13 December 2009

Why Indians Love 'The Summer of 69'?

My first serious association with Angrezi Music began after joining B-school. There were a few rock and blues fans in my engineering college, some of them my very close buddies (and of course there were Vengaboys and Backstreet Boys) but somehow I never got hooked to Bryan Adams and his ilk. My first introduction to rock was by Pink Floyd’s ‘Coming Back to Life’. The credit of course goes to my roomie, R, on whose blog this post was first posted. Since then, I have listened to a multitude of English songs of different genres, liked a handful of them and have come back to those I liked.

Coming to music in languages which haven’t originated in (and hence don’t belong to) the Indian sub-continent, the number of Indians who listen them are really very few. And even fewer can really appreciate the music. By ‘languages of Indian sub-continent’ I mean Hindi, Hinglish, Urdu (Sufi genre, Paki bands) and a dozen or so regional languages. I am making this statement after living amongst and observing some very cosmopolitan populations. Even among the progeny of the so-called pop culture, products of MTV generation, people who have watched more Hollywood movies than desi flicks and of course, the ‘Global Indians’, the percentage of people who listen to Angrezi Gaane is miniscule. Then again if you go by absolute numbers, the sheer number of people who are immersed in it is also quite large.

But even the most complete ignorance of rock, blues, country music etc. doesn’t stop people from listening to and enjoying two songs – ‘Summer of 69’ and ‘Hotel California’. Any jukebox, in any decent pub of the country worth its salt will play these two numbers. Now I know that CafĂ© Mondegars and Leopolds don’t play them. I was thinking the other day what is so special about ‘Summer of 69’. Then it stuck me it’s probably the lyrics which reminds you of a past long forgotten.

For most middle class Indians, the college days constitute their fondest memories. It applies to everybody irrespective of whether one has attended St. Stephen’s or Babban Rao College of Engineering (I hope there’s no college by that name!). It’s the first time many people come out of home and taste independence. Unlike the Western societies where the kids are pretty much on their own once they enter high school, our Indian culture encourages hand holding by parents for quite a long time. So, the majority of us have never known/experienced phenomena like ‘proms’, ‘dating’ etc.

Then, we enter college. Many experience their first brush with ‘Co-education’, have their first crushes, taste alcohol, tobacco and many ‘forbidden’ things for the first time. We go through an emotional roller coaster which includes everything from adolescent insecurities to idealism and courage to change the world. At some point or the other we all think we can conquer the world. Then, there are those long drives (with ‘You-know-who’ on the backseat) of the bike borrowed from your roommate, stealing a few moments of privacy during the final night of college fest and beer drinking sessions with the ‘macho-est of machos’ (read mechanical engineers).

Then, one fine day the college and those carefree days end with farewell parties, signature days and zillions of photo clicks. And we enter our professional lives and slowly our idea of fun takes a new dimension. Terms like accountability, responsibility enter our lexicon. You have somebody whom you ‘report to’. ‘Bunking Office’ is no longer as simple as ‘Bunking College’. Your idea of fun becomes drinking expensive whiskies and liqueurs with some pot-bellied middle aged men (other wise called office colleagues) to build ‘relationships’. Camaraderie and bonhomie is replaced by back (and sometimes butt) slapping. All relationships are actually ‘investments’ and ‘networking’. Once you have a family of your own, you hardly remain a guy who used to think he can change the world and who used to leave for North India trip with 150 rupees in his wallet. With passing time people become more cynical about life and everything around them.

I think somehow, somewhere this is in sharp contrast with the lives of Westerners. We may accuse them of lacking family values but at the end of the day they know how to enjoy their lives. Simply because there’s only one life and it is YOURS. ONLY YOURS. Attribute it to their individualistic culture or maturity of their societies but they have a higher element of fun in their lives than their Indian counterparts. I am not saying that they don’t live a life tied to the mill and don’t have the mundane worries of life. But in spite of them they do what gives them happiness unburdened by the expectations of people around them. It’s not just heading for the pub after Friday’s work. It’s much more than that. So, your son’s appearing for board exams doesn’t stop your from climbing the Alps or do museum hopping in Prague or snorkeling in the Great Coral Reef or attending concerts of Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Now the reason why they are more adventure seeking than us lies in their upbringing. Moreover, economic well-being is also a reason why they can indulge in more means of conventional fun than us. Still I am quite sure that even the Indians with similar economic standing are much less traveled, less fun-seeking and in short lead a more mundane life than their western counterparts.

So, when they read Chetan Bhagat’s books (priced so very appropriately at Rs 90) and listen to KK’s ‘Yaaron’ and numbers like ‘Puraani Jeans’, they remember those bygone days of real friends – friends beyond time and space.

Finally, when Bryan Adams croons ‘Those were the best days of my life’, we all go back to those days, those long forgotten faces and events flash before our eyes. It was a different place, different time. And yes, those were the best days of my life.

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