Music has always been a big part of my life, and (good) Indian music has and will always stop me in my tracks & warm my heart. Earlier this month, my friend Paresh of the Curry Smugglers told me that I would probably enjoy a couple songs in particular on their latest release, “Chill 6.” I tuned into their Chill episode, knowing I was in for a couple hours of soothing tunes, both old & new. As Paresh predicted (dammit), an old song at the end of the Chill set took me back to a special time with my grandmother. (Check out the latest Chill episode here.)
And so, here I share with you a little glimpse into my life.
One of my earliest memories is waking up on Saturday mornings to the strains of Hindi music. My father has always loved music, and he would put on LP after LP of songs from his favorite Indian movies after he woke on the weekends. Everyone should have an alarm clock as pleasant.
This particular song, “Teri Bindiyan” from the movie Abhimaan, was a particular favorite of my father’s, and in time, my own. The melody, and the furtive, loving glances I would see my parents exchange during the song, further cemented my love of it.
Fast forward to my late teens. After I graduated from high school, my family & I took the requisite trip to India for a couple months before I started college. We traveled, but I craved quality time with my nani (my mother’s mother). She & I would sit for hours, and as as she would play with my long, wavy locks, she would tell me stories of her childhood, her life as a young wife and mother.
One night, in particular, stands out bright as the sun. My parents were traveling, and I was enjoying spending some quiet time with my nani and a few other relatives. It was quiet, with no visitors. My nani said that she would teach me how to make roti. On the nights she cooked dinner, she would bring the wireless, battery-powered radio into the kitchen with her.
Just as we started, the electricity went out. She lit a kerosene lamp without ceremony, but determined it wouldn’t be the best night to start a cooking lesson with me. We were chatting quietly, and then “Teri Bindyan” came on the radio. We were quiet, then both began singing along… I remember her eyes shining as we sang together. Later, I asked her if she was okay. She told me that the song made her think of my grandfather, who had passed away over 30 years prior… but that now she had a new, wonderful memory of the song. She hugged me, and we sat on the veranda eating the food she made, listening to the strains of “Tum Pukar Lo.”
While completely unexpected, I have never stopped treasuring that moment. Thanks for taking me back, guys.