Vintage Dreams: 7 Pointless Pursuits

I’ve always had a soft spot for the vintage, be it literature, music or the photo filter.

You’ll find my bookshelf and reading preferences favouring the classics or stories set before and in the mid 20th century. I do read my fair share of contemporary literature, but there seems to be a pattern: these books will rarely find themselves a spot in my top ten, unless they’re exceptional.

An oldie at heart with a penchant for tea over coffee, and a preference for the scent of old books rather than the new (yes!), you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that my music collection is heavily interjected by the tunes of the 60’s, 70’s, ’80s and other music before the millennium. Of course, you will find a lot of 21st century music as well, but it doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out which ones I prefer.

Yes, I’m an enigma; trapped between the ages. The fast pace of life sometimes tends to cut me off from the part of me in a Sepia frame. Sometimes, I just wished I owned a few pieces of memorabilia to remind me where I am, where I want to be. Here are seven obsolete, pointless pursuits to cater to the girl trapped in another time.

1. A Typewriter:

 When it occurs to me that most of my favourite books took shape on a machine like this, you can’t blame an aspiring writer for coveting one. Pointless as it may seem, I want to own a typewriter, try my hand at typing a few pieces of writing on it to feel like my favourite writer at work. Who knows, it might just help my writing.

Of course I wouldn’t look so photogenic, but what the hell.

2. A Gramophone:

Being a music lover and having listened to a record being played on one, you can’t help but feeling less cool for not owning one. The cool bit isn’t what I care about, really. I just want to listen to the Beatles the way they listened to themselves.

Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles is the first thing I’ll play. I don’t know why, but it just is.

3. Vinyl Records:

It goes without saying that a gramophone calls for vinylisation of my music collection. This would be hard, and rather expensive. With my music collection, it’ll take up an entire room and then some. But when I dream of waking up to my drawers filled with systematically arranged vinyl records, it so seems worth it.

Ah! Heaven.

4. A Vintage Telephone:

Yes, the dial up kind. I don’t even know why I want this. I have an irrational aversion to speaking on the phone and totally prefer texting; it’s why it was invented. Not to mention the countless suspense scenes in classic movies that revolve around the instrument. You may think I need help, but this is the very instrument that could help me get over my aversion to phone conversation and maybe add the much needed spice to my mundane life.

This should go well with all that other stuff.

5. A Vintage Bicycle:

A Vintage Bike in Mumbai. Before you go on about how the air would leave me in bed in a couple of days, let me remind you that I don’t think I even remember how to ride a bike. They say it’s one of those things you never forget, but I haven’t done it in 5 years. It would be one of those bikes with a basket and I’d ride around feeling like Summer straight out of 500 Days of Summer and I’d forget that I may actually look like a potato.

Watch out world! I’m coming!

6. A Vintage Dress:

I can almost feel myself not caring about how dated I look wearing a vintage dress. Okay, even I’m not crazy enough to carry it off in public. But it seems a far more economical and culturally feasible pursuit than the rest, what, with Vintage clothing being in vogue every other season. I’ll buy one and then I’ll host a costume party, just to get some use out of it. Oh! Oh! I can play my vinyl records at the party. Atleast it will drive away what I like least about parties…people.

Yeah, no I can’t look like that. Not even with flowers in my hair.

7. A Vintage Ink Pen

That’s what you get when you put together a stationery freak, a writer and a lover of the ancient. Until recently, all my posts and everything I’ve written started as handwritten first drafts; scrawls of ink across crumpled, deformed paper. I just never could get the thoughts out well enough by just typing them. I’ve got the hang of it now but I still write my stories and poems by hand first. So, this is a very special pursuit and quite readily available and feasible. (Gift hint!) As crazy about stationery as I’ve always been, nothing hits the spot better than a thick piece of yellowed, faded paper and an old fountain pen. Even I’m sensible enough not to covet the old quill and ink, but I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just my aversion to birds.

And that’s where I end and begin.

Call me crazy, but the day I get these, that will be a good day.

Do you have any quirky pursuits on your wish list? Tell me about them in the comments below.

Ten Stories Behind Ten Great Beatles Songs

Now, I don’t have a favourite band. And I probably never will have a favourite band. My answer to a question like that will probably be very very very long, with an ensemble cast of proper nouns, a lot of commas and  the occasional “umms” and “ands”. However, ninety percent of the time, the first member of my ensemble cast will be the quartet that revolutionised music, the 60’s and a lot of haircuts that nobody can carry off better than Paul McCartney.

There’s just something about their music, the Beatles. I could go on and on here, write a ten volume series of books, script a movie, but with my head absentmindedly buried in a sea of projects and assignments on everything under the sun, a blog post will have to suffice.

I could love possibly every Beatles song there is. But then there are these songs, which became a little more special AFTER I heard the stories behind them.

1. Ticket To Ride

It seems Lennon and McCartney disagreed as much on the inspiration behind the song as they did on who actually “wrote it”. Let’s just say they both did. While McCartney stated that the song was about a girl leaving with a “a British Railways ticket to the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight”, Lennon said “Ticket to Ride” was a reference to cards indicating a clean bill of health carried by prostitutes in Hamburg, Germany in the 1960s. The Beatles toured Hamburg in the early 60s, when the slang term “ride” for “sex” was gaining popularity. Which of the two stories is true? Doesn’t matter. We know which one we prefer.

2. Hey Jude

Originally titled “Hey Jules”, McCartney penned down this number as a comfort tune for John and Cynthia Lennon’s son Julian, post their divorce and John’s affair with Yoko Ono. Many people including journalist Judith Simons thought it was written for them. Even more interpreted it as a personal message to McCartney himself, including Lennon himself, courtesy his failing relationship with Jane Asher. In fact, when Lennon asked McCartney whether the song was written for him (Lennon), he denied it saying it was written for himself. Awkward conversation much? Julian found out only twenty years later that the song was penned for him, when it was changed to “Hey, Jude”, which was easier to sing.

3. Eleanor Rigby

Contrary to popular belief, “Father McKenzie” was not inspired by Father Tommie McKenzie of Northwich Memorial Hall, but by his own Dad, Father McCartney. Unlike lonely Father McKenzie’s in the song, McCartney Senior was a happy bloke, hence the name change. Eleanor Rigby’s original name was Miss Daisy Hawkins and was renamed Eleanor after actress Eleanor Bron, who starred in the Beatles film “Help!”. The beautiful song was intended as a comment on the lonely post war life in England. One of my personal favourites, this song is immortal, as is Eleanor Rigby and as are The Beatles.

4. Here Comes The Sun

1969 wasn’t the best of years for Beatle George Harrison. He had quit the band temporarily, was arrested for marijuana possession and had his tonsils removed. Dissatisfied with his treatment by Apple records, he stormed over to Eric Clapton’s house, walked around the garden, was relieved to get away from accountants and agents and just wrote the song. Quoting from his autobiography, “Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote “Here Comes the Sun”.”

5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Harrison was inspired by the book I Ching or the book of changes which propagated the Eastern theory of everything being relative to something else as opposed to the Western view which puts this down to coincidence. Harrison just opened a random book, found the words “gently weeps” and wrote a beautiful song around them.  “I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes… The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence – every little item that’s going down has a purpose. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song.” The link to the song video is an older, acoustic version of the song by Harrison, containing an omitted verse.

6. She’s Leaving Home

Co-written by McCartney and Lennon, the storyline of the song was loosely based on the news of Melanie Coe, missing girl that found her way to the newspaper headlines. Although McCartney invented most of the content, Coe claims that most of it was accurate. Unlike the song, Coe’s boyfriend whom she had run away to was a croupie and she left home in the afternoon while her parents were at work. She was found ten days later and aborted her unborn child. Weirdly, Coe had met McCartney three years earlier when he felicitated her with a prize in a dancing contest.

7. Let It Be

Arguably my favourite Beatles song ever, McCartney wrote this when the Beatles were going through one of their most troubled phases. McCartney had a dream where his mother, who died of cancer when he was fourteen, just came alive in front of him and comforted him. The ethereal sight of his mother in his dream inspired the lines “Mother Mary”. He later said in an interview that he was going through a hard time when he had the dream and that it was his mother who told him “It’ll be alright. Let it be.” I always loved this song, but hearing that story made it even more special.

8. Yesterday

McCartney apparently composed the melody of Yesterday in a dream he had and played the tune on the piano repeatedly when he woke up to avoid forgetting it. He was initially worried that he might’ve subconsciously plagiarised another artist’s work. “For about a month I went round to people in the music business and asked them whether they had ever heard it before. Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought if no-one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it.”, he said. Once these doubts were cleared, McCartney began writing lyrics to the melody. Of course I couldn’t have been more glad to hear that he trashed the initial opening line of “Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby how I love your legs”. Yesterday has come a long way from the debacle it would’ve turned out to be. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

9. Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Field was a  Salvation Army Children’s Home near Lennon’s childhood home in Woolton, Liverpool. Lennon and his childhood friends used to play in the wooded garden behind the home. One of Lennon’s childhood treats was the garden party held each summer in Calderstones Park near the Salvation Army Home every year, where a Salvation Army band played. Though the song has nostalgic undertones, it seems too surreal and psychedelic to be based on a childhood memory. The song’s conception was not set in the best of times for Lennon. With drugs, a failing marriage and two controversies under his belt including the “bigger than Jesus” fad, it’s no surprise the lyrics were obscure. However, later, Lennon confirmed that the lines “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by his Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.”

10. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Hold your horses. Don’t get fooled by those initials. I don’t care what you’ve heard, but this is not a song about LSD. It’s actually inspired by this drawing.

The drawing by Julian Lennon that inspired “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”

Drawn by four year old Julian Lennon in 1976 about a classmate Lucy O’Donnell, Lennon says it’s this piece of art that inspired the song although he had been experimenting with drugs at the time.

I had no idea it spelt LSD. This is the truth: my son came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around. I said, ‘What is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,’ and I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote a song about it.”

Be it a dose of acid or crayon on paper, little Lucy only realised she’d been immortalised into a Beatles song when she was thirteen. Lucky her!

Mumbai: The Eternal Paradox

The City of Dreams aka The City That Never Sleeps is the place I’ve been calling home for the past eight years. Mumbai holds a significant place in the heart of all its citizens, right from Ambani to his sweeper. Perspectives may swing from one extreme to another. To me, Mumbai is a paradox (just read the first sentence), its contrasting shades and dimensions coming to life at various crossroads. Sometimes, I wonder how I manage to live here, others, I realise how lucky I am to do so. But nothing in this city is black or white. Hell, it ain’t even grey. It’s a palette every of colour there possibly could be in this universe and then some.

SHOVE IT!

  1. The AirIt’s a wonder the clothespin has not emerged as a nose accessory in a city where holding your breath at every corner to prevent inevitable gagging or catching some communicable disease is paramount in the survivor’s instinct handbook. Pollution is never a win. Ever wonder why we don’t see too many stars at night anymore? (No, it’s not because enough throng the city itself.) More often than not, it’s either too hot, or too cold, or too rainy when you have plans on.
  2. The People Wheels: Travelling by public transport has never been a bigger adventure. Experience hanging on to dear life in the form of a bus or train door handle just to get to work or to get home. Travel ticketless under the TC’s nose or perfect the art of a bilateral financial negotiation in case caught. The buses, trains, cabs  and autorickshaws need a good cleanup, as do the morals of the country.
  3. The Crowd: It’s not so much the assortment of religions, regions, nationalities, castes or any criterion along those lines that make up the crowd, as it is the sheer number of people that actually creates a problem. If you’re wondering how a tiny space of land can support so many people, well, it can’t. Roads caving in, railway and road accidents seem to check the population better than people themselves. Let me put it this way: If you can get where you want sans traffic, sans queuing up  (with or without the bonus pushes and prods courtesy those too “hatke” for queues) for anything at all; buy a lottery ticket…if you have the time to wait in line for that. Most Mumbaikars don’t.
  4. The Fact That It Never Sleeps: If you’re one of those lucky bugs who can earn their bread and afford a good night’s sleep, make sure you save up for soundproofing the house. You might just risk being woken up in the middle of the night by firecrackers every time Virat Kohli hits a four or a six, or Sachin scores a century or the opposition loses a wicket, or by headlight reflections and honks of a car filled with people who’ve partied till dawn and still want to play their music on full blast. Invest in some noise cancelling head phones for the festive season.
  5. Bollywood: Imagine all the idols of the filmiest, most star struck country in the world in one city. Imagine them not sleeping (there are those that party till 4 am and those who wake up at 4 am to work out), dishonouring queues (“Don’t you know who I am?”) and jetting of to the Maldives every time they realise they need clean air to live. Don’t need to? You’re in Mumbai. The world’s largest film industry could do a world of good if certain producers pump the bucks into charity rather than persevering with the production of spineless movies “inspired” by films already made.
  6. The Home Rates: Remind me again why I am paying an astronomical amount to live in a flat the size of my cousin’s servant’s room in her “fraction of the price” three BHK flat in Bangalore, while I’ll look out of my window and see the top of Antilla against Mumbai’s skyline while another block of pavement has been encroached upon by the spreading slum.
  7. The Lights: The picture of the showrooms, societies, malls, nightclubs et al wasting electricity all night like there’s no tomorrow when some remote part of the country barely gets power for an hour a day makes me want to turn my AC off in the dead of summer. But, I won’t do it though; the remote batteries are dead and I have to get up.
  8. The Sea: Waiting for designer clothespins to hit Vogue and so that the cheap reproductions can hit Colaba Causeway, enabling me to visit sewage infested waters choked with plastic all sealed with a layer of oil on the top.

That being said, Mumbai can turn that frown upside down in a jiff. Here’s how:

ADORE IT:

  1. The Air: Step out early in the morning to Marine Drive or Worli SeaFace or just anywhere you like for a treat. There are some days in summer that aren’t really too hot, nothing an ice cream or lemonade can’t fix. There are those mild winter days where the weather is a dream. And, when your skin tingles with the drops of a light shower, near the sea, you’ll feel like something straight out of Bollywood dancing your way to a cold, and not caring one bit. (If you can make it early enough for it to be called a late night, you might spot some Bollywood eye candy!)
  2. The People Wheels: Despite all its shortcomings, Mumbai’s public transport system is one of the best in the country. If the plain fact weren’t enough, where else would you find buses and trains that carry so many passengers who return day after day? How many people would be out of work if the trains stopped? How would people get around if railway passengers were thrown onto the roads? It’s a system held together by remarkable, delicate balance and how it can be sustained in a city that has grown on the foundation of change is beyond human understanding. And that’s the staggering charm of it.
  3. The Crowd: Overlooking the stark fact that there are too many of them, where else would you find such a mélange of caste, community, religion and class? A surveyor’s dream focus group, this city brings people from seemingly different planets together. Their feet walk the same land, be it in Guccis or Batas. They’re interdependent. They face all that this city’s gone through together- bomb blasts, floods and terrorist attacks. And they’ve helped. They’ve forgotten their differences and helped each other. Unity in Diversity. It’s representative of a mini-India. And at times like that, I’ve never been prouder to be “one of the crowd”.
  4. The Fact That It Never Sleeps: Fast paced lifestyle, round the clock service-perfect if you’re having an insomniac night. After all, nightlife is best experienced after sundown. Where else can you dream without sleep?
  5. Bollywood: Even though their manicures make more news than the murder of your run of the mill rickshawala, credit to the stars of Bollywood for making some good films. A lot of them do their bit for charity (“bit” being the operative word). Mumbai has become synonymous with Bollywood. Even the “inspired” films are given a kick with song and dance. What would the meat of Mumbai dance to if not the Bollywood beat? In the city of dreams, it’s not surprising that half those dreams are set in B-town.
  6. The Home Rates: First rule of Real Estate: Location, Location, Location. The location: Mumbai. From Malabar Hill to Dharavi, no matter how much you pay per square foot, there’s a reason you came to Mumbai and a reason you never left. Be grateful to have a roof above your head, a bed to sleep and enough free time to read this post and go chase that dream.
  7. The Lights: Mumbai under lights is a spectacle. Just drive by the Queen’s necklace at night and watch the reflections formed in the sea. To heck with light pollution. It’s an experience.
  8. The Sea: At the risk of sounding like a Bollywood character, I will say that it’s the only constant in an ever-changing city. It may be tough to find a time to beat the heat, the stench, the joggers or the snoggers by the sea and enjoy the simple pleasures of calm and pensive seaside solitude. But when you do, grab it with both hands, especially in the rains. This is not something you wanna miss.

SOME MORE THINGS I JUST LOVE:

  • The FoodEvery single food item. From Vada Pav  to the high end burger garnished with caviar and truffles and everything in between.
  • Art and Architecture: Check out any art festival or street play or play or just walk around and marvel at the heritage buildings in town and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
  • Shop: You’ll find yourself buying things you never knew existed until you set your sights on them-at very competitive prices too!

That being said, Mumbai displays elements of its multifaceted personality, spicing life up with variety. A paradox, it is. A very strange paradox, where what may seem to unnerve about something, might turn out to be the reasons why you love it. An eccentric relationship, but it works, as all the best ones do.

Musical Letters

Treat this as a filler post since I couldn’t make the deadline for what I originally wanted to post. That’s on hold at the moment. This is just a random alphabetical list of feel-good songs, songs I will never get tired of listening to. They are the kind of songs that will stay with me for a long time, the kind that are close to milestones in my life and the kind I might dedicate to special people.

I simply listed down the letters from A to Z and wrote down the first song that came to mind next to the corresponding letter.

And if you’ve read my previous post, you will know that three or four songs might’ve popped in my head for a single letter. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna rant on and on about how I finally decided on one song. (Whew!). The truth is, I simply didn’t. If multiple songs came to mind, I listed all of them!

It’s funny (or just plain ironic) that your favourite things run around your brain all the time except when you want them to. Like when you’re making a list. These are just the songs that popped into my head at the moment. There may be others that I enjoy just as much, if not more, but they may have unassumingly slipped my mind. However, every one of the songs listed below is special to me. They can be to you too, if you give them a listen. Also, judging from these songs, if there is anything you think I will enjoy, don’t hesitate to let me know.

A.  Another Brick in The Wall, Part II- Pink Floyd.

B.  Babylon- Angus and Julia Stone, (The) Boxer- Simon and Garfunkel

C.  Christmas Lights- Coldplay, Can You Feel The Love Tonight-Elton John

D. Drive- The Cars

E.  Every Breath You Take- The Police

F.   For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her- Simon and Garfunkel, Fix You-Coldplay

G.  Godfather Theme-Nino Rota, Good Life- Leslie Mills

H.  Here Comes The Sun-The Beatles, Hey Jude-The Beatles, Heal the World-Michael Jackson

I.    Imagine-John Lennon, I Will Wait- Mumford & Sons

J.   Just The Way You Are- Billy Joel

K.  King Of Pain-The Police, Knocking on Heaven’s Door- Guns N’ Roses

L.   Let it Be-The Beatles

M. Mrs. Robinson-Simon and Garfunkel

N.   November Rain-Guns N’ Roses

O. Our Last Summer-ABBA

P.   Piano Man-Billy Joel, Patience- Guns N’ Roses

Q. Que Sera Sera- Doris Day

R.  River of Dreams-Billy Joel

S.   She’s Always A Woman – Billy Joel, Sweet Child O’ Mine- Guns N’ Roses

T.  These Are The Days Of Our Lives- Queen, Tears in Heaven- Eric Clapton

U.  Uptown Girl- Billy Joel

V.   Viva la Vida-Coldplay

W.  We Didn’t Start The Fire- Billy Joel, When Love Kills Love-The Scorpions, When The Smoke      Is Going Down-The Scorpions, With Or Without You-U2,

Where The Streets Have No Name-U2, Wonderful Tonight-Eric Clapton

X.   Xanadu- Rush

Y.   Yesterday-The Beatles, You and I- The Scorpions

Z.   (The) Zoo-The Scorpions

FYI, letters I struggled the most with were V and X.