Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Hidden Human

They say man is a social animal. There are two parts to this saying, both of which ring very true.
From the time we are born, there is a web that society slowly starts wrapping around us. We are largely oblivious and innocent as kids but as we grow up, we pull that web tighter around us. And all along, this action is voluntary on many levels.

"What is this web?" you might ask. Well, it's a web of societal norms, obligations, expectations and validation. And we happily fall prey because we are trained to find happiness and satisfaction in the fulfillment of the above.
There is nothing wrong with the idea of a society and it's norms, but when these norms have their genesis in a selfish motive or blind faith, every action performed towards fulfilling that end makes us lose our humanity. It's a gradual process which takes up more than half of our lifetime. Deep inside we all know the error of our ways but it's a selfish world and one has to be selfish to survive. The fact that such type of survival is also the reason for our contentment
 paints a morose picture of the animals we have become.

In the circle of life, we get only as much as we give. And so it holds true for humanity too. There are folks tearing our world apart in ways unknown even to themselves and there are a few others who only want to give and to help.
The bad news is, most of us selfishly fall in the former category. The good news is, there is a human being hidden inside all of us. We only need to look.

A Walk To Remember

I walk to work and back home everyday. It is a twenty minute walk and I usually listen to music on the iPod. Sometimes I call up and speak with whoever I feel like. Like most others, this routine too gets boring after a point of time.

This evening I started the walk back home. Automatically my hands reached for the iPod and earphones. I plugged in the earphones and started scrolling down the Artists list. There's another thing with me. While walking to work or back, I like to listen to songs by any one artist only. Sets the mood for the walk. Lends some kind of consistency, if you know what I mean.
Half-way through scrolling, I suddenly decided that I don't feel like listening to any music today. So I put the iPod back in my pocket, rolled up the earphones and continued walking.

Thankfully, I find it quite easy to let my mind go blank and so I did, for five minutes or so. Then suddenly, out of nowhere a thought struck me. "What would it look like if I could see myself walking from up above?" Like an aerial view.

And so I started picturing myself walking home on the road I know extremely well from my usual line of vision, but hardly at all from a higher vantage point. I started imagining how the streets I'm walking on would look like. As the thought process continued, a whole new world opened up in my mind - cars weaving through the traffic, people walking, crossing the road, children playing in the playground and on the terrace - all in one glance.

To make things more interesting, I traced the path of a car and myself, both far apart initially; slowly converging in such a way that it was difficult to say whether our paths will cross or not. Eventually our paths did cross and a pretty girl rolled down the window to ask for directions. Well, all of this happened in my mind's eye of course, so I moved on quickly lest things got more interesting in my imagination and the tug back to reality became more disappointing.

I imagined myself walking into my lane and all the way into the building in which I live. As I climbed up the stairs and reached home, I couldn't help feeling how this had been one of the best walks ever.
Try it sometime.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I was commuting by bus today and gazing out of the window at the world passing by, when this thought struck me. Except nature, everything that we see around us is made by man. If you just let your mind absorb this fact, it's pretty amazing. Leaves you stunned if you dwell on it sufficiently.

Your mobile phone, the buildings, roads, signals, tube-lights, advertising hoardings, clothes, vehicles, airplanes, cups, pens, machines; the list is endless and encompasses almost everything.

It tells us that we humans are capable of extraordinary things. The proof is above, below, inside, around and on us. We have made tremendous progress in our thirst for knowledge and comfort. But at what cost to our planet? The answer lies in the simple fact that even the lack of nature is man-made.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Featherweight of Expectations

Many religious texts and discourses by learned men and women tell us to live our lives without any expectations from anyone. They say that if these expectations aren't fulfilled, we are left with nothing but regret, sadness and disappointment.
Many people keep saying, "don't expect anything from anyone and you will remain content in life". It has become like a tagline of our times, to guard ourselves from the ever-deepening depth of the hollow lives that we lead. 
Prima facie, this widely preached adage is fair and true. I beg to differ, though.

We face disappointments in life at regular intervals. After every disappointment, we expect ourselves to stop expecting anything from others henceforth. And with this expectation from ourselves, we fail in our endeavor right at the beginning. Why not expect everything from everyone? Just don't let the fulfillment of that expectation be the basis for your existence or reason for your happiness.
A life lived without 
expectations is devoid of hope; it's just a passive existence. And hope is the fuel we all function on.

Expect others to irritate you. You'll be prepared for it then. Expect happiness from what you do and sadness from what you are missing out on. The entire purpose of living life is to feel. If you feign indifference all the time, you aren't living. Let yourself feel. Allow yourself to live an uncomplicated, vulnerable life.

Album Review. "Strangeland" by Keane.

Strangeland is the fourth studio album by English alternative rock band Keane. It was released on May 4th, 2012. This is the first album to feature bassist Jesse Quin as an official member of the band.

Keane are:
Tom Chaplin Lead vocals, lead electric guitar, acoustic guitar, organ
Tim Rice-Oxley Backing vocals, piano, keyboards, synthesisers
Richard Hughes Drums, percussion
Jesse Quin - Bass guitar, rhythm guitar, electric guitar

Here is a short review of all the songs on the album.

Track #1: You Are Young
Keane starts off proceedings with this sweeping, encouraging song. It is replete with soaring piano melodies, motivating lyrics and an upbeat tempo. A good beginning to the album.

Track #2:  Silenced By The Night
This was the first single from the album and to be honest, I was disappointed when I heard it first. It grew on me slowly, but I'd question their decision to release this as their lead single. There's a lot going in the song in terms of music, but the lyrics leave a lot to be desired.
"If I am a river, you are the ocean / Got the radio on, got the wheels in motion."
That made me cringe.

Track #3: Disconnected
The first two tracks on the album were somewhat on a similar tempo scale. Disconnected breaks it down a bit with it's off-beat beginning. The chorus of this song is addictive. The "Ooooh" by Chaplin will haunt you comfortingly at least for a week.

Track #4: Watch How You Go
At this point of time in the album, you feel they're deliberately slowing it down. Nevertheless, this is a nice, slow ballad. The lyrics are uncomplicated and so is the music.

Track #5: Sovereign Light Café
One of the two best tracks on this record. A wonderful song talking about "wide-eyed dreamers", familiar streets and heavy on nostalgia about their teenage years. It's been just over a month since the album release and I play this song at least five times everyday.

Track #6: On The Road
On The Road straightaway has an anthemic sound to it, but gets exhausting. Lyrically, the last line is the best on this track.
"Sometimes a dream itself can keep you safe, all along the road..."

Track #7: The Starting Line
A song that will inspire and comfort you in equal measure. Some of you may find this the best track on the album and understandably so.
"Each heart is a paper kite, blown around by the breeze / Love won't rest till it brings you to your knees..."

Track #8: Black Rain
Dark, brooding and melancholic. For the first time in the album, you feel Keane is experimenting with their sound, breaking away from their signature style. An honest effort. 

Track #9: Neon River
I love this song, especially the beginning notes. It slowly picks up tempo and climaxes with a full-throated sound on Rice-Oxley's piano, which fills your ears wonderfully well.

Track #10: Day Will Come
Day Will Come picks up where On The Road left off, tempo-wise. Only it carries the baton much better overall. Chaplin tries to convince the listener that the good times will return.
"Some days set your world on fire / And some days they sink like stones."

Track #11: In Your Own Time
Tom Chaplin shows us his full range of flawless vocal abilities on this track.  And Tim Rice-Oxley showcases how he has become the backbone of Keane's piano-rock sound since 1997.

Track #12: Sea Fog
Tom Chaplin, take a bow. His vocals on this concluding track will give you goosebumps. The pain is evident, the hope shines through and the result is a strong case for him to be regarded as one of the finest lead vocalists of our time. Sea Fog is an elegant end to a solid album.

Keane are often criticized for not experimenting much with their predominantly piano-rock sound. When they do, they are panned for moving away from their strengths. As we all know, this doesn't matter much. The fans love their music.
This has been termed as a back-to-the-basics, safe approach by Keane; a step backwards from the bold forays of their 2008 album, Perfect Symmetry. Honestly, I don't see any problem with that. Rediscovering your roots is no crime, as long as you have good material and sounds for the public.

They play to their strengths and the result is that Strangeland will find a place for a long time even in your 2 GB iPod Shuffle.

Rating: 8/10

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own. Not everyone will agree with them. Feel free to post your comments.