[An edited version of this interview was published in Soundbox music industry magazine, in it’s April 2011 issue, in the Watchtower column on Trivandrum]
Neha S Nair is a playback singer, VJ and blogger. Her TV shows are popular among the youth of Kerala and her songs form the show Outkast Vocals is a big hit on YouTube. Neha represents the youth of Trivandrum who listen to eastern music while keeping an open ear to western and experimental music.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your musical journey.
My dad wanted to fulfill his wish of learning music through me and since I showed a spark at a tender age, I was enrolled for dance and music classes. I loved both the art forms equally but as I got into high school the pressure of doing well in academics became a time constraint factor and I had to opt out of dance after 8 years of formal training. This was also the time where I ventured into learning Hindustani vocals from Ustad Khalid Anwar Jaan, a Pakistani. I was also learning Carnatic from Ramesh K from the age of 6. Childhood memories are of retro hindi numbers by Lata ji, Asha ji, Mohd. Rafi and compositions of S.D. , R.D. Burman and my favourite, Madan Mohan. But A.R.Rahman is the first musician to ever inspire me to think from a more creative perspective. I would go for various singing and dancing competitions like every other child but was the only one to take it seriously after 10th grade for which I have been scolded by my teachers several times at school. Back then I used to feel frustrated and angry because I was not allowed to go for round square conferences or join basketball team and go for birthday parties only because my father never wanted me to miss a single music lesson. Even if I was sick, I was asked to sit through. But now I realize the value of all those lessons. Totally worth it! As of now I am learning from Perumbavur sir (Carnatic) and Binu sir (western) and Keskarji (Hindustani).
How did film music, Avial and VJ-ing come through? How was the experience?
As I had done my schooling in Muscat, coming to India for music was because of my dreams of becoming a playback singer. I was so influenced by 80’s and early 90’s qualitative productions that all I ever wanted to do was sing for films. But when I joined for BA music and started to learn and take music a lot more seriously I realized that music is a lot more than just recordings. I was never a Rock music fan but became one when I was exposed towards it and were given opportunities to do something creative. All the credits go to Sumesh Lal sir, the creative head of a Malayalam TV channel called ‘Rosebowl’ . He discovered the artist in me and gave me an empty space to paint in with vibrant colors of music. He gave me a chance when I was new, inexperienced, totally believing in my intuitions and ideas. I got to work with Rex and Binny of Avial for a production by Rosebowl through which they invited me to perform with the band at the India Fashion Week, Delhi and ever since have been regular with the band. I have done very few films but recording in the silent space of the sound booth is immensely toxic!
Also, I came at a time when reality shows were on a boom. So to venture into playback, Rock and pure classical was a huge learning experience for me. Mass audience would still prefer commercial music anyday as it is more easier to comprehend than understanding the complexities of quality music by bands, etc. Coming to films, I have to thank Rahul Raj sir was trusting in me blindly by making me sing for Shyam sir’s Ritu. It was a fab experience. He is extremely positive and had been my mentor at that time. Also, working for Phani Kalyan for Telugu film ‘Pappu’ was another fun filled experience. Kalyan has always been a friend so it’s very informal when I work with him.
Trivandrum has a big audience for traditional eastern music but the young generation appreciates the western music and many new progressive bands are coming up from the city. Do you see any change of direction in the music scene of Trivandrum? If yes, how is it affecting the city? How do you see the future of the music scene here?
Trivandrum by far has the best musical audience. People are very open minded. We have all kinds of listeners ranging from Carnatic to Hindustani to Rock to Metal to Jazz and even Folk. The younger generation is extremely progressive because they are more into fusion and out-of-the-box kind of creativity. A huge thanks should go to Soorya Krishnamurthy, who has successfully promoted all kinds of arts forms all over the world, beginning in Trivandrum. And on the other hand we have Alliance Francaise and Rosebowl TV promoting contemporary music that is such a relief to listen to from the roaring of reality shows now a days. I just wish that the younger lot could listen to more of classical and the older lot could expose themselves to other experimental genres like alternative rock.
You are also a VJ and hosting some music shows. How has your singing career helped doing your TV shows?
I started off as a VJ and it did not help my singing career at all because I ended up getting more VJ-ing offers and also was called to act in films and advertisements. Eventually with Outcast Vocals and Piano sessions with Stephen Devassy, that were featured on Rosebowl, I got noticed as a singer more than a VJ. But I love doing both though I feel more confident as a musician. The ‘In conversation sessions’ I did was a very good experience as I got to interact with musicians of all kinds from Sivamani to Ustad Amjad Ali Khan to ‘Sam Smala’ to young budding talents. I learnt a lot from just listening to them! And another accomplishment in my VJ-ing career was my first ever show which happened to be first ever Telethon – ‘Thank You A.R.Rahman’ where Rosebowl played 100 best songs by the legend and I was hosting it. Thanks to Kadamba Rajesh, my producer for giving me that opportunity.
You blog about many issues in your personal blog, which is a rare thing among people in the music industry. How important it is for a musician (or an artist) to respond to socio-political issues? Do you think expressing yourself in a public space like blog would effect your career in music?
If I wasn’t a singer I would have been a journalist because I feel that is the best medium to project our views. So I decided to blog about whatever I felt about what’s happening around the world. I think it’s every human being’s duty to remain informed about what’s happening and to contribute to it in whatever small possible way. I wish I could do a lot more that is action oriented than just removing my frustration through the blog, inshallah! I hope to make an impact through my views someday. My western sir has always said that we can become a good artist only if we are a good, well informed human. There are people who have expressed their dislike towards my career just because I am open about my views but it doesn’t matter because it’s better to be honest than being a hypocrite. Nothing can effect your career if you are ethical towards the society and work. One should not live in the fear of losing work but in the adverse effects of being ignorant.
You sing for Avial, a rock band. There was a time when Rock music was considered evil or indecent among many in our society. Do you think it has changed?
I don’t know if Rock was considered evil, but was definitely not so popular as it is now. People have learnt to open their minds and we can see an increase in the Rock culture nowadays especially among youngsters. But there are many who live under the wrong impression of rock being all about head banging and walking around like a crazy person who parties and swears all the time. It’s an absolute cliche!! Rock can be just as subtle as eastern music and can at the same time give you an adrenalin pump. If you hang around with Avial band itself you will realize how less they talk and how more they speak through their music. The cliche about Rock musicians being high on drugs and having a rugged lifestyle is totally untrue. True (rock) musicians are very much ethical, who don’t believe in using inappropriate language on the stage and who work very hard in sounding extravagant every time.
Popular concepts of music still revolves around film music. Do you see any changes there? What hope do the independent music and musicians have in Kerala?
Popular music has always been filmi music but it hardly stays around for a long time. Sound programming is at it’s peak now and melody has been given less importance now. I don’t even know if the songs made today will be remembered in the next few years. But it’s more easy to understand, glamorous and more fast paced in terms of it’s release and promotions. Where as, bands take almost 2-3 years to come up with an album and another 2 years to popularize through live gigs. But the scene is changing. We have Amit Trivedi in Bollywood who has elevated bollywood music to another level through Dev D, NOKJ and Prashanth Pillai in Malayalam who has broken of the typical commercial line up with City Of God. At the same time, Motherjane did an OST for Malayalam movie “Anwar” and Avial has also done an OST for another Malayalam movie “Salt N’ Pepper”. So film music industry has also begun to ape towards greater heights in terms of qualitative music. Independent musicians don’t anyways work for commercial hype. They just want to be part of good music that will be etched in our hearts for a long long time. So whether they being commercially acclaimed or not doesn’t really matter to them.
You have also sung in Telugu. How was the experience in singing in a different language?
I have been exposed to other languages like Bhojpuri , Gujarati, Marathi and Arabic during my school life but singing Telugu for a film was super fun. Firstly, the composer, Phani Kalyan, is a very good friend of mine so I was comfortable working with him. Secondly, being a Malayalee, Telugu is very easy and cute to pronounce. With the help of Kalyan, it went on very smooth. I’m looking forward to singing in more languages!
What are your upcoming projects?
I have sung for Biji Bal in Aashiq Abu’s ‘Salt N’ Pepper’ which happens to be a duet with the legendary singer P. Jayachandran. Apart from that I have a few concerts lined up, both classical and with Avial, the band. I may even be getting back as a VJ with Rosebowl for another music based show.
There were two things in my life which I thought would never happen. First, an academic degree and second – a driving license. I always thought I never needed the first but these days I have a passion for learning and planning to enroll for a distance education degree program of Calicut University. It still remains in the plan but now I have confidence that I can at least give it a try.
If a degree was something I thought I could do but wouldn’t do, obtaining a driving license was something I thought I would never be able to do even if I gave it a try. Right from the boyhood, I never had the passion to learn driving or even riding, for that matter. It’s strange that I cannot remember many boys who rode bicycles in the neighborhood and that probably shows the lack of my interest in driving. My family kept insisting that I should learn but I was hesitant. When my brother was about to buy a new motorbike he offered me his old one, a Kawasaki bike, if I learned to ride but I did not show any interest. Some of my friends were interested to teach me and offered help, but they finally gave up because I would never comply .
Years of people insisting led me to join a driving school eventually at the age of 25, but the fees I paid was wasted. Those ‘teachers’ at the driving school were much younger than me and they couldn’t understand why I was such a dumb student and I couldn’t take their insult. I couldn’t even balance a gear-less Kinetic and it reinstated my belief that vehicles wouldn’t work for me. I completely gave up on driving after that.
I don’t know why, but I was plain scared of the roads. Or rather about taking control of the roads I should say, because I was never afraid to travel in a fast moving bike or a car if somebody else was in control of the vehicle. In fact, I loved the speed as long as I wasn’t the one accelerating it. I also thought driving wasn’t fun. I could never understand when people said they would just take their cars out for the fun of it. For me, enjoying a ride means sitting on the back and enjoying the passing sights, but never about when to hit the brake, how much to accelerate, when to change the gears, watching out on people or other vehicles on the roads and traffic.
I have been humiliated or felt being insulted many times in my life for not knowing how to ride or drive a vehicle. My friends do it all the time, my family were concerned and would bring in the topic during family events, sometimes I was asked to take a vehicle and go (by people who did not know that I couldn’t ride) and I was so embarrassed in all those moments. After the wedding, the pressure was being unbearable. My wife kept begging and bugging me to learn driving and finally I had agreed that I would try again.
The driving lessons were tough and scary for me right from the beginning but this time I did not give up. When the first driving test failed, I was nervous and even thought of giving it up again but then I decided no matter how many road tests I fail, I would try again and again until I got the driving license. So finally, I got one in the last October. And then on January this year, I bought an old Maruti 800 and driving it since then. It’s not like I am a master of driving by now (I still learn new things everyday I go out in the car), but the fear of driving or being on the road is slowly fading away. I am beginning to enjoy the drive now.
So I am happy that I can finally say that, even though I do not know how to ride a bicycle or a motor bike, I know how to drive a car though I am not a perfect driver yet. And I can take my family along to places without having to wait for an auto-rickshaw, a bus or rely on other people for a lift.
And do you know what a driving license could really do? It’s not just that I learned to drive. But learning to drive has brought some self-confidence that I was seriously lacking in my life. And it is afterwards that I seriously thought of enrolling for the degree program. Isn’t it amazing what little things could do to change your life for good?
Many years ago, a Christian devotional album had completely changed the way people heard the Christian devotional songs. It brought in writers like Chittoor Gopi, poet ONV Kuruppu etc and singers like Yesuda, Chitra, M G Sreekumar, Unnimenon, Minmini and Sujatha. The album, though initially was not well received by tradionalists who said ‘it sounds like film songs’, was a big hit. It’s first song “Rakshakaa” sung by Yesudas shot to fame and was sung in stages regardless of religions. To put an example, that song was the equivalent of “paLLikettu shabarimalakku” if you talk about popularity. The composer of the album is Tomin J Thachankary, who is the Inspector General of Police in Kerala now (by the way, Thachankary is now infamous for his alleged terrorist links).
Another album followed, which was titled “Thiruvachanam”. More filmi singers and more poets followed in this one too and it became yet another hit. The song I am posting today is from this album. It’s a beautiful song and has beautiful lyrics. On this weekend that Christians celebrate as the Holy Weekend, I would like to post this song and I wish all my readers and listeners a happy and peaceful Easter. Remember the magical message that Easter gives – hope.
Song: Baliyaay thirumunpil
Music: Tomin J Thachangari IPS
Original singer: Yesudas
Covered by: Joseph Thomas (Jo)
No, this time I am not talking, so you are saved. 🙂 And additionally, you get to hear some other singers on the show too. So the thing is my cover version of the song “Picha Vacha Naal Muthal” will be featured on the San Fransisco Bay Area radio show “Golden Voice on KLOK 1170 AM with Siva” on 21st April Thursday (tomorrow) at 9 PM pacific time (which is Friday, April 22 at 9:30 AM India time). You can stream the show live at http://www.klok1170am.com/stream_onair.php. This is the first time a song of mine being aired on a radio show abroad, so I’m excited about it.
When I made the blog post about “The Anna Hazare Show” (courtesy: Open Magazine) yesterday, my focus was on the hypocrisy of the Indian middle-class for being selective in their so called activism and it is being celebrated as the rightful political activism. As the day passed, more stories kept popping up, some of them from the yester years, and they point fingers at the man himself – Anna Hazare.
What irked me from the beginning itself was the photo shown above from Anna Hazare’s fasting stage (courtesy: another blog). When I saw this photo, I felt that the so called Gandhian is reinstating the pseudo-nationalist concept of the nation as a religious symbol. The goddess with the India flag. The so called Bharath Matha that all the hardcore and softcore Hindutvavaadis have perpetuated right from the old days. The same symbol that sent M F Hussain in exile. But I didn’t write about it because his cause seemed more important at that moment. But then comes the following.
At first Anna Hazare was in praise for Narendra Modi. He said the Gujarat model “[…]should be emulated by all other chief ministers. I am saying this on the basis of the kind of works Bihar and Gujarat CMs have done in the field of rural development“. We have heard Modi being praised for “development” a lot but hear what another Gandhian, who is less famous than Anna Hazare and has spent 18 years working with tribes in the troubled Dandewara region of Chattisgarh, has to say. If Anna Hazare was garlanded by the media and several VIPs came out to support him, Himanshu Kumar was treated a bit differently for his work. When he took up the human rights cases against the police and the notorious Salwa Judum, his ashram was simply wiped away.
He spoke about how ‘Golden Gujarat’ is not so in tribal areas and in the villages of the state. He said that it is the Gujarat govt. that is now engaged in building dams in a river downstream and diverting the water to Narmada and industries around Miyagam Karjan and Ankleshwar. The fact that this will displace over 150 villages, does not bother the government.
Well, Hazare did not stop there. He went on to say this – “I have described these chief ministers as good only partially. I will call them 100 per cent good only when they also accept the Lokpal kind of system.” So the only thing that Narendra Modi is lacking to achieve the 100% good ranking by Anna Hazare is the acceptance of Lokpal system and nothing else? Later when his statement became controversy, the good Gandhian added what his non-Hindutva fans needed – “I am equally opposed to any form of communal disharmony“. What a good soul!
Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine that published the infamous Nira Radia tapes, wrote something that the media bandwagon wouldn’t dare say. In his article aptly titled “The Anna Hazare Show“, Manu wrote this –
But what kind of man is he, really? Haima Deshpande, a senior political writer with Open, has met him several times. About 10 years ago, when he went on a fast to protest against corruption in the Maharashtra government, Deshpande covered the event. She was a bit surprised when he said that he wanted to end his fast because journalists from the English media were finding it hard to reach his village. He wanted to end it on a Sunday.
“Two reporters told him that since the Pune Cantonment elections were to be held on that Sunday there would be no space in the newspapers. So it was mutually agreed between the journalists and Anna that he would give up his fast on Monday at 1 pm.”
And that was what he did. Now, the media wants a revolution and there is a good chance that Hazare will not disappoint.
But that is not all. Hazare had sympathy for the MNS chief Raj Thackeray during his campaign against non-Marathis. But as usual, the media icon Hazare did not forget to mention that he did not support “everything that Raj Thackeray does”. But still not a straight forward “I-condemn-the-MNS-violence“, but merely that “If violent means are adopted by MNS, it will not be in interest of a united India.” If violent means are adopted – as if that is something he never heard of them doing.
That is Anna Hazare for you. The new Gandhi of the Indian middle-class. Well, you get what you ask for.
First of all, I do support the Jan Lokpal Bill. Many Indians would, because we have seen corruption from small to large scale here in India and got tired of it. I do like the fact that there is this one man, Anna Hazare, who could mobilize people across country to join in support of him against corruption. I thank him because not many would have been aware of this Bill if it wasn’t for his efforts. In the end, at least it seems like this could be a beginning of change though the irony is that the government in charge is the most corrupted one in the history of India.
The support that Anna Hazare has got from the public was praised as the beginning of Indian middle-class involving themselves in national issues. Media celebrated a more politically active middle-class and it’s youth. “War on Corruption”, “People’s Victory” – the new headlines kept popping up in the news channels every hour. People were tweeting, changing their Facebook profile picture, putting Gandhi caps and some even did fasting for a day in support of Anna Hazare.
But there is something that stinks about this middle-class political activism. It is because the selective issues that the Indian middle-class and it’s youth choose to fight. From the days of “Youth for Equality” to “War on Corruption”, it is quite evident that the Indian middle-class activism is centered on an India where they have an upper hand. Where they will have their future built (and it is this middle-class India that the upper-class can also bank upon hence the support from the top notch CEOs, Industrialists and celebrities). That is why corruption, terrorism and reservation are the favorite subjects of these middle-class crusaders (yes, corruption is an evil that all classes of India would want to root out, but for the middle-class and their nationalism, corruption is a shame before international community, not an evil in itself). And issues like North East India, Dalit, Tribal, etc never come to their focus.
There is a Manipuri woman who has been fasting for the last 10 years here in India, but those who shed tears for Anna Hazare chose to ignore her and her cause. Why? Because she is not a proclaimed Gandhian and she is not from the mainland India. Her cause is often described as anti-India while what she fights for is justice to the common man. This proves that the Indian middle-class ignores everything that is propagated as anti-India. Their morale is not built around human values, but a pseudo-patriotic feeling. In their quest to bring “justice”, they do not care about the details of the human right fights. So they easily tag the fights of Manipuris as separatism, Binayak Sen for them is a naxal apologetic and every single tribal who complains against the government is a naxal.
What we see right now is a biased urban Indian middle-class fighting “their” cause and trying to downplay the larger issues exist in India. For some of them, it is just a passing-over exhibition that is inspired by the authentic fights of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. An attempt to do a cinematic remake of these other movements worldwide. After all, our activism is always inspired by Bollywood (Munna Bhai style Gandhigiri, Rang De Basanti style candle light vigil etc) than life and it’s reality.
PS: After a fight that is said to bring more “power to people”, comes this comment from Shanti Bhushan – “Ultimately, the power is with Anna, so whatever Anna says has to be accepted.” Birth of new demi-Gods in Indian system?
[This is my fourth article for My Smart Life, an initiative by Nokia India that features guest authors from various walks of life who have made use of technology and social media in their work and life. Go to the website to check out rest of the articles there.]
Why would you go to a video sharing website only to hear music? I mean, you have so many music streaming websites and the quality of the audio is pretty much good there but still I see so many people accessing YouTube to hear music. Perhaps it is because over a period of time, YouTube has become the complete online entertainment channel of the world. You need to hear music? Go to YouTube. Need to watch comedy? A television show that you missed last night? A movie snippet that you would want to keep watching again and again? A live show recording? There, you have it all on YouTube.
It is quite interesting to take a look at how the traditional entertainment forms have made way to the new generation digital entertainment media. There was a time when a television set was a rarity. If there was one family that had a TV set, all other people in the neighborhood would go there to watch Ramayan, Mahabharath or Chitrahar. I’m sure many of us have such memories from those good old days. It was a good social experience back then. Many people in the neighborhood came and spent time together, discussed the news as they appeared on TV, or talked about music or movies while they watched it together. But the personal space and privacy were seriously lacking. With the increased purchasing power, people started buying their own music system and television sets. This paved way to have entertainment at the privacy of home space. But the revolution in the entertainment media did not just stop there.
The arrival of digital entertainment media has completely redefined the word entertainment. It took out the time and space restrictions of entertainment and put it on-the-go. So if you are bored when you are boarded on train, you could just switch on your iPod or Zune and hear music or watch a movie. With the newest mobile phones like Nokia E7, you wouldn’t even need to have a separate device and can do it all on your mobile phone. Just imagine how the features of a smart phone with a 3G connection could change your access to entertainment. You wouldn’t even need to store music or a favorite show episode on your device because you would rather connect to Internet from your mobile phone using your 3G connection and would have effortless online streaming of entertainment.
Digital entertainment mediums have not only changed the way people watched videos, but it has also helped creative people to come up with fresh new ideas, present it before people and become online celebrities eventually. One good example here would be Rocketboom. Rocketboom is a video blog with daily news snippets with a touch of humor. It was started out in 2004 and now reportedly has 400,000 video episode downloads a day. With just three people, a small room, a video camera and an unconventional, creative approach, see how far they have gotten.
Well, this is not just about pre-recorded content. Now there are several websites like Livestream, UStream etc that offer live video streaming. YouTube last year had launched their alpha version of live streaming with Rocketboom with live comment option. So now you don’t have to scream “Hey, run and switch on that TV fast! I will miss that breaking news” because you could just go to YouTube on your mobile phone and watch live news.
Just imagine what this whole thing could mean in the future. You will see many citizen powered media channels, giving you fresh and original content with an unconventional touch. This will eventually force the established media houses to seriously think about revamping the way they present news and entertainment. Set top boxes and DTH could be a thing of the past since Internet TVs are already out in the market and the pre-recorded material could be broadcast through channels like YouTube. TV channels could directly charge the customers for a particular show, an episode, per day or per month basis. Movie channels could be a thing of past too, when the studios would directly make the films available online and can charge the users. They could even generate revenue by making half portion of the movie streaming for free and then charge the viewers to watch the rest. This would put the deciding power to the people and could even put a stop to illegal online video streaming.
The result is more power to the people. More fair business. And a better world.
I spent the evening of ICC World Cup Cricket finals at a friend’s place with his other friends and a common friend. Even though I have no idea about Cricket as a sport and have never watched a full game, I thought at least I would spend some time with friends and take some time off baby-sitting. To add more jazz to the evening was vodka that my friend had bought, so we had a joyful time.
By the time the game reached at it’s peak, I was becoming curious to see if India would win and my friends would explain what each run or the remaining balls meant to decide the climax of the game. At that point, the game had become all the more interesting to me with the booze, cheering friends and a desire to see the country winning the world cup. And when that sixer came out from Dhoni we all cheered aloud for team India. When we went out after the game by nearly midnight, there were crowds of men celebrating the win with burning crackers and playing drums. Everybody was in full spirits that their country won a world cup in the last 28 years and were so happy about it, but no single word of abuse against Sri Lankans in all of those celebrations.
But when we won a semi-final against Pakistan, the response was different.
Just winning one match against the neighboring country had fueled our patriotism so much so that we dragged the women who were going home after work out of their vehicles and asked to them to dance with the mob. When refused, they were beaten up leaving one of them women with a bleeding nose. The news come from the same place where women were attacked for going to pubs and dancing, except that this time the women were asked to dance. (People from Bangalore also said that their vehicles were stopped and they were asked to sing “Vande Mataram“).
Just imagine if we were on a war with Pakistan and won and mobs like these knocking on our doors, forcing us to sing Vande Mataram, dragging our womenfolk to the road to dance with them, or beating them up for refusing to do so. Patriotism, fueled by a sport – and some sportsmen.
The blame is not to be put solely on those men of mobs, but also on some of the so-called “Men in Blue”. The same folks who are supposed to keep the ‘sportsman spirit’ of the sport. A young chap called Gautam Gambhir said ‘a win against Pakistan and a win in the final and that too in Mumbai should be dedicated to’ 26/11 victims. He says a win against Pakistan would soothe the pain of 26/11 victims. Either he is a stupid young man or he is very cautiously building up an image by banking upon a mix of patriotism and sports.
What does the Pakistani cricket team has to do with 26/11 anyway? And how is a win against Pakistan in a sport event going to “soothe the pain” of the 26/11 victims? And how does that win justify the violence against our own countrymen and it’s womenfolk in particular? Up to his standards, should Gautam Gambhir have rejoiced at defeating Lankans too? Because Rajiv Gandhi, a former Indian prime minister, was killed by a Sri Lankan group. Would he think that it would “soothe the pain” of those who were killed at Perumputhur? While boasting up on the media, Gautam Gambhir should have given it a serious thought.
And if it is this sport of hatred that is running in Gautam Gambhir’s, and the Team India’s, blood, I don’t bleed blue. I never will.
Also read: Soothing the pain