Running With and Straddling Diversity

“I walk a lonely road,
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone”
This is how “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” starts. Even though I first heard this number by Green Day, a few years ago, it still, each time I hear it, unfailingly sweeps me off my feet. And, if I play it at the end of a tiring run, it always manages to infuse into me the extra zing and stimulation that I need to keep myself going for at least another round and a half. “Boulevard…” ranks in my top 10 all-time great list of Western rock numbers, a list that also includes “Stairway to Heaven”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Three days ago, during a run, “Boulevard…” was followed by this Hindi number on my music player.
“Ae Khuda, mujhko bataa, tu rehta kahan, tera kya pataa
Hum to yahan pe musafir hain, jo dhoondhe apni manzil ka pataa”
I didn’t miss a beat and continued running with the same extra vigor that “Boulevard…” had initiated.
I heard “Ae Khuda” for the first time recently on Indian Idol. I found this song by Salim Merchant so enthralling that I immediately ripped it off a ‘”Paathshala” music CD. I hadn’t expected it to play during my run, and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to break my stride throughout the duration of the song.
My running playlist has a mix of Hindi and English songs…all of them uplifting and with a beat that matches my stride. And honestly, the language makes no difference…my feet and mind are equally comfortable with both.
There are many like me who grew up on a steady diet of Hindi songs. Binaca Geetmala on Radio Ceylon was a weekly staple and a way of being in touch with the latest numbers. In the 80s, like many of my friends, I slowly graduated to classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Doors, along with the Beatles and The Who, with some bubble-pop, like Abba thrown in as well. And, over the years, my tastes have veered from metal to punk to Shamshad Begum to chick-pop to Indian rock and briefly, even to Jagjit Singh.
No wonder so many of us are so schizoid. Straddling multiple cultures, which differ so completely and yet are so assimilated in us that while running, if the IPOD shuffles suddenly from “Stayin Alive” to “Tum Mile”, I don’t even miss a beat.
And how things have changed.
In the 80s, if you listened to rock, it was infra-dig to like contemporary Hindi film music and you could, horror of horrors, never ever dance to Hindi music in discos. Never, ever! Only old Mukesh and Rafi renderings were considered acceptable listening by the ‘sophos’ and ‘pseuds’. Somewhere down the line though, Hindi film music became more and more acceptable across all levels of our society, and now more often than not, there is more Hindi music than Western playing at many dance parties and in discotheques.
In how many cultures across the world, would this be seamlessly possible? How many people are able to effortlessly move among completely diverse genres, without any conscious effort? Isn’t this uniqueness among a good number of Indians, something to be proud of?

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