Me & Bobby McGee…Live!

That spooky stage....

That spooky stage….

This post fits bang into the “mundane” aspect of our blog title…but it also deals with the greatest foe we each must duel on the long and winding road to freedom — voila, Monsieur EGO! 

I made my debut as diva at the age of four. Garbed in virginal white, I stood brave as a soldier on the auditorium stage of our lovely school in Bangalore, run by British, Scottish and Indian nuns. I resisted the urge to flee backstage as the curtains rose and the spotlight focused on my terrified little face—and, according to my mother, burst into a faultless rendition of an old hymn known as Immaculate Mary.

Other kids followed my opening act with a variety of performances—for an audience comprising a vast throng of parents who clapped and cheered decorously at the end of each piece. This was Parents Day, and obedient kids that we were at the time (I changed radically), our chief desire was to impress our anxious elders.

10270747-high-jumpI was also the top athlete in my class: high jump, long jump and the hundred meters sprint. Never a team player, I did not succeed at playing basketball or any sport requiring cooperative effort; today I suspect my debut on that dark stage spoiled me—after that, nothing would do but to shine as the lone star in my own constellation.

I met my sports nemesis in high school—a pleasant non-intellectual girl with massive calves and a most determined mother, who just happened to be our Games Teacher. Together they decided to topple me from the 1st place I believed was my right—and succeeded. (Decades later, my “nemesis” died in an accident on her way home from a wild party in Bangalore’s burbs; I cried when I heard she’d been on the verge of divorce and had left behind a child; I had really liked her.)

This humiliating sports defeat was only the start of multiple ego-bashings. No one warned me that humans with humongous egos suffer the most—or I might have lain myself down on the nearby railway tracks and sacrificed myself to a huffing puffing mechanical monster on its thunderous way towards Delhi or Bombay. Teenage angst is a terrible thing.

guitar-2At the time we owned a gorgeous Steinbeck piano that none of us bothered to play. One day our maid grimly announced that evil spirits had taken possession of this instrument—for delicate rustlings, she claimed, emanated from its mysterious interior.

Mice, said practical Mum, and promptly summoned the lanky piano tuner to confirm her diagnosis. He cleaned up the insides and warned that the mice would be back if we did not regularly use the instrument—evidently these vermin dislike the pounding of ebony and ivory. Mum gave us an ultimatum: the piano would go if one of us did not play it every day. We did not, and one day came home to an empty space where the piano had stood. That’s when we freaked out and said we wanted it back. Mum tried to buy it back, but the new owners would not part with it, thrilled to get a Steinbeck so cheap.

A contrite Mum offered to buy us any musical instrument we fancied. I chose a guitar from the shop of Goan guitar-maker Lewis. Guided by a cool neighbor who played in an up-and-coming local rock band, I learned the simple chords to Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Credence Clearwater Revival). I picked up whatever I could from whomever I could. Much later I met a brilliant young quantum scientist-in-training who taught me some great songs on the guitar. (My heart broke when I later heard he’d committed suicide in America—for the love of his life had deserted him.) One of the songs he taught me was Janis Joplin’s Bobby McGee.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

I was a dark and twisted teen with equally dark and twisted heroes:Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison—each a rock star who had OD’d before hitting 30. I too wanted to crash and burn before I was “old”—which meant over 30. Anyway, I fell instantly in love with the lyrics of Bobby McGee…two runaways chasing that elusive rainbow that leads to happiness…and, over the following decades, must have sung it a thousand times—in India, America, Europe and even in the Far East.

By the time I hit 30, I was married in Manhattan and disliking mainstream life. I listed all the things I would rather be doing (than working for corporate lawyers). Two things stood out—singing and writing. Since I lacked the training, skill, and thick skin required to make it as a musician in the Big Apple, I chose to write seriously. Strange how that seed has taken root: today I write seriously and play music purely for fun.

Cut to Christmas Eve 2009, Tiruvannamalai, in south India: friends invite me to sing at a local restaurant…and guess what I end up belting out to a happy crowd of revelers…Me & Bobby McGee! Click on this link for a look…twenty pounds over my ideal weight, tanned to a crisp, but still a shameless wannabe diva, hey?

(If you want to hear our Tiru musicians having a real blast, go to the youtube link.)

Note: Perceptions of family stories (such as my piano tale) generally differ. Amy, my talk therapist in Manhattan, explained it this way: Every sibling has a different set of parents—meaning that in large families, each childdepending on their own entry into the familyhas divergent views of circumstances, character, etc; the important point to remember is that each view is valid.

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26 thoughts on “Me & Bobby McGee…Live!

      • I ENJOY THE LIFE YOU DISPLAY IN THE VIDIO ! YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH THE GUITAR EITHER ! I AM FOLLOWING YOUR BLOG NOW ! THANKS AND BEST WISHES IN ALL YOU ARE DOING ! YOU ARE DYNAMIC !

  1. Three things Mira. One, I love the way you got into that song. I always forget half the versus and you remembered them all. Two, you look beautiful. Three, It was great to see you live and not just through emails, writing, etc. Well, sort of live, if video is still live when we see it.

    Peace, love & tie-dye,
    Gabriel

  2. Love this, Mira! Great to see and hear you, to get a better sense of your presence. You would probably enjoy learning we are not too far from Port Arthur, Texas, which is where Janis grew up. I’ve always identified with her, too. Here’s another little story: My daughter once had a teacher who lived next door to the Joplin family. He said he used to hear young Janis singing in the bathroom with the window open!

    • Wow! Now that’s a Janis story that makes her so real…not that she was ever anything but…which is why I loved her…saw a documentary on her life recently and realized she was, despite her intelligence, a very confused and sad young woman. Poor darling. (And what about Amy Weinstein??? Sorry, is that her last name? Always get it wrong — the Rehab song woman I mean – what a personality – reminded me of JJ.

  3. Wow! You really gave a very energetic rendition of that number, Mira… It is no wonder you wound up in NYC for awhile. You definitely had some Western samskaras to express.
    And you were quite good to boot!

    • You should hear me live! And I was in Manhattan for ages…by the way, my background (in India) was quite westernized, so not surprising about my love of classic rock & roll etc. Much love, Dave.

  4. Lovely to watch. I also remember you singing with the Brazilian musicians in Rishikesh. Strange for me to think I wont be visiting India anymore. It still feels so much part of me.

    • Darling Kami, hope you are well…yes, come to think of it the Brazilians were great…superb musicians….were you at my home that evening when we played music through the night? Lovely guys and a whole lot of fun. The Prem Baba people were always wonderful. Perhaps India is still on the cards for you…you never know…much love!

  5. WOW!!! MY FAVOURITE SONG Mira and just the best thing to see you singing it! I actually watched early the other morning on cell phone and when I tried to get back to it on my computer over these last days, I had no sound. Have just come back now to try again, and found that I had the button on mute. What a great pleasure to hear you dear Mira.

    • Susan darling, my positive flame from south Africa, always feel so good to hear from you….can’t believe BMcGee is your favorite song!!!! We should belt it out together one day before we get too old to sing the high notes, what say? Can you believe even my conservative parents loved it?

  6. Amazing Mira.. lovely listening to you, brought back very fond memories. Bobby McGee was my all time favorite, along with Angel of the morning. Gosh, you have an amazing voice!

  7. today, Sunday 9th October 2016- just had a re-watch with my sister here in Cape Town Mira … how can I tell her in few words about you? I can’t – I said she’s my very special friend from India …It was WONDFERFUL to see this again!!!!

    • How very sweet of you, Susan…as i said in the post, this was a fun and impromptu thing to do…not a professional appearance. And you are my very special sister and friend from S. Africa…love the way the great fire of Kundalini brings us all together again – i say this because I am convinced our relationship goes backwards in time. Big hug!

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