Tribute to Asheem Chakravarty

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25th December was a black Friday for the Indian Music Industry. Asheem Chakravarty, of the famous band Indian Ocean, succumbed to cardiac arrest and left us. The band, which shot to fame with their album Kandisa, was quite a hit with a huge fan following. The band composed the OST and the background score for Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday delivering hits like ‘Arre Ruk Ja Re Bande’, which topped the charts for months. They also composed for several other Bollywood movies, like Hulla and Bhoomi to name a few. Asheem, the voice of the band, regarded as the Man with Golden Voice was known for his rare ability of playing tabla and singing at the same time. He also sang ‘Yaara Maula’ for Kashyap’s Gulaal.

Our writer Piyush Singh pays a personal tribute to Asheem

Asheem: A Voice That We’ve Known

I don’t know if it needs to be written or not but I just wanted to get away from that voice for a while. Yes, I needed an escape. I had a few unsuccessful attempts but every time I would try and do something else, his smiling face would ruin my trials. Now since he is gone, I feel as if he has ordered his voice to linger in our minds constantly. I want it to stop playing in my head. Every time I hear his diction of word ‘Bondhu’, a tear would roll down while I try to put down random words with my trembling hands and unease mind.

Asheem was one of those people who dragged me towards my future. If it wouldn’t have been for Indian Ocean or for him, I would have been dissecting human bodies in an operation theatre of some multi specialty. Indian Ocean gave the power to my words and they made me believe in me. Everything else, or rather, everyone else followed.

The gigs that I have been with them or the ones that I have organized for them now make a part of a wonderful memory. Coincidentally, I always ended up being on his side of the stage and the first person I would click was Asheem. He would smile while his fingers kept on doing his things on the Tabla. It always was one of those smiles that would right away bring you out of the state of mind that reads ‘Oh, You Are a Organizer. Something Might GO Wrong. You had a long day…blah… blah’. And that’s not all. If you look at him often during his performance, he would oblige you with a shower of those smiles and suddenly it all starts to feel alright.

I haven’t met him for quite some time. The last I met him was in the February of 2007. The very same year that took away my father. I have been on phone with Asheem with off and on during this span and when I got to know of his heart attack around Diwali this year, I felt as if my world would collapse. The way I was been told about his condition quite gave me an idea as to how serious it all could get. I have been preparing myself since then. But looking at the results today, I think my preparations were just not enough.

We have a series of good mutual friends. Not many people were unfortunate enough to wake up every morning with Asheem’s health tucked away safe in some corner of their minds. Even a slightlyvague status message about Asheem would steal my peace of mind and I would instantly message someone who is really close to the band and yet not a part of the band. In the past two months, I really didn’t have the courage to speak to anyone from the member and even today, I just can’t seem to have the courage to dial the same number which has been on the top of my mind for past 9 years.Yes, I am really sorry, Amit Bhaiya.

He brought joy, he brought smiles, more over he brought fame to India. We didn’t realize the fact that it is just because the constant effort of these pioneers that alternate music is able to survive. The Indian musicians who say that they never have been inspired by bands like Indian Ocean and Parikrama and probably lying. This makes Asheem the person who changed many lives. The moment he would start Hille Le on stage, you just cannot miss the softness of his face that would sweep you off your feet. The song is typical Asheem as far as I have known him. It just takes you in the flow and both, Asheem and the song, are totally unforgettable.

Things are way different now. One can pursue music and do a job properly. But when Asheem started, he had to quit his job to follow his passion for music. He had kids, a family but this guy was all keen to set an inspiring example so that the hundreds who have read his story have the courage to follow their hearts. Those who have been following me recently might be aware of something that I said a few days back. Do set an example, good or bad is another part of the same story. This guy for sure knew how to set an example.

An honest musician and a marvelous human being left us today. The loss, I believe is terrible. It has left a void and now I feel alone sitting here in my room as the night gets darker and deeper. My phone is lying in another corner of room with innumerous missed calls and unchecked messages. Just don’t feel like picking it up and seeing a mutual friend in that list of messages and calls. His voice and personality was so powerful that I am having tough time attempting an escape. His voice commanded authority over one and all. I have seen him organizers running around even if he made a small request on stage before the show. Though, this person never made frivolous requests, even a ‘big pedestal fan’ next to his raiser during summers seems justified now.

The time that I have spent him lately was about his forgetting habbit. The moment he would land at an airport and met someone from the organizing committee, he would straightaway ask for the person’s phone number. He always explained with a smile, “Main bhool jaata hoon. Kho gaya to?” This trick of his, though justified, always brought smile to the person and then he would keep on showering smile all the while. I believe it takes great effort to maintain a band. This guy did it.

Its Christmas today and the clock hands are getting close to strike 12. In a few minutes the day will be over. I am still getting IMs that say, “merry Christmas”, and all that I can say is “”. I have no better answer for many reasons but the most important one being, ‘What’s so Merry about this Christmas?” This year, Christmas has been a killer and it took away Asheem. The pain is terrible, I wish I would have never known him. His voice is stil running through me.

It is rather strange that how people cope up with deaths. Despite the fact that I am not at peace after he’s gone, I am praying for him to rest in peace. Strange is the world and stranger are its ways. I feel like praying but I want to pray to God to grant him an even grander afterlife, if it really exists. Asheem has always brought smiles to His children, weaved them together with his music and voice, and lived an honest and modest life. By all means, he deserves to a God’s child who is closest to Him.
As far as I am concerned, I will probably sit here, through the night, in front of my computer trying hard so that his voice stops playing in my mind.

Asheem, I owe you a lot. I will make it a point to pay you back whenever we meet. Naming my son after you is the least I could do living in this surreal world. You will be missed for now and forever.

Forever Yours

Piyush Singh
25th December 2009

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