Saturday, October 18, 2008


Economists tell you that the cost of something is not just what’s on the price tag, it’s the total money, time and resources used up to acquire it.

Yikes! This means my new music system has cost me much more than I imagined, and for much longer. Here’s what I’ve squandered, in different denominations.

Currency of time: I spent months looking for the right system, since prices and my bank balance told me I would have to spend a lifetime with the same one, Ok, more accurately, the price tags demanded a saat janam ka rishta, but warranties don’t extend that long.

Currency of enthusiasm: In the first couple of trips to hi fi shops, I coughed up my quota of gusto for colour and shape. A series of abbreviation spitting technophiles indicated with scornful expressions that only the uncouth get seduced by sleek silver or sporty red. The enlightened are supposed to look beyond elephant poo shaped stacks for refined attributes like fidelity.

Currency of vocabulary: The search for a music system has wiped out at least a hundred words I had previously used with confidence. The first time someone told me a set of speakers I liked had a bright sound, I smiled and nodded naively. Only later did I realise that bright is a backhanded slur, like wise guy and clever, for a sound that’s trying too hard. Likewise, whatever the Vedas might say, ohm is not a divine sound, it is resistance to divine sound. Hertz is not a music system made for women. And as for a certain radical freedom fighter, you must never say his name out loud, unless you want people to think you’re vulgar, populist and illiterate.

Currency of self-confidence: I paid with this in installments, maybe a hundred thousand during every visit to a store. I paid my largest chunk the time I said a CD didn’t sound right on a certain set of speakers, and was disdainfully informed about my inferior benchmarking (it means my ears were used to an inferior sound because of my current music system). I now carefully comb my hair over my defective ears, before I get near a mirror.

Currency of comfort and aesthetics: The techno-guys who came home to set up my system with tape measures, laptops and sound signals, tramped around to find the perfect spot for the music system. Two and half hours later, they were done. The speakers were set for perfect balance, sound and fidelity.

The sofa is now jammed up against the wall, and so am I every time the system is switched on. No slouching, cautioned the experts, and no you can’t move the coffee table closer than 6 feet. That lovely pile of cushions that I used to use as back rests or makeshift bed, they’ve had to go. They caused too much distortion. And as for the period hat stand that’s my pride and joy, the back is now covered with cardboard to reflect the right amount of sound. There are 8 large blue crosses on the white floor to mark where the speaker spikes should be. The technophiles made them in permanent ink in case I was tempted to stray a millimetre from perfect sound.

So now, I’m left with two things. Great music, and an overwhelming sense of relief that the task is done. ok, there's also a long pending apology to a cousin.

I had laughed at this cousin when her first reaction to getting married had been an expletive followed by sheer relief. I had refused to understand when she had explained that the act of finding arranged bliss was paved with stress.

Sorry sis, I do understand now. Better late than never na? Come home and let's make peace over a drink. No you can’t pick up the glass, it will destroy the amplification of the music…


  1. Oh my!
    so whether you like it or not, i will be bringing my Vivaldi and enjoy the crisp of your system over a glass of Pinot!!!!hahahaha!

  2. That was funny :-D. Life is much simpler for us ignorant audio-pop-philes who just buy the most expensive (lemme say it) Bose system around (preferably with lots of stickers) and then proudly display it to others of our ilk. After all, the sounds that you can't hear cannot hurt you.

    Anyway a whisky + Nusrat is due (maybe we will discover the presence of a fifth singer) and I believe true audiophiles say that cigarette smoke enhances the reverb.

  3. Pepe, Ramesh, you infidels. in my new set up, you can get either alcohol OR music. my apartment ain't big enough to handle both with fidelity... :)

  4. Funny as hell..... I'm sure that the system must be declared obsolete by the technomanics by now. I am dearly holding on to a Sony that kept my actual salary a top secret for many years. Now having paid off the last EMI, I know the feeling. What all we need to do to hear Himesh...