An Ode to Yann Tiersen's Comptine D'Un Autre Ete
I first heard it somewhere in the distance in a book shop while re-reading the Goblet of Fire as the music slowly consumed me and for the first time made me aware of the power of melody to induce acute stillness and awareness of being. They did not have Shazam in 2001, or I would have found out about Yann Tiersen and ‘Comptine d’un Autre ete' right then.
Over the years, it kept coming back to me. In 2013, when my class of 55 performed a life-altering musical rendering of Matilda in front of over a thousand people, this tune was Matilda’s theme every time she entered the stage or performed magic. In 2015, as I created a short-film about my own self-discovery as a personal project (part of a Teach For India training institute tradition), I was drawn back to it - I drew, painted, wrote and danced with abandon to the same tune.
Then, as now, this melody represented to me the curiosities, hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs of girls - little and grown. Amelie, Matilda, Aarshiya - they dare to have active imaginations and mischievous personalities, as children and as women. They believe in their own magic and are loyal to their dreams. They know they can change the world through their actions, and every day, they do. This music is their story.
As the second child and only daughter in a middle-class urban family from the farming community in the Hindi heartland of India, I had a well-trodden path ahead of me. I had to be timid, well-behaved, smiling. No girls on my father’s side had careers or aimed for one. Their marriage was their life goal. I ran races, debated, danced, wrote and recited stories and poems - trying to manifest all the life within me in any manner of magic I knew.
Bullied severely during middle and high school for the unfortunate combination of being confident in public but awkward and reserved in person, I chose to overcome the only way I could. I performed instead.
In college, I found myself disillusioned by the apathetic education system but enamoured by the freedom to dedicate yourself to your own chosen niche. I chose dance and saw so much failure. After months of hard work and gruelling training, we lost all (but one) competitions that year. Nevertheless, we persisted. We overcame and kept iterating over and over and over again till we did not repeat our routine in a single competition throughout the next season. We won 9 times that year.
Curiously, as I grow older, I often attach the words of the poem ‘The Invitation’ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer to it. Deriving my energy from solitude, I immediately relate to the longing for intimacy, for the white noise of small talk to die down that this poem conveys. In its words it matches the deep melancholy and trilling happiness of a woman awake, aware and authentic to her passion and need to live completely.
- Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.