When I was much younger, I could talk about myself for hours on end. Let’s just call it self-indulgent verbal diarrhea. But at 42, if I had to do that, I wouldn’t know what exactly to say and where exactly to start. Perhaps the ‘Eternal Teenager’ would make a good start. The question is: why would you want to read about me when the only charts I have topped are indie, the only awards I have won are indie, and everything about me is so indie? May be because you want to read about someone who is just like you… someone who values the same values and battles the same battles.
Have you ever spat out song lyrics to counter condescending questions flung at you in a boardroom full of corporate white collars? Have you ever forced yourself on academia only to bribe your parents to let you dream your own dreams? Have you ever experienced deafening applause only to open your eyes and find yourself still in bed? Excellent! Read on then!
I was named Tirthankar Poddar within 6 days of my first scream. It was dad’s choice. He was an Oncologist, the finest the state of Tripura had ever seen. Thankfully (or otherwise) mom thought of something simpler: Tublu. These names were never an issue in Agartala where I grew up. But during pre-college in Chennai, class fellows from around the world had trouble pronouncing them. Soon ‘Tublu’ became ‘2Blue’ and things began to brighten up. Whether Madonna’s ‘True Blue’ or 2Pac Shakur is to blame, I’ll never know. It was 1991 and Guns N’ Roses had just released ‘Use Your Illusion I and II’. Those albums changed my life forever. I knew instinctively that I had to be the lead singer of a rock band someday. Here’s what happened.
1993 came by and I met Sajid Waikhom and Raju Marak. These were the deceptive looking rock musicians who brought the career graphs of two of the north east’s best bands to a trough by choosing to invest four long years in acquiring engineering degrees. They were my seniors at NIT, Agartala and my ‘gurus’ in more ways than one. They were the gentlemen whose Sunday afternoon naps were forever denied because I would beg for vocal tips and guitar lessons. They were also my first band mates. We played at the Town Hall in Agartala at the Miss Tripura Pageant. It was the biggest media circus the town had experienced back then. I still have the live recording from that night and it never fails to make me smile.
1997 brought with it a first class degree in Mechanical Engineering and travel tickets to Mumbai. My life was mapped out before me by my doting parents. 1. Move to the city. 2. Get an MBA. 3. Get employed. 4. Get married. 5. Start a family. 6. Live a ‘safe’ life devoid of adventure. I wonder how they missed ‘music’ in their meticulously laid out plan. But it is believed that if you want something bad enough, the universe rearranges itself to make it happen for you. So one hot summer night in 2000, I played my first gig in Mumbai at the erstwhile Three Flights Up in Colaba. Earlier that day, I attended my convocation at Mumbai University. MBA (Marketing & Systems) – that certificate sure meant something to my parents. But all I could think about during the pretentious ceremony was that I was getting late for sound check.
A couple of years and a few short-lived bands later, guitar player Ravi Iyer invited me to sing for Vayu. With Vayu, we headlined practically every major music festival in India between 2004 and 2008. I even got to share stage-space with Paul DiAnno (ex-Iron Maiden), Matthias Eklundh (Freak Kitchen), Jonas Hellborg (ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra), and George Lynch (ex-Dokken) before we released an album titled ‘Wings Of A Dream.’ All vocal tracks for that album were recorded after long hours in the corporate sun. The fans loved it but I am not incredibly sure if I did. In any case, I found comfort knowing that I had just embarked on a new journey called Zedde (pronounced z??).
It was late 2008. One phone call was all it took. Claver Menezes, who I had been a fan of for many years, was on the other end of the line. His willingness to take on guitar duties in Zedde meant everything. We were hungry to play, and tore every stage that came our way. College festivals, clubs, radio stations, TV studios, award functions – we did it all. And in less than a year, the music video of our first single ‘Mumbai’ was beamed into households across different time zones via multiple TV channels including VH1, Sony, and UTV. ‘Mumbai’ then went on to becoming the Asian Anthem of the Year at the world’s largest indie music awards – AVIMA 2010. We enjoyed every bit of the momentum we had gathered. Shortly thereafter, ArtistAloud.com released our singles ‘Dust On My Window’ and ‘Thank You’, and even honored us with the ‘Best Band’ title. This translated to a lot of early mornings at the airports, a lot of accented people at the gigs, and a livid boss back in the office. I was Assistant Vice President – Operations in a firm specializing in Academic Editing, and that’s as much I want to talk about that job. As Robert Plant would say, “Ten minutes in the music scene is the equal of one hundred years outside of it.” I was happy.
Let us now skip past a year of self-imposed unemployment and fast-forward to 2013. I was Vice President – Content Acquisition in a firm specializing in educational eBooks. Music still meant way more to me than that fancy designation. In December, guitar player Chandresh Kudwa invited me to guest-appear at a concert in Rajkot. The repertoire comprised several hard rock renditions of Bollywood hits. I had never sung in Hindi before, and therefore had to work extra hard on my diction. But when I climbed on stage that night, the people of Rajkot flashed their teeth and made me their own. Everyone visibly had made the right choice… the band, the organizers, the audience, the engineers, and most of all me. It was a little after 1 am when I returned to my hotel room. The number sequence ‘1:11’ flashed on my cellphone as I switched it on. Always intrigued by things that science is too young to explain, I googled to see what it meant. Here’s what I found.
“Angel Number 111 signifies that an energetic gateway has opened up for you, and this will rapidly manifest your thoughts into your reality.”
I lost no time to return to office the next morning to submit my resignation letter. Since then, I have toured extensively with a stellar lineup of new musicians. I have hosted shows on PlanetRadioCity.com, and have played Judas Iscariot in Alyque Padamsee’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s simple. I just want to be completely spent by the time I go. There is no point in dying with my gifts still inside me. If you’ve reached this far into the article, you must have figured that the ‘Eternal Teenager’ can still ramble for hours on end. I thank you for the patient read as I sign off saying: have the courage to follow your heart. It may not bring you superstardom, but it sure will bring you happiness. And that is what truly matters. I am still the same old indie artist battling the same old battles. But that is now a featured story in this magazine. I guess I have done something right after all.
2Blue (AKA Tirthankar Poddar) is a singer, writer, and actor. He can be reached via his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or YouTube accounts (see URLs below).
www.facebook.com/2BlueHimself , www.twitter.com/2BlueHimself
www.instagram.com/2BlueHimself , www.youtube.com/2BlueHimself
It's been a long, exciting journey into jazz for me. I made a lot of friends as a musician and a whole lot of enemies. But I did meet a lot of people. If it wasn't for my music I would have been a lighthouse keeper on Andaman Island or what's worse, I would have been a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Yes, music helped me get out of my shell and face the world with a song.
Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.
Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary