Posted in Of Musicals

Of The Music You Like

Headphones (Courtesy: Pixabay)

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?/ I’m getting old and I need something to rely on. – Keane, “Somewhere Only We Know”

According to a recent study, the music you listen to from age 12 to 22 is the music you will go back to, or prefer, for the rest of your life. There have been studies like this before, and most of us are aware of this anyway, thanks to frequent admissions across the internet that go something like, “Today’s music is sh*t. Music was great in the _______[insert decade in which they were teenagers]”. Sadly, I have not been able to make this statement yet. Even though I’ve been out of that age range for a few years, nostalgia hasn’t properly kicked embarrassment and oblivion’s ass yet.

Though I’ve never been consulted on any of the studies (I offer myself freely as a test subject, if you’re conducting one), I am a perfect candidate for it. For one thing, I fit neatly into the most recent decade – I was 12 to 22 from 2000 to 2010. I am also somebody who hasn’t listened to contemporary music since the end of that decade. Well, I did try a couple of times, but very, very few things had any sort of significant effect on my pleasure neurons. I don’t even listen to music of this decade intently enough to hate it.

But, we also have to take into account the fact that I wasn’t only listening to contemporary music in the 2000-10 decade. I am a perfect test subject because I only started listening more selectively – like an old/hip person age 23 onwards. Up until age 22 I had no taste at all. I was completely open to whatever came my way, completely willing to give anything a chance and thus had a varied, eclectic, listening life. Of course, I had my favourites, my obsessions. The music that defined me at the time. But, because I am came to much of it without any prior information, music whether old or contemporary, targeted at my specific age + gender + cultural bracket or not, met with the same curiosity at the initial stage. I judged freely, for I had none to please.

I angered many, of course. I had some of the greatest conversations with my father when I was fourteen or fifteen about contemporary artists such as Westlife. While my father approved and encouraged me reading books in English and watching movies in English, he drew the line with music. And not just Western music, but popular music of any kind. He had a sizable record and cassette collection, which contained only one Western pop record – Boney M (yeah, yeah, because my Daddy was Cool). ABBA was a bit too much, and we were one of the few families I knew who didn’t have a copy of Thriller. (Thankfully we were spared Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, The Eagles’s “Hotel California” etc.) I once borrowed a Bollywood album Mohabbatein, and had to immediately switch the cassette player off and return it the next day.

Records (Courtesy: Pixabay)

You’d think this was extreme parenting, but it all came down to a matter of taste. Being denied resulted in my hunger for absolutely everything, and my conversations with him made me feel my opinions were respected, despite my age. Because, he didn’t dismiss pop music for its infantile, sexual baiting. He dismissed it because he thought it wasn’t very good. He praised the percussion on Shakira’s “Whenever, Wherever”, while he thought the squeaky clean, asexual, near-spiritual Westlife had songs that sounded the same.

In fact, my father’s attitude to what young people should be listening is an approach I wish record companies would also take – that it should be good music first, before deciding who it must be for. Last year, I put on Apple’s Top 40 playlist, because I figured I should, at least, try to listen to what was going on. The repetitiveness drove me crazy after a while, but there were a couple of interesting results. Autotune or not, I enjoyed Selena Gomez’s voice, and wished she had better songs to sing. I was surprised to find a rather Irish sounding number by Ed Sheeran on this chart. Yes, the production lacks variety, but you can say that about any decade. How much of folk, country, psychedelia, nay disco and punk has survived? There’s oversaturation in every decade, because record companies always want to give the public what they already like. They rarely ever tell the people what to like. The hot new thing is only doing what has already been hot for a while, and what was only recently new.

There was way too much rap in my decade. Way too much alternative rock (most notably “piano rock”). Nu Metal existed – the horror of it. And though I have forgotten, for good, much of it, I cannot claim it is the best there ever was. I love the seventies, a decade I wasn’t even born in, but very, very specific artists and genres in it. I love glam rock and punk and some of the singer-songwriters and the burgeoning electronic scene and very few progressive people and surprisingly, a smattering of country. And if you pit that against ALL that the decade produced, it hardly makes up one-third of it. Much of it I find dull and forgettable. I attach no idealism to that decade, or the decade that I lived through.

If you can separate the romanticism from it’s intrinsic but personal value (it’s music you like, not what critics say you should like), no decade is the best and no decade is the worst. Okay, so the 60s has way too many undoubtedly big names, but the other decades don’t necessarily fade away in comparison – even the 2000s. Since the 1980s, it has been hard to separate music from visuals, where you appreciate the work of art in its entirety in artists as different as Madonna and The White Stripes, and so, I will even claim that Sia’s “Chandelier” – as a complete entity and not just music – is a brilliant piece of art that will continue to impact in decades to come. Nothing else comes to mind 2011 onwards, but I more than welcome the opportunity to correct my ignorance.

Music relies much on memory. You don’t retain the Maths and Geography you do, but you probably remember what you were listening as you were trying to concentrate on them. You need to jog your memory sometimes, and that is what happened when I recently listened to the devastatingly talented Alan Cumming perform Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” – a song from my decade, not his. I liked it then, but I deeply love him performing it now. He conveyed the song to me in a much more affecting way than Keane did the first time around. Or maybe I understand it better, now that I’m getting closer to its intent:

What was/is your decade of music? Is it the music you go back to, or have you adopted some other time? What music do you like?

Posted in Of Psyche

Of Being An Introvert

Cosy (Courtesy: Pixabay)

So I took an Extroversion Introversion Test on Psychology Today to find out, for sure, which one I really am. I don’t know why the answer is so important to me, as I’ve never been a fan of labels. But, I realise if there was a set of things I could pin myself to, maybe it would sort certain things out for me. Though I’m skeptical about that, considering there are a few labels I’m definitely pinned to – woman, homo sapien, reasonably noble and upright citizen of planet Earth – that complicate things rather than simplify them. You can also add rambler to the list, and so, without further ado, here is my score:

Sociability: 33/100

Snapshot Report:

According to your results you appear to be the type of person who doesn’t socialize often. You likely have a limited social network, and possibly aren’t really interested in extending it beyond a few close and intimate friendships. Having an active social life apparently isn’t the most important thing to you. Chances are that when the opportunity arises to socialize among a large group of people, you’ll likely turn it down if possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t enjoy socializing or being around people. Rather, you generally prefer spending time with smaller groups of friends. Individuals who score similarly to you typically aren’t conversation-starters, especially with people they aren’t familiar with. In addition, they aren’t known to be exceptionally outgoing, unless among close friends.

Okay, so it seems like I’ve failed. Already, introversion seems to be a failure. But, I’m only two-thirds away from being an extreme extrovert (an annoying thing to be anyway), which means I’ve got a bit of it. Now, I’m not being much of an introvert here by posting my results on social media, to be read by thousands dozens. But, apart from the part about not being a conversation-starter, the rest of the report is pretty accurate.

Of course, you only have my word and the above report to go on. Most people in my life would disagree. I am not only a conversation-starter, I’m also a conversation-continuer and a conversation-never-ender. I have always had a desperate need to please people, an insatiable curiosity, and people, in general, give me such a buzz that I can pretty much carry out a conversation with anybody, including somebody who is being selectively mute at the moment when I’m trying to talk to them.

I’m usually spent by the end of the day, but there’s always texting. I really can’t help it. I regret a lot of what I say, not because they are embarrassing or cruel things, but because I feel the person isn’t really interested in them, not at the time at least. It does help to be genuinely curious about people, adjusting to their vibe, their interests, telling them what they want to hear. Getting them to talk, about themselves, and it all gets stored in my internal memory. People in my life are often surprised by how much I can predict their behaviour and choices. Intuition might have something to do with it, but it is largely old-fashioned hard work. They don’t give you certificates, but I like to actively take lessons in knowing people.

But, not all the time, and I guess I have to admit now, not always for the right reasons. Though it is true that people are my favourite stimuli and inspiration, I can’t put up with them all the time. If I have to calculate, the majority of my time in a day is spent not being actively interested in them. Also, and now this is going to turn a lot of you off (or on), I’m a regular flirt. As in the rather erroneous notion some people have of flirting. If smiling at people, holding their eyes intensely, saying reassuring things to them, as well as things of wit and merriment, knowing things about them, teasing them and in general, trying to make them feel good in the minutes you spend with them is flirting, then guilty as charged. Of course, it would also mean that as a heterosexual person, I also flirt with aunts and grandmothers. When people I’m not interested in romantically tell me of this, I wonder, why is it so hard for them to believe someone might genuinely enjoy their company and want nothing more? I guess being liked should be a flattering idea (though in my experience, I only like being liked by people whom I like, because I tend to attract a lot of creeps otherwise), but even the most confident people can sometimes wonder why people would want to be around them.

Because no one can accuse me of needing them. That’s when introversion, or whatever, comes in to the picture. I don’t always respond to calls. I take days to reply to texts or emails. I’ve rarely sent things I regret to people. It’s not because I’m rude or always busy, but because a lot of the time, I don’t want to be bothered. I don’t like the cavalier way in which people reply to texts, the way they talk to other people on the phone just when they’re getting off a busy train. If it’s a work call, I understand, and I do that too. If it is a personal emergency, it makes sense as well. But, for a casual chat, or even more for a heart-to-heart (a cringe-worthy expression, but bear with me), I don’t understand how you do it while obviously being stressed about something else. I’m rather old-fashioned about this, preferring to take my time with the person though it may not be as often as possible. If this is a relationship that is important, I want to be as present as possible. I don’t understand why that is becoming an increasingly hard thing to do, and people would rather connect through .GIFs instead.

Reading Llama (Courtesy: Pixabay)

The main reason I took the test, however, is because I’m starting to realise I don’t get enough of that buzz anymore. And the quality of my relationships isn’t as solid as it used to be. I can’t stand to be in most social situations, and even the ones I like, I feel an old sense of not being isolated, but unsynchronized. I try not to be dishonest with the ones that matter, so I don’t end up saying much at all.

I also find myself increasingly using the expression “going out into civilization”. I’ve always had a fantasy of living a reclusive life, not as someone who’s gone off to find their higher selves, but just as somebody who has the freedom to put on an album of their choice first thing in the morning if they want to, who’d want to wake up in the morning at all if there is pleasantness around. Who’d make things – I always have this fantasy of physically making things – and not be bound by a time-table or social acceptability. I’m doing none of that, but I’m increasingly finding myself needing to be alone. Not even thinking or writing or planning, maybe putting some cheesy pop songs on to ease the emptiness around me, but craving being alone.

I don’t want to identify as an extrovert or an introvert or an ambivert or whatever, because I don’t always like the set of connotations they bring. I also have this stubborness to not conform to anything, and so if somebody called me an introvert, I’m very likely to start dancing uninhibitedly just to prove them wrong. And I am that person (and there aren’t many out there) who prefers dancing to talking to people. They didn’t have that option in the test, but I’m guessing dancing would have given me a higher score.

People confess all the time that they are introverts (you rarely hear extroverts declaring themselves, for all the talking they do). Usually, it’s a good thing, and people accept and appreciate it. But, when I say it, most people don’t buy it. If they ask me what I’ve been up to, and I say something regular like reading or bingewatching, they incredulously ask, “by yourself?” The last time I checked the act of reading wasn’t a communal activity for most people, but for someone who likes to talk about books, it doesn’t seem like something they’d do.

Then again, I’ve spent a lifetime being misunderstood (hence you have to put up with my regular whines because, as Alan Bennett said, writing is talking to yourself.). What matters is that I understand myself better, because Amrita is part of that extremely buzzy group too – people.

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?

Posted in Of Psyche

Of Adults Who Colour

Colouring Pencils (Courtesy: Pixabay)

I did it. I decided to get over my ironic worry and my deep, personal issues with self-esteem, and I did it. I am about to join you adults in the Wonderful World of Colouring.

I ordered an adult colouring book.

You might be wondering at my embarrassment, my “ironic worry” (yes, I am the type of arrogant *** who quotes herself from the same piece of writing that she is, uh, writing), given your unabashed obsession with adult colouring books, that may or may not be pornographic. Nope, my embarrassment is not due to the fact that those not in-the-know will think something rather deviant is going on between me, the book that’s on its way, and my box of colouring pencils. In a way, that might even justify the word “adult” in the title – it’s about sex, right? But, these books are mostly not about bringing colour to your sex life. Think of certifiable adults, possessing voting rights among other adult-y things, looking mistily into the horizon from their windows on a quiet, lazy Saturday afternoon, and then bringing their field of vision to a spread of  black-on-white-inked, predominantly asexual pattern, waiting to be completed by a small army of felt-tip pens in every colour of the spectrum.

I’m a lot little late to the party, but that’s what people have been doing obsessively around the world for the past five years.

For most people, it is re-discovering a past source of enjoyment. You used to play football or sew handkerchiefs or tinker with an instrument and you want to do that again because of a combination of nostalgia and pure, unadulterated joy that such an activity can bring. Colouring is just one such thing that you did way, way before you even heard the word Michelangelo, let alone Picasso and Warhol. It’s not just a childhood source of enjoyment, it’s pre-school, the thing your parents allowed you to do when you hardly had any awareness of what you were doing. You do it as an adult now, and to keep things adult enough, you have challenging, intricate patterns to colour instead of a big circle on the page that’s supposed to be a ball, or a drawing of an apple that you just had to colour blue. The complex mandala you colour now could be just as creative as your blue apples.

Adult colouring has had its (un)fair share of jokes over the years. It’s been a publishing phenomenon, and people not only have no problem going into stores to buy colouring books and pens for themselves, they even flaunt their finished pages on social media. Many keep them on their desks at work, colouring in when they feel stressed or bored, and it’s all completely fine. It is, perhaps, the finest of all adult activity. No moral standards have been set on it yet. No one is complaining of the waste of paper (it is art), the use of synthetic colour (still art) and time that could be spent doing something that’s challenging, like picking up a skill, or actually drawing something first.

Not that I’m saying these colouring books aren’t challenging in their own right. I have mixed feelings about whether I want them to be. I do want an as-unchallenging-as-possible hobby to relax the certified neurotic that I am. Especially because I manage to complicate every relaxing thing I ever do. Even if I am passively watching a romantic comedy, I have to think of a sequel immediately after it’s over, in which everything goes downhill. I need something self-contained, that stays within the lines, and let’s my mind escape from itself.

Colouring Supplies (Courtesy: Pixabay)

My qualms about colouring stems from the fact that I didn’t really colour as a child. I took four years of art classes outside school, the first two because my parents made me, and the second two years on my own volition, because I wanted to get good. I didn’t, but I thoroughly enjoyed drawing and painting as a kid. But, I never had colouring books. I maybe had a few black-and-white pictures here and there that came with colouring pen sets, but I never did the simple act of filling in. My work ethos even then was – if you can colour, you might as well draw it first. Which can be interpreted as condescension, but I genuinely did not believe it was worth investing money on something that was already half-made. I understood the necessity of the blank page even then.

But, that is not the goal this time around. While I haven’t given up on the fantasy of being a popstar (yeah, yeah, laugh all you like), I am not going to be an artist of any kind in this lifetime. Which might even make art the near-equal of dancing for me – an uncorrupt joy, for lack of any training. I might even try the two together and make a YouTube video, making a multimedia piece of art. And fail miserably and come back to the only art form that will have me, that celebrates my ineptitude – my writing.

Are you an adult? Do you colour? Why do you colour? If you don’t, have you ever thought about it? If you haven’t, why haven’t you?

Posted in Of Psyche

Of Feeling Pretty

I am about to become invisible. I’ve already looked the part for some time now, but I’m about to be officially stamped as ‘Status: Invisible’ in a few months. I am a woman who is about to turn thirty.

Yeah, yeah, whine, whine. That’s all you ever do Amrita. It’s no big deal. Your blog readership is mostly above thirty anyway, they don’t care how old you get. See, they’re even nice enough to tell you age is not a number, nothing significant at all. They acknowledge that people in real life don’t see it that way, and they commiserate with you about how unkind people can be. But, c’mon, enough with exploiting their kindness now. They already told you you’re beautiful, no matter what other 3-D humans have to say about it. Most haven’t even had photographic evidence to support their affirmations, but we’re going to ignore that. The point is, everyone is pretty. Everyone is beautiful. And that is all that matters.

But, I don’t agree. I can’t agree. I agree, to an extent, when you say it about me. But, I can’t, rationally, logically, scientifically, practically agree about the rest of mankind. Excuse my vanity, but we can’t all be pretty.

This essay hasn’t been sparked by my impending age milestone. Apparently, there has been some furore over Amy Schumer’s new movie trailer I Feel Pretty, in which her character, a blonde, white, slightly overweight, thirty-something woman whose been trying to achieve what society considers pretty – a blonde, white, slim, debatably twenty-something woman – through exercise falls off a treadmill, hits her head, develops body dysmorphia and thinks she is hot. The main argument people have against it is that Amy Schumer is pretty anyway, that she’s not that fat, and the film industry needs to stop sending out such messages of ideal beauty, in an age when body acceptance is prevalent. That the idea of it is not only redundant, but also offensive.


Now, if they had cast Jessica Chastain in the role and made it a drama and not a comedy, people would have raved about it universally. Because, then we would have a certifiably pretty actress playing a character with body dysmorphia – a condition not just limited to those falling short of Hollywood standards of beauty. I can imagine people aglow watching a scene in which she, without having any makeup on, would slash a mirror, break other stuff around, put on lipstick aggressively, make her eyes really big, and let out a shrieking laugh, before sinking to the ground and starting to cry. Give her an Oscar folks. Such bravery to play such an ugly role.

Though the above examples seem to separate the two actresses, putting one in “yeah-you’re-not-Hollywood-pretty-but-you’re-pretty” and the other in “yeah-you’re-Hollywood-pretty-but-you’re-a-real-actress-able-to-play-real-roles” categories, both have more in common than you think. In fact, they have something in common with you and me. They’ve all felt unattractive, on more than one occasion in their lives.

I can’t imagine how one can’t. I can’t imagine how forced affirmations – you’re beautiful, no matter what others say – help with the problem. When beauty – specifically, your perception of your own attractiveness – has nothing to do with it. Would you even think about it, if somebody didn’t enlighten you on the situation? Are you thinking about how pretty you look as you read this, probably in your pyjamas, with your chapped lips and dry skin and messy hair?

Beauty is a commodity. And unlike other disposable commodities, it can get you more things, while being a thing itself. Let’s not deny it – I may be beautiful, but I’m not Sophia Vergara. Nobody is about to hand me a lot of money for a shampoo commercial. If I tried to be Sophia Vergara, then we would have a problem. If I settled for less, for something more achievable, and tried to be the best possible Amrita, then we would have a problem too. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to be the best possible Amrita several times in my life. And Amy Schumer hasn’t tried to be the best possible Amy Schumer. And even Jessica Chastain hasn’t tried to be the best possible Jessica Chastain. I bet even you have tried to be the best possible You, perhaps applying more gel to your hair in the morning, or investing in a gym membership as part of your New Year resolutions. You tell yourself the former is to look more professional at work, and the latter is to feel healthier, but they all contribute towards the best possible You.

And when we fall short, we have a problem.

I sometimes wake up late, and go to work putting my messy hair in a bun, barely applying sunscreen, drowning myself in body spray to mask the odours of my unshowered self, and putting on something that looks less crinkled then every other clean piece of clothing around. Prettiness is not the goal, only acceptability. I could well do my tasks by turning up in my pyjamas, but I’m not sure I would be asked back the next day.

I do have a problem with the premise of Schumer’s movie. And if it hasn’t been clear by now, it is – feeling unattractive is not limited to someone slightly overweight. In fact, it has often been found that cases of body dysmorphia, eating disorders and perceptible levels of insecurity have been found in models and actresses – women who are supposed to be the very pinnacle of beauty. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean it makes things easier for you. Your blessing may also prove to be a curse.

On the other hand, trying to believe something that you cannot rationalize isn’t, ultimately, that healthy either. If it were, there would be no room for improvement. If I believed I was an undeniably good writer, or an undeniably good mother, I would not only be unable to rectify my mistakes when I made them, I would refuse to believe I had made any. If I believed I was undeniably pretty, and then got rejected, I risk the chance of not believing I can be rejected. I would be fixated on something I cannot have, resulting in greater insecurity, instead of moving on to something I can.

Which doesn’t mean I’m asking you to stop feeling beautiful, if you do. Not at all. I am trying to dissociate the very idea of beauty from perfection or happiness. That just because you are beautiful, doesn’t mean you’ll have the world in your hands. That beauty itself, is not a big deal, and you can live a very fulfilling life without making it a big deal. Making a movie about the feelings of insecurity around it is necessary, for those feelings are commonplace. But, the idea that it is as important as it is made out to be, is where the danger lies.

What are your thoughts on feeling attractive? Do you think Schumer’s movie has an interesting premise?

Posted in Of Culturel

Of TV Deaths

I hardly ever pay homage or even refer to the guy that inspired this whole Of Opinions thing – Francis Bacon. Nope, not the twentieth century painter, but the Renaissance essayist. To be fair, all he and I have in common is a tendency to use ‘Of’ in the title, and that too was something I ripped off from him. But, he’s got many, many interesting things to say (though I’m more fun). Like, in his essay Of Death he writes:

MEN fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Continue reading “Of TV Deaths”

Posted in Of Psyche

Of Being Pretentious


Truth is, more often than not pretension is simply someone trying to make the world more interesting, responding to it the way they think is appropriate. It’s more likely that what you think is one person’s pretension is another’s good faith. – Dan Fox, Pretentiousness: Why It Matters

When I was in university, I once had to do a presentation on the playwright Samuel Beckett. In the weeks leading up to it, I read all his plays, watched as many performances as I could, read as much critical material as I could, and all in all, did a decent amount of work. The presentation would be on a Friday, and as soon as the week began, I gave up sleeping. It would be a safe environment, the couple of dozen people taking the course and the professor would be the only people present. We were well into the course, and I would actively participate in the class discussions. However, for five nights prior to the event, I could not sleep. I could not manage to prepare my notes and ideas in a presentable manner. On Friday morning, I skipped classes altogether and went and sat under a tree by a lake just to gather myself. I scribbled on some bits of paper what would turn out to be rather ineffectual thoughts. In the end, I couldn’t even manage to keep my shoes on during the presentation as I felt I couldn’t do it with them. I was awarded a passable grade, but the only relief I felt was when I was finally able to sleep that night. Continue reading “Of Being Pretentious”