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When I met Coldplay

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs during the Global Citizen concert in Mumbai.

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs during the Global Citizen concert in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: PTI

It was in the spring of 2008, when I went to Bangalore to take my entrance examination for a medical course, that I met Coldplay at breakfast. At that time I looked at myself as a future doctor with a white coat on me and a nice bike to ride wearing it. Yes, you read it right, neither to serve the poor or to treat the needy. Nor did I have the slightest idea about Hippocrates and his oath.

I was an average student with the average percentage in Class 12. I knew entrance tests were insurmountable and my father hated the idea of preparations and coaching. He used to say, “No year drops, think now and think wise, you have lots of options, you can do B.Sc. in any good Delhi University college, or you can pursue B.A, or, hmmm…, you love music, right? What about being a DJ?”

He is always supportive and wanted me to decide my future, and when I did, it turned out to be a horrific one for some years and it is still jamming. And so after lots of ifs and buts, my dad finally gave me an idea which, after eight years when I look back, I think was the most intelligent decision regarding my future in today’s century. He persuaded me to join dentistry, and so we came to Bangalore as it was the hub of donation-based medical and engineering course admissions.

I have always been a lisztomaniac. Guess it came to me from my dad. We have this whole big gigantic shelf, decorated in my dad’s room, with thousands of cassette tapes. Music has always played a significant role in my life. My mind has memories of my childhood with background music on it. Some road trips with family come flashing to me when the same song gets played every time, and I think it will remain like this forever. Most of my life can be regarded as one with different situations and each situation specified with a particular music. And it can be anything, English, Hindi, Indian-Tamil and Kannada classical music, Assamese traditional folk, Bengali, Nepali pop, Sufi, Arabic, Persian… I am not going to start off with the different genres I listen to. It’s a long story, but long story short, any music is good if it’s good music.

In those days I was an aspiring music listener too. I always was very curious about people with good music taste and wanted to know more and more about western rock-and-roll, to be specific. And luckily I was around some people who had this epic knowledge about it. I remember one incident, when I was talking to one of my awesome uncles, Prabhat Bora (bordeuta) when I was 19 or 20. I opened a conversation about my love for music and what I love listening to, and after 15 minutes, when I asked him about his genre, his reply made me realise, I am just a drop in the Pacific who has explored nothing but a dot till now. He started talking about the classical period of music. For the first time I heard names such as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Luigi Boccherini, Muzio Clementi, Antonio Salieri, Leopold Mozart, Johann Christian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Christoph Willibald Gluck. He even gave me two CDs as souvenirs, one was Beethoven’s 9th symphony and the other, Bach’s symphony. And still, it has been difficult for me to understand them. I guess, they have their own times in my life to fall into perfect situations.

But yes, in that era, punk had a stranglehold in northeastern India. Boys loved Nirvana, Good-Charlotte, Simple Plan, Creed, Nickelback, Velvet Revolver, Greenday, Linkin Park and such bands. I too was going through that era. And yes, this era is very important to create the base for music-lovers. No one will love Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Dire Straits, Nazarath, Sex Pistol or Pink Floyd without some preliminary knowledge. The struggle, when songs were not easily available, Internet access was a mess, and parents did not allow guys like us to visit cyber cafes, it made us hungrier for “musica”. So you listen to anything and everything you get, good, bad and ugly. Once you get introduced to something, you explore. It’s like alcohol — first you don’t know the difference between beer, whisky, rum, gin, scotch, vodka, tequila, wine, brandy, singani and soju, you only know that’s alcohol and that’s bad, but then “life” happens.

So I was in that age where Coldplay was tough for me to understand, you know, emotionally. Do you think an 18-year-old can really understand the depths of “The Scientist”, “A Whisper”, “Amsterdam”, “Warning Sign” or “Murder”? I guess not. We concentrated more on Metallica, Deff Leppard, Deep Purple, Iron maiden, Nazarath, Slipknot, Marilyn Mansion, Cradle of Filth, Sepultura and Pantera kind of stuff.

At one age music is more important than the lyrics. I am not saying these bands never had lyrics, these bands had that “thrash”, “psychedelic”, “kill them all” kind of lyrics, but their music is what describes them more than their lyrics. And we adored them for that. Songs such as Nirvana’s “The man who sold the world”, Metallica’s “One” and “Master of Puppets”, Deep Purple’s “Child in time” and “Lazy”, Iron Maiden’s “Alexander the Great” and “Seventh son of a seventh son”, Marilyn Mansion’s “Tainted love” and Sepultura’s “Roots”, made us look like savage brutes in front of our mothers. I remember, sometimes I tried to make my elder sister hear some of my collections I used to hear at that point, and she used to say, “Bro, lyrics, lyrics is where you need to concentrate”. I used to shove her off.

When I woke up that morning in Bangalore, we ordered breakfast. Dad was sitting right in front of me reading the newspaper. I have always disliked the idea of reading one myself but if something awesome or awful struck my eyes, I guess I never had any issues going through one.

At the corner of the table, besides my cup of tea, another newspaper, a weekly music express, caught my eyes. In big bold letters it was written, “Viva la Vida, Coldplay’s new album”. I picked up the paper and read the whole article. I knew nothing of Coldplay then. But when I read the article there was a line that stuck me, and after eight years today I remember it: “Coldplay has a mixed audience many like them and many don’t. But those who do, Viva la Vida is going to give you chills to the bones.” That was the day I met Coldplay.

We didn’t like Bangalore much and came back soon. The next day I went to the local music store, “The Music Channels”, and asked for anything related to Coldplay. They basically kept Hindi and regional collections with them, and English was not preferred. They tried a lot but could not help me but handed me 10 different cassettes and told me to search for what I was looking for. I saw this one cassette that was “Top 20 tracks of 2007”. I looked at the cover for the song titles and luckily found one Coldplay song in it: “Yellow”. Yellow was the first Coldplay song I heard, like most people in India. You ask anybody about Coldplay, the first song that comes out is Yellow. But yes, there is a reason for that; it really is an awesome track.

When I heard it the first time, I thought it was just okay. But the second, then the third and then the repeat mode made me realise, “No, it’s not just okay, it’s simply wow!” To fall in love with Coldplay, you need to listen to a track several times, else you will never understand Coldplay. From that time till today, even if lots of mobiles were changed, broken or stolen, the music list always had “Yellow” in it. For many years it was only “Yellow” that I was listening to, and luckily then came the Internet. When we were growing up, and facial hair was getting more pronounced, India too was growing in technology. I got introduced to YouTube. And the whole world of music, which seemed to be so hard to get earlier, was now available in one box.

The best thing about Coldplay is that the lyrics are simple, compassionate, relates to anyone’s life — and Chris Martin’s voice. (In my last attempt to save my relationship, when I was on my way to persuade this girl, the love of my life, “Green eyes” was on repeat mode. Imagine the intensity of any lover at times like these, you are travelling, scheduled to meet her, to persuade her to come back to your life, the last resort and you do not have a single clue if she will come back to you or not, and in the earphones Chris Martin is saying, “Honey, you are a rock, upon which I stand. And I come here to talk, I hope you understand.” Though when the time came she did leave me and Martin could not help save the relationship, but yes it did play its part to make me stay positive about it. Everybody needs to try this too.)

Time flew and new loves and new crushes led to a new life. Songs such as “True Love” and “Always in my head” came up. Sitting in your bean bag, smoking a cigarette, thinking about this elegant beautiful girl, and Chris is saying, “Tell me you love me, if you don’t then lie, oh! lie to me”, and then after a while he says, “I think of you, I haven’t slept, I think I do, but I don’t forget, my body moves, goes where I will, but though I try my heart stay still, it never moves, just won’t be led and so my mouth waters to be fed, and you always in my head, you always in my head.” And so when you get to look at that girl in public and you don’t have the guts to go talk to her, you just sing to yourself the words Chris bhai says, “This I guess, is to tell you, you are chosen out from the rest.”

When you are sad, there is “Fix you” and “In my place”; when you are happy, there is “Paradise” and “Viva la Vida”; when you fall in love, there is “Violet hill” and “See you soon”; when you regret having done something wrong, there is “Warning sign” and “The hardest part”; and when you are broken, there is “Ink” and “Trouble”.

Coldplay is a kind of band that’s going to make your life easy if you listen to it depending on the mood you are in. Like me I know there are millions of others who can relate their lives to the songs Coldplay has given us.

India visit

On November 19, Coldplay visited India. And as you know by now how big a fan I am, you definitely might be guessing I did enjoy the show. But naah! Sadly, I could not attend it. Actually as a student I was not able to afford to pay Rs.15,000. It was over my budget. I do regret it and that’s why, I did not see any post in Facebook related to their stay in India, nor till date have I tried to see a single video of the concert. But one thing did hurt me, for which I had to go through the whole concert, when I saw a post in Facebook where Chris Martin was alleged to have disrespected the Indian flag at the concert.

This reminds me of an earlier controversy that happened when Narendra Modi autographed an Indian flag to be gifted to U.S President Barack Obama by celebrity chef Vikas Khanna. God, which century do we Indians live in? The same way, some ‘patriotic’ NCP spokesman, being fully insensitive to the gravity of the band, probably not knowing even what “Paradise” is, want Chris to apologise for what he did. Why? Martin tugs the flag in his belt. But the truth is obvious: if anyone has got an impression of the person he is from whatever the world knows about Coldplay, can you ever think Chris Martin can, or ever will, disrespect the Indian flag, or any country’s flag, in a conscious state of mind? He is an artist, a talented artist with a unicorn heart, beautiful from inside out. We have seen videos of Miley Cyrus singing “Party in the USA” wearing bikinis and dancing to the tune in front of a big American flag for backdrop. When I saw it for the first time, even I thought what would have happened if Sunny Leone dances the way she did in front of an Indian flag?

Music knows no boundaries. It’s high time we stretched ourselves and looked beyond. Where are we lacking? We are perhaps sandwiched in between. We are trying to adapt to western culture, wearing clothes like Bruno Mars. You can see swaggers everywhere in the streets, in the metros dancing to the tunes of their earphones. We listen to music like Kygo and Dirty Vegas and all those stupid House music. Even we are making songs in today’s society where not a single song goes off without “booze”, “party” and “daru” in the lyrics, and at the same time we are not able to leave behind the old traditional Indian taboos out of our heads, which has led to a society of confusion.

We are hanging in the middle, neither fully Indian nor fully western. In an average marriage party I can see five-year-olds dancing frantically to the tunes of “Booze lagi hein, bottle do”. We are in a state in which Irfan Khan with All India Bakchods have perfectly explained in one song “Party all night”. Identity seems to be boiling down to a fake resemblance. But we are proud Indians and no country is as culturally musically rich as ours. This country gave us Ilayaraja, Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravishankar, Norah Jones, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Jagjit Singh, Hariharan, A.R. Rehman, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, Euphoria, Sonu Nigam, and so many other legends. We need to strengthen ourselves. We have it all, all we need is the eternal sunshine of our spotless minds. Also, we Indians need to be grateful that Coldplay came here to play their tracks. Do you think if we fool around like this, this band or any other international band will ever think of coming back here? And for those patriots on contract, please never ever in your life think once to attend an Iron Maiden concert where you will watch what Bruce Dickinson does with the flags.

God forbid, one will be jaw-dropped. I am an Indian by blood and I love my country, my country’s flag, from the deepest core of my heart like most Indians, and I am proud of it more when it gave a warm welcome to a band like Coldplay which ended the concert with Vande Mataram alongside A.R. Rehman, and proudest when Martin had that flag attached to his body when he sang his songs. But I feel ashamed when it comes to people like these who not only insult themselves by sharing their stupid views on Facebook but also demoralise the country’s growing music culture.

These international bands have a culture different from ours and respect should be given and taken from both sides. Bringing Sunny Leone to India does not make us advanced, nor does making a big deal about a flag tucked in a belt. But the idea that a woman who works in the porn industry and who is a proud wife and a proud achiever in whatever she does, and this country’s acceptance of her, makes me proud of this nation. Similarly, stop looking for flaws in every good act and be a bit passionate and reasonable.

Let us love ourselves, love somebody, love to listen music, love to appreciate its strength, its power and not just go there to see the Indian flag in Martin’s hands or body or anywhere for that matter. Don’t be shallow, be great Indians, be true Indians.

devdootkakoti@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 1:20:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/When-I-met-Coldplay/article16907759.ece

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