Dear Younger Self by Ankur Tewari

by Ankur Tewari

Life, it seems, is a series of decisions that are loosely held together by a string of memories. Every few days or weeks you find yourself on the cusp of taking a decision. Sometimes a big one or sometimes a small inconsequential one. The monsters of indecision lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce on you. The fear of being judged makes your knees tremble. What would they say? You eventually don’t take a call. You let the moment slide away and fade into oblivion. And then months later, you realise that it wasn’t that big a deal after all. It’s now the turn of the ‘could haves’ and the ‘should haves’ to make your life miserable. To sum it up – misery seems like a constant. Well, not if you are a musician!

Music is my saviour. It has saved me and sailed me through enough storms for me  to believe in it. It is my superpower. My origin story though, is not as dramatic to be made into a graphic novel. I had been writing my songs (some rhymes sung to regular three chord patterns) for a while now. These were as deep as the stories of angst and rebel from an eighth grader could be. I had never shared these with the world before and wondered if I could ever come to that point of decision. That day I skipped school to wander in to the annual college festival in the University adjoining our school. There was a thrill in getting lost in the crowd of grown ups showcasing their skills in dramatics, music and dance. When I came across an informal stall that was taking requests for people to show case their skills, I had no intentions to perform. But then they announced that there was grand prize for the winner. No one knew me there and the worst case scenario in presenting my song was not so bad. I waited my turn in the wings, trying to figure the song that I’m going to perform. A few mimic artists and a couple of break dancers later, they announced me in. I took the stage to a light applause. I think the audience was more amused by my age, than anything else. I was playing the guitar that was part of this set up that resembled a primitive form of an open mic evening. I announced my song as a song written by ‘a friend’. I started to perform only to realise that the guitar was slightly off tune. But then I had already plunged in. Do I stop or continue to perform? A thousand questions streamed through my mind, but somehow I decided to keep playing. I covered up for the untuned guitar by pushing my voice a little more and strumming the guitar with more confidence. The crowd bought into it.They loved my song – or my friend’s song as they knew it. I won the coveted prize – a bun samosa. It felt so good that I decided to start performing my songs to the world from that point on. I religiously tune my guitar before hitting the stage since then, but I’m glad that I didn’t care about the tuning that day.

Many years later I read about Herbie Hancock write about Miles Davis. He said that Miles too hit a wrong note once, but the note he played after, made that wrong note look like a magic moment. “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” Or, as he put it more simply and non-dualistically, “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”

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