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Sanjana Kapoor's sweet Leonard Cohen story!

November 11, 2016 20:24 IST

Her brother Karan made her hate Leonard Cohen's music.
And then, she tells's Savera R Someshwar, she bumped into the legendary singer in a Mumbai swimming pool.
Her story, in her own words, of the musician who passed away this week.

Leonard Cohen

IMAGE: Leonard Cohen. Photograph: Eloy Alonso/Reuters

I grew up listening to Leonard Cohen, but not out of my own free will.

My brother, Karan, who is six years older than I am, was obsessed with him and would play his songs constantly all day long.

In fact -- I must have been really young -- I just thought. 'Oh. My. God. This is really miserable, depressing music.' I can't bear it (laughs). I wanted to jump out of the window or worse because it was so mournful.

Many, many, many years later, of course, I grew to appreciate his wonderful music and lyrics.

Karan was obsessed and had all his lyrics and books that were published. In fact, some of his lyrics were apparently incorrect in the publication and Karan would sit there, correcting them.

But there's this really lovely incident that took place maybe around 10, 15 years ago. Or maybe it was more.

Leonard Cohen must have been in his seventies then.

We were at the Breach Candy swimming pool (in south Mumbai) with my brothers, Karan and Kunal, and their wives, and suddenly Karan says, 'Is that Leonard Cohen in the swimming pool?'

And these two men turned into little eight-year-old boys... Karan and Kunal began squabbling with each other as to who was going to be brave enough to swim across the pool and ask this old man if he was Leonard Cohen or not.

Both refused to do it... they were being so silly. But they were dying to know, both of them.

Finally, I got fed up and said, 'Okay, I am going to go to the front gate and check whether he has signed in' because everybody has to sign in.

And there, sure enough, was Leo Cohen on the register. He had been signing in every day.

Apparently, he came regularly to India and, when he was here, he came regularly to the Breach Candy swimming pool for his swim.

So I went back to my brothers and said, 'Listen, that is him. Your hero is there in the pool.'

Even then, even then, they did not have enough guts to go over.

Karan was completely dumbstruck about meeting his childhood hero.

Finally his wife, Lorna, walked across -- she is his ex-wife now -- and started chatting with him. Then she said, 'You know, this ridiculous husband of mine is too shy to speak to you.'

Karan had enough. He picked up courage and went and spoke to him.

Of course that evening, when they came home, Karan turned the house upside down because he wanted to find his Leonard Cohen books. And they were like ancient! But he found them. And he brought them to the pool the next day and he got Leonard Cohen to sign them.

Karan was completely in heaven!

I think Karan then left back for England. And I ended up speaking to Leonard. It was actually quite wonderful. We went out for dinner one night.

Karan, of course, almost died (laughs) that I was going out for dinner with Leonard Cohen (laughs), who was absolutely charming and wonderful.

We spoke a lot, about so many things.

He had a spiritual guru near Breach Candy (the late Ramesh Balsekar). He told me about his Zen Buddhist teacher in Los Angeles (the late Kyozan Joshu Sasaki) and how he was trying to convince the Zen monks there to give up drinking awful sake and hook them on to drinking really high quality red or white wine.

It was a delightful, delightful, dinner.

Even then, at the age of 70-plus, he was clearly a ladies' man.

My husband, (naturalist, conservationist and writer) Valmik (Thapar), loves him as well and can sing all his songs.

But the honest truth is that when I first heard Leonard Cohen, I thought he was the most miserable singer ever because I was a tiny kid and I had to hear this miserable, drony voice in the background as my obsessed brother insisted on listening to him 24 hours a day.

Of course, it took me many years to grow up, to love him.

And that's my extraordinary Leonard Cohen story.

Savera R Someshwar