On first hearing Aznavour’s La Bohème

My life has just discovered Charles Aznavour. Rather, discovered his iconic La Bohème. And I have lost all my senses. But I am in love with my Bohemian fever and at least for the next 24 hours shall be comatose with it.

I stumbled across it quite accidentally. And like all serendipitous finds, its beauty has captivated me. I can feel my growing obsession with it (even as I write this piece, La Bohème is playing through my headphone for the 27th time), but I am quite willing to remain its captive for sometime more. The feeling is one akin to the early days of passionate love when even a moment’s absence of the lover is unbearably tortuous.

I was looking for the arias of Puccini’s opera La Bohème, when know-it-all Google suggested that I check out Aznavour’s La Bohème. Being severely impaired where Opera is concerned, I took Big Brother Google’s suggestion and downloaded Aznavour’s song by the same name. And that one click on the play button has been my doom. I am stuck in the land of the lotus eaters, but I do not regret it one bit (but then the sailors in the land of the lotus eaters didn’t complaint either). The difference with me and the hypnotized sailors is that they basked in merriness and gaiety all through, while every time I hit the replay button on La Bohème, I experience a different emotion. And it is never mind-numbingly gay. It is profound and ambiguous. Almost like Chaplin’s eyes; tears and merriment laid out into a mosaic.

Those who are connoisseurs of French music most certainly know all about the song I mention. They must have experienced all that I am experiencing now, perhaps even more deeply than me. For them, who, like me are starting late on world music, I bare my thoughts on hearing Aznavour’s La Bohème, to compare and converse with when you too have tasted this ambrosia.

It starts simple. It ends simple. It is simple. And that simplicity untangles the complex labyrinthine knot that our hearts have become. It feels like the merciful rain that helps one cry and gently camouflages the tears. If they made lullabies for grown-ups, this would top the list. But this soporific would help in crying oneself to sleep. When I was in my teens, I had read in some story (one of those preachy ones) that trees are great secret keepers and good confessionals (confessions not being a regular feature of our religion). I have never confessed to a tree (to any soul, to be honest), but if in some unforeseeable but perhaps not so improbable future when the world is ruled by religious fanatics, and my existence depended upon my confessing, I would comply on conditions of Aznavour’s La  Bohème being played at the background. Simply, it melts the heart.

I see a carnival, great fanfare and rich colours, every time I here this song. I know I said I experience different emotions every time I hear it, but then there is no bigger a boat load of emotions than a carnival. Where spectators’ entertainment earns the entertainer’s daily bread, emotions run aplenty. Amusement, joy and all the positive feelings is the spectators’ share while anxiety, apprehension, dejection and despondence become the entertainer’s burden. Yes, diverse emotions add colour to carnivals. And Aznavour’s La Bohème is a carnival of emotions.

There is joy, of course. And there is pain; a dull ache that one nurtures secretly because it reminds one of some precious past. And the joy sparkles through the pain, just like fresh sunshine following afternoon showers. There is the gushing glee from reminiscence of past that ends with lamentations on realization of present loss. The euphoria of a sweet dream and the dejection on waking up entwine beautifully into an ornate emotion too ethereal, too subtle for anything but perception. But above all there is hope.

Every man feels differently on hearing the same piece of music. Aznavour’s La Bohème too must elicit different emotions in all those who hear it. To me it speaks of salvation and redemption (a definite proof that my soul is as dark as devil’s underbelly) and “love amidst ruins”. It sounds cheesy I realize, but that’s the phrase that creeps up in my mind when the song plays.  Grass is known to have a deep attachment to graves, while completely ignoring the painstaking perseverance of enthusiastic gardeners in maintaining a perfect lawn. I have seen brilliant photographs of flowers blooming with all glory against a backdrop of desolate buildings. And, even though I hate the concerned industry for profiting from pain, exquisite pearls do grow out of injuries inflicted upon the delicate pearl oysters.

My point? If you can visualise the above examples, you shall know how I perceive the emotions Aznavour’s La Bohème conveys to me. It is a jumble of emotions, really, and intense. There is strife and struggle, but gratification too. It makes me realize that happiness which has withstood the test of hardship is the truest, and it takes all might to start a carousal going, but when it does, it dazzles the world. (Perhaps it also proves the complexity of my thoughts and character, since this same song conjures up an image of a bird hopping about on the sea shore with the passing waves, to my mother; evidently much more simple and sweet).

So go on, get online and get yourself this little dose of feel-good treatment. Experience your hitherto hidden emotions and explore them unabashedly. Because, Aznavour’s La Bohème is a grand aid in facing ones own self.




Listen to the song at Youtube


Download the song at



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