By Nikhil Raghavan
Gifts come in all forms and varieties, including the easiest to choose – a bouquet of flowers. You can never go wrong with that, whatever the occasion. But, many a times, we think we know an acquaintance well enough to present him with a book or a music album, since you know that he loves to read and listen to music. You couldn’t be more wrong!
Many a times, for birthdays or anniversaries, friends have given me music CDs or books. At least 5% of my shelf space for music and books consist of unread/unheard material which are not my cup of tea. I know they were given with good intentions so, it will remain there for the rest of my life. Music and books are probably the only two things that have strong and personalized preferences and as long as people realise that, the world will be a better place to live in. I, for one, have never gifted music or book to anyone, for I do not know what his or her personal preferences are.
I would buy a magazine off the rack or grab a newspaper off the stand, for that casual ‘time-pass’ periods of waiting at airports or travel on the tube. And, just as casually, fling it into the nearest dustbin. Or, I would turn on the FM on my mobile and listen to ‘canned music’ to keep away the outdoor ruckus while commuting. Both these actions do not warrant intense or dedicated attention.
But, when I buy a particular music album or a novel, it is because I need it to satisfy an urge. No one can sense what my urge is at a particular ‘moment’ and try to gift me one.
Over the years, my choice of music / artistes and books / authors have continuously evolved, changed, swung back and forth, but, genre-wise, mostly remained stable – thrillers and adventure fiction and rock music. I may have indulged in the occasional periods of jazz & blues, country & western or heavy metal, but I will always drift back to pure rock music. For me, the kind of music I listen to purely depends on the mood of the day or the state of mind.
But, when it comes to reading, I like the adventure of Wilbur Smith, the thrills of Robert Ludlum or the lyrical landscape of Jeffery Archer. In younger days I have had my fill of classics and Shakespeare but not anymore. For me, reading a book is like watching an entertaining film. It has to occupy my mind during the length of the read and then forget about it, rather than dwell on the characters and plots and ‘would-it-have-been-so?’ situations. Maybe I will never read the same title again, because, somehow, the story will always be fresh in your mind, even after a decade.
Similarly, listening to an album is cerebral to the extent that I try to understand the lyrical story or the musical arrangement or the guitar riff, forgotten till the next track comes along. But, I will revisit the album or songs several times only to enjoy the compositions more and more, and even discover nuances that will keep surfacing.
Now, let’s assume a situation where you have to give a good friend and neighbor a gift for his birthday. You know he loves music and reading but not the same stuff of your choice. So, take him to the nearest book/music store and ask him to pick his choice…but, be prepared that he might have multiple choices and will dent your debit card a bit. Never mind, he is your BFF and at least your gift will not go to waste. Never mind that the surprise element was lost, the recipient got what he loved, after all. Would everyone think of doing something similar?
Similarly, music being so personal, there are times when you can get lost in the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, John Denver or immerse yourself in the guitar pyrotechnics of Slash or Jimi Hendrix or the flights of fantasy of Eric Clapton’s blues. Now, how would your neighbor know whether he should give you a Clapton or Wilbur Smith. Would he know if you already have it? How would he know that that particular Clapton album is really not up to your standard of liking?
Remember, music and books are a personal thing!