What dreams may come

On Friday, November 11, I woke up humming, “It’s not a trick, your senses all deceiving, a fitful dream, the morning will exhaust”. They were from Leonard Cohen’s 2001 song ‘Alexandra Leaving’.

It was the last time Cohen appeared in my dreams. He had been making regular surprise appearances, but this was different. Here, he decided to interview me. Just imagine!

Before talking of the dream, a word on a true incident. In 1998, I had heard Cohen was in Mumbai to meet his spiritual guru Ramesh Balsekar. I tracked him at Shalimar, Kemps Corner. “I am sorry I can’t grant you an interview, as I am on a private visit,” boomed the famous voice.

I didn’t insist, although that was something I regretted. He agreed to sign my CD, if I reached in an hour, but he left earlier. That short conversation haunted me, and Cohen compensated by regularly appearing in my dreams. Often, he got irritated and left.

In the wee hours of November 11, he reappeared. I spotted Cohen at Priyadarshini Park, Nepean Sea Road. He was in Nike shoes, beige shorts and black T-shirt. I reminded him of our only telephone talk. He refused to go on record this time too, but on a whim, Cohen said, “Why don’t I interview you: about me?”

In a minute, we were at Ghetto in Breach Candy. He liked the ambience and music, but probably felt offended that no rock fan recognised him. Soon, we were at a restaurant in Colaba, relishing kheema pao and chai. “Can you describe Leonard Cohen in two words?” he began. “Sheer poetry,” I shot back.

He tapped his head, “Baah! Anybody can say that. Tell me something better.” I thought, and said, “Verbal paradise.” His response: “Not bad, but not good enough. I spend six months thinking about the right two words, and have thus spent three years on one song.”

Next, Cohen challenged me to quote from my favourite song of his. I thought of his 1977 piece ‘I Left A Woman Waiting’ and recited, “Whatever happened to my eyes, happened to your beauty; What happened to your beauty, happened to me.”

He hinted a smile. “Everyone talks of ‘Suzanne’, ‘Bird On The Wire’, ‘Hallelujah’ or ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’. You are different,” he said.

I continued with his latest hit ‘You Want It Darker’, and quoted, “There’s a lover in the story, but the story is still the same; There’s a lullaby for suffering, and a paradox to blame.”

Another tea was ordered. He winked, “You know something about me. I should have granted that interview in 1998. But here’s your real test. What do you know about Federico Garcia Lorca and Irving Layton?”

I was stumped. Cohen looked irritated. “Baah! You know nothing. These two poets have been my biggest inspirations. Without them, I would be nowhere.”

I had barely recovered when he asked, “Who do you think is better — Bob Dylan or me? Honest answer, no diplomacy.” I wanted to scram, but barely whispered, “Personally… well… please don’t mind... I have heard Dylan much before you and he had already had such a huge...”

Cohen interrupted, “I agree with you on this. He once joked that if I was Number 1, he was Number Zero. His winning the Nobel was my dream come true. Whatever my fans say.”

The bill was paid. Suddenly, Cohen announced, “Thank you, Mr. Kusnur, but I have other things to do. Hineni, hineni [Here I am], I’m ready, my Lord.” And he vanished.

I woke up with the line from ‘Alexandra Leaving’. And then I checked WhatsApp. The flash said, ‘Leonard Cohen dies at 82’. He had passed away on November 7, but the family announced the news late.

The dream was over. Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye. Now so long, Leonard, it’s time we began, to laugh and cry, and cry and laugh about it all again.

The author is a freelance music writer

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 8:22:00 PM |

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