A question put to me the other day left me scratching me head. Not because I have dandruff or other head afflictions, but figuratively speaking I was left wondering. What was the question, you ask?
“What do you like?”
Frankly, I was flummoxed, bewildered, puzzled, foxed, surprised and confused. What do I like? What am I like? Who am I? As I started writing this, I came across this post from the entertaining Suresh Chandrasekaran which simply added to the need for this self appraisal.
I have a name, comprising of a “given” name (or in my case, I’m told, a “taken” name) and a surname generously handed down from my father. Does the name identify my personality as well as my person?
On a hot, sultry day in my final year of high school in Calcutta no one was in the mood for any serious study, least of all the earthy teacher who taught us Hindi. He sat down and said, (I paraphrase), “Screw studying today, it’s too bloody hot! So let’s have some light entertainment. Anybody, ask me any question, about anything, sex, drugs, rock & roll.”.
I was first in line with my question ready. “What does my name mean?”, I asked.
“Hmm, let me see now. The first part is …, which means ‘mountain goat’ and the second part signifies ‘lord of’. So you are the ‘Lord of the Mountain Goats’.” Much hilarity ensued in the class.
But, (yeah, yeah, I know, they told me never to start a sentence with ‘but’, but ‘however’ is just so pompous and I like to leave the pomposity to the Slo-Man.) back to figuring me out.
I don’t really have a head for heights, so walking around outside of the CN Tower in Toronto tied to a harness is not really a picture of me you will ever be able to take. I also don’t much care for goats unless they’re slow-cooked with plenty of spices and fresh parathas on the side. Clearly, the mountain goat thing is a misnomer.
So what do I like?
There are so many things I like. Which of them defines me, or rather, which of them gives you a picture of me. Let’s start with my “hobbies” or “Other interests”.
I read all kinds of stuff; technical white papers, blogs, authors of all kinds. PG Wodehouse is one, but then I also read the classics, Hardy, Dickens, assorted Brontes and Shakespeare (for fun, you understand?).
I also read and The Five Find Outers stories if I can find them. I enjoy reading plays too, very much, Schaeffer, Stoppard, Ayckbourn, Shaw et al. I also enjoy Dick Francis’ horsey tales of murder and mayhem as also Alistair Maclean’s formulaic novels. Even Agatha Christie and lesser lights such as Peter Cheyney.
The first western music I heard was on “A Date with You” on AIR in Delhi back in the early 60’s in the last century, which played light jazz and rock and roll. Cliff Richard, The Beatles (early ‘I wanna hold your hand’, yeah, yeah, yeah Beatles) were staples. Moving to Calcutta we had Musical BandBox and Lunch Time Variety on weekends playing a mix of country and light pop with Lynn Andrews, Elvis Presley, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones as the staples.
Then one day, after borrowing my sisters’ eyebrow pencil to darken a nascent moustache, I saw “Woodstock, The Movie” and my musical world changed for ever. Janis Joplin, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane came to stay. Then of course, one day, my elder brother came home with this funky album with a black cover that showed a light beam passing through two prizms and going from white to rainbow and back again. From the opening heartbeat to the ending heartbeat, the waves of sound coming from The Dark Side of the Moon were to transport me away to another world of possibilities and open up a can of worms. (More of that in another post, sometime, RSN).
I like Bob Dylan’s poetry and use of words. I like what I call acid country as exemplified by the Flying Burrito Brothers and The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Here is FBB doing Six Days on the Road.
Yet, I enjoy the rippling piano and the words I hear on this song from Arthur Askey, Peter Starstedt’s one hit, Leo Sayer singing “You make me feel like dancing”, The Bangles’s “Walk like an Egyptian” and none of these can be listed under hippie music.
Neither can Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or anything by Mozart – uh no, wait, maybe he was the first hippie. Any blues, whether delta acoustic, Chicago electric or “white blues” will do. I even enjoy Diana Krall, Scarlett Johansson singing this wonderful duet with Pete Yorn, listen to “Bird on the Wire” for it’s earthy feeling of pain. “Ripple” from the Grateful Dead brings tears – they should play this at my funeral.
Intelligent comedies work best. Mel Brooks (despite the fart jokes) is high on the list as is Woody Allen (don’t bother sending me emails, I’ll just junk them). Yet Woody’s Blue Jasmine was a tragedy of the human spirit in turmoil and it held my attention all the way to the end. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was smartly put together.
While comedies dominate, I also enjoyed the revenge-driven games of Sleuth, the manic Sightseers and the tragic love of Casablanca.
At this point I must confess a fondness for Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and it has nothing to do with Meg Ryan and everything to do with soppy love stories. My Beloved Bangalan cannot understand why I liked Elizabethtown and I cannot explain that either.
Spicy food is a definite yes, but then what about delicately spiced slow cooked Mediterranean fall-off-the-bone-buttery-soft lamb stew with baby okra? Or steak and fries? Or burek?
I could go on and list golf, cricket, crossword puzzles and try to analyze what they show about my personality.
That would bore you and cause me much typing and among other things I’m lazy.
What it boils down to is that I am a complex person, open to ideas, sounds and words.
I cannot be defined by a single quadrant on a four-point scale, or a colour or any other of the personality test categorizations.
I’m regaining my sense of smell but losing my eyesight.
I could have been a drug-laced hippie but I link addictions to failure.
I think HR departments in North America are useless but I think human beings are the single most important thing a company could have.
I think disco sucks, but I know The Grateful Dead were once known as a ‘dance band’.
I’m smart and intelligent yet unreasonably stupid in matters of love and family.
I’m highly conflicted and terribly afflicted with modesty.
In other words, I’m absolutely normal. It’s all you lot who aren’t.