Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dharavi Set To Music

My office is 15 mins away from my house on early Saturday mornings. At any other time-day combination, it is atleast 40-45mins away. Between my office and my home lies Asia's largest slum. And considering it takes so long to get back in a cab, the internally stingy and externally obese person that I am, I have made it a regime to walk home everyday from work. It takes me the same amount of time, I get some exercise and above all, I get to listen to some awesome music (Yes, I am that weird guy you see dancing while crossing the traffic signal)
This theory that our senses get heightened when we close down a few others has always fascinated me. Till the time I can walk blind-folded through the tricky streets of Dharavi so that I can take in more of the sounds, I will have to make do with shutting out Dharavi's voice with music and take in the sights.
Getting right down to business, Pink Floyd and Indian Ocean have both fascinated me over the years and I listen to them an awful lot lately. And because I believe you can never have enough of a good thing, I tend to be loyal to either for the entire length of my walk.

In the order of seniority, I will go with Indian Ocean first - the water body, silly!
So Indian Ocean's link to the place is so much clearer - its music is Indian, contemporary and talks about the broader national issues which Dharavi represents in a microcosm. As the music starts working its magic, pay attention to the faces - the daily dejection, the glimpses of guilt, the hopelessness, the betrayed Bombay dream writ large on their faces. Pay attention to the speed at which people walk by, the bikes and cars honk from all directions and people still keep walking like manic zombies, unaware of their immediate surroundings - too taken by their larger troubles. Notice the loud political posters above run down houses - if you can call them houses in the first place. How the posters proclaim promises, glorify hoodlums and religious thugs; and then look at the people walking by - their heads down - sometimes in reverence to them but mostly oblivious to them. Then let Raghuram and his team take over with the guitar and the drums and tablas. Then just look at the environment - the urban waste, ramshackle shops; the naked kids, the malnourished kids, the deformed kids, the defecating kids. A lot of Indian Ocean's music asks the listener to question his current state, what he is looking for, his condition of absolute decay. At the same time, the music is sometimes reverential to a higher being - asking for his help. In that sense, Indian Ocean's music still believes that a place like Dharavi can rise above this, it wants the guy from Bihar to question whether this depravity is worth it all.
I have walked through this slum during the 26th July 2005 deluge. And the memory still visits me sometimes. The open gutters, the chest high waters, the thought that my mouth has never been this close to human waste before. Hehe, surely, "Kudrat hans padegi"

And then there is the psychedelia of Pink Floyd. Its music says more with guitar riffs than with words. It's lyrics have historically oscillated between politically charged and positively absurd. Pink Floyd's music is simultaneously both: more pessimistic and more colorful, than Indian Ocean  - assuming ofcourse that pessimism and color are ironic bedfellows in the first place.
Set to Pink Floyd, Dharavi transforms into this brightly lit cemetery. Pink Floyd's music glorifies the past and casts an even darker shadow on the present. You look at people's faces and see the early aging, the years that should never show on a 15 year old girl's face but they do because drain water is not the best moisturiser. Here there is no hope, there is just pain, dejection and an abhorrance for one's current self. The anger, the frustration is simmering on the surface as BMWs speed by to fancy multi-level parking lots at the other side of the city, in its wake leaving the people scurrying for space to walk to their dreary homes. So I sometimes imagine Gilmour, Waters, Mason and Wright giving a live performance right there in Dharavi - with the entire set-up done on the road divider - if the ruins of Pompeii stand for a great civilisation now destroyed by nature, Dharavi stands for a great civilisation being destroyed by man.
And the release is in forgetting about it, its in losing oneself in the bright colors of shanty walls, the fanciful lighting of leather goods stores, the stone and stick kiddie games next to the dump - the way the lyrics get lost in the grand guitar solos in Pink Floyd's music.

 Pink Floyd in 1967.

And yet, sometimes I walk without my music. Those days when Dharavi is set to its own choice of music. Bollywood chartbusters blended with Hindu bhajans during Ganpati and Bollywood chartbusters blended with Sufi Qawwalis during Id. On those days, I see these people the way they see me everyday - it is their own version of 'Dharavi Set To Music' and they trip on it big time!


Anuj said...

Wow. You're taking flight. Here is when you don't stop writing. At all. Go boy! ... This is just brilliant! ... the confluence, the prose, everything.

Miti said...

Poetic! Liked it :)

Atrisa said...

I remember telling this friend once how the world seems like a never ending music video when you're plugged in and doing nothing but observing the people around you. It sets a soundtrack to life.

Lovely post :)

wanderer said...

thx everybody.. i hope to write more often :)