Theja Meru, a man of many Dreams
Morung Express Feature
Kohima based musician, entrepreneur, and role model -Theja Meru keeps himself pretty busy. Holding a debut album titled ‘Believe’, executive member at YouthNet (a youth organization), proprietor of popular hangout for the youth of Kohima called Dream Café, runs Kohima's Heritage guest house, a bungalow built by the British around 1947, heads the Rattle & Hum Music Society which aims to network musicians at national and international level, and many more. Yes, he is a busy one, this man. And it all started with a dream. Music was what he wanted to do, and business happened by chance. But today, Theja commands the respect and credit he has worked so hard for. Having received Governor’s Award for excellence in the field of music in 2006, Theja has no plans to lie back and gloat on his achievements so far.
“If you have a pen, start writing. If you have a guitar, start strumming, If you have an idea, get started” – Theja Meru
In a decade and more years, he has worked extensively for upliftment of local music. Remarkably, despite his phenomenal level of success and label as a youth icon, Theja is still very much the same warm and humble person from his struggling musician days. The Morung Express speaks to Theja about his struggles, hopes and anticipated future plans.
The Early Years: A very young Theja attended School at Assemblies of God Church School, Kolkata for five years. He calls this period as one of the most important formative crucial parts of his life, for this was when he was exposed very early to good music and good singers. Exposed to music of Celebrant singers, Theja remembers that they were zapped as kids. He also reveals that he was a shy kid who chose to sing bass in the Church choir. Then at 10th standard he joined Baptist High Kohima. Theja fondly recollects the first time he heard a ballad from the band “Rainbow”. He says, “The song did something to me, I don’t know what.” Such was his love for music even at his young age. Then he remembers a friend introducing him to U2 .Theja worships the band U2, it is very clear. He said he loves the bands music and philosophy. Theja’s first official band was Lystra. He says he was one of the singers and being in the band acted as a catalyst to put him in the stage for once. Before that he was too shy to sing on stage. Theja then graduated from Patkai and after a few months music course at Patkai he went onto join “Blood and Fire” in 1992 and committed five years in Chennai with the band. Theja reveals that these years as “One of the best times of my life”. He returned home in 1997 and started working on making his dreams come true.
Theja and his Dream Café: It was through an introduction that in 2002 met Jean, from US. This friend on her visit to Nagaland commented “There was nothing for young people to call home. Nagaland has nothing.”It was with that sole comment that the idea to open a hangout place for Nagaland starting in Kohima took shape. In May 5, 2003 Dream Cafe opened the doors to public. “These early three to four years was hell. I thought it would be easy and money would flow. I had to run the entire show. “Those were the toughest times of my life. But it is though Dream Café that a lot of things happened for me,” he accepts.
Investing on the Youth
“I grew up with few or nobody investing in my life” Theja, who grew up without parents in his life, said. Few organizations, family and people invested so much in me and they have served as an inspiration for me. “Today when I have contacts, and the resources, I know that I also can make a difference in other peoples life. This is what motivates me to do what I do. I have seen the power of people investing in me,” he said. He however feels that you don’t need many people but just need the right people.
He advises youth to find a purpose and that the means will follow. “A problem with young people is they are worried about the means only. Analysis leads to paralysis. He also candidly shares that for the large majority of our youth we are from poor background but we have a dream, stay focused time will always bring success if we do not give up…
On spreading the message through RockAware
Theja admits that a lot of people were and are skeptical of Rockaware and its success rates, “And I can’t blame them,” he said bravely. He opines that music cannot create a miracle, but it is still the best and biggest platform. “In a one hour show it is difficult to push forward a lot of the agendas. But we try to do out best and as sincerely as possible. In the shortest creative way we try to push the message. In a crowd of one thousand, if hundred take us serious it will have a different and even have a rippling effect. That is the consolation. At the end of the day music is the biggest platform for youngsters. Of a seminar is held, I’m sure that may people would not come. We try to sandwich as much info as possible,” he said.
His success mantra
“All I had were big dreams, and it’s amazing how my life turned out, big dreams do pay,” he said wistfully. And this is why he always keeps reminding his friends to dream and shares that the most unlikely people are ready to help you.
On being a Youth Icon: “If people do look up at me, it’s a big honor and little scary too. Whatever you say is life and death and we are not perfect. But when people say that to me it would really motivate me to better myself,” he said humbly.
On Music as a Career and other employment opportunities
“If people can have money in their pockets through Dream café, Heritage, and all my crazy initiatives then I will be the happiest man.,” Theja said. He also felt that Naga youth were very hardworking but they have little opportunity and it is every sad. “Through music, employment opportunities can arise but a lot go against promotional music in Nagaland, he said. Although not propagating the lifting of liquor act that exist in Nagaland, he pointed out that “concert tourism” might just be what will work for Nagaland. He pointed out that any tourism destination cannot be a dry state.
“Our musicians except playing in churches and some government programmes have zero platforms and today our musicians are suffering a lot. A lot of our polices have to change… as a church, as a government in order to make Nagaland as a tourist family destination. Our musician can play a big role in making Nagaland rich,” he believes.
Theja laments the fact that he hardly gets to perform much these days. “I had this looming question, Do I want to perform, which is really my dream or promote my younger generation?”
Theja lists the band OFF from Kohima, classical pianist Nise Meruno and contemporary singer Alobo Naga and Tetsoe Sisters as talented youngsters in music. If given a choice he said that he would also like to perform with Making Merry (Kohima), Nise Meruno and NSACS ambassador and former Naga Idol winner Renbeni Odyou as people he would like to share the stage with. One track he would play on shuffle would be the song “One Love” from U2. “The song is just magic,” he said.
For now Theja is content to spend his time-off reading, travelling, gardening (although he says his wife is more of the ace gardener while he just potters around the garden), and spending time with his two boys. He has also started incepting one more dream - he can’t wait for his two boys to grow up so that they could start their own ventures.
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