So here we are. India. The 7th largest country in the world. 2nd biggest population. Yes, we had quite a significant role in the world reaching 6.99 billion (did anything change there? Haven’t read the papers in a while). It’s mesmerizing really, this exhibition of colour and wonder. It’s like every view carries with it a hundred different stories being played out on nameless canvases. Every turn is a photograph waiting to be immortalized in a frame or on a magazine cover. But do we truly appreciate this gift? And if we appreciate it, do we respect it enough?
The word ‘Lakeerein’ literally means ‘Lines’ or Linien in German. If we look at the world objectively, lines define every inch of our existence. From the contours of our faces to the silhouette of trees, everything is a summation of lines. But these are not the lines that the song talks about. In India, we take these lines to the next level. We turn them into boundaries and we thrive on them.
Our society is rigged with division. Nowhere will you observe this incarnation of separation more than in India. We poison in the name of religion. We differentiate in the name of creed. We ridicule in the name of colour. We insist on extravagance and ignore the essential. We pride ourselves on income rather than achievement. Birth rights and the authority to succeed go hand in hand, irrespective of merit. Mediocrity is readily accepted as being part and parcel of the system, a limb of our culture. We are free in theory but in reality we are still slaves to the past.
Not for one second do I claim that these issues and more do not plague other societies. But what hurts one most is what’s closest to home. And as educated, able young Indians we have the power to rid ourselves of these archaic assumptions still holding our society back in the 21st century. I do not expect all of us to become Anna Hazare’s or Bhagat Singh’s. Nor do I expect this song to become the anthem of a young nation. We all have to find our own small way to contribute; I chose mine through this song. We have the power to make a difference. Now we just need to find the will.
As I prepare to go to India for the 8th time in the last 6 years, for my customary December vacations at home, I am bracing myself for the kaleidoscope of difference that awaits me. The longer I have been in Germany, the more exotic and surreal India has become for me. As a person born and brought up in the ‘system’, I merely questioned it as a teenager. Now as an adult, and in a field that encourages intrigue, I am possessed by it. Possessed by the disorder of this system. Possessed by the image that this chaotic system just cannot work. But it does. Emphatically, in some cases.
Why I suddenly feel the urge to discuss this with you all? Recently we were asked the logic behind having 1 song in Hindi ‘Lakeerein’ on our debut album that is otherwise dominated by thought provoking, complex lyrics in English. “What is the point of having a song that most of your fans cannot understand when what you really expect of them is to interrogate the depths of your work”. Ok the original question was in German but for the sake of ‘understanding’, I translated it. I found it interesting that this gentleman thought of music as something that needs to be ‘understood’. In a way he is right.
We do tend to use music as a means of judgment; good or bad, intelligent or stupid, cool or not. So many of us are obsessed with what a songwriter is trying to say with his song, that we forget what the song is trying to say to us. Yes, our music does have a message, garnished with strenuously thought out words that laminate the instruments. But this message is an expression, rather than an expectation. A medium to exhaust the cornucopia of thoughts that are always competing for attention in my head. If someone feels the same way when they hear a song of ours, well and good. If not, that’s fine too. It’s what you feel while listening to a song that’s most important. However, since ‘Lakeerein’ involves an obvious language barrier, I will gladly state the reasons that made me pen it. The reasons that made me start this piece the way I did. But I’ll get to the actual song and the meaning behind it a little later, once I am actually faced with the issues it so loudly protests against. Right now I am just envisioning the taste of home.