I am sitting at my desk, rocking my legs continuously, as I am thinking and writing. Is rocking the right word to describe the constant shaking of one’s leg? Maybe not, but I don’t want to interrupt my thought process, so rocking it is. I am wired in, listening to Chris Rea’s iconic album, God’s Great Banana Skin.
It was an instinctive, sub-conscious choice, but a deliberate one, as I realise now that am giving it thought. This was the album I used to listen to the most back in the summer of 1992, when I was just out of Dadar Catering College, sitting at home for Four straight months, accompanied by my classmate, friend, and brother-in-arm, Dmess. We had just completed a rigorous 3-year program in management, having studied and worked 9 am to midnight – more or less every day. Most of our classmates had jobs with leading hotels, cruise lines, startup airlines, or were setting up their own business or had signed up for the Masters program. We just sat at home and watched Star Sports and MTV all day, every day.
Being a writer even back then, I wrote a lot and doodled a lot as well – diary entries, short stories, poems, business plans, marketing spiels, posters, travel itineraries, inventory and cost management models … anything that came to mind. And that’s where Chris Rea and God’s Great Banana Skin came into the picture – I used to wire into my walkman and write. I had learned very quickly that listening to music is a great way to block out the world but a terrible way to focus your thoughts if you pick music that is catchy but new, which then means you’ll be engaging with the music and not writing. If I picked boring music or elevator music, well that just irritated me to the point of distraction and there was no writing would happen under that mindset.
Chris Rea is a British singer, songwriter, and guitar player who has a unique style that is deeply immersed in blues. I have been listening to Chris Rea for exactly three decades now. Never met him, but if I were to have been a musician, he is the kind of musician I would have wanted to be – coz I identify with his work ethic. He has released 26 studio albums, 1 Live Album and 7 compilation albums since his debut in 1978 – that’s 34 albums in 42 years in terms of productivity: and that’s apart from the sheer volume of concerts every year, not to mention the paintings he did. (I have 28 of the 34 albums).
I usually pick one of the lesser known earlier albums like Auberge or God’s Great Banana Skin as a companion when am writing long diary entries, especially those that require exploration and are likely to end up as unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness rambles (like this one) on existential matters. God’s Great Banana Skin more often because the title song is a reminder to not be so arrogant to think the world revolves around you.
In terms of music, it is easy to label Chris Rea as a rock or blues-rock musician but he’s an artist (self-taught) whose work reflects his life. His triumphs, travails, feelings, opinions, ups and downs – it’s all there in his music (and I suspect in his paintings as well). Further, his musical style is uniquely his own because it is a product of his life.
And that for me is what a definitive artist stands for: one who puts their energies and opinion into their craft and produces work (under any and all circumstances) that speaks for itself and represents the artist’s take on the world (or on a universal or existential matter) at a given point in time. And this path, this method to always focus on channelising your energies into constructive work is what I call the continuous process of ‘Finding My Centre’. As a writer, I can admit that every time I get off that path, it leads to anxiety, frustration, anger and a whole universe of sundry other non-productive emotions.
Naturally, I extend my viewpoint to beyond art, and therefore believe – that under any and all circumstances – it is my job as a writer to write, as a designer to design, as a small business owner to manage risks to the business and so on. And that’s what I am doing now: focusing on my work – focusing on being a management person to the companies I am a part of; focusing on being a partner to my spouse, on being a father to our children, on being a son, a brother, a friend … focusing on all the different works that I am responsible and accountable for. And when I am doing what I have to do, it saves me the trouble of facing rational and irrational fears that come with being home-bound in the face of a rapidly spreading new virus.
Good Morning World. I find that I am more peaceful if I don’t fret about what’s not in my control.