It was the year 2001 that I have my first memories of listening to the song- “Beat It”, by the late Michael Jackson. And I was in love with it instantly. The power, the riffs, the buildup; everything felt so right the first time I listened to the song, thanks to my father. I am not going to lie, but my heart still tingles when I hear that ecstatic guitar solo performed by Van Halen in the song. Maybe that’s where I first picked up my knack of playing the guitar.
Coming from the classic Bengali family, music has remained a fundamental part of my life. Pink Floyd and Pancham da were like the Brazil and Argentina of music in my family. Yes, it was a reference to football. And I support Germany since 2006, no point in arguing why.
I picked up the guitar for the first time at the age of 10. I had my training in classical and felt that it was the most stupid thing one could learn. Still, it was a guitar; I played it. And left it soon after because my hands ached with the pain of keeping the strings held down too hard. Living then in Gurgaon, it never actually mattered what anyone could establish in music. The only melodies (the toffees weren’t available then) that the public would appreciate were the not so ecstatic tunes of Himesh Reshammiya at the weddings.
It was not until I went back to Kolkata in 2008 that I picked up the guitar again. To be honest, I don’t like the city much. I mean I have lived in Chennai, NCR, Mumbai and I found all these places better. But I have an uncanny attraction towards this city. Must be because of the Pujo, the trams, the debate over communism and many other subtle things that make me want to go there more often.
I heard my music teacher play ‘The Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor at school and that came in as the second blow of inspiration in my quest to learn music. I still remember scouring through all the Marty Schwartz videos on YouTube, trying to learn every chord and putting together my first song ever; the Doraemon theme in Hindi.
My life felt accomplished and there was no looking back. Until (of course, there has to be an until) I shifted to Mumbai and formed an actual band with my friends. I always thought that Linkin Park was a short-haired guy screaming his, err, throat off in front of the mic. Who’s Greenday?
I had never heard of these names ever before in my life. My circles were always bound to The Eagles, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and many more of their kin. So much of their music; I thought I had been listening to the wrong stuff after I gave my first ever performance in school.
I practiced really hard for it. For I knew ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles was an arduous song to perform for me back in the day. I felt nervous in front of the mic and the guitar seemed heavier than usual. I began to sing and the world faded away before me. It always does, even today. Being my first performance ever, I was a bit jumpy about the spectators’ opinions. But they never came. I said ‘thank you’ and stepped away from the mic and gazed all over the assembly of us 8th graders. Not even a wink. The only hooting I could hear were those from the 11th waaley bhaiyyas. Alas! I arrived at a conclusion that my guitar might not have been tuned properly at all.
I reddened. A few sobs back at home. And I was fine, really. Next performance.
I was geared up with ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ by Green Day, which I had newly (and naively) learnt. This time I forgot the lyrics after the first chorus and all I did was “uh-huh” for the rest of the remaining part. I wasn’t happy at all. Plus, I ruined a sort of anthem for my friends. I let them down. A very special friend of mine approached me that day and offered her help in my music - though she was not a musician, but since then we hung out and listened to all the “cool” music.
Nickelback, Linkin Park, 3 Doors Down and what not. She truly guided me through that period of time. Oh, and our favourite band, then, was Sum 41. I guess I did improve a lot after that. Soon it was time for my next performance (I am skipping the one before as right during my performance the sound system got damaged by voltage fluctuations. I had to leave midway).
This time I was sharing the stage with another friend of mine. ‘Kryptonite’ by 3 Doors Down. I chalked out this plan that if the performance failed, then we’d share the shame, else, we’d share the fame. Though I was tipping heavily over the former. My guitar to amplifier connecting cable was immaculately short and I was standing in an awkward position which hid almost all of me behind a pillar. The song was a success and my friend became an immediate sensation all over the school.
I transferred to a junior college soon after for another failed pursuit of my life. Yes folks, the IITs. That’s a story I don’t have much to tell about. We all have that recipe, the remainder of us that is. I had quit listening to Nickelback and Linkin Park by then. Majorly because my special friend from school had gone far away and every song reminded me of our legendary hangouts. Or maybe, I moved away from her.
The musical scenario in my college was completely different. We had these recreational activities along with the fabled Bob Marley, The Police and some occasional dubstep. I gained a lot of knowledge in music and the guitar. But my heart felt empty. I once again stumbled upon my old cassette player with the Michael Jackson track in it and oh boy, it gave me more satisfaction that listening to Dream Theatre, Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica combined. I wasn’t ready.
Soon, the “turning point” in my life came. I went to buy a better guitar and ended up buying an expensive piano. Yes, an actual piano; it costed me a fortune. And within a year after that, I gained my 6th grade Trinity certificate in the piano. After so many failed trysts with destiny, I had finally accomplished something. And, that too, with the likes of Chopin and Beethoven.
I am proud to be a pianist and I think I am a decent one too.
The guitar remains my instrument of choice when it comes to solo performances and capturing prolific Facebook profile pictures. Life, of all voluntary things, seems the most incalculable of all. I did write my own fate and that has indeed led me down the course of being a pianist with numerous failed attempts with my guitar. A coincidence, maybe?
I am still on my pursuit of learning that Van Halen solo from ‘Beat It’ and I have a feeling that this feat will always remain unachievable to me. I have failed before and I know that I’ll fail more in the future, but that’s what life is; to keep on trying.
Photography By: Karthik KS