Just let the song in you play – it doesn’t really matter what others play or have to say!
The past few days we have been doing a round of the free kutcheris on the Madras Music Season circuit. I don’t understand Carnatic music the way it should be – I don’t know how to identify ‘raagams’, I don’t know the nuances of the art form, I don’t know the compositions, in fact I know precious little about the genre. Yet I lose myself whenever I find any music moving me from within. Immersion, I guess, works for me with music, more than academic understanding, more than being a connoisseur. The concerts this season that I have so far been to featured the veteran Hyderabad Brothers and the young, happening, Sandeep Narayan and Rithvik Raja.
Sandeep and Rithvik have both been guests on my popular Bliss Catchers Event Series. Sandeep is a disciple of Sanjay Subrahmanyan; Rithvik has been learning from T.M.Krishna. According to me, both the young artistes are very versatile, hugely talented singers. But I often find people comparing them to their gurus and to each other. I find such comparisons really misplaced and quite unnecessary. Someone who was in the audience in Sandeep’s concert remarked that he’s “better” than Rithvik – and “that’s because Sanjay’s better than TMK”. A FB post remarked that Rithvik’s “soft-natured rendering” was “nothing” in comparison to Sandeep’s “aggressive” stage presence. Then there are those who lament about how TMK does more things than just sing. And how they hope “at least” Rithvik will stay the course on music. Of course, there are those who swear by TMK, and “therefore”, by Rithvik. They are quick to add that Rithvik will emerge as the numero uno soon!
To those soaked in the fever of the Music Season these comments may appear to be part of the usual sabha canteen banter. But to me they are symptomatic of a social trend, a malaise – which is to treat Life as a race, as a competition, where someone necessarily has to trounce someone to win; which also means that one has to always be better than the rest! I know Sandeep and Rithvik personally. And I see no such streak in them to compete at the cost of the other. I know their gurus too and I have never sensed that they may have inculcated such a crass urge in their disciples. Simply, to me, comparing people and passing judgment is truly the bane of our times.
Why can’t people just be allowed to be who they are? Each one is unique. And has an individual way of expressing themselves. Why don’t we celebrate that expression than invest time in analyzing and drawing meaningless inferences? This tendency to compare people does not restrict itself to the Carnatic music scene alone. In every walk of Life people are expected to be like others. Junior Bachchan, Abhishek, is always measured through the prism of his father’s greatness; just as Parineeti Chopra is often judged against Priyanka Chopra’s popularity and performances. Or consider this one: isn’t Asha Bhonsle a better singer than the more feted Lata Mangeshkar, because Asha continues to be relevant at 80+? Virat Kohli is always reviewed basis two benchmarks: Dhoni’s captaincy and Tendulkar’s batting genius. Already the hyper-opinionated janata darbar, a.k.a Twitteratti, is debating whether Ravichandran Ashwin can ever be better than Erapalli Prasanna or Bishen Bedi! NaMo’s chest-thumping is always seen as “superior” compared to Manmohan Singh’s dignified silence. To be sure, comparisons are not a new-age, social media phenomenon. Social media is only a new platform that makes comparisons, trial by public, judgments, both visible and rabid. As a child I was always asked by my parents why I couldn’t be like my cousins – who studied well, who got good marks and who never gave their parents any “tension”. Even now, in fact, I guess this issue rankles my parents, that I am unlike my “well-settled” cousins; that I am in debt and that I am yet to carve out a retirement plan or create assets (Read more on why my parents may feel so here: Fall Like A Rose Petal).
But why? Why does one have to be like someone else or be better than another? Why can’t one just be who she or he is?
A tragic fall-out of this tendency to compare people is that pretty soon, subconsciously, the urge to review yourself basis others creeps in; you start taking those social pronouncements seriously. If someone has more likes or followers than you have, you feel disillusioned. If you have more than others, you think you are the child of a bigger God! But please remember, either pole is a risky one to climb and hold on to: if you consider yourself better than someone, beware of hubris; and if you think someone’s better than you, beware of jealousy or depression getting the better of you! Bottomline: comparison is a zero-sum game; it ruins inner peace!
Going back to where I started, using the music analogy, let me just remind that there’s a song in each of us. And yours is unique to you, as mine is to me. So, why not just let it play? Won’t more original music, from more people, make our world nicer, merrier, happier?
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