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KK - THE MESMERIZER :: View topic - Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the wheel.)

Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the wheel.)
Page 1 of 1

Author:  simplecoffee [ Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:30 am ]
Post subject:  Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the wheel.)

Hey, hi, hello, it is August the twenty-third and I'm late as hell, aren't I? Oh yeah, I'm late. I'm late several times over, and I can only hope that this, at least in part, makes up for the wait.

Happy birthday, love. Shine on. I love you. *hug*

I've written and rewritten this introduction more times than I care to count. It's been over a year since I started working on this post; apologies, as per unfortunate standard. As I said, I've had a pretty rotten couple of years, and as such am pretending the second year of college didn't happen and I skipped directly from first year to third. Hey, it works in my head. :P Anyhow, I'm well recovered, a chemistry graduate and at XLRI Jamshedpur - and no, I'm not entirely sure how that latter happened, either - and today is August the twenty-third, so enough about me; let's get to celebrating the Cat, yeah? Oh hell yeah.

So. What I'm trying to say is: I'm armed with coffee, I've been planning this since bloody March '13, aaand none of that is the point. The point is I come bearing even greater madness than usual - which, on this forum, is saying something. The point is the rise of a not-quite-phoenix and so you’ll find a raw edge to that one. The point is you think, therefore you are.
And Cain has, as per usual, been thinking.

Stage-setting first. Stone and darkness. This is a corridor - it's probably a corridor - but there is as yet no evidence on which to base that claim. You feel him before you hear him; you hear him before you can see anything at all.
Ek din - bas ek din...

Fade to black; let's begin again. In case the intro or Cain herself *ahem* hadn't tipped you off already: yes, I'm talking about Main Khudaa. Vicious, vehement, atmospheric Main Khudaa - flame-lit, shadow-drenched, chemiluminescent Main Khudaa. Main Khudaa, anthem of the freakin' oppressed.
This is, of course, familiar territory to us close-knit diehards - but it's one of the cult classics, so to speak: the tracks that, for all they mean to us, somehow seem to have escaped the public ear. It's possible this is partly due to the fact that Paanch was never officially released, but even if it had been...well, I have my theories.

This track invites a lot of theories.

The more I think about this, the more work I put into this, the more certain I grow that KYRH would have been (...well, will be...) a less complicated task. Main Khudaa's a harder track to deal with than most, because it's different things to different people on a deeper level than most. It's more raw, for instance, than Power Ballad, more matter-of-fact than Aasraa - impossibly more manic than Barham, and among the many chords it dares to strike there'll always be one, if not a couple more, that's yours and yours alone.
And so, being Cain...I'm going to play all of those chords I can.
As you are no doubt painfully aware, I haven't done this in a while - this play-by-play commentary business - and so I've literally rolled up my sleeves and flexed my fingers in preparation. T minus let's do this, baby. Let's freakin' do this.

Main Khudaa is one of those all-around brilliant songs. The lyrics are spot on, the music their perfect complement, and as usual, KK takes both and soars. The intensity graph goes up in the first second and freakin' stays there while KK outdoes himself time and time again, leaping and coasting and burning bright.
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
Listen on, reader-listener, and read on.

Ek din - bas ek din -
Apne saare zakhm gin -
Ek raat - bas ek raat -
Tu soch kya hua tere saath -

Main Khudaa begins with what would, had it been but slightly more frenetic, have been a whisper. KK's on the upswing from the very beginning, all wariness and sharp edges and conspiracy; he's tense and vibrant and pointedly aware of the fact - and the reason - that he's offering advice unasked.
The first thing to note here, whether consciously or not, is that the listener is involved in two levels of deduction as opposed to the standard one. As with all the Zara Sas, there's immediately a second person in this song - but there's one major point of difference: in the Zara Sas you can sort of choose whether or not you're the one he's addressing. In Main Khudaa, it's definitely you. He speaks to you clearly and directly, stopping just short of calling you by name - stopping just short of physically touching you - and he is deadly, deadly serious.
You are, therefore, in the labyrinth with him.
And labyrinth it is; there are no two ways about it. There's a sense of enclosure about this track, of darkness, of depth, of weight, of cold. You are in a corridor of flat, unyielding stone, and the only source of light or heat you can find is the one who walked up to you, fire in his eyes, in the instant before the music began.
From the outset, from the first ek din, there's something other about the presence of KK's character - a defiance, a radiance, that doesn't quite fit. And that demands you listen. And so you do.
And he tells you, in quiet, inexorable imperative, to count your wounds.
Think, he says, as soft guitar-chord flamelets flicker around him; if you never have before, listen, and think now. Think of all you've been through, of all that's been done to you, and of how damn little of it you deserved. He says it gravely, coaxingly, commandingly, his tone a combination of infinite intangibles that only KK could ever carry off; in just these first four minimalistic lines, there's a wealth of information in his voice that no audience is yet - yet - equipped to decipher. Determination, perseverance, necessity, thrill, and although at this point his character is entirely unknown to you, there's a curious intimate quality to his tone - as though he's somehow reading you, as though he knows you, knows what you are without needing to know who.
And thus a little of the weight you feel - if just that little - resides in him. He's telling you something that goes deeper than his words, and you don't yet know what - or if you'll ever know what. There is a certain darkness to your only source of light, and unless you snap to and listen, you will never find out why.

At this point, the second, more brazen layer of electric guitars kicks in:

Khud se kahaan tak bhaagoge?
Subah jaati hai, kab jaagoge?
Duniya ne kaata, kat-te gaye;
Khud ko kahaan tak kaatoge? -

And with their introduction, something shifts. Something sparks. Something cracks. Something falls into place in his eyes, and suddenly everything jolts into motion, flares like the gaping of a furnace doorway.
Equally suddenly, in instantaneous retrospect, everything that came before feels just slightly subdued. It sounds anything but - in fact, it knocks you the hell over - but once the rest of the song is under way, you realize he's been trying to tone it down, to ease you into things for fear you'll startle. At khud se kahaan that restraint dissolves, and passion taxis smoothly past reason on the runway. The calm urgency of the first four lines was a front - and when that falls away, stone walls notwithstanding, there's something about him that's a little the wrong side of mischievous. Something in his smile that's a little too ruthless for comfort, too wild, too free - wilder and freer than you've ever known - and, somehow, not yet wild and free enough.

Your role during this segment is to stand by, knowing nothing, and watch him lose control by degrees.

As always when KK is at the fore, electric guitars are indicative of comfort. He's warming to his argument now, becoming ever so slightly more open as he grows surer of his footing. He's gathering momentum, layering logic with rhetoric, preparing for launch - and so he loses the battle for control, while in the same breath winning the one against it. Asks you to consider why you're here, what beliefs you've managed to delude yourself into. How long you'll be content to confine yourself within a cage of the world's making. Raw, frank, not a sugarcoated pill in sight: how long, he says, how much? How far?

You're getting to know him a little by now, getting to know his mission, all in aid of your primary aim, which is to understand his words. Suddenly you see that he's invested in this, that he cares to an extent that perhaps he shouldn't; he cares, and the frayed edges may be showing now, but they're also unfraying before your very eyes, knitting themselves up and leaving nary a scar. It's at khud se kahaan that the realization dawns: the source of his light, his heat? That's anger. Not rage - not the kind that lashes out; it's directed neither inward nor at you, not so much remembered as accessed anger, productive anger. Constructive anger. It may have - almost certainly has - evolved from something far less pure, but now? It's fuel. And let me tell you, it's the freakin' cleanest-burning fuel I know.

Saans lo, dum bharo -
Chillaakar sabse kaho -
Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main!
Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main!
Aasmaanon pe khadaa hoon main!
Main khudaa...

- And he's ablaze. Somewhere in the last note of kaatoge he paused at the ignition barrier; somewhere in sabse kaho he crosses it with a stride and a roar. The first two lines of this segment are an obvious segue, a breathless rallying pause one would expect to be followed by turbulence: what one gets, instead, is controlled conflagration. This is a deliberate, targeted outburst, the launch he's been building to since the first note, an averment with concentrated force enough to shake and shred the strongest steel: Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main!
Sar jhukaa; khudaa hoon main - and the edge of enjoyment that's been whittling his tone somehow softens, unfolds with the ever-so-subtle widening of his smile. It's as though he forgot that you were there, shifted focus from you for the merest instant, and when he locks eyes with you again there are suddenly fathomless worlds in his gaze. Before this chorus, you've been hearing the words and processing the non-verbal information separately - you've made no association between what he's saying and the passion, the urgent thrum in his tone, the energy that pulses just below the surface of his voice. At sar jhukaa the focus shifts, the guitars coalesce into one strident rhythm, and the vicious conviction of khud se kahaan can shake itself fully free of restraint: he looks back at you with that sudden depth, and the jolt of pleasure that accompanies the contact finally, finally, makes the connection. Compels you to inch closer and really listen, not just to the command of his words but to the wealth of possibility in his tone.
It is this chorus, this first mini-climax, that gives meaning to the verse that preceded it. It says call a halt to the pain; stop running, stand firm, take control. And though his words are straight-up instruction, his voice rings instead of declaration, of a confidence that makes you believe it's possible, a comfort that makes you believe it's right. That maybe it really is time to rise, Maybe it's time your oppressors knelt.
And it feels just a little like liberation. Feels like your heart might just be capable of soaring with his.

There is a brief interlude here, a simmering, contemplative pause. The music drops smoothly for these few vital seconds, then steps methodically upward to match his tone once more:

Har sparsh mein khichaav hai,
Har dosti mein tanaav hai;
Dua bhi main, balaa bhi main;
Meri davaa mera ghaav hai -

Now here is where things start to get murky. This stanza is more dynamic, more kinetic than the first; the sense of urgency, though still present, is now an undertone to his suave, wry confidence. He's pacing now, smile calmer, less manic - and ever so slightly self-deprecating: the first couplet is a little sardonic, an introspection laid bare and shielded the only way his character knows how.
Which is exactly what throws you off balance. In the blink of an eye he's gone from exhortation to stating seemingly random facts; where did the introspection come from? Freakin' left field, that's where. And yet his tone is perfectly consistent with everything that's gone before - it's a step up, a logical layering, but stands firm on the foundation of the previous verse. He's just as ruthlessly rational as ever, and you cling to that, because you've got to; he is your light source, and it's all you have.

He then goes on to purr the second couplet. There is no other way to put this: it's the purr of a lion who's got the cream, the smirking satisfied swell in his tone a mark of his total, absolute comfort. Whatever self-imposed inhibition kept the first verse bowstring-taut has burnt to cinders in the flames of the chorus; his voice and his aura are both more expansive, more frank - here's that well-known self-possessed drawl - and somehow deliciously darker round the edges than ever before. He's continuing down the path of introspection, but the shielding - the vaguely satirical, dreamy tone - is gone, leaving crystal clarity in its wake; he's addressing you directly again, baring his throat before you for reasons unknown.
Unknown, but evidently critical in his eyes. Relentless reason is his driving force, here; he is, with the honesty that's the trademark of this track, making a deliberate example of these words. And the premise he's looking to demonstrate is a simple life-science life lesson: The hotter the fire, the darker its heart.
What else, after all, could you possibly be missing?

Aadhi roshni, aadhe andhere -
Aadhi zindagi yoon na jalaao;
Tum jo sochte ho - vo tum ho!
Socho, jaago, sabko jagaao -

And did I say wild and free? Because it doesn't get wilder and freer than this. Gone is the gentleness of the preceding four lines; there's something jubilant about him now, something ecstatic, something noble. Where khud se kahaan was the gaping of a furnace, aadhi roshni's a full-on wildfire, a launch - he is airborne, coasting on adrenaline, your corridor awash in the colours of flame. Aadhi roshni is an upsurge, the first point of a steadily building peak, a call to action. Dua bhi main was expansive; aadhi roshni is explosive - it's as though he's been aiming here from the beginning, as though he now knows it's a goddamn bullseye, and suddenly everything starts to make sense.
What he's saying here is, don't waste your life this way. You're meant for better things than to languish in this corridor. Incomplete knowledge is not for you; you think, therefore you are - and it's not merely your right but your responsibility to think. Think, free yourself - and spread the message. And this, then, is really the heart of the matter: KK's character himself is currently spreading the message.
This is the reason for his earlier contemplative tone; this, if not the source of his fire, is the source of his drive. KK's character is at the third stage; you're at the first, and he's been there before.

KK, as always, hides best in the open, and nothing exemplifies this like Main Khudaa. Aadhi roshni is the turning point: once you're here, it either clicks or it doesn't - and if it does, the rest of the song snaps instantly into focus. If you make the connection between sabko jagaao and the urgency of ek din, the mania of sar jhukaa!, the depth in his eyes at the end of the chorus, you'll find yourself revisiting every note up to this point to clock things you never realized were there -

Khud se kahaan, for instance, is in retrospect his first hint of vulnerability. It's not until then that the fact that he's addressing you really sinks in: you are his primary motivation; your situation is what's sparked him into verbal flame. You are the one who has to sit up and pay attention lest his cry should go in vain. Second persons may not be uncommon as such, but without this particular second person, there would be no song. He's trying to make you think beyond the stone confines of your current world, trying to shake you a little, tell you this is not your fault. Duniyaa ne kaata, kat-te gaye; khud ko kahaan tak kaatoge?

And then - there's the chorus. Saans lo, dum bharo. Sar jhukaa. Khudaa hoon main. It is a blaze, but a controlled blaze; he is not the eye but the source of the storm, and that makes all the difference. It's very step the hell up, listen to me, you're better than this, goddamnit, very clench-fisted uninhibited emphatic empowered.
Empowering and empowered; there's a note to his voice by this time of the conqueror - and once aadhi roshni has paved the way forward, it's in this very note that the key to the cipher lies. His Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main! is a little too manic, a little too passionate -hits just that little too close to home: he is speaking to you now, has been speaking all this while, from personal experience. Apart from his urgent need to be heard, the listen, listen, listen pulse that informs the entire track, what he's saying during this first chorus is, simply, tell 'em what you're made of. Assert yourself. It's high time you did. And then there's that little, almost accidental tinge of hey, you can do it. Believe me; I did.
This is personal.
This has been personal all along.

Hence the slow start so as not to spook you, hence the gradual unfurling of command: you've been in the labyrinth long enough to have grown used to your captivity, and he's doing everything in his power to reach you. You might have succumbed without knowing what was wrong, sunk under before you knew you could fight, or you might have once known and all but forgotten in this stone-cold mess of monotone grayscale; KK's character has been here and done this and knows there'll never be a shred of hope unless you create it for yourself. And because he sees himself in you, sees you in desperate, unknowing need of something he could once have done with himself - he offers himself as catalyst, and strides into the breach. Tells you to look around, to find yourself, to find a foundation and build yourself. Tells you to take control - that control is yours to take - that there is no one who can take it but you.
KK's character has been where you are. Has been oppressed, has been oblivious; has branched, somewhere in this tirade, into not-quite-intentional self-reference. Has said something he didn't quite mean to, somehow found an intellectual foothold, and is hoping - now that he's shed his cloak of caution - to teach you by cathartic example.
KK's character is a defender. KK's character is an evangelist. KK's character is a conqueror, and holds the spark that will give you light until you gather strength enough to find your own.
Saans lo. Dum bharo. Chillaakar sabse kaho - sar jhukaa; khudaa hoon main.

The interlude, too, in this sudden light, takes on a different mantle. The music calms in deference to his revelation, drumbeats dropping to simple, metallic sets of three. The flamelets are back, burning slightly lower, still as deliberate, as supportive as he is; this pause is less for your benefit - though it does give you time to recover - than a contemplative one to accommodate his thoughts. It is a fitting symmetry, this, that it's a pause to step back, to refocus, reassess, to take a breath; that KK's character spends this interlude following his own advice. Saans lo, dum bharo: take a breath and gather your strength - physically or otherwise - before forging on, and that's exactly what he's doing here, preparing to make the best of the situation he's currently in.
Even in his silence, his aura is palpable; you feel him thinking, beginning to pace as ideas fall into place in his mind. Somehow he manages to radiate not only self-assurance but self-awareness, and to have the courage to freewheel as he is takes a foundation built on both. He knows exactly what he's doing and exactly why, and he's merely considering how to proceed - in other words, what exactly to tell you in light of what he's just let slip. This is a pause in which his mental kaleidoscope visibly, if precisely, shifts, and as the guitars pick up again, you feel his resolve solidify.

At har sparsh mein, it's immediately apparent that there's been one hell of a transition. If you're a first-time listener - or haven't yet learnt to hear the things that KK doesn't explicitly say - this is a shift that can take you by surprise. Taken in the context of the previous stanza, he seems to have changed the subject entirely - seems, indeed, to be rambling a little, but don't be fooled into thinking he's smouldering: he's settled, but burning just as steadily as ever. The deadly focus in his tone, the fact that he's at his calmest, most matter-of-fact yet, makes a great deal of sense - if it's taken in the context of the chorus instead.

Let's take this one step at a time. If, as a first-time listener would, you take his words at face value, they pretty much sound like random gibberish, so obviously that's not the answer. If you then, in an effort to gain clarity, proceed to take the verse as a whole at face value instead, it seems curiously at odds with his voice and tone - not to mention the narrative groundwork he's just painstakingly laid. Two related statements layered with paradox upon diabolical paradox: has he abandoned his earlier agenda and decided, remorseless, to leave you floundering? Is he, with confidence, certainty, warmth, informing you that he's an unreliable narrator? Is the sanest, levelest-headed person you know really as sane and level-headed as he seems?
- And then you listen closer, and you look into his eyes. You think back to the note of triumph in a sentence that could have been mere allegory. And then you realize, connection made, that the flash and fizzle of madness has no power - can do nothing - like the constant, lethal blaze of the sane.
He's been talking about himself with calm and warmth and defiance, not because he's changed the subject, but because he's approaching from a different angle - one his rambling in the chorus revealed to him, and which he's now taking full advantage of, carrying on in the same physical pattern as the first verse because there's no reason not to - simply because he might as well. His intentions here are not at odds with the ones he started out with, which is why his tone hasn't really changed, just evolved, and evolved with aplomb.

With the addition of the missing link, the second verse becomes a sigh, a gentle verbal cuff to the head. What he's saying here is, look. It's earlier days for you than it ever was for me. You don't have to spend as much time pre-epiphany as I did. You don't have to come out of this as damaged as I did. He is baring his soul before you in the hope of easing your transition - offering you the path to deliverance, because he was once where you are now. Your corridor, your labyrinth, may be your prison - but it's not of your making, and it's therefore fallible. It isn't easy to break free, but the first step is to realize you can, and that realization - that flash, that spark - is what KK is offering you. And yet somehow the offer, the deliberate soul-baring, seems less a depletion than a conferment of power - as though he's not using the truth about himself as a shield, but is fully prepared if necessary to use it as a weapon. He is armed with his truth, and with that very brutal, gleeful honesty, he is also arming you.
And, well - he's also offering you the chance to renounce those arms. The second couplet doubles as a statement and a warning. Here he's telling you that some might view him as dangerous, that some would condemn him as a sinner or a madman, and so he's warning you that heeding his words will not be easy on you - even assuming you get the message he's exerting his all to convey. He's saying, hey, if you want to leave - if I've left you cold, you can always back down. By this point, however - by the time you're revisiting this line - if you're an intelligent listener, if you're among the few who are affected by this song - you know better. If you've understood by now, you are alight, and know there is no looking back. That there's nothing worth fighting for that won't leave scars. And you're ready to stand by his side in battle.

And then, yes, aadhi roshni: the fork in the road. Until these words you've been blindly following instructions - you've begun to consider your life and your situation and your labyrinth, but you've only been doing that because he's been telling you to. At this point it all falls into perspective; the reason you're doing as he asks spins beyond his personal magnetism and turns for fuel to your own untapped soul. In this instant your internal compass swings from figure him out to heed his words. This is the moment at which you take off on your own; at which your own flame flickers, if hesitantly, into life. The moment of realization, the moment it becomes his struggle to you, the moment it snaps into feeling like his battle, it also becomes your own.
Aadhi roshni is the point at which your dam breaks - and he knows it, senses the victory and follows on, reinforcing the power he senses in you: Tum jo sochte ho, vo tum ho!
You are now at resonant frequency. He knows you know, knows you're thinking along the same lines he is, and so he tells you to spread the message. Socho, jaago, sabko jagaao. Saans lo, dum bharo.

Saans lo, dum bharo -
Chillaakar sabse kaho -
Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main!
Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main!
Aasmaanon pe khadaa hoon main!
Main khudaa...

This chorus - the second climax - though the words are the same, builds on all that has come before it to evolve into a new meaning entirely. With the multiple epiphanies of aadhi roshni and the battle-readiness of socho, jaago, the transition to this sar jhukaa is smoother, less an explosive rise than a comfortable slide into a familiar groove. Unlike the first chorus, it's not an exhortation but a reinforcement, a reassurance, a yes, you read me right and a yes, you made the right call. And, if you listen closely, it's also a welcome to the fold; I'm glad to finally have you here.
The triumphant note to his voice rings deeper now, a little more mature - more resonant, the need for the urgency of the first chorus having passed. The entirety of the second segment of the song is less rushed, a little more...sensuous, is the only word I can find (self-awareness is hot, don't lie to me, shh)...and by this chorus, he's completely at ease, sublimely comfortable with revealing himself to you. The intimacy he began the song with now goes both ways. And what you see if you take him up on it is a certain release, a coasting upliftment that can only come from knowing that one is not alone.
He's been hinting at the personal element since duniya ne kaata, but at that point you were too oppressed, too unused to passion to recognize it for what it was. Intellectual stagnation is very easy to get used to, very easy to learn to hide behind, since it always, always comes disguised as a comfort zone. It's hard to learn to recognize the difference between a true comfort zone, those few cornerstones one needs for a grounding, and the false comfort of never-ending low-con monochrome. It's easy not to have to think. It's easy to stop resisting, easy to forget why you resisted in the first place, and it's this state of mind - this utter lack of state of mind - that he's had to pierce the veil of, clear the cloud enough to lift you through. He's had to help you realize that something was wrong so that you, empowered, could begin to fix it - for no one can fix your own mind but you.
Once you know your cornerstones, know your own reference points, know the ground state you can return to if required, there is nothing to keep you from forging forward. Once you have a control group, it's experiment that's the key to discovery and thus to advancement - but without that control, without the foundation of knowledge, all the freewheeling in the world will gain you nothing of value. KK's mission in this track has been to get you to see this. To liberate your mind, that you may proceed to free yourself - and thereupon identify and ignite others capable of burning as well. It's fitting: a chain reaction to break the vicious cycle of stone and darkness. And now, the initiator radical is. not. alone.

There follows an instrumental segment, a cascade of electric guitars that rises and falls and rises in extension of the coasting second chorus. It's at once as triumphant as he is, as open as he is, as firmly, powerfully grounded as he is. It takes his fire and melds it with yours, your combined flames leaping in time with the chords - and then it simmers down to a sort of expectant almost-nothingness, evidently waiting.
Fire yields to fire.

Ye sahi hai, ye galat -
Meri maano; socho mat -
Ye na peheno, vo na bolo,
Ho sake toh muh na kholo,
Ye padho mat; vo suno mat -
Main chunoonga; tum chuno mat -
Kat-te jaao; mit-te jaao;
Dabna seekho; dabte jaao -

He begins at the dip of the electric guitars, tone mild, deceptively gentle: Ye sahi hai, ye galat - and then he damns the cover to hell. Meri maano, socho mat is just contemptuous enough, just scorching enough to send the faint of heart scurrying - all without his having to raise his voice a decibel.
Ye na peheno, vo na bolo - he's obviously pacing, gaining ground with every note: as of this point he is addressing you directly no longer, but sweeping you along with the current of his words. Transformed from wildfire to spitfire, he's waxing both lyrical and inductive to elaborate on the kind of oppression he means. Methodically he details the mindset of the oppressor - ye padho mat, vo suno mat - main chunoonga, tum chuno mat - and in doing so renders it powerless to those who care to listen. This is passionate sarcasm, speaking of the kind of mindless bondage that forms the stone of your labyrinth, and by speaking of it, by naming it, by the power of his gently savage negation, he makes those walls dissolve.
Kat-te jaao, mit-te jaao; dabna seekho, dabte jaao - he has a desolation to him in these last two lines, a sort of desperate, resigned sadness that's never shown before and never since. It's the world-weary determination of one who knows the horrors of war and goes into battle regardless; it is KK finally, gravely, showing you your stone walls for what they were. By the end of his tirade you are bewildered in the open, in the cold wind and the night sky and the vastness you'd all but forgotten exists, and he tells you, this is what they took from you, this is what they are all afraid of, this is why they sought to confine your flames, and mine before you: because we weren't afraid. And all you can say, head spinning from the release, is bas; ab aur nahin.

He looks at you, then. You, the person - not you the imprisoned; not you the oppressed; not you the rescuee. He looks at you, eyes warmer, more triumphant than they have been since the corridor; he looks at you and smiles, gentle, wise, diamond-edged - and he says, go out, there, baby, burn.

Saans lo. Dum bharo. Chillaakar sabse kaho.

And you do - for you've become the fire.

Okay, so I'm going to wax a little more philosophical than usual, because a song of this sort demands it. Or rather, I'm going to do what one Dr Washburn said, of a gun, to Jason Bourne: Break it down. Now.

Let's begin.

Main Khudaa, as I have said, means different things to different people. Primarily this is because everyone encounters different hardships, struggles to face them down in different ways. Oppression can take many forms; overwhelmingly, though, it's that of the individual by the multitude, which is the kind the song addresses.
If you think about it a little, it's easy to see why. Not all the information we humans receive is firsthand, which on the one hand is an evolutionary advantage - since experience is not our sole method of learning - but on the other means the majority of our acquired 'knowledge' is in fact filtered through the perception of others. Filter upon filter upon filter, therefore, is likely to result in a certain amount of distortion and a Chinese-whisper-esque effect, both of which tend to water things down, to hamper understanding. And people fear what they do not understand.
It's a primal enough response, this fear; there are, however, two possible secondary responses to it. One is curiosity: the drive to find out more, to explore, discover, learn. The other - the default, I'm afraid - is to convert that fear to hatred.
You see, the whole multiple-filter thing? Also tends to encourage a certain degree of homogeneity. It is easier to obtain knowledge from other people than firsthand - and in those who can't tell (or can't be bothered to tell) the difference between transmitted attitude and verifiable fact, it is easy to accept any of that so-called information as true. Mind you, I'm not talking about 'knowledge' as in just the big things, the world being round and the sun rising in the east and strontium salts turning hydrocarbon flames red. I'm talking about things like, oh, 'boys are boisterous; girls are prim'. I'm talking about 'follow your passion, but your passion must be [x]'. I'm talking about the extrovert-rewarding culture we live in. I'm talking about my class three teacher saying, 'Egyptians wrote on papurus [sic] and it grows right here in the school backyard', just because she had a bunch of kids before her who'd believe any little damn thing she said. I'm talking about people who don't bother to assimilate what they acquire, because it's easier to file the raw data than process it to sift the grain from the chaff. And it's these very people who learn to abhor difference.
The sad thing is, we're all conditioned from birth into doing this. Worldviews are limited every second of every day by the crushing authority of elders or 'betters', the acceptance-chasing social conditioning of peers, by the absolute rule of the relative majority - simply because the herd mentality is seen as the safest. Certainly it's the easiest, which is why it's so prevalent, but some of us - somehow - learn that there's life beyond it.
Some of us learn to question.
Some of us can't be stopped.
Inevitably, there's a mass reaction. Safety in numbers, remember, is where the herd is always aiming - that, and the absolute minimum of effort. So when someone deviates from that norm, when someone learns to think for themselves, when someone threatens change from the status quo, the dominant response of the majority is hatred. How could they. How dare they. Bring 'em down.
Whereupon, with the brute strength the masses hold sacred, they do. Bring 'em down, that is. Beat them to size with a mental bludgeon: persistent force will wear down even the strongest of defences. Put them in a labyrinth and leave them to languish. And that's where KK's character comes in.
Once you are in that labyrinth - be it depression, conformity, whatever form it takes - it is hard as hell to break out alone. It can be done, it's likely his character has done it - hell, I have done it - but it's not an easy task. And so KK acts as your initiator radical, that you may go forth, tap your fuel and burn, for the world needs all the light it can get.

Main Khudaa's a very individualistic track. It's one on one, KK and you. I've heard people try to apply it to mass movements and causes, but somehow that always strips it of its layers and, no matter how worthy the cause, ends up cheapening the song. It may be the voice of an audience that answers KK at the end, but it's each individual member of the audience he's been speaking to. Self-discovery is a personal thing, something no one else can do for you, which is what has been his point, has driven his urgency all along. The objective of this track has been, from the start, to put those capable of it in a position to finally cry, I am. I think. I will.

- Yes, in customary geeky fashion, I'm quoting Ayn Rand. (You probably knew this would happen, yeah?) Now Rand is...problematic in certain ways, not least her questionable ideas of beauty, sex and gender, but in the fundamental principle that drives all her work - especially Anthem, which I'm concentrating on here - she is indeed sound. (If you haven't read Anthem, by the way, do it. It's very short, and we can discuss what's right and wrong with it afterwards.)
Anthem addresses the concept I've just been discussing, takes it to a hyperbolic extreme. It's set in a world of an absolute collective, a world where individuality is a crime. It is a sin to write this, the opening sentences say. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It's a world in which average is the only acceptable state, in which deviation is observed, quantified and punished. In which even the deviants know nothing but what they're taught - not even that they are, in fact, deviant. It is a world ruled - ruled absolutely - by the fear of the unknown. And it takes one driven, logical man to arrive at the true root of the problem.
There's a lot that's wrong with Anthem, but also a lot that's right, and it's the latter that Main Khudaa so closely parallels. The motif is oppression not by one or many, but the multitude. Oppression by the common headspace, common standards, rejection of outliers, common fear of the goddamn unknown. Human beings are not data sets. They may generate data sets, but do not confuse the descriptor with the description. Do not confuse language with the passions and ideas it conveys; very often, they are not the same. ...Well, with me, they often are similar, but that's because it's me and I do that, because I'm an outlier and goddamnit, I'm proud.
And that's what I'm getting at. What Main Khudaa is getting at. Once chained by the masses, the only way to break free is to get to know yourself, because that - your sense of self - is what the herd mentality takes from you, or prevents you from ever acquiring. Without knowing yourself, there is nothing you can know. Survival on outside input alone is an existence, not a life; you have to know, have to seek, have to find your eigenstates and strive to maintain them, but above all you must know what they are. Know your baselines, know your desires, know yourself, for only after looking within can you reliably look outward.
It is by knowing yourself that you attain true power - by commanding yourself that you can command. And the mindless masses seek to control you by taking your self-knowledge - thus, your agency - away. Frightened of those who are not like them, who possess something by virtue of that difference that they themselves do not, they take - as per standard - the easiest possible route: they don't have to tie your hands once they've succeeded in shackling your mind, in separating it from your soul.

Prometheus, says Robert Ludlum, swept down from the heavens bringing the gift of fire; wrong move. If there is an absolute in the world of thought, it is this: the herd resists change. You cannot isolate the mind from the soul without losing the meaning of both; they are interdependent variables, but this means nothing to the drones who seek to imprison you in a mass-generated paradigm.
And you are the only one who can regain the power you've lost. The most another can do is help you realize you have, in fact, lost something - and that is KK's character's motive, the otherworldliness of his presence in your labyrinth; but no one else can take the steps you must to reclaim yourself, because nobody else is you. No example is enough - it can only be an aid to understanding; do you see how desperately driven he is to have sung of his soul in the hope of assisting you to epiphany? Because he has - in the first four lines of the second stanza, he's laid himself bare. He's spoken, dreamily, self-deprecatingly, of the scars his own battle has left - har sparsh mein khichaav hai; har dosti mein tanaav hai - of how once you know, you can never look back. And he's spoken of the fact that there are some scars he revels in, that there are parts of himself he never knew before going through this, and that came through it all the stronger. Dua bhi main, balaa bhi main; meri davaa mera ghaav hai. Spoken with the relish of a veteran of a war that's worth it. Spoken with the muted pride of one who knows who and what he is, the strong foundation of one who wouldn't give up that knowledge for worlds.

This is what Main Khudaa is trying to tell you: that you are your own person, that your body and your mind and your soul are your own, that power is not what you think you know it is, and that the epiphany is yours to have.
Returning to Anthem, the search for knowledge - for data - is a major motif there. In Main Khudaa, that quest is in his past and in your future, and it doesn't even try to present itself as mere information-gathering. It is unequivocal: find what you love, find what you want, find your own personal stratosphere and then chase cruising speed; you're too precious to be wasted on the surface. It's dare to plunge deep, that you may fly high; it's never give up, for the power is yours. Everybody has a quest, and your first one is to find your own. Embrace your darkness, that you may draw from it your light; find your fire and protect it, that it may in turn protect you.
You're looking for power? You have the power; you are the power. We're each - not all - we are each the power. We're each our own power; all we have to do is access it. Sar jhukaa. Khudaa hoon main. Aasmaanon pe khadaa hoon main.

Which brings me to an issue that needs to be dealt with. When the music of Rockstar was first released, I heard more than one person say Sadda Haq was or could have been the next Main Khudaa. I took immediate and violent exception to this, but could not in the heat of the moment explain why. The time has come, I think, to do so.
Apart from the singers - whom I will not compare, because there's no comparison - the first difference between the two songs is that Sadda Haq was and is insanely popular. This could be put down to the fact that Paanch was never released, but I think it's telling - as ye shall see.
The second? Is the second person. Pay attention to the lyrics, if you will:

Rivaajon se, samaajon se kyon...
Tu kaate mujhe, kyon baante mujhe is tarah? -
Kyon sach ka sabak sikhaaye, jab sach sun bhi na paaye?
Sach koi bole toh tu niyam kaanoon bataaye -
Tera dar - tera pyaar - teri vaah, tu hi rakh!


Khud se kahaan tak bhaagoge?
Subah jaati hai, kab jaagoge?
Duniya ne kaata, kat-te gaye;
Khud ko kahaan tak kaatoge? -
Saans lo, dum bharo -
Chillaakar sabse kaho -
Sar jhukaa! Khudaa hoon main!

I can see how the two songs may sound a bit similar, structurally, stylistically: they're both almost-monologues, rambling rants against society. Only there's a difference - and it's all the difference in the world.
We know the second person in Main Khudaa, the listener trapped in the stone-flagged catacombs; in Sadda Haq, however, the second person is rhetorical. The listener is meant to identify not with the tu of Sadda Haq, but with the first person - the singer of the track. You're supposed to wallow in frustrated superiority, to be the one calling society on its bullshit. To identify with the first person of Main Khudaa, you must first evolve past the stage of the second person's self-discovery; only then, once you have your own keystones, can you become the evangelist yourself.

Sadda Haq, for all its rail and bluster, is fundamentally passive. Sadda Haq complains, says I and all who identify with me are the victims; you are the abuser; this is what you've done and refused to do. You, destroyer of souls, must now behold the wreckage of mine.
Main Khudaa, on the other hand, is less descriptive than imperative. It's okay, says Main Khudaa, to have been hurt, but you can't stay down; you're stronger than this. Get up, says Main Khudaa, and show your captors what you're made of. I could, says Main Khudaa, and you can; and what's more, it's high damn time you did. Volatile, unstable rant though it may seem, Main Khudaa is radiant rather than rambling. It has a central focus, a point it keeps returning to, a core that's the source of its strength and heat and life. Main Khudaa's refrain is this: It's not too late to reclaim yourself.
Sadda Haq is a ramble pure and simple. Its core is of frustration turned defeatism, and has no heat behind it save that of a dying machine. Sadda Haq is tired and self-righteous and petty; Main Khudaa is selfishly philanthropistic and freakin' incorrigible. Main Khudaa confers power upon the listener, tells them what's wrong and how to go about fixing it. Main Khudaa is grounded. Sadda Haq is not.
And you know what? That's why Sadda Haq grew so popular. The default desire is to see oneself as the victim; very few can take the strain of being their own rescuer. If you are in the process of self-discovery, if you are at a point in your development at which you are capable of realizing self-discovery is possible and essential, Main Khudaa presents as confirmation, reassurance, and hence as deliverance. If you're not in such a position, if you're not ready for it, it presents instead as an identity crisis. As something that disconnects, divides, disturbs, and the universal reaction of the untrained to that? Is instant and complete denial. Hence the phenomenon Sadda Haq became, and the relative (and absolute) obscurity of Main Khudaa.
Sadda Haq is a rhetorical cry for help - it doesn't want help! It wants to wallow in its misery by itself. It wants someone to try to help and fail, so it can have yet more reason to sputter. Main Khudaa fuels its own damn fire, and has more than enough passion left with which to spark yours. And you know what else? It wants to spark yours. And that's the critical difference. Anyone can whine their way through a Sadda Haq - though it is commendable to have made it sound unlike a whine enough to fool the nation - but it takes the fusion-lit core of a KK to carry off a Main Khudaa, and don't you forget it.

Quite probably this burning brightness, this compelling, singular message, is why there's been talk of turning Main Khudaa into a religion. I'm looking at you, Akul; and I'm telling you that, though my own view is less extreme, I can indeed see where you're coming from.
Let's look at this objectively. The cornerstone of any faith is the belief in a power. Established religions hold that this power is extraneous - omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, but extraneous. The message of Main Khudaa is that the power lies within you. And the way I see it, that is simply a way of life. Whether or not you believe in a deity, whether or not you are spiritual, whether or not you've even decided if any of that applies to you, this is a philosophy that can always be your compass: that you are your own compass. It's all in the way you look at things. You don't have to worship the song - only do as it says, and look within. It means different things to different people, after all.

Genesis 1: 27. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Sar jhukaa; khudaa hoon main.

Standard Hindi hymn - by Gulzar, I think. Doosron ki jai se pehle khud ko jai karein. Sar jhukaa; khudaa hoon main.

Algernon Sydney. God helps those who help themselves. Sar jhukaa; khudaa hoon main.

Washburn to Bourne. You are not helpless; you will find your way.
Sar jhukaa; khudaa hoon main.

- And I'd leave you at that, but there is more yet.
Last February I took part in a creative writing contest at Antardhvani, the DU cultural festival. It turned out one of the events was Poetry in Translation, and - yep, you already know exactly where I'm going with this.
I'm good at analysis, as you all know. I'm good at writing original stuff and I'm good at deconstruction, at plainly saying what needs to be said. Catabolism, as it were - but there's always the other metabolic pathway.
I did not participate in 2013; instead, I took off to Connaught Place, spent the better part of three days in a corner of a coffee shop there, and came up with my first attempt at anabolism. Reconstruction.
You are aware of the issues I have with the standard approach to translation. There was no way I'd go word to word, no reference point but the song itself, but somehow I had the feeling I could do it - that I must.
What I've endeavoured to do here is not only get at the meaning of each line and of the song as a whole, but reconstruct the entire aura of the track. Main Khudaa is more conversationally phrased than most poetry, more straightforward, so I kept that intact. I'm often very tempted to switch phrasing around in verse - passionate her roaring engine, ruthless her sagacity - but the only time I've switched around here is when the song itself does. The song is structured as dialogue would be, and so everything I've written here is something I'd actually say while waxing verbally lyrical. It's spoken English, technically - meant to be heard; meant to be spoken or read aloud by someone who understands.
And you know what? That's exactly what I did. On Valentine's 2014, as it happens. I recited the song, and I read this out, over a microphone into dead freakin' silence. And it was the sweetest feeling in the world.

Have I succeeded in my mission? Go ahead - read it. It's your call.

Happy birthday, darlin'. Stay yourself; stay strong, stay alight, stay ablaze. I love you, we love you, we will all always love you. You are a beacon and a force and a fire, and listen, we love you so damn much.

(Also? End of radio silence, baby. ;) )

File comment: please mentally replace the word 'fiend' with 'curse' because apparently there are no scanners in Jamshedpur. I am not even kidding
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Author:  simplecoffee [ Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Love Fire With Fire

Footnotes! ;)

• Yes, I did notice this post is not as risqué as usual. It's a lot more serious than usual, in fact, and that's probably why. Hey, Cat? I promise I'm not off my game. :P

• The post, minus these footnotes, is nearly nine thousand words long. Holy. Hell. (And I might still go back and try to add stuff here and there, because that is standard operating procedure.)

• At least twenty-five percent of this post was written in various coffee shops around the NCR. (Um, various Costas, actually.) Relatedly, at least twenty-five percent of this post was originally handwritten in bits and pieces - and that's not even counting the other bits and pieces saved on three different phones during the process; Nokia, take a bow.

• Sukhi and Kuldeep, I am sorry for tormenting you so long with this.

• 'So you’ll find a raw edge to that one' is a direct quote from .

• In the 2013 , KK went and blew my freakin' mind by saying he could do Main Khudaa better. And then not elaborating on that statement. I mean, what, how, where do you even come from saying that, dude, you don't just turn a girl on and leave.
So I asked him about it. Turns out he can't really explain, but if he were to do it, he has a feeling he'd do it better now. At the core? He'd sing it again because it was fun. I'd believe that, baby. You bet I'd believe that. ;)

• They gave me the second prize at Antardhvani '14 for the translation. First went to a girl who'd translated Robert Frost into Hindi, because of course it would. :P (No really, her work was indeed very good; it's just that giving prizes to the classics is...a bit of a thing with them. It's predictable.)

• Main Khudaa is orange and black, with hints of flame-edge red and chemical blue.

• If I'm listening to this song with someone who's heard it before, I like to say 'brace for sarcasm!' just before the ye sahi hai segment. It's a thing. :P

• Once upon a time when I was in class twelve, the class teacher asked if anyone knew a song about self-discovery and confidence. The following conversation then occurred:
Cain: (nudges the friend next to her and grins evilly) "You know, Main Khudaa would probably suit her purpose."
Friend: "Dude, Main Khudaa's too dark. Implies abuse and all that."
Friend: "And it's too good to waste on these guys, anyway."
(surreptitious high five)
Make of that what you will. ;)

• This year, I met someone, via the Miranda House creative writing club, who had actually heard Main Khudaa before we met. It was thanks to her dad, apparently, and she recognized the words as I said them to her. It was insane. We'd met over an online discussion of a piece I'd written about synaethesia, got talking and decided to go out for coffee someday, and when we did, poof, freakin' Main Khudaa. It only served to strengthen the preexisting bond between us. Charu, if you're reading this, goddamnit, I miss you.

• Also this year, during Computers-in-Chemistry class, the teacher was discussing molecular modelling methods and this happened:
Teacher: "Aadhi theory, aadha experiment."
Cain: (pretty much automatically, with a probably terrifying grin on her face) "Aadhi zindagi yoon na jalaao!"
Everybody looked at me as though I was insane. I, however, rode the high of this incident for days. XD

• Yes, I did add an extra line to the translation. I'M A RHYME JUNKIE, OKAY. SHH.

• While getting my mind in gear for this post one day, I accidentally put my playlist on shuffle instead of repeat. Shuffle switched to Aaina; it took my brain a while to realize this. So for that while I just stood there in the metro, listening to Aaina with the mental visuals of Main Khudaa. It was highly disturbing. It was mainly highly disturbing because I liked it entirely too much for comfort. Making open-aired breezy tracks such as Aaina darker than they already are = freakin' yes, please. What the hell, brain. What. the hell.

• The time has come to admit to blasphemy: yes, I edited Main Khudaa. I cut the whistling at the beginning (there's a fine line between eerie and comedic when it comes to whistling; this was too close to it for my comfort) and the screaming hoon khudaas (because they sounded like they hurt and I would therefore rather pretend they didn't happen).

• Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity is good related reading to this post. If you decide to read it, you'll eventually realize why - or if you don't, what am I here for? Ask me. ;)

• Oh, and The Return of the Archons, my favourite Star Trek episode ever, has similar, Rand-esque themes.

• The eigenstates are the most stable states of a particular subatomic particle. It's basically a mathematical concept; the previous sentence is the closest I can get to describing it without resorting to the bizarre mixture of equations and paragraphs I use to decode maths.

• If you're wondering how I can state with such authority that it is indeed possible to identify with Main Khudaa's first person - the answer is, predictably: firsthand experience. I'd like you all to welcome , a close friend of mine who is brilliant, has made astounding progress in the three years since we first met, and was in the birthday video montage with me last year. Keep your head held high, Gallardo mine. :)

• On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
William Blake, The Tyger. ;)

• Happy birthday, my love, once again. Love always. *hug*

Cain out - for now.
*salutes and fades to black*

[edit: footnote to the footnotes . ;)]

Author:  miaow [ Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the whe

*Flails hands in air*


*captures air in fists*

*blows Happy Birthday into it and opens fists*

Here's hoping that my fist full of air and pretty wishfully that, carries my greetings to wherever he is at the moment (mushy much? Corny much? Hell, I don't care.)

So there, Behen Cain ijj here! (Oh how could she not be? It's August the 23rd!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Now I go back and read the coffee induced/ infused post(s) at my own sweet leisurely pace. That is of course after treating myself to a large platter of Rajma Chawal. (Pretty much drove my mom insane over cooking Rajma Chawal on 23rd) And yeah, I am searching for road side Chole Bhature in my city :D

Author:  kappa [ Mon Sep 08, 2014 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the whe

Author:  simplecoffee [ Sun Oct 19, 2014 1:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the whe

Author:  simplecoffee [ Sun Oct 19, 2014 1:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Love Fire With Fire (or; take a breath, and take the whe

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