I was locking away a huge repository of crucial memories and inspiration.
And recently, someone told me that I was keeping a lot of other cosmic portals closed by keeping the one for music, shut. The right amount of muffled birdsong or a veil-like silence is perfect for complete immersion in the Present. But the idea is that music could help if you’re looking for transcendence.
This and the other realization about embracing the past are prodding me to reopen a few doors and listen beyond the voices in my head, among other things. After all, you’ve to tread new space to reject or acknowledge it in the future.