Deep Sea Swimming
In his memoir, former Indian Ocean guitarist Susmit Sen tells a
compelling tale of a life lived on his own terms, displaying remarkable pace, depth and eloquence in his writing
Ocean ToÂ Ocean
Susmit Sen’s guiÂtar work has a quiet tenacity that is part of Indian Ocean’s enduring appeal and it is this strength that is also seen in his memoir. The guitarist opens his autobiography with the reason why he quit the band to start out all over again. It is an audacious move, and not one that a foundÂing member of a band, which has inf luenced entire generaÂtions of musicians, would make easily when the music scene is at its peak. But it is a decision, Sen informs, that came from a place of wanting to do the right thing. The guitarist admits to have alÂways been a rebel, right from the time he was a kid in school. While this comes as a surprise to those who have observed his colÂlected demeanor on stage, rebelÂlion has been part of Sen’s artisÂtic expression since the start. It’s evident in his string work, all of which is self-taught. He had begun reinventing the wheel on his own.
Some parts of the book, where the guitarist goes back to the time when he held day jobs, are well known to fans and scribes, but there are several stories that Sen recalls with careful detail. There’s also the wry Bengali humor, an integral part of the book, which convinces us that the 150-pager is one of the most interesting accounts we’ve ever read of an alternative Indian artist.
Sen also calls out music labels that refused to recognize talent, with a candor rarely displayed by most industry professionals. But don’t misinterpret this show of honesty for cynicism. Far from being an embittered artist, Sen is as candid about his own f laws as he is of others’. Of course, the chapters on the bands travels across the world are the most interesting (especially the shows in Japan) and the one where Sen talks about his bond with Asheem Chakravarty, one of the founding members of the band, who passed away in 2009, is the most touching. Photographs, of course, are the easiest route to nostalgia, and there are plenty of those in the book. Among the family and band portraits that appear through the memoir, and mark various timelines through Sen’s career, one seems to be lost in a collage: the one of Sen shaking hands with Nikhil Rao, the guitarist who has taken his place in Indian Ocean. Of course, Sen looked his composed self as always.
Ocean To Ocean is as much a story about Sen as it is of one of India’s most inspiring bands ”“ it’s a complex story told simply, just like the band’s music.