Name: 'Ocean to Ocean'
Author: Susmit Sen with Sehba Imam
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 149 pages
Price: Rs 699
Much before YouTube, Soundcloud and Vevo, Indians who are now in their 20s and thirties, were used to the thrill of buying an audio cassette or an audio CD a little later, to have the pleasure of listening to their favourite band.
Apart from the Western bands, one of the more permanent fixtures on the Indian rock scene were the band Indian Ocean. Whether it was lead guitarist Susmit Sen's magic chords, Rahul Ram's earthy, melodious voice, Aseem Chakravarty's tabla skills or Amit Kilam's awe-inspiring percussive energy, the band and its evolution was a witness to the growing Indian rock scene.
Now, 24 years after the formation of 'Indian Ocean', Susmit Sen, the founder the band, narrates his journey through his memoir 'Ocean to Ocean'.
The memoir has been released in a hard-bound edition, with an accompanying music CD containing original compositions by his band formed with Varun Gupta, Anirban Ghosh, Nikhil Vasudevan, Amit Sharma and Sudhir Rikhari.
Conveniently divided in small chapters with catchy names like, "Hereby I humbly submit my anticipatory bail application" and "Hey teachers, leave us kids alone", Sen, along with writer Sheba Imam manage to trace the journey of the self-taught guitar player.
Sen recounts several interesting anecdotes from his life. For example, his struggle with dyslexia, and his "process" of creating music. "Once I realised that what I was creating was most definitely a different sound, I took a conscious decision to stop listening to all music," writes Sen. To this vow, however, he made four exceptions: he continued to listen to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee and Mallikarjun Mansur.
In another chapter, Sen talks about his battle with his compulsive lying. There are some surprising, existential elements to his arguments. "The most annoying thing about my habit was that a lot of people believed me, forcing me to lie some more to keep the original lie intact. Telling the truth required a clean slate," he writes.
Sen also talks in detail about his split with the band. He recounts an incident, when at a concert, the band began to play the songs 'Nani teri morni ko mor le gaye' and 'Old MacDonald had a farm' to an enthralled audience. "It was then, that everything fell into place in my head. There's a fine line between expression and circus, and I could see it clearly now. After that, it was just a question of how to handle the logistics," he writes.
The narration moves smoothly throughout the course of the memoir, in a linear fashion. There are some chapters, especially when Sen talks about the underlying friction in the band, that we felt that we might have liked to hear what his other band-mates thought. But 'Ocean to Ocean' is a memoir after all, and it Sen puts across his perspective honestly enough.