Friday, December 9, 2016

Beautiful

Radio in India was stuck in limbo for the longest time.
 
All India Radio, more popularly known as Akashvani-the national broadcaster dominated the air-waves for nearly half a century.
 
Although both my parents recount listening to their respective Murphy radios amongst their most precious childhood memories, growing up I rarely tuned in, except of course for those 'once a blue moon' occasions when the TV wouldn't work and a cricket match was being played somewhere.



Not to discount anything from the station whose line-up was unique and entertaining in its own way, there was something missing. New music was rarely played and upcoming breakthrough artists were never featured.
 
Then in 2001, Radio City came to town.
 
I kid you not, the days that followed were dominated by an unprecedented newfound interest in FM radio.
 
Newer stations blossomed throughout the country, on-air advertising became the norm of the day and Nokia literally seized the day by stepping in and releasing phones with built-in radio tuners that went off the shelves sooner than they arrived.
 
Since there were millions of people listening in each day, it was hard for Radio City to serve everyone's best interests.
 
Requests for all kinds of songs were pouring in from every nook and corner of the city.
 
Sadly for me, it so turned out that not many people liked the kind of music I listened to and thus, the shows that I liked got pushed to the later hours of the day.
 
But that didn't matter, I was up all night listening.
 
Bangalore's very own Rohit Barker soon became my favorite RJ.
 
Mr Barker knew exactly how to enhance his audience's listening experience. He mixed the new with the old, the classics and the fresh hits with such finesse that it was hard not to be impressed.
 


I remember very clearly how he brought James Blunt into our lives. 
 
He shared a true story of how James overheard a group of girls singing his song in preparation for his concert scheduled for the next day, He happened to be living in the same hotel as them that night.
 
After patiently listening to their rendition of his song through the walls he tapped on their door and walked in to a room full of unsuspecting teenage fans and gave them a personalized performance of 'You're Beautiful' on his guitar.
 
Apparently the girls screamed till the next morning after he walked out.
 
Rohit then played the song for me to listen, and it blew my mind away.



The next morning I was more than eager to rush to my musically inclined and recently 'head over heels in love' friend Gajanan Babu and asked him if he too was listening in the previous night.
 
"I absolutely loved it". He said, his voice trying to match the excitement in mine.
 
"So are you going to try and get Barker to dedicate it to your girlfriend tonight"? I asked him.
 
"Of course not". He snapped back at me.
 
"Haven't you paid attention to the lyrics, the guy in the song doesn't get the girl at the end".
 
That's when it hit me.
 
It was a beautiful song, but it wasn't exactly a happy one.
 
If you were inside my mind at that exact point of time you would have heard the loud sound of glass breaking.
 
I couldn't listen to the song again, at least not with the same joy as before.
 
The next song of Mr. Blunt that would hit the air waves about a month later was 'Goodbye My Lover'.
 
That was pretty much it for me.
 
I realized that regular listening to James Blunts songs could be potentially injurious to my health and so I voluntarily checked myself into music rehab for a few days, detoxed with the help of some heavy metal and all was well again, for some time.
 
For some reason, a few weeks ago this image randomly just appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. 



I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the couch in my living room.
 

Growing up I was never really been a big fan of graffiti.
 
Most of the images I saw on the walls were obscenities spread across my neighbors walls or under flyovers and bridges on the road, making an already dirty wall even more appalling to the bystander.
 
To change the prevailing pattern, the government back home made a smart move of giving talented artists statewide the opportunity to use these walls as a canvas to express themselves in a more appealing and pleasing way.
 
The programme was moderately successful.
 
Dingy unkempt walls across the city were slowly but surely replaced by stunning art work.

What was once an eyesore was now something to behold.
Chicago has an amazing art scene.

Add to an already large list of museums, galleries, the art institute and innumerable exhibits, an impressive array of graffiti and murals spread all across town. Riding around in the bus as much as I do, I have seen my fair share of freestyle art often so impressive, it has at times taken my breath away.
 
In the past six months that I have lived here there is one particular mural and a fascinating message written on the iron fence right next to it that grabs my attention almost every Friday when I head out to the clinic.



The message, 3 words. You Are Beautiful.

Its funny, I must have seen it at least 50 times now, but on every single occasion it both surprises and uplifts me in equal measure.

As I explored the city further I started seeing the same message sprawled across several walls, billboards and sign posts. I went back recently to see if there was a connection and Voila! I discovered the 'You are Beautiful' project.
 
What began with 100 stickers and an idea in the mind of a young artist named Mathew Hoffman, has now blossomed into a global phenomenon.

All Matt wanted to do was send out some positive vibes into the world, and to just say that he succeeded is a gross understatement.

I remember reading a short story about a young man in a train who was distracted by an elderly co-passenger travelling with him. This other person constantly changed his seat, put his hand out of the window and appeared to be dropping what seemed to be seeds on either side of the tracks.

Annoyed by the constant disturbance he eventually confronted the man and asked him for an explanation



The man just smiled back at him and continued doing what he was doing.


When the journey ended he headed to the station master's office to file a complaint against his co-passenger.


It broke his heart to learn that the man he fought with was actually a deaf mute who frequently travelled on that train route.


"What was he doing with the seeds"? The young man asked the station master.


"When are you heading back home"?


"2 months from now". he replied.


"You'll see", the station master replied.


"You'll see".


The man left the train station somewhat perplexed.


Life continued and he got over his guilt surrounding the incident.

When time came for him to head home, he found himself alone in the train headed in the opposite direction. He was reminded of the old man, and he tried to distract himself by looking out of the window.


What he saw nearly drew him to tears.


Both sides of the tracks were now lined with beautiful flowers of all sizes and shapes that had grown out of the seeds planted by his co-passenger earlier.


Image result for train tracks flowers
I have learnt over the years not to take the little things for granted. A smile, a pat on the back, a hug when you are feeling down, a 'Keep Going, you're gonna make it', or a 'Don't worry, it gets better'. Not just because I think it is a good thing to do, but because I have often found myself at the receiving end of these gestures and it has pushed me forward in ways I cant explain.
Such is the power of the little, random, everyday acts of kindness.

And whether it is James Blunt serenading a bunch of his fans, or an old person trying to add a little beauty to the world, an unknown painter turning a bland wall into an alluring work of art or a young Matt Hoffman walking around the city with stickers reminding people how beautiful they are in their own way, in the words of the great Mark Twain, No act of kindness is ever Wasted.


Until Next Time,

TGV