You might remember me mentioning some time ago that we (Chetan, Salil, Varun and I, with another couple of friends) went to Matheran.

Varun has posted his (extremely cool) account of the trip in three parts. In it, he mentions my somnambulism (unfortunately quite true) and the fact that my shaved head has earned me the name ‘The Onida Man’, which is actually one of my favourite nicknames. He also blogs about a practical joke we played on a friend using my shaved head and a torch, but I’d rather you read it yourself. It’s in Day 2:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Also, he recorded a few clips on his mobile, and I have uploaded them for him. They have been linked on this post.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 12:16 PM
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The MIT Weblog Survey 2005
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 8:33 AM
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As you might have heard, the Indian government has at last decided to start exporting its greatest resource. I believe this is a huge leap for India, and we’re going to hear great things about it soon. The money that comes in from this export will not be trivial either – thousands of bureaucrats will be fed by it.

But what is this export, I hear you ask. Well, the details are still hush-hush, but we (my split personality and I) have conducted a large amount of research, and we found that India's export is going to be – wait for it – potholes! Yes. The best Indian potholes are going to be selected by experts and sent to museums around the world to be displayed as works of art. I kid you not.

Think about the potential of this enterprise. India has an abundance of this natural resource, and if we create the right buzz, other countries will be raring to glimpse some of the best and most lovingly created potholes ever seen. Miniature, Impressionist, Landscape, and, specially for crass American tourists wearing shorts, cheap souvenir potholes sold at atrocious prices on sidewalks. They will rule the galleries. They will probably be classified in a different manner, though – shallow, petty, deep, semi-lethal and lethal are the categories I recommend.

Imagine a day in the near future. The setting is the Louvre. An enthusiastic batch of up-and-coming connoisseurs (or ‘snobs’, to use their generic name) comes to see the ‘Common or Indian Pothole’:

“And here,” says the guide, “we have a pothole from a very rich period in the history of potholes. An original Pune Municipal Corporation early 2005 piece. The pothole is seven feet deep, and is rumoured to have once contained two cars and a truck at the same time. This pothole has been classified only ‘semi-lethal’, but the craftsmanship places it apart from other semi-lethals. Moving forward ...

“This, as you can see, is another ‘semi-lethal’. It is a miniature pothole – only 10 feet across – but it comes from another classic era of potholes – the 2003 pre-monsoon constructions. The special feature of this pothole, as you can see, is that it was used as a lavatory by stray dogs for six months before being imported specially for this museum. One thing you might observe is that most of the potholes you see here come from Pune, which seems to have a monopoly over the creation of the best potholes in Western India. A city of true artists. Moving forward ...

“Ah! Here, Mesdames et Messieurs, is the grace of our collection. A pothole that only a true artist could have created – a genuine ‘lethal’ – one of only two ever imported by France. They are rather expensive, as you might imagine. I know for an actual fact that this pothole once contained the car of the Indian President himself on one of his visits to Pune. You will see here that the inner edge of this pothole has been constructed to create optimum impedance to vehicles, so as to find the best way to deal with the thick lining of tyres. I do not exaggerate when I say that no tyre has ever survived this pothole. A true masterpiece. Another special feature of this magnificent piece of art is that it was treated with as much respect as the first ‘semi-lethal’ we saw, but by humans rather than by dogs, giving this pothole the edge over most other potholes.”

There must, of course, be people who will be enraged by this draining of valuable resources to other countries, but such people are always unsatisfied. Give them a free pothole and they’ll shut up. If, of course, the government decides to distribute free potholes to dissenters, I will add my voice to the chorus and say that I was against the idea from the very beginning. But until then, I am all for it.

Still, I acknowledge the fact that India might appear impoverished by such an extensive loss of our greatest resource, but we must realise that we have another great resource still in store – politicians. The Common or Indian Politician (classified, as you can see, in a similar manner to potholes) will make sure that India is never deficient in potholes. But if we do fall short in the production of potholes, we can always export politicians instead. We must keep the more valuable resource here in India. I choose to keep the potholes.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 11:23 AM
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When my sister got married last year, I asked her a few questions about her forthcoming married life. They were fairly simple queries. The most significant one, judging according to her reaction, was my question if she would change her last name after her marriage.

She was shocked at this question, and clearly mystified that I had the slightest doubt about it. I referred this incident to my friends later, and they said I must be mad if I expected her to even think about something of that kind.

I said I didn’t really expect her to do it – after all, she was going to live with her in-laws now, and she had to think about their reaction – but I resented the fact that she didn’t think it was a legitimate question.

And I still resent it. One of my other questions was if she would wear a mangal-sutra. I expected the answer to be no. It was yes, but at least she thought it qualified as a question. Feminism, it seems, has brought the general public to that stage at least.

Another time, I was talking to my friends. I expressed the thought that if I earned enough money through my writing, and/or my wife had a well-paying job, I’d like to become a house-husband. My friends actually laughed at that. Then, when they saw I was serious, one of them asked me if I could bear the indignity, as he saw it, of ‘washing her panties and stuff’. If my mother could bear that ‘indignity’ for so many years, I don’t see why I shouldn’t. Anyway, right now, in our house, I’m the one who washes the clothes (i.e., puts them in the machine and turns it on), but I realise he was probably speaking metaphorically.

There are many other issues of this kind that I like to discuss, but which seem to mystify many people. I remember one incident – my mother and I were talking about kids in general. I said I’d like to have one daughter, and that’s it. My mother seemed agitated. She said that I should have a son, at the very least. Why, I asked. She said it’s better. Here, I’d like to note that my sister is older than me. Still, I must say I haven’t perceived any other sign of prejudice of this kind from her.

Clearly, we have a long way to go yet.

Till a few months ago, I used to call myself a feminist, but the word ‘feminist’ seems to make people think that you believe women are superior to men. I am a bit ambiguous about that, and therefore, I now call myself an anti-sexist, and I try to express that through my writing as well. This is where political correctness comes in.

I think that the idea behind PC is a good one, but its purpose is to make people tolerant of each other, and yet we see that most of the new concepts of PC are formulated by some of the most intolerant people around. There might not be a very long way to go before we have to start calling dead people ‘electroencephalographically challenged’ and funny people as, perhaps, ‘seriously challenged’ (heh-heh). But still, I approve of most of the PC related to sex and gender.

When you are talking about people, should you write ‘man’ or ‘humans’? When you refer to a person of unspecified sex, should you refer to them as ‘she’ or ‘he’ or ‘he/she’? I like taking the middle route as much as possible, and therefore, I decided I’d write whatever’s easier to write. But then, I thought that there’s still too much male-centricity even today, so to counter that, my writing should tip on the female side.

Therefore, I write ‘s/he’, which is easier to write, and ‘her/him’. And when the ‘/’ feels unseemly, I write ‘she’ or ‘her’.

One of the characters in my first book (still writing) refers to any human of unspecified sex as ‘it’. But that might be due to the fact that he’s a vampire.

I have begun to like using ‘it’. So I will end my post by saying that if you meet a friend who might be interested in discussing this kind of thing, please refer it to this post.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 1:16 AM
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I am very happy right now. Today, in the British Library, I found a copy of Ripping Yarns, by Terry Jones and Michael Palin from Monty Python. This is a series of parody stories on the Coming-of-Age stories of yore. Some people consider it better than Fawlty Towers! I was desperate for this, and I spent days looking for the scripts on the net. Now that I’ve found it, my job isn’t as bad, Blogger’s eccentricities are tolerable, my sister’s visit is less irritating, and it’s a very beautiful day.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 6:44 AM
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’Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

I’m irritated with Blogger. It keeps going neanderthal on me from time to time. This morning, it was down for some time due to technical problems. I’m sticking with it for now, but I’m afraid my blog might go dead on me, like Samit Basu’s did a few days ago.

On a related note, I’m currently revamping my website completely, and I’d like to know about a good free hosting website which will let me upload my files by FTP. Geocities does not let me do that, and that results in me forgetting some files, and my Verse page once went without a banner for three days. Recommendations please.

More posts soon.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 1:22 AM
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This post is long. Pliss be to excuse.

This, apparently, has been going around the net for a while. I was book-tagged by Shweta (a long time ago, but I procrastinated) and so I am going to inflict upon you some details of my relationship with books. Shweta’s meme is here.

Total number of books I have:

500-odd, if you count only the printed ones. This number was achieved after donating all my Jeffrey Archers and Robin Cooks and other pulp books (around 70-80) to my friends and the neighbourhood raddiwalla. I used to read those once upon a time, and it’s the only part of my life I actively regret. These days, anyway, I depend more on the library than on the market. But still, I have the desire to own an obscenely large number of books, so please give a poor chap the financing to fulfil his dream.

Last book(s) I bought:

Monsieur – Lawrence Durrell, Shikasta – Doris Lessing, Cassandra: Princess of Troy – Hilary Bailey, A House for Mr. Biswas – V. S. Naipaul, The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer (I was dying to read this one).

Five books I love:

These have to keep changing, because my taste is eclectic and ever-changing. Also, these are not necessarily the best books I know – they’re the ones that mean the most to me. The following are currently on top, and the first one will remain there for the foreseeable future. Except for the first, they are arranged in no particular order. You might note that four of them are Non-Fiction, even though I am more of a fan of Fiction.

Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck: I simply cannot express what this book means to me. I have literally read it to shreds, and I’m now looking for another copy. It’s about Steinbeck’s travels around America at the age of 60 with only his dog Charley for company. The language is simple, lucid, and utterly to the point. This book was my introduction to modern literature (as opposed to modern writing), and it has the pride of place in my collection.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King: This book has a special place in my heart because it got me writing again. I had a ‘block’, and I was wallowing in the self-delusion that I was an artist who had to wait for Madame Muse to strike before I got off my arse. This book showed me otherwise.

Gilliam on Gilliam – Terry Gilliam: Gilliam is one of my idols, and this book is him according to him. Gilliam’s animations distinguished Python from other tv series. His films (of which I have seen roughly half) are intelligent, emotional, wildly inventive, and, most important, different. One might argue that he’s been making the same film over and over, but he’s been doing it in so many interesting ways. I always prefer to see something different which failed than something normal that succeeded in what it was doing. This book, in many ways, represents Gilliam. Very articulate, very subversive, filled with anecdotes, opinions and ideas – basically like a transcription of an audio commentary for all his movies, and for his life before them. Very well-edited by Ian Christie. My favourite incident is the one with the bully and the sign saying ‘Do Not Press’.

Selected Works – Edgar Allan Poe: I have read no such book, but my selected works are: ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, ‘The Raven’, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, ‘The Black Cat’, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, and these are just off the top of my head. Poe was the writer who made me want to write, and my first stories and poems were ghastly imitations of his works. Yes, his work has a lot of weaknesses (notice the ‘selected’ in my title), but he has given us a lot, including the first literary detective. His contribution to modern literature shouldn’t be (and usually isn’t) understated, and the quirky rhythm of some of his poetry (‘Eldorado’, for example), and the dreariness of the stories mentioned above, and others such as ‘William Wilson’, ‘Ligeia’, ‘Berenice’ and so on, can easily be called masterful.

The Naked Ape Trilogy – Desmond Morris: This was one of the first books that made me look at the world with an open mind. I don’t know if everything Morris says is true, but it is (a) well-said, (b) interesting and (c) humbling. This trilogy might be one of the most important non-fiction books written for the layperson. That is, of course, assuming it’s true, but I’ve no reason to believe otherwise. My favourite is the third one – Intimate Behaviour.

Consolation Prizes:

Some of these replace some of the first five sometimes. The list, I repeat, is not constant.

Books:
Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake: my favourite long book of fantasy, easily the most imaginative novel of non-supernatural Fantasy and also the finest descriptive novel of Black Comedy I have read yet. A classic.
Calvin & Hobbes – Bill Watterson: My favourite comic strip. Entertaining, deranged, and very, very imaginative and well-observed. Both the main characters are quite wonderful.
The King’s English – Kingsley Amis: A wonderful informal guidebook to the English language – for the layman as well as the advanced learner.
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde: Simply unforgettable. Reading it made me doubt the fact that Wilde was human. Something else entirely, and almost sickeningly relevant (in a good way).
Different Seasons – Stephen King: King’s ‘greatest’ book, as opposed to his ‘best’, which is mentioned below.

Authors:
Gerald Durrell: A wonderful comic sense combined with a love for nature and conservation makes more-or-less all his books wonderful reads.
Douglas Adams: Need I say anything? His books are a bit dated now, but the ideas remain excellent.
Terry Pratchett: Much less weird than Adams, but just as intelligent, even wittier, and with an uncanny way of pinpointing the absurd in the life.
Michael Moorcock: Dated, yes, but one of the most original fantasists of this century (after maybe H. G. Wells, but Wells did his best work in the last century). His writing skill could’ve been worked on, but he was so prolific that he compensated for that. My favourites: Corum and The Dancers at the End of Time.
Michael Palin: Excellent travel books (I haven’t read his fiction). And the best thing is that they do not repeat stuff from the series which they accompany, which makes them great reads. My favourite book is Pole to Pole, and my favourite series are Full Circle and Sahara.
H. G. Wells: Possessed of a wonderful imagination. His short stories are lovely, but the best ideas are in the longer fiction. Before, of course, he started writing political tracts and something he thought was comedy. His political writings are mildly interesting, but I tried the ‘comedy’ and decided to steer clear.
Roald Dahl: Brilliant Black Comedy, and excellent children’s fiction. Especially recommended: Someone Like You and George’s Marvellous Medicine.

Also worth a look:

Books:
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift, Panther in Argyll – Lisa Tuttle, The Elementals – Morgan Llywelyn, Island – Aldous Huxley, Airframe – Michael Crichton, Legion – William Peter Blatty, The Magicians – James Gunn, Destination: Universe – A. E. van Vogt, But I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World – Peg Bracken, The Stand – Stephen King, Night Shift – Stephen King, The Peter Principle – Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull, Coraline – Neil Gaiman, The Simoqin Prophecies – Samit Basu, Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh, High Fidelity – Nick Hornby.

Authors:
Arthur C. Clarke, Clive Barker, Dave Barry, Hunter S. Thompson, J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., P. G. Wodehouse.

And then, here are some of the questions I found on other sites, such as Samita’s blog.

Books I’m reading right now: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke (600 pages done and still going strong), Slow River – Nicola Griffith, Interesting Times – Terry Pratchett, The King’s English – Kingsley Amis.

Books that changed my life: Can I count scripts in here? Then this’d be Monty Python scripts. And Spike Milligan’s scrapbooks. Wuthering Heights, which got me into classics. And Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal, which made me read into female exploitation, which in turn influenced my current feminist philosophy.

Funniest book I’ve ever read: Again, Python scripts. Apart from that, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen – P. G. Wodehouse, the H2G2 series, bits and pieces of Pratchett and Peg Bracken, who I was almost addicted to for a time.

Which books did you never want to end: The first H2G2 book, Travels with Charley and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books.

Favourite literary characters: Lord Havelock Vetinari, Dorian Gray, The Eternal Champion, the Cheshire Cat, Deadeye Dick, Begbie and Carrie.

Ideal character for a dining companion: Angua – she’s smart, forward, and, being a werewolf, she probably won’t mind my table manners. But almost any Pratchett character might do – they’re all rather nice.

Booktag five (5) people:

I won’t be doing this, because I don’t know many bibliophiles, and most of those I know do not blog. Therefore, I will be keeping the comments section open for all opinions. Feel freer than usual to comment. See you on Thursday.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 1:50 AM
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Even though the date here is different from that of the last post, it’s still tonight, so I haven’t broken my promise. My trip to Murud, by the way, got cancelled, because of a lot of factors including the following:
The rains,
The nine-hour-long load-shedding black-outs in Murud,
The humidity and warm weather in the coastal belt (where Murud is located),
The reluctance of some of the people involved,
The rains.

As of now, we are scheduled to go to Matheran (near Mumbai) on Monday. Let’s see how that turns out. Until then, this means that you’ll have to bear me for a couple of days more.

----------------

I shaved my head again the day before yesterday. I had a cold, and my head felt very heavy. I wanted to cut my head off, and my parents were all for it, but my sister convinced me to remove just the hair. While the barber was using the electric shaver, I thought of keeping a line of hair all down the middle, just to annoy my parents, but I didn’t.

I first had my hair shaved when I had my thread-ceremony (I don’t remember when that was, because I make a point to forget religious occasions), and I liked it enough to get it shaved again in the summer of 2000. More recently, I kept a shaved head from November 2004 to May 2005. Then, I grew my hair for my cousin’s wedding. Now that that’s done, I decided to go back to being comfortable but slightly unseemly.

Having a shaved head is somewhat odd. It’s a bit like being a Goth. People notice me, which never happened before. I remember one incident in particular – I wasn’t wearing a cap, I was wearing a saffron kurta, and I was riding my Scooty. I came to one of those random traffic police checkpoints. A havaldar came out into the road to stop me, but I glared at him, and he moved away to let me go. He probably didn’t want to take any chances – a bald young man in saffron can mean many things from Buddhist monks to Sena activists.

On the personal front, a fourth of my (extended) family thinks it’s odd, a fourth pointedly ignores it, a fourth thinks it’s cool, and the last fourth doesn’t really think about it – ‘Aditya always does stuff like that’ is what they think. Among my friends, the males are all indulgent, basically because I freely joke about it, and the females want to touch my head, which is always nice.

So why did I do it? I don’t really think it’s ‘daring’ or ‘different’ – that would just be silly; there are thousands of people out there doing things that are actually outrageous, and not just what people think are ‘weird’. I did it because I feel more comfortable this way, but also, I now feel, because I wanted to stretch the definition of ‘normal’ a tiny bit, although anyone calling me normal would be called faintly deranged by most people who know me. But what surprised me was that I actually succeeded – in the six months I’ve been this way, four of my friends followed my example. Which was nice.

I’m going to keep it this way at least till someone actually manages to convince me not to. It’s certainly better than having to comb it. (Not that I often did that, of course.)

After shedding hair, my next project is to shed clothes. Let’s see how people take to that. Next post from the Yerawada prison compound.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 12:31 PM
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I have added Nedstat statistics to my blog after seeing its usefulness on Bhavna’s blog. I had a sitemeter before, but it didn’t have enough features.

Just remember that these statistics are not for the whole run of my blog – the first month and a half is not here. They start from 2:30 p.m. today – 10th June. Still, you have to start sometime.

I’m going to Murud with Chetan, Varun and others tomorrow. This trip, hopefully, will be much better than my Goa trip. My bosses have rather grudgingly allowed me to go.

I want to go by bike, but some of the others are undecided on that matter. We're going to have a discussion today.

I’ll post some more stuff tonight. Ciao for now.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 2:29 AM
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I love Goa. I really do. Despite my allegations in a previous post that I would definitely not enjoy it, I actually love Goa. Just not with my family. I even wouldn’t mind going there with my immediate family, but my extended family makes Goa a trial.

This time, I went to Goa on the first of June. One thing I will recommend to readers – do not go to Goa in the summer if you do not want to end up as an extra in one of them generic Hollywood Zulu movies. But that’s not why I didn’t enjoy myself.

I went to Mumbai first, where my family had booked a bus to take us all to Goa. Till we left Mumbai, things were completely messed up. There were four scheduled pick-ups, and only one of those was done properly. The others involved disrupted traffic, frantic phone calls, and a lot of bad language. The driver’s temper was pulled to the edge, and at one point I felt like jumping out of the window, because that would give me a better chance of surviving.

But as Python once said, “One total catastrophe like this is just the beginning.” The wedding itself was a dismal affair. A total and complete fuck-up. I could describe why and how, but you wouldn’t be interested. I know that disasters are usually sickeningly fascinating to watch and to read, but this particular disaster was of a rare kind peculiar to my family – a completely uninteresting and dull disaster. The wedding was actually enjoyed by the groom’s family, but only because we managed to hide the mismanagement from them.

I hate Hindu weddings for many reasons, one of them being the fact that everything ‘has to’ be done by the bride’s family. And our family is so orthodox that they wouldn’t think of changing this. In fact, when my sister got married, I was going to boycott the wedding to make a statement against the practice, but I didn’t because it had been my sister who had requested the large-scale wedding – her husband had wanted a registered marriage. Another reason I hate Hindu marriages is that the persons who enjoy it the least are the bride and groom, who it is supposed to be for.

Anyway, like I predicted, I had no one to have any kind of fun with. I met one mildly interesting girl about my age, but that was just an hour before we had to leave, so that was no go.

Still, the trip wasn’t a complete wash-out. While going to Goa, I couldn’t read in the bus because the lights had been turned out (it was a night trip), but then I noticed the people sitting on the seats across the aisle from me. One of them was the groom’s cousin. He was about 30, and he was rather short and the only word to describe him would be ‘pretty’, and he was a rather pleasant chap. But he was not what I noticed – it was his daughter, sitting next to him. She was five years old, very bright, and really, really, really, really, really cute. Her name was Rajalakshmi, and you’d think this was one of those mindless names which would get her teased throughout school, but it fitted her surprisingly well. And she had a wonderfully weird smile which not only revealed all her teeth, but also most of her gums. I talked to her for a half hour or so (in English – she didn't know Marathi and I can’t speak Konkani, which, by the way, is technically my native tongue, but only technically), and then we had a very entertaining and thought-provoking contest of making horrible-looking faces at each other, which I obviously won, for reasons my friends will gladly explain to you. She then turned to the girl sitting behind me, one of my cousin’s friends, and they had a momentous discussion on South Indian food, which was very entertaining to listen to.

On the return journey, I spent most of the time looking out of the window, and I rediscovered my old passion – daydreaming and fantasising. I spent a lot of time imagining a tiny monster truck braving the terrain alongside the road and following us determinedly – silly, I know, but very entertaining. And then, I simply thought, and to my surprise, I filled both sides of an old envelope I found in my bag with obscure writing, half of which I cannot now read, because it was written in a moving bus. But many of the ideas I wrote are surprisingly usable, and I have decided that from now on I will be spending as much time as possible getting bored, because that makes my mind work the most – something I knew long ago, but was afraid to confirm, because of the attendant boredom. I even coined a phrase – ‘Disciplined boredom helps creativity’.

I don’t suffer weather changes very well, and right now, I’ve come down with a fever and a cold. I don’t mind the cold, but the fever is incapacitating. I also had a headache, but I got a rather good story idea lying in bed trying to sleep, and I always find that ideas cure headaches very efficiently. So now, I’m not going to write anything more – I’m going to watch Mansfield Park for a while and then go to sleep.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 10:21 AM
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I’m back, people, and, as I’d predicted, I didn’t get to enjoy Goa, but I’m a bit tired, so more about that in the next post.

Anyway, here’s something I’ve been slowly working on for a few weeks. This is the Soundtrack of My Life. I got this from Shweta’s blog a long time ago, and at last I’m putting it up here.

I restricted myself to four choices in each category, because otherwise it would just be all over the place. The depressing situations have more songs because they are usually more interesting (to imagine, of course, not to go through).

If you want to do it yourself, just click on the title, and you’ll be sent to the form.

The Soundtrack of My Life

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 6:04 AM
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