Music, as I consciously heard and enjoyed for the first time, came out of a radio. Even though we had a tape recorder at home, my father never got into the habit of buying cassettes. I still managed to listen to a lot of songs because of the people around my house. Someone or the other would tune into a station that's playing something from Tamil movies. Home to school, the songs would have a discontinued play as house after house, shop after shop would take the baton as I proceed in my bicycle. I even developed a common "talent": I used to be able to identify a song within a few seconds of it playing in the radio or whatever the source is. Sometimes I would sing through the entire song, word for word. I've even tried my hand at one of those school "singing competitions." That was Dindigul.
Meanwhile, my musical horizons were widening. No, I didn't learn to play anything. I listened to English music for the first time in my life, thanks to FM Radio and DD Metro. I was struggling quite a bit with the lyrics, though. I could probably make out 10-20% of what they said, but I was now able to appreciate -- however superficial it might have been -- the music and music videos that were produced in the 'West'. There was a subconscious sense of sophistication. My parents' aversion for western music -- the little I got to watch on DD -- validated the feeling.
The songs and the artists were still slippery and I thought the odd mention of Michael Jackson and Prince would suffice to achieve some "hipness" at school. But the dweebs who sat behind me knew more than just MJ. They were both Christian and knew how to play the piano too. I don't even remember any of the names they threw at me during our 'debates' about the "unoriginal music" Indian music-directors were churning out (hail sophistication!). Thankfully, though, they were too "ugly" to make me feel insecure.
Self consciousness is a tricky feeling to tackle, especially when you're young.
Higher Secondary: a lot of new kids from other schools -- usually, the scum of PSBB and KV -- got into mine. Even though these kids were rejects in a sense, they were walk-in alpha males in my school. They did not have to fight other males and establish their territory before their status was acknowledged. Because, they were representatives of the gentry -- they just colonized the rest of us. Yes, there was an untold us and them. Communicating in English and pulling "conventish" pranks on each other and some teachers, they were the quintessential post-pubescent "players". Pretentiousness, their 'game' platform. They were learning French while we were "stuck" with Tamil.
As for music, most of them didn't get beyond Aqua and Ricky Martin -- the most popular of pop music. However, there were a few who would mention Metallica and Aerosmith once in a while. I don't know how, but I became friends with these guys. They introduced me to rock music. As is the case with many, I didn't like rock music one bit. The first time I listened to Metallica I had a headache the whole night. Pop and techno had a straightforward appeal. So the two years in higher secondary didn't change too many things as far was my knowledge and exposure of non-Indian film music was concerned. Next stop, college.
You may be wondering what happened to girls in all of this. Fooling around with girls wasn't big in any of the schools that I went to. The teachers would go "fundamentalist" if they saw anyone "talking too much" with girls; it's worse if it's outside the school. Personally, I had a very low esteem in terms of sex appeal to be worried about girls. So internet porn was a better, non-judgemental alternative to keep my mid-teen curiosities under control. (Related podcasts: one and two.)
More in the next post.
PS. This post was inspired by the movie Ghost World. It became an instant favourite and I highly recommend it.