Technically, I have been twenty years old for two days.
Emotionally, it has been a while. I can feel it because it was not a science experiment. I did not put an age-tracer in my brain and have it change colour with changing perspectives. I only know, it has been a while. It is that sudden realization, while travelling by train, when you remark, ‘Wow, I have been seeing farmlands for quite a while now’, and you realize how far you have come from the city. Then, the mathematics steps in.
It was the day of our Mathematics exam. It still is, actually. At every span of exam preparation time, there comes a point when you just have to say, ‘To hell with this.’
Said point is followed by a set of consecutive points, whose lower bound is the point that screams, ‘Where’s my iPod?’ The lower bound is followed by a set of equal points which settle into a convergent series, and this time, said convergent series took the form of an old playlist.
The people’s person that is one phantom of my personality would have said, ‘Kelly Clarkson. Are you sure?’
The logic stayed, and I retorted, ‘At some point in your life, you have to say yes to Kelly Clarkson!’
I was perhaps fifteen or sixteen, when, fully aware that my father was as much involved in watching the television as I, I switched the channel to VH1, and there was a concert going on, which paid respects to women artists of the past, like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick. Kelly Clarkson was singing “Chain of Fools”. I told my father, ‘This is my favourite singer. She won the first season of American Idol.’
Kelly Clarkson was exhausted, and gave way to Paramore.
So continues my story of the not-twenties. For my first inter-school fest, I dissociated myself into the song, “Hallelujah” by Paramore, only to find that in the flurry, I had missed countless classes and a test. My friend and I were only class eight students then, and the storm of the principal’s rebukes, the teachers’ rebukes, the seniors’ rebukes left us crest-fallen. No one had the time to hear us out. We didn’t know of any test, we tried to tell them. It wasn’t taken into account. After a heart-breaking day, we were told that we could be allowed to perform after all. First hallelujah. Then, I travelled alone for the first time with seniors in a taxi, went to Kala Mandir, hit some high notes (I’m an alto; I’m not used to hitting high notes) and felt a voice screaming and singing “Hallelujah” on the way out (accompanied by parents’ rebukes).
When Green Day came, I was in the same class. Some things from your not-twenties, you always carry past the border. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen; Green Day was witness to a rapid roller-coaster of maturity. I was handed a badge of a rather small office in the student council. I went through a phase when I learned how to create a wall around my brain and only study. [The algorithm is lost somewhere, now.] I graduated to a higher office in the student council. I thought I would study English Literature.
I curated those memories in Skid Row, Guns N’ Roses, Linkin’ Park (oh, come on), John Petrucci, Queen, The Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin.
There are some artists who stay in your memories as one hit wonders, even if they are celebrated largely in the industry. Songs become memories. Lyrics become galleries to pictures of insignificant happenings, that somehow weigh greatly in retrospect. I associate Lenka‘s “The Show” with a certain friend who can harmonize with me at odd places like a loud carnival. I owe a good deal of the musical counterpart of school to her. She has been the elder sister I’ve never had.
Yes, most of my not-twenties revolve around school. I was a ticking bomb that exploded into fireworks of mirthful lethargy in college. I have more dimensions to my life now.
The very last song in the playlist, before it got perniciously late, and I had to stuff my face with a plateful of rice and multiple (I can’t keep count of my grandmother’s doting) fishes – fried and in sauce – was “Afternoons and Coffeespoons” by Crash Test Dummies.
It is one of those songs which will always be an absolute favourite. Preference of songs doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with its technical aspects, but for this one, I cannot help mentioning how beautiful, refreshing and timeless the tune is, how good the lyrics are, and how they reference T. S. Eliot.
American shows have musically-inclined teenagers choose their own “jam”. I don’t want to use that term, but yes, do ascertain that this is that song. This is the song for me.
It was uplifting in my not-twenties, it is uplifting now, it will be uplifting forever.
It is the idea of an identity which doesn’t change with age. I will always worship Shakespeare, I will always be in love with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I will always procrastinate before an exam, I was always call myself horrible things a few hours before the exam when I cannot remember something, I will always sit in a feline position near windows when it rains.
Homecoming isn’t only about exploring the past. It is also about finding what remained.
That’s what the playlist was about.