What George Michael’s Music Meant to Me

Source: Rolling Stone

Source: Rolling Stone

It is hard to believe the news of the passing away of pop icon George Michael, who was anything but ashamed of this label. While 2016 has been cruel when it comes to taking away so many stars that we love, with Carrie Fisher being the latest, George Michael’s death has been truly unexpected and untimely. Perhaps, it is the opioids again. It is not as if I never expected to hear this news, but its timing came as a real shocker. And there is a reason why it came as a shock to someone of my generation.

Growing up in the 90s, George Michael’s music meant so much more than just songs on tape. It was way past the Wham! years and he was well established in his solo career. But most of all, George Michael was establishing himself as a rebel figure that became an icon for individual freedom and personal choices. A gay icon before being gay was even remotely acceptable, George Michael became the voice for millions of all gay, straight, bi and other orientations when he expressed his sexuality through his music.

Right from the very beginning, no idea ever appealed more to me than individualism. Nothing brought me greater inspiration than the ideals of individual freedom and the importance of each individual. This is where I saw his music as an inspiration, and as a constant soundtrack to my life, that lifted me up in my darkest of moments. His music was truly empowering and inspiring. I recall the time when nothing else made me feel better than his music and how I bonded with my siblings over his music.

Source: Columbia

The way George Michael defined Freedom may have been gibberish to the ears of many at the time. It defined a worldview to the rest of us. It became the anthem of the defiant. His songs boasting of sexual openness became a license to take liberties. He made having faith sound cool and spun the wheel of our curiosity. Just like Bowie and Madonna, he was truly a figure that changed the face of music.

So for these reasons alone, I could never forget George Michael, nor separate his work from my life. The words of his songs, as well as those tunes, became a part of the way I saw the world. At least at that time. And I cherished every single moment of it. And never regretted it for a second. For someone who could barely play a six string, George Michael proved to be someone with a genius for producing the most haunting music you would ever listen to, enabling him to sell millions of albums effortlessly.

Source: musicroom.it

Source: musicroom.it

Now that we learn that George Michael was a far more generous and gracious person than we thought, considering his crude, 90s figure, having arrested for lewd acts in a men’s restroom in the United States, inspiring his controversial Outside video. However, his charity figures would never have made any difference to his fans, who already saw him as an inspiration.

To a generation that was bogged down by too many rules, George Michael taught how to stand up to convention. Taught the importance of questioning convention. He most certainly was not alone in expressing himself like that among the pop and rock icons of the 1980s and 1990s, but he was most certainly one that I personally associated with more than anyone else. And who I admired more than anyone else, even those whose music I got to appreciate even more than his later in my life.

This certainly is an end of an era in music, and one that passes with a heavy sense of personal loss and a scar on the heart, just like at the start of this year with the deaths of David Bowie and Prince. And nothing is more heartbreaking than the news of his possible return in 2017.

Source: Virgin/MTV

RIP George Michael.

You  have been loved.


Ravi Shankar – The Sound of Memories

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) - Source: Nagara Gopal/The Hindu

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) – Source: Nagara Gopal/The Hindu

What do memories sound like?

I am sure when I will look back at my life at its end, a lot of them will sound like the music of Ravi Shankar.

As I am sure what they would have sounded like to him.

The greatest sitar maestro of our times passed away on December 12, 2012 in a San Diego hospital. He was 92.

From his fabulous works with the London Symphony Orchestra and the soundtrack of Pathar Panchali to the soundtrack of Gandhi, which is one of my fondest memories of his music, every note out of his strings was divine. And I, by no means, want to deify him. It’s just sheer magic.

He popularized, if not introduced in the true sense of the word, Indian classical music in the West. Particularly with the Beatles. Particularly with George Harrison.

But it must have felt good, to some extent, to leave the world with such massive marks that would keep on reminding people of you for eternity.

I have often pictured myself standing facing the sun rising over Ganga on one of the Ghats in his birthplace Varanasi right after dawn with his Shanti Mantra playing. I hope to do that before I die. A surreal spiritual experience.

Source: Anna Kastner/vedicodyssey.com

Source: Anna Kastner/vedicodyssey.com

Also, thank you for Anoushka Shankar.

One of the rare moments where procreation actually worked.

Rest in Peace. At least we do when we listen to your music.

The Life & Death of Rajesh Khanna

Source: movies.ndtv.com

Rajesh Khanna passed away on July 18, 2012 and somehow I was sensing it for quite a few months. And I know you don’t have to be a psychic for that, a lot of people had the same feeling as well. Everybody knew it was going to happen and everybody knew they would feel terrible about it, unless for some reason they either hated Rajesh Khanna or old Bollywood.

Speaking of people hating Rajesh Khanna, it was only a coincidence that the May 2012 issue of Stardust had republished an article dating May 1986 in their “Blast from the Past” section, reading “How Rajesh Khanna Tried to Molest a Newcomer” with the subheading of “A Star-Mother’s Cry of Anguish”. The article features explicit references of Rajesh Khanna’s attempts of molesting the then-newcomer actress Sabia and how Dimple Kapadia’s father detested him as a pervert.

While this would forever establish Rajesh Khanna as a typical male culprit in the eyes of many, I must confess that it only makes him more interesting and mysterious to a part of some of us. Without glorifying the alleged acts. Though not sure how trustworthy this gossipy magazine is. Also, It is worth noticing how Rajesh Khanna would have felt a couple of months before his death had he noticed this article himself. Why I am talking about this, I am not sure but just because this has brought forth to me a dark yet fascinating and mysterious side of a superstar who is a household name.

Source: Mid Day

I cannot really say if I have been a huge Rajesh Khanna fan, or one at all, but I had absolutely no choice on how much his films would influence my life, as would be the case with many of you, because I literally grew up watching them. I am a huge old Bollywood fan and it was the golden age of Bollywood when Rajesh Khanna reigned supreme as the undisputed superstar of the silverscreen, particularly the fascinating 70s. He had a haunting face, it disturbed me as a child, yet I could not tell if I loved it or hated it. It was impossible to ignore him.

Some of my most favorite Bollywood songs were from the movies of Rajesh Khanna and that is something which becomes a part of you forever and ever. It is just a matter of feeling it and it is just a matter of acknowledging it, or you could just choose to ignore it. I think the day of his death was a good occasion when at least I would consider it important to stop ignoring it. I must confess I have been thinking about the old man quite a lot over many months. How he must be living. What must be going through his mind. How his relation would have evolved with Dimple Kapadia after the separation.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an important actor, though I cannot say that he was a great actor, but an important one because he appeared in very important motion pictures such as “Anand”, “Amar Prem”, “Aradhana”, “Kati Patang” and “Mere Jeevan Saathi”. I am missing a lot in this list I know, especially the mention of his killer pair with one of my favorites Sharmila Tagore. However, this was a time when Bollywood still pursued somewhat intellectual subjects in its filmmaking in a subtle manner, confronting existential issues, reflecting on life and death and how humans coped with tragedies, much of which has been turned into monkey circus, especially in the last two decades of Bollywood.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an actor that marked the golden era of Bollywood, the end of which just saw the beginning of its monkey circus. This is why he is important and this is why he needs to be remembered, regardless of the fact that he must be overrated and perhaps not as skilled an actor as his worshiping fans may claim him to be, as some would like to point out. It does not matter, he achieved all that and at the end of the day, you cannot help but like him.

One of the reasons I am a Rajesh Khanna fan is the fact that Kishore Kumar, who is my all-time favorite singer, was always the voice behind his face on the screen. This is something that I simply cannot ignore. One of the greatest songs that touched me from his movie “Safar” was none other than “Zindagi Ka Safar”. I often wondered while listening to this song what Kishore Kumar would have felt while singing it and what Rajesh Khanna would have gone through filming it, and especially when he would have looked back at it after all the years that had passed.

Whatever those thoughts maybe, I simply cannot get this song out of my head ever since Rajesh Khanna’s demise.

Rest in Peace.


August 24, 2012 – 1720 HRS

Update: Thanks to Roshni Mitra, a correction in the post. The film “Kora Kagaz” did not feature Rajesh Khanna. Thanks for pointing it out. Corrected.

Two Decades Since the Happiest News

Source: The Telegraph

I must admit I do not attach importance to sports anymore as I used to do ten years ago, neither do I associate it with patriotism in any way. I never did, even before my teenage, but it feels good to see everyone around you so jubilant and it feels very good to see something you associate with do well. Especially when it is a part of very personal nostalgia.

Pakistan is a country surrounded with troubles of all sorts, especially in the recent years, but it has had its share of fond memories and some very creative and important people in its history. I say this with an overtone of sadness that there have been very few instances of “good news” in its history, since its creation, at least in my living memory, since the late 1980s to date. However, one that I consider the most important one, and to some probably the only one, was the 1992 Cricket World Cup victory.

Now that was a huge moment for someone who had not even reached his teenage at the time and it was ecstatic. Imran Khan is my childhood hero and I recall that when I was in school there was no one in the world that I wanted to be like than Imran Khan. He is one of those very few charismatic and inspirational people you cannot help but notice. I was not alone. All the boys wanted to become Imran Khan and all the girls wanted to marry him. And it was really inspirational to see him lift the trophy for Pakistan. He is a politician now and a controversial figure, but I guess he always was. And that’s sexy.

Now that was one of those patriotic moments you cannot help but not hide under pragmatism, making it one of my very personal posts.

It happened on this day, March 25, exactly 20 years ago in Melbourne, Australia.

I know it is only a cricket tournament and many cricket world cups have come and gone since then, but to my generation, that moment means something really special. Besides, Pakistan was not as half as desensitized a nation to everything as it is now. I still remember watching the Pakistani cricket team victory parade on Murree Road in Rawalpindi from the roof of my old family house. It was a surreal moment that got attached to my memory forever and will never leave it until my brain cells are dissolved with my corpse.

Even the most useless cricketers in the squad are treated as heroes to this day.

I find the Pakistan of the 1990s a very magical piece of history anyway and it was really made special by this very special event. The earlier generations would attach far greater importance to the event not just because archrival India dramatically won the 1983 World Cup but because Pakistan was eliminated from the 1987 World Cup over a controversial umpiring decision that led to the dismissal of Captain Imran Khan in the Semi Final against Australia in Lahore. It was probably the lowest point in his career and he retired after the loss in the tournament. He was persuaded to come out of retirement and went on to lead an apparently dysfunctional team to victory, in a miraculous manner. Those who followed the tournament would know what I am talking about.

Whether you agree with it or admit it or not, I think that the 1992 World Cup victory had a great part to play in changing the destiny of Pakistan. It also led to the building of Pakistan’s first dedicated cancer hospital in Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, which could have happened without the victory too perhaps, but maybe not in such a glorious manner. Donations poured in for it. We lost that spirit somewhere over the years. Hope not.

Imran’s acceptance speech was pretty much about him than Pakistan, but I guess Pakistanis don’t mind that. I don’t.

But it really was the Happiest News the Pakistani nation ever received.

Two decades since the Happiest News and probably waiting for the next one, which will never come because this was it I guess. Hope not.

I think the 1992 Cricket World Cup was a moment that I do associate with patriotism without any shame.

Yes, it is a moment for which I am very proud to be a Pakistani.