Day 966

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It seems like that was another lifetime. Some moments however last forever. My mind has been dancing in overlapping elliptical, circular, zig-zag and squiggly shapes between the remotest past and the far future and deep inside this bottomless present moment. I find gems scattered all around. Today the moment when I first saw his face shone the brightest. I picked it up. I held it in both my hands, looked at it for a while, felt it, kissed it and held it close to my heart. This is where he lives. In my heart, in the past, the future and the Now.  That moment from another lifetime is mine again.

Experiences can only be experienced. Not explained. Ones who has experienced it know it, ones who haven’t can have a guess. Some songs say it all. This one does. It speaks to me. It’s a song of love. Roberta Flack sings to my heart. She knows how I felt the first time ever I saw his face.

“The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies my love
To the dark and the endless skies

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hand
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command my love
That was there at my command my love

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last ’till the end of time my love
And it would last ’till the end of time

The first time ever I saw your face
Your face, your face.”

Day 945

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The beat goes on…

Leicester Square Tube station is a short stimulating walk from there. Chinatown is mouth-wateringly aromatic. Soho is teaming with restaurants and bars of all kinds. Music of various genres flies on to the street from doors and windows. The streets are buzzing with tourists and locals of all kinds, colours and inclinations. Outlandish garbs and hairdos are normal. It is Entertainment Central.

Ronnie Scott’s is black. A legendary jazz bar that has hosted every big name. The entrance is an unassuming black and red double door. It leads into an atmospheric, intimate space. The shapely waitresses manoeuvre their way delicately around tables in black dresses with broad red belts. The walls are awash with black and white pictures that capture jazz artists in an ecstatic moment. The cocktails are elegant and the menu fit for a Queen.

A drum-kit usually sits at the back of a stage. At best, to one side. But last night, it held centre-stage in all its glory – 5 drums and 8 cymbals at various angles. It was a celebration of Buddy Rich’s 100th birthday. He’s been called the greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath. Gregg Potter and Dave Weckl played the drums as a tribute to Buddy. They led a beautiful-big-band made up of 11 wind instrumentalists, a pianist and a base guitarist. They added layers upon layers of intricacy and magic to their music. Notes slithered up and down the octaves like snakes up and down a staircase. The sound was smooth, the timing impeccable and the speed, unbelievable. It was soothing and explosive at the same time. The beats bound time in a tight grid.  The drums became an extension of the drummer. They were one.

I wonder if Saagar had heard Buddy. I wonder what he thought of him. I am sure he would have found his drumming to be ‘ridiculous’. Saagar often went straight to his drums on getting back from school. Drumming was his passion and respite. I suggested he do his official music grades. He said he had nothing to prove to anyone. He just wanted to enjoy it. He was a natural. Pity we never went to Ronnie Scott’s together.

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Day 936

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Born to run

“Patti will observe a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track… she gets me to the doctors and says, ‘This man needs a pill’.”

 His new memoirs speak a lot about his long battle with depression. Bruce Springsteen had a strong family history of mental illness. He didn’t do drugs as a rock star which is unusual. He was afraid  they would unmask his genetic potential for insanity but he was already suffering  with serious melancholia.

On the therapeutic value of touring he says, “You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them. There’s one voice, the voice you’re speaking in.”

His wife of 25 years, Patti understands his illness. She helps him manage it. “A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself”, she says.

The media often reinforces negative stereotypes of people with mental illness, depicting them as inadequate, unlikable, dangerous, confused, aggressive and unpredictable. The Boss’s devotion to many progressive causes sharply contrasts that image.

Public stigma leads to self-stigma. It stops us from talking about mental illness and worse, ask for help when we are struggling. Patti was initially apprehensive about the book in which Bruce speaks openly about how years of depression left him crushed. It would be read by millions. But then, she saw the value in that.

I watched Bruce Springsteen in 1985 at a Live Aid Concert in Delhi. I was terribly envious of the young lady he invited on to the stage from the audience to dance with him.

Long live The Boss!

“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line”
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

 

Day 924

 

Day 924

CHIRAG
(Central Himalayan Rural Action Group; Also means ‘lamp’)

Every time I return to India I witness immense beauty in simplicity. I feel that beauty changing me. I grew up in a simple, sweet world. Moving away from it was difficult but time moulded me. Somewhere deep within that appreciation of simplicity remains. I see it without romanticising it. It is a part of me. I feel closer to myself each time I am faced with it.

Last week I volunteered to tell a story at a primary school in a small village in the Himalayas. I sat in a circle on the floor of a well lit large classroom with a group of  sixteen 7 year olds and we chatted for about half an hour in a mixture of Hindi and English. One of them asked me if we would be singing but I wasn’t able to confirm that. It bothered me.

The Principal, an enthusiastic young man of 29, said they didn’t have a music teacher in the school as the charity had just about enough money to pay for teachers to cover the academic curriculum. A local musician has offered to teach music but they are waiting for funding to come along to be able to employ her.

It is Saagar’s 23rd Birthday today.
I think he would have liked for that school to have a music teacher.
Happy Birthday Darling!

“O Bud! Your life is so moving that only for a while
You blossom, for just a smile.
“In this garden, O dear,” said the bud
“Just a few are lucky to smile, even for a while.”
(Translation of an Urdu couplet by Josh Malihabadi)

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Chirag School Newsletter 2_Autumn 2016

 

Day 912

Everything was fun.

As soon as he could walk with support, leaving home in the buggy for a walk in the evening meant, him pushing the buggy, taking it for a walk. Looking into the mirror, playing hide and seek with himself was fun. Kicking a cotton sheet off him with his frantically moving arms and legs was fun. Wearing big sunglasses and shoes was fun. Playing with toys and words was fun. Crawling, walking, running was fun. Dabbling in different kinds of music was fun. The ‘bandana’ phase was fun. Playing and listening to any kind of percussion was fun.

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Going round and round while sitting in one of my mother’s big cooking pots with a convex bottom was fun. On his second birthday, we found him in the balcony with a pot of yogurt, officiously feeding himself and our dog, Caesar, with alternate spoonfuls of the honeyed white stuff. As he grew older, pulling faces was fun. Smurfs and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was fun. The little toy in the occasional Happy Meal at McDonalds was fun. Z-Ball was fun.

Being back here in my parent’s house brings back heart-warming memories of his childhood. He was such good fun!

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Day 902

Mr Drums

An excerpt from a speech made by one of Saagar’s friends at his memorial at Durham:

“Whilst complaints about the noise level were regular, complaints about the type of music that was being played were few and far between as Saagar regarded his taste of music as above reproach. And to be fair – it was not far off. It was the epitome of eclectic – spanning Heavy Metal, Hip Hop and Punjabi M.C. Or as Saagar would put it – White man music, Black man music and Brown man music. Fortunately, for all of us today, Saagar would not rest on his laurels when it came to music, and instead was a gifted drummer. I never saw Saagar more excited than when he was talking about his latest venture with Lenny and the Mandem. Being part of that band meant the world to him. For that – I feel we owe Lenny and the Mandem a debt of gratitude: not only for providing Saagar with a musical outlet that fast became the highlight of his university life, but also for providing a platform upon which Saagar could showcase his amazing talents behind a drum set. I know that he felt incredibly honored to play alongside you all, and I for one, felt incredibly honored to be listening.

Indeed, one of the major highlights of my time at Durham so far, was having Lenny and the Mandem play at my 21st birthday party at Fabio’s last year. At the time, I did not know the rest of the band too well – but knowing how much of a fan I was – Saagar made the necessary arrangements for them to perform during our celebrations. Whilst this was enough to already make my evening, Saagar went one step further, and arranged for the band to cover a song from my all-time favourite band: Dire Straits. What followed was a moment that I will never forget. I looked up to the stage when I recognized the introductory guitar riff to Sultans of Swing and saw Saagar’s head poking out from behind his drum set – mouthing the words ‘Happy birthday brother!’. What seemed to be a mere song to so many at the party, was in fact the most touching gesture from a very dear friend. A gesture made all the more poignant by his passing.

This was not the only music-based memory of Saagar that will live long in the memory. Perhaps the most amusing moment I shared with him happened in the Aidan’s cafeteria. The summer ball act was about to be announced, and our lunch time conversation had turned to the one act or group (Dead or alive) we would most like to see perform live. We went around the table, and each person took a few minutes to consider their answer before saying somewhat predictable musical heavyweights from the last 50 years or so (from the Beatles’ to Tupac Shakur). The conversation then turned to Saagar, and he replied completely deadpan and without a moment’s hesitation with: Dido. The table erupted with laughter as nobody could believe that someone felt so passionately about what can only be described as elevator music but Saagar defended his decision with aplomb. From that point onwards – we decided to begin the rumor that Dido was going to be made the summer ball act, and much to our surprise –this went viral. So viral in fact, that Basshunter’s first few songs were drowned out with chanting from the crowd for Dido to come on. If the Aidan’s social chair is in the crowd – please take note. I can think of no better tribute than Life for Rent ringing around the halls of Aidan’s and it would be a massive improvement on that bloke we had last year. Whoever he was – he sounded like a cross between a digitally modified car crash and a Harrison Sand’s D.J. Set. Saagar did not approve.

One thing Saagar would have approved of however, would be the number of people who have taken the time to attend this memorial today – and indeed, the number of people who turned up to his funeral and the memorial service hosted by his alma mater: Dulwich College. At both of these previous events, the audience was completely full with people who had come to pay their respect.

As I stand here, still struggling to talk about such a presence in the past tense, I am comforted by the fact that the lessons we learnt from Saagar will never leave us. The most important one he taught me was pride. No matter what, Saagar remained unapologetically proud about so much in his life, and this pride was truly contagious. He took pride in his upbringing, and the sheer courage it took for him to move from India, to a period of racial bullying in Belfast to the drastically different setting of one of the country’s leading public schools (although speaking from experience – public schools are perhaps not the best place to seek refuge from racism!). This did not affect him in the slightest however. In fact – he remained so proud of being brown that he resorted to smoking out of liquorice rolling papers that were as brown as he was. Another thing I know he was very proud of was his time here at Durham, proud of his achievements: both academic and extra- curricular. Proud of the friends he made, and proud of the experiences he shared with them. Whilst he may no longer be with us, this pride lives on in each of us – as we are all immeasurably proud to have known him, and prouder still of how he chose to spend his tragically short time on this earth, leaving little more than the wisdom he imparted, the compassion he shared and the untiring friendships he made.

Since his passing, and despite the atheist outlook I shared with him, I have often found myself wondering what Saagar would be doing right now in the unlikely even that we were both wrong, and that there is a God and a Heaven above. I wonder if his room up there still smells the same, I wonder if he has found a place to buy those dumplings he always used to eat, and I wonder if Jesus has told him to turn his music down. Is there a drum kit in heaven? And even if there is – has he found a band with a front man as good as Lenny Jesinghausen? Does heaven have a cricket club – and if so – does that still mean his bowling action is illegal? In the unlikely event that religion IS true, and that I have not spent the last 3 years and nearly 30 grand on a theology degree that equates to studying ancient fairytales, I guess we will all be able to answer these questions for ourselves one day. Personally, the first thing I intend to do is to  catch up with Saagar over a fag in Heaven’s smoking area. I hope you will join us.

This is likely to be the final opportunity we have to pay our respects as a group. In a brief hour or so this memorial will conclude, the crowd will disperse, and slowly but surely, we will draw a line under this chapter and resume our lives. Saagar cannot do this. He has no line to draw, no life left to resume.
As a result, I implore you to take some time out to honour him in your own way. He had a youtube video for all occasions, so perhaps rewatch some of them. Listen to Dido, smoke a liquorice cigarette or something stronger if that’s your thing. But above all – never forget. Never forget the memories you made, never forget the laughter you shared, and most of all never forget the lessons you learned from him.

He lived for a mere 20 years, may his legacy live on forever. ”

 

Day 883

The morning was spent on the phone with another Mum preparing herself for her son’s upcoming inquest.

The afternoon was spent watching 3 short documentary films at the BBC Arabic festival. One of the films was co-directed by one of Saagar’s friends. All 3 films were about the struggles of young men and their ways of dealing with them. Saagar would have loved them. He wouldn’t have required subtitles.

The evening was spent watching moving images of Saagar on the videos that were sent across electronically by one of his friends, over yesterday and today. The headphones on which I heard him play the Djembe solo is a present from another friend of Saagar’s. The eyes and ears made my broken heart overflow with pure love.

The sun shone brightly all day and for longer than normal.
All of the above are gifts from Saagar.
It was a happy day. Everyday is Mother’s day.

Love can’t be fully expressed, described or defined.
Trying to do so only touches the surface.
Love can only be experienced.
Divine love is beyond attributes.
Love for someone just because they are.
No conditionality.
Divine love grows with every moment.
It doesn’t break.
Love is self-evident. No proof is required.
Life is an expression of the inexpressible.

Ref: https://bbcarabicfestival.pilots.bbcconnectedstudio.co.uk/#/