How I became an Agam fan

Years ago, sitting in a deserted office in Mumbai on a rainy day, I searched desperately for new music to elevate my gloomy mood. With a limited knowledge of music that mainly spanned film songs, I knew I needed help. Off went an SOS message to a friend; a long-worded plea for good quality music with soulful lyrics, powerful instrumentals and exquisite vocals. The reply was brief and immediate: Agam.

ALBUM OBSESSION

Over the next few months, I heard nothing else: the six songs that the group had put out in their debut album 'The Inner Self Awakens' played on a loop on my phone. When my brain and ear were exhausted, I searched on YouTube for anything remotely related to Agam, specifically Harish Sivaramakrishnan, the face of the band. From his interviews to his Ted talks to the extremely technical tutorials (yeah me, who goes to a friend for help with phone settings!), I gobbled up everything, becoming more and more fascinated with the man and his charisma; an unlikely obsession which my friends and family laughed off as 'a phase'.

Seven years later, it seems to be no longer that. The adoration has only grown and transcended the boundaries of the virtual world; I have become a fixture at their Bengaluru concerts, watching them grow from a niche group to absolute crowd-pullers who can get thousands to sing along in perfect sync to Muthuswami Dikshitar's 'Rangapura Vihara'. The journey has been personal too — striking up friendships with the band members, finding out what they are like away from the spotlight and getting glimpses of the affinity and understanding they have, has been a rewarding experience. It was worth the phone calls from irate parents concerned about me being out late and admonitions from friends who told me to 'get over it'; it was even worth the absolute sorrow I experienced when a concert ended and I had to come back to reality and bouts of uncontrollable weeping.

VOLATILE MIX OF EMOTIONS

This heady concoction of admiration, fixation and adulation is hard to understand and even harder to describe but somehow it was easiest to explain it to the man himself. Over garbled messages, untimely phone calls and then cups of coffee, I revealed the extent of my infatuation as he sat listening patiently. There was no judging, no nervous laughter, no raising of the eyebrows and most importantly, no advice.

Maybe it was an artist's innate sensitivity or maybe it was the kindred feeling for a fellow rebel. Maybe it was just empathy for a fellow human being. Whatever be the reason, he pulled me out of the quagmire of emotions I was sinking in.

I didn't help much initially; if my messages or calls to him were not answered, I went into either a depressive episode or exploded into fits of rage. It was during one such instance that he explained the immense effort required to juggle a full-time job and music; something for which he has been feted repeatedly. "I have no magic wand. After spending long hours in office, I might have to get into a rehearsal immediately, or run for a recording, or rush to the airport to reach in time for a gig. It takes a huge physical and mental toll on me. I don't have much time for family or friends, a downside that not many see." I understood.
 
OKAY TO STUMBLE ON

There was progress but there were relapses too - weeks of intense grief so raw that I wanted to pluck my heart out. I was scared of who I was turning into but he taught me it was okay to be scared, as long as you stumble forward. "I had a heart attack while performing on stage. I remained in hospital for a long time, not knowing what lay in store for me. When the doctors told me I should avoid touring, I decided to live my life on my own terms and go ahead with what I loved. I continued performing. Then one day I had another heart attack, a more severe one, again on stage. My heart shut down. The doctor then told me I will never be able to sing in front of an audience again. I have completed almost 130 concerts after that," he told me with a smile.

ROCK STARS AREN’T GODS

Slowly he coaxed me to bring him down from the pedestal and see him for the human he was, often pointing out and exaggerating his own flaws and shortcomings. It was an utterly vulnerable and brave thing to do and I am grateful.

Months have passed and communication is rare and infrequent. Concerts are rare and I have not been able to make it to all of them but every time we meet, there is a warmth and camaraderie that naturally exists between two people who have weathered storms together. I am able to laugh about that period of my life and am content to applaud him from the sidelines, as he goes on to win the accolades and fame he richly deserves.

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