The following event happened around 8 years ago. Here is what I wrote back then
Why ‘my son is a doctor’ is a privilege but ‘my son is an artist’ a disgrace?
It is pretty obvious that security leaves you with restrictions. You can do whatever you want to do in life. Be an astronaut, yes you can be one. Be somebody else, yes you can be you. But you are limited because of securities. Securities that are nothing but embodiments of the flawed cultural norms and obsolete traditional practices disguised into simple but unarguable and uncomfortable one liners called “Beta, kya kar rahe ho aj kal”?
I go to jam with my band in the evening and spend 3-4 hours there practicing and trying to be a little better at what I do. So, I am getting ready for leaving and proudly put on my guitar and start walking through the living room to the door. There is a person sitting with my parents and I looked at him to greet and he gives me this disgusted look as if he’d seen a prostitute.
I have learned to deal with these things, I ignore it and put on a brave face and walk away. Somehow he manages to get me in a debate, involving my family as well. For the next half an hour, I was disgraced to the core. I was ripped off of my clothes of integrity and rendered to a thin icicle of degraded self-esteem and long lost pride. I had never felt this insulted and inferior before, and to look into my parents ashamed gazes brought down a living nightmare to the awakened me.
“What did I do? I don’t understand. Hey, I am just a simple boy who is trying to make a living out of what I love doing the most. This guitar is not an instrument to get laid but this is the window to my soul. This is how I know who I am, this is how I meditate and connect to THE ONE. I don’t understand, what did I do?”
I couldn’t speak a word. Just shameful sighs of relief that at least it was over.
Don’t argue with fools. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.Mark Twain
I didn’t say anything, I knew he wouldn’t understand, I just wanted it to get over so that I could move along and focus on what I am doing. But somehow something changed. I was reminded in those blunt 30 minutes of what I go through every single day of my life. And the harder I tried to get it out of my head the more it bothered.
One day a lady cursed me to my face while I was walking to my jam room. ‘This is not our culture. You guys have demeaned our pride and brought shame to the community.’ Have I?
There are a million incidents that I can quote!
Usually I slay away from telling people what I do or who I am. It is just one of the defence techniques that I use to keep my inner self intact and my goals secure. But I have had a lot of love from some people and unimaginable appreciation about my art and these little moments have made me open up a little about my career and the choices I am going to make.
But sometimes I regret opening up.
It is hard trying to be who you are. No matter what you do, there is always going to be at least one person to pull you down and back to what the society wants you to be. There is a cultural adherence to how we are supposed to be. I come from a very reserved society. I am from India and that too from an area which is for India what India is for the world – a third world within a third world. And unfortunately my dreams do not belong here and so don’t I.
There is a notion surrounding me asking me to quit all the time. “It is easier that way”, Everybody wants you to be a doctor or an engineer or an IAS or something that can be accepted in the society; something that is not too ‘inferior’ for them to say to people.
Somehow, ‘my son is a doctor’ is a privilege but ‘my son is a musician’ is an insult. How have we wandered too far to resort to such imperfect accusations of what we do is who we are. A musician is a rockstar, he goes around taking drugs, fucking women, with no secure future, a menace to the society, something that can be replaced, a thing not worth considering.
They said the best thing that you can do in life is to be who you want to be, and then they denied ever saying it. Now I have found my recluse in music. I do music to live. This art runs through my veins. If it was possible, take a look inside a musician’s mind. It is all full of random noises and rhythms from the oddest of places – the dripping tap from my kitchen, the cars outside, the tapping on the keyboard.
We are always thinking about the good stuff, making memories, playing a good show, upgrading our gear, the practice routines, how to make it through the month, about our image in our fans, how to grow the social media reach, and the pettiest of million other things. We never think about cheating our clients with ineffective medicine, or try to make an extra buck by selling the extra bags of cement that the government issued for a certain project. We are kind, we are the best possible versions of what we are.
Why do you feel disgusted at a person who is going to his jam room with a guitar bag on his shoulders? Why does it offend you? Why do you think you are better than this person? Why would you think a doctor is somehow better than a musician? Doctors save lives, you say!
I was lonely and tired and on anti depressants for the longer I have known myself. And music saved me! How can I ever repay Pearl Jam about how they made me feel with one single song – Alive? It is something personal that they shared with me, it is not some business asset or a commercial skill that they learned only to market it later for their personal benefits. They wrote a song with emotions recollected from the hardest of their times, and not gathered by attending lectures and making notes. A song is something that can never be replaced, a feeling can never be replaced.
Why do you dwell in this pot hole of musicians being the lowest of us?
It is sad. It is killing me. I wrote a song and shared with you in anticipation of a divine, unadulterated connection between two human beings. This is the essence of being a human. This is the most basic of the instincts that we have. We are us only because of the single thing – we connect with each other unlike any other species in the entire universe that we know. Music only strengthens the bond. It only makes us come closer. So why are we treated not like prophets but as demons from hell.
Somehow this passion in me for these connections has left me more lonely than I was before! Did I commit a crime in wanting to be a musician? Or should I have had killed my being and been a Sarkari Mulaazim or Achi Naukri Wala instead?
I am dwindling in these winds of uncertainty and self pity. My nights are sleepless and my days are full of anxiety. The moments I spend with my friends are just ways to escape from this filth that is eating me inside. Is it too late already, or some things can still be changed! How hard can it be for somebody to fight the rest of humanity for his existence? Had I known it earlier? But am I giving up? Or do I keep going?
It is hard being a musician. Way harder than you can ever imagine!
People here worship successful people, but somebody who is struggling has to go through a living hell to make it happen, and the chances of making it through are close to none here.
I am feeling inferior day by day when I look myself in the mirror and think about my life and the choices I have made.
Thank you, society!