Finding a New Path in Springsteen's 'Thunder Road' Ten years ago, Nishant Dahiya was a young, unhappy engineering student in India. He was also obsessed with Bruce Springsteen's music. In the singer's "Thunder Road," Dahiya found the inspiration to change his life.
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Finding a New Path in Springsteen's 'Thunder Road'

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Finding a New Path in Springsteen's 'Thunder Road'

Finding a New Path in Springsteen's 'Thunder Road'

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"Magic" is the name of Bruce Springsteen's new album out this week. For commentator Nishant Dahiya, Springsteen's music had the magic to change his life.

NISHANT DAHIYA: There is something bizarre about it - about a grown man breaking down in tears of frustration because he couldn't find tickets to a concert. And something quite despicable about the sheer joy he experienced only 10 minutes later having found those tickets.

You see, three weeks ago, that man was me. It's a little childish, and to anybody who knows me, completely out of character. But, I've never been to a Bruce Springsteen concert in my life, and I've been a fan since I was too young to be one, in a place where it made no sense to be one.

Why? You could cite the universal nature of music - about how a melody is a melody, a rhyme a rhyme - but it was something more than the music that made a disciple out of me, a purebred Indian, the computer nerd casino kind. My first Springsteen song, oddly enough, was this.

(Soundbite of song, "Born in the U.S.A.")

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Born in the U.S.A. I was born in the U.S.A. I was...

DAHIYA: I was in fourth grade, 9 years old, the year 1989, and I remember the details. I saw him about 10 a.m. on a bright Sunday morning on national television in India. I had never heard anything like it. I didn't understand what he was singing, but this was angry. I knew even then that this was not a patriotic gee-isn't-it-great-to-be-born-in-the-U.S.A. kind of song.

This was passionate. And the pumping arms and popping veins on his neck left me floored. Given that I was leaving for a picnic in 10 minutes, where I would see the girl I had my first-ever crush on, I should have forgotten that song. Reason says so. But I didn't. That girl - her name was Puja - was merely a crush. This song, this new sound, was love.

We were stuck that year in a small town in the Southern Indian mountains, so I didn't hear Springsteen for another six months. But that song had grown roots in my head, and I waited patiently until we got back to Bombay. And then I dragged my mother off to a music store and convinced her that I needed the album "Born in the U.S.A." - my first-ever album. I loved it and played it hundreds of times over the next year.

Then in 1997, I chose to study engineering. That decision would turn my teenage years into a nightmare. And oddly enough, it also turned me into a full-blooded Springsteen fan. I remember the exact moment. I was alone in my room, studying for my exams. I was bored, so I popped in the first disc of "Springsteen's Live" album.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays.

DAHIYA: That incredible song, "Thunder Road," about life and love, about life's second chances. That night, it spoke directly to me.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) So Mary, climb in. It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win.

DAHIYA: By the time he sang that last line, I understood the song's implicit message: that I needed to get out. That I should do what I wanted to do. That I should make my choice, and take my chance. That what is life, if not about taking chances - and not just for love, but for life - for real life.

I can't say that that four-minute song was the only thing that set me on a different path. But that night, all alone with a textbook I didn't care about, and a calculator I could have thrown against a wall - I had one of those rare moments of blinding clarity.

Now, 10 years later, I'm in America. I have a ticket with a seat number on it. And today, I travel to Philadelphia to see Bruce Springsteen in concert for the very first time.

SEABROOK: Nishant Dahiya eventually went on to earn a master's in international affairs. Now, we're proud to have him here at NPR.

His story reminds me of what music can do for us - how in a culture that's so often seems overwhelmed by fluff and video games, music can still make us cock our heads and suddenly see things from a different angle.

A BBC radio show pulled its listeners on the songs that changed their lives. Among the top ten, "Imagine" by John Lennon, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," and Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow." For me, it was the Mexican folk song "De Colores." What was it for you?


Unidentified Female (Singer): (Singing) (Spanish spoken)

SEABROOK: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

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