Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Of murder, music, football and...

(This entire piece was written about a month ago. Because of the lackadaisical attitude and the utter incompetence of our very own global, multinational, corporate behemoth - the Tatas, access to their internet service was disrupted for more than 15 days. So it is being blogged now.)

The news is full of murder. People murdering others by violent means. Lovers killing lovers, parents killing offspring, partners killing business associates, rivals killing competitors. Over the last few months, newspapers and television channels have revelled in the gory details. The newspaper which claims to be the largest circulated one in the whole wide world took 'balanced view' to its extreme. A few days ago they were quite clear that it was the dentist father who killed his adolescent daughter and the manservant. Not even 3 days after that, they quite unashamedly absolved that very same father of the accusations they had piled on him by revealing his cellphone records which they now said proved his innocence! Cellphone service providers too it seems, are not above rising to the occasion to grab some of the newsworthiness such crime stories have.
Why do we have this fascination about crime as if it were some sport? TV, print, street gossip are all rife with rumour, suggestions, allegations, and of course, the solutions - all depending on how you look at it. It's all a matter of perspective.
The only thing more murderous than the weapon or motive is the indifference. Take the husband/father in another recent case who chose to remain incommunicado with his wife and daughter for several years as they were mentally ill, yet lived in the same apartment with them. The two women were served food by the cook in the room they stayed confined to. If it hadn't been for the employees of a shop below who complained about the smell, the husband would not have noticed that his wife had died, attributing the decaying smell to uneaten food rotting in the room which apparently was usual, according to the statement he gave the police. Indifference was the weapon here.
As you can see, I too have fallen into the attitude I criticise as I passed judgement back there. Our urban, urbane, uber-sophisticated indifference, couched in cynicism, the ability to differentiate in logical, rational terms will be (has been?) the undoing of a generation that grew up in the 60s and came of age in the 70s.
The History Channel showed an hour-long documentary on Jimi Hendrix and his last album: the seminal, the wonderful, Electric Ladyland. (THC showed an acetate copy label of the pre-release record reading 'Electric Landlady'! Jimi was really pissed.)
I heard Jimi first when I was a pimply-faced, just-turned teenager. Are You Experienced changed my taste for music forever and my continuing fascination for Hendrix and intense love of his music has persisted to this day. I knew instinctively back then (as did millions of others), that Jimi was way beyond the rock music that we were listening to. So it surprised me to hear in this documentary, that he was actually unnerved about asking Steve Winwood to play on Electric Ladyland, quite sure Steve would not want to do so. And Winwood of course, who did play on the album, had only unstinting praise for My Man.
In my post-adolescent years when my love for jazz began to overpower my interest in rock music, I was pleasantly surprised to find Hendrix mentioned in detail, and in glowing terms in thick learned volumes on the history of jazz. He spanned all the genres it would seem, even after he was dead. Miles Davis had even made a public statement that he would have loved to do an album with Jimi. Apparently, there are bootleg recordings of the two jamming in some late-night jazz joint, something Hendrix was wont to do with many musicians from the jazz, blues and rock worlds.
The new genre of World Music has lost a major influence on their style with the untimely death of this genius. Or perhaps not. Eddie Kramer, his long-time recording engineer said in the documentary that Jimi's music would last, at least, for the next 100 to 200 years. Winwood rated his music as classical, meaning everlasting, and if anyone, he's more than qualified to make such a statement.
I often use Jimi's music as a wellness pill, a panacea, a restorative, a mood-upper or mellower, and I have friends who do the same. For me, listening to Hendrix nowadays is a private thing. I don't normally play his music in general company, other than by request. Not everyone I know who loves music likes Hendrix with the same intensity that I do. On rare occasions, when one or two like-minded friends get together, we have a long session of Musique Hendrix, preferring it continuously over other favourites of ours. More than any other dead musician I love and respect, the void that Jimi Hendrix left behind is one that I too regret deeply.
It is not just the music that could have happened that I miss. It is how he would have further influenced lifestyles, thinking and opinion. He is certainly an unpublished author, and had he been alive there would have been a book or two by him; he would have made films (he did the music for Rainbow Bridge), and he would have pre-empted current digital music capabilities easily, and far more convincingly. His experimentations with the available technology of those days itself was pathbreaking. In fact, his tinkering has led to much of the new technology used for performing and recording music these days.
James Marshall Hendrix, Jr. May he live on. And on!
Football. Quite a game. 90 minutes of hard kicks, fancy footwork, streaming sweat, tears of rage, grief and joy, and quite often, a bit of blood. I'm watching UEFA 2008 on TV and I'm Lovin' It, as one of the sponsors of the championship puts it. Never having been a major cricket fan, and usually, not a fan at all, I am ignoring some cricket championship happening right now somewhere in which India seems to be doing extremely well. I know, because the same channel telecasting the football is also doing it for the cricket.
In fact, I'm glad India does not ever qualify to compete in international football tournaments. We don't have the mental attitude to be fast and furious. We are a people given to intellectuality. We need to strategise, plot and plan in painstaking detail, use our famed mental abilities to win. Football, while requiring a fair amount of strategising and a politicking bent of mind, also requires the capability to instantly revert to sheer brute force when the situation demands it. And that is very often on a playing field.
We Indians can't really do that. Our psyche is born and bred of deep thoughts and theories. Brute force will use up too much energy required by the brain. So we can't attain any sort of international standards in the game of football. On the other hand, while doing quite well in field hockey in several encounters, we must remember everyone on the field is armed with a long, hard stick, and can hit back. The Geneva Convention somehow applies to this sport, so brute force is well contained here with diplomacy holding sway. Anyway, that's my theory.
And what else? I need to write on four items here. No, not by demand of some editor breathing down my neck, but just a little clause I have inserted into my agreement with myself as a writer. There are some who can write every day on almost any subject, regardless of how mundane, implausible, convoluted, or simply unreadable and boring their writings are. They are the little children constantly jumping around in the classroom putting their hands up for every question, usually the hyperactive ones suffering from attention deficit disorder. The ones desperately seeking attention. Their understanding is that if the mountain is there, it should be climbed.
However, reaching such heights is quite another thing. Because if a blog exists, does it have to be written? Must heights always be scaled? Should we always be seen to be doing?
I write because something moves me and urges pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. I may also write trash and bore, but I at least spare you a daily diatribe.

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