Vinyl Records – A Resurfaced Love Affair

In another world and time, gerontologist a trip to Europe would have meant a detailed blog-entry. But I am back already after a packed week travelling in trams and trains of Austria and Germany (with a short detour into Hungary), grip and it’s a week already, and I haven’t even thought of updating this space. Nay, even there, while viewing and visiting those lovely gardens and castles and palaces (and yeah, a slice of their night-life), I didn’t ‘think’ of how it would end up as a post. Perhaps, it was better then. At least, I ‘saw’ and ‘felt’ more, because I knew I had to convey it all to the readers.

Now, I just went through the motions, like a normal tourist – a snap here, a video shoot there, an awe-struck glance on the expansive landscape, and a jaw-dropping gaze on the Autobahns, and then rush to the bus for another ‘sight’ to ‘see’. In fact, these travel agency organized structured itinaries, though well-meaning, can be tiresome and bothersome. You just manage to get enough time to capture the best in your camera. The sensations, and the feelings, and the emotions, are thereafter meant to be felt once you are back, and view the recordings – that is, if you get time to transfer the data from camera to computer.

Last time, in South Africa, I didn’t have a camera. I ‘tied up’ with a colleague – who meant to give me the photos I had clicked once back in Mumbai. Six months later, I have yet to get them – and frankly, it’s not entirely his fault. Even I had forgotten about it. This time, I had made an expensive purchase (Sony Handycam) before leaving. The videos are all languishing in the hard-disk, waiting to be ‘converted’ into some glossy film (which I had intended to).

The seven day trip had the following highlights:

– Vienna: a quaint and neat town, with superb architecture. They also know how to enjoy life (and value it as well). The Euro Cup quarter-finals (Turkey v/s Croatia) was a sight to behold as fans crowded the market place, drinking beer, dancing, hooting and generally having gala time. Our cricket ‘craze’ can’t hold a candle to their devotion!

– Budapest: Remember Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam? And the scene where Ajay Devgan is drunk in front of a bridge (also, shown in the climax, when Ash and Ajay click a snap) – saw that upfront and live. It’s a beautiful bridge over the Danube, but more than that, it’s their Parliament building which takes your breath away.

– Salzburg: It’s the home of Sound of Music – they have a complete tour on it. We didn’t do that. But we loved the small lanes and bylanes and the taverns and the little arches over the river cutting through the town. We also visited Mozart’s home.

– Salt Mine & Swarovsky Museum: Salzburg means the ‘home of salt’ and is known for its saltmines. The Europeans are surely enterprising. They leave no chance or opportunity wasted to earn extra money. Imagine converting a bland salt mine into a unique joy-ride. Enter by a rickety train, slide down through polished rails (with your heart stuck in your throat) and row over ‘salt water’ in the dark – all of it deep inside the mountain. Similarly, Swarovsky – the crystal people – have built a museum.

A thought that never left me – we must be having several mines and many art-work more beautiful than Swarovsky crystals – it just needs imagination to convert them into a roaring tourist hub!

– Munich: Beer and Bavaria go hand in hand. In fact, beer is cheaper than water. And easily available. And better tasting. We stayed here the longest.

– Dachau Concentration Camp: If you are in Germany, Hitler can’t be so easily wished away (though his signs are now few and far). Dachau Camp, one of the initial atrocity centers, is a few miles north of Munich, and leaves you shivering. Walking through the gas chambers, and standing in front of incinerators, and looking at the barren floors that held lifeless corpses strewn like discarded rags, gives you goosebumps. You can only pray that you are alive and happy and away from all the pain that people went through during those dark, sad years.

Neuschwanstein Castle– I thought those fairy tale castles existed only in fairy tales. But they are there. In stone and sand. And it was a mindblowing sight to behold them live. Do click on the link.You will be love it. And watching it live is a different sensation altogether.

They ravaged Delhi – arguably one of India’s most beautiful cities and also my hometown – once again in a deadly deathly manner. Five blasts ripped asunder a quiet Saturday evening, tadalafil two of which incised through its throbbing heart – Connaught Place and its breathtakingly beauteous (newly opened) Central Park.

These are not mere names. For me, Barakhamba Road, Connaught Place, Central Park, Karol Bagh et al, are not far off places read about in the papers or stories. Every inch, every pavement, every side-walk there contains my life’s indelible memories. In Gopaldass Bhawan (Barakhamba Road, the site near which one of the bomb’s blasted) I did my first job. Ghaffar Market (Karol Bagh, the second site) is where my friend and I bought those cheap imitation designer shirts, when money was tight but ambition was loose. In fact, in his house there have spent many a drunken reverly filled evenings. My parents and I spent a lovely new year’s eve last year at the Central Park.

I know I rave and rant. But then I am hurt, pained, shocked, angry and frustrated. Perprators of these crimes coolly send off emails, before and after such dastardly acts, and the series continues all across the country, but our forces wring their hands in impotent helplessness. This episode will not differ from the Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bangalore blasts – their will be ‘clues’ but no arrests, there will be ‘suspects’ but no convictions. It’s a sickly repetitive screenplay, worse than any daily soap, where the stories never move, and the characters only age but never progress.

Weren’t the villains supposed to be caught in the end? Weren’t the heroes supposed to win?When will this horrifying movie end?

Channels will create noise and hype and thrust their dirty mikes in front of victims and police forces – disturbing both with their uniformly uncaring callousness… till the time next rocking news is obtained – and that could mean anything from Aishwarya Rai’s pregnancy to birth of another big crime!

Over centuries, Delhi has been raped and robbed, desecrated and despoiled, several times. Yet, without beating its breasts about its spirit, it has stood firm with a poignantly stoic face, resting its burnt soul unyieldingly on the solid Aravallian rocks and red sandstones.

Delhi’s immensely abundant infrastructural progress in the past few years has quietened many a cynic and prided its citizens – including myself. Perhaps, hamari hi nazar lag gayi.

May it find a fresh bout of strength.

My prayers are with thee, O Delhi, my city, my home!
My prayers are with thee, O India, my country, my abode!

A colleague’s chance remark brought back memories of the once-upon-a-time ubiquitous vinyl records. And then I read an article which claimed that vinyl records had a ‘warm’ sound. Voila, search how true! As I dived into my hazy memory, psychotherapist I felt those words extremely true.

That was it. The urge to own one again started.

For those who were born this side of the nineties, prescription vinyl records were standard music storage formats, till about the eighties when the audio-cassettes took over. They were often called ‘long-playing records’ or simply LP’s (there were smaller versions too, which carried just the ‘singles’). In a way (and in an uncanny genetical resemblance as well) they were the grand-dads to compact-discs.

I always loved the records. As a child, I used to fascinately watch those large black discs languidly rotate on the player, with the ultra-thin needle nimbly moving over shiny black lines demarcating each number. It’s one of those childhood loves that never really dies down; it just slips into misty sub-consciousness.

I had a record-player till about 1996. It was part of a tall Akai system, and when we sold it off (to make way for a more sophisticated Sony 3-CD changer player), out went the record-player too.

By that time, in any case, finding LP’s was incredibly tedious. The audio companies had stopped publishing them (and the last one I have seen is of Maine Pyaar Kiya, though I am told HMV had released LP’s as late as the release of Dil To Pagal Hai!). No modern shop kept them. I had to travel to far-off & crowded Chandni Chowk – and there too, only one shop stocked a somewhat decent fare, and selling vinyls was certainly not their primary motive. From this cluttered store, I bought quite a few – notable amongst them being of Teesri Kasam . In 1995, I had traveled to Calcutta on work, and had managed to squeeze in time to visit the HMV store. I bought three there, the best buy being a rare Lata Mangeshkar compilation that had ten marvellous Shankar-Jaikishan fifties numbers. Earlier, a college-mate had gifted me Guide. From my dad’s collection two hot favorites (which I played most regularly) were Sangam and Dharam-Veer. I also owned the LP of Sanyasi – a loss that pains me most, because since then I haven’t been able to find a decent quality cassette or cd containing the full songs.

Now, with the urge renewed afresh, I looked around exasperated. From where do I find something that has been out of fashion for more than a decade?!

Then realization hit me- I am in Mumbai: the place where all those music I crave for originated; the mecca of show-biz; the city where old music-propogating groups (like Keep Alive) are able to pull in huge crowds…surely, this place will have kept the traditional listening mode alive!

Enquiries to the same brought curious looks (LP records? Are you crazy?) to derision (Oh you are that old to want such a thing!) to arguments ( But aren’t CD’s better, without the hiss and crackle?) to – thankfully – some directions, however nebulous they be.

The Other Bombay

My friend M provided the best clues – Princess Street, Crawford Market or Chor Bazaar, she informed. Ok, great! But where are they? Out came the forgotten city map, and armed with some vague directions, I started my quest one Sunday afternoon. Princess Street is closed on Sundays, but from the shop sign-boards I judged it wasn’t the ideal place.

Crawford Market (for all it’s high sounding name) turned out to be a huge disappointment. This is Crawford Market? I wailed to M over the phone. This dirty, dust-smeared, stinking, filth-ridden, paint-peeled piece of British-Victorian stone enclosure? Crawford Market has not only lost its name (it’s officially Jyotiba Phule Market) but also its original grandeur.

Nothing there – though several pushy salesmen tried to sell off various perfumes and talcs and what-nots. I rushed out to the open…and breathed!

From Crawford Market, where I had parked my vehicle, I started walking towards Chor Bazaar (Don’t dare to take your vehicle, warned M’s husband. They will steal your own tyres and sell it back to you). At first, I sheepishly and fearfully asked passer-bys for Chor Bazaar (what will they think?), but I soon realized that no one is bothered.

I followed the directions, till the time a well-meaning elderly stated that it is advisable to hire a cab, as Chor Bazaar is some distance away.

Walking through Kalbadevi,( and later in taxi via Null Bazaar, Falkland Road, Grant Road et al) I realized, there is indeed a side of Bombay, which is completely insulated both-ways :- neither have they allowed the world to come in, nor of course, the other Bombay cares to talk about it or acknowledge it. These were places I had vaguely heard of somewhere in the past … but I don’t think I ever read about them in newspapers even!

I held a mix of responses – fascination, excitement, fear & curiosity.

So these lanes and bylanes complexly form Null Bazaar. And here is Falkland Road – limited spaced buildings looming over the narrow street; above, wires meshed in an haphazard criss-cross and drying clothes vied for the restricted air-space. And oh, that lady wearing an alarmingly garish lipstick, there is something not right about her. Few meters away, another one, and then a third, fourth – looking at you with luring eyes and lusty smiles. The taxi maneovers out into a bigger street. I try to catch the name from signposts and signboards. Both are rusty and dirty. The road is lined up with shops on one side, wooden stuff, iron material, odds and ends on another, with jumbled up traffic & crowd in between. From a shop’s rusted signboard I recognize the name – Grant Road. A road I had visited years back, then young, on a company training tour, and still the time when beer bars were legal!

I blurt out, so this is Grant Road? Jee sahab, replies the taxi driver, who evidently doesn’t know where Chor Bazar is and leaves me off in front of a lane, which looks like some sort of furniture market.

With some difficulty, I reach the place. At first, my heart stops a beat – it resembles a vehicle junk-yard. Cars are being stripped and ripped apart. Crowd in similar attires. A religious clarion call. Cluttered Shops. Signboards in two languages.

Later, I trudge through few streets, and voila! I am transported into a totally different variety of shops… these small entities carry an entire past in them. Here you can buy those quaint old telephones (that had separate mouth-and-ear pieces) or those bulky cameras or those alarm clocks that you would have seen only in your grandma’s photos and myriad other such items. With jaws dropped, I rummage through each shop’s wares…and like an excited kid let loose in a toy shop, I call M and tell her what I see.

Yes, there were record players too. Including those ‘bhonpu’ ones, that you would recognize from HMV’s logo.

I nearly bought one workable Philips player. But the asking price was beyond what I had expected. Plus, it was too obviously ‘second-hand’, with the mica peeled off from one-side. In my imagination, I had planned to own a sleeker and shinier piece.

On return, before hiring a cab back to Crawford Market (where my car was), I walked quite a bit of Grant Road … till the now defunct beer bar that I had tremblingly visited in my mid-twenties. Memories crowded in. No, there was a genuine crowd (some festival, I was told) and I rushed back.

Even though I couldn’t buy the record player that day – yet, it was invigorating & stimulating and one which is etched in my memory forever.

As for the player, I found another colleague (in Pune) who shares similar interests. He told me he could help me find one there. If that doesn’t happen, I will be back to Chor Bazar and clinch the deal at the shop-keeper’s price.

10 Responses to “Vinyl Records – A Resurfaced Love Affair”

  1. M says:

    What a wonderful music related treat on Ur blog after long gap!:) Very nice post. I remember each n every word of our conversation. I too was equally enjoying Ur ‘search’. Mazaa aaya padhkar:)
    Btw, U didnt mention what all eating places U visit that day and what U had there? Ummm..Baadshah…oh ok ok….Keep quiet M 😉

  2. anks says:

    Ah…. mumbai…..

  3. ramya says:

    By chance came across ur blogs and liked them a lot! U have a natural flow and way with words which very few are gifted with.. Keep writing 🙂

  4. M 😀 Oh yeah, i shud hv mentioned Badshah…and the lunch I had at that chhota-sa-restaurant in front of Chowpatty 🙂

    Anks – 🙂

    Ramya – A very very warm welcome to the blog, and thanks for all the appreciation. Please do be regular…

  5. TAS says:

    ji pasand apni apni..but honestly meri is se kaaafi acchi hai!
    haha…del gbd is good…was in mumbai actualy for the last 3 days and thought of calling you up but one I was busy and then anyway you dont pick up my calls…so socha apna dil dukhane se accha…
    anyway, whats happening? but honestly was too busy…naturals ki ice cream khane tak ka time nahi mila…:-(

  6. TAS says:

    your friend M? of the Dame Judy Dench fame?

  7. ramya says:

    🙂 waiting for your next post!

  8. TAS – ha ha , my not picking up phone is becoming quite a legendary thing now 😐 sorry for that…

    LOL@Dame Judy Dench. Nahi re, na main Bond hoon, na meri friend koi femme fatale hai…

    Ramya – New post up now 🙂

  9. Sweety says:

    so u finally managed to purchase one…..i am sure it must have been worth the wait…:)

  10. […] Having seen them in films, visiting areas like Fountain or Town Hall or Gateway of India provided an unmatched thrill. Of course, add to this passing by a celebrity s house (for example, Peddar Road, where Lataji stays) was (or rather, is) definitely exciting. I have already recorded my visit to the famous Chor Bazaar. […]

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