This is the second of my last 6 posts about live music acts. That says something about the neglected state of my blog and about decent big acts coming to India (No thank you, we don’t want the Bieber).
We booked our GnR tickets ages ago. When no one else had. It wouldn’t be the same of course, no Slash, no Izzy, no Duff. But after the Metallica fiasco we’re not being too choosy. We’ll take anything they throw our way. So we had the date marked on our calendar, babysitter organised, played every GnR album for days and sang Patience and Don’t cry as lullabies to the kids.
I’d like to be hipster about this but the truth is, no matter what you are listening to today, GnR is what a lot of us grew up on. To me GnR is not just a big act, it’s long afternoons in a dark old rambling house smelling of khus, American music banging out of tinny stereo systems and a bunch of desi kids sitting around on the floor rocking like their lives depended on it. It is my brother playing the lead to Sweet Child of Mine behind his back. Not an easy task when you realise an electric guitar is heavy and he was a young boy and always built slim. Not easy when you realise he had to reverse the position of his fingers and play the opposite of what he played when it was the right way up. He and his band would practice on our verandah, out in the heat and the blinding sun, wires everywhere, the frenetic drumming keeping my old great grandaunt awake. It was amazing fun to have awestruck kids bang on our gate and ask the boys for autographs. It was cool to be the only jobless one lighting cigarettes, untangling wires and holding down shaky plugs. And through this all we had a background score. Of GnR, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Sepultura, Alice in Chains and what not. We didn’t allow ourselves the luxury of dreaming that we’d ever get to see them. Until a few months ago.
About four days before the show I dislocated my navel (anyone who has heard of this ailment and knows a cure/ good doctor?). Yes, apparently these things only happen to me. It first happened when I was 12 and turning cartwheels. My stomach crunches up and I stay curled in that foetal position for days. I can’t retain any food because all the internal organs are pushed out of place. It’s pure agony and the only flip side is I get a complete system detoxification. Okay, I jest. It’s a shit experience ( excuse the pun) and there are days I believe I will die of the pain. No amount of allopathy makes a difference, the diarrhea continues and only an experienced dai can massage it to relieve the knot or whatever my intestines have gone into. The only thing that worked wonders is when I was home and an old retainer would light a diya on my navel, upturn a cup on it and then once the diya burned out, yank it off. He called it a totka; I now realise the vacuum it created yanked the navel back into place.
After the birth of the kids my stomach muscles have becomes more lax and now like all dislocations, the frequency has increased and it happens every 6 months or so. As luck would have it, this time it picked the day before GnR. I was literally writhing in pain. I spent the entire morning popping pills to stop the back door trot, but there was nothing I could do about the pain. I starved myself until I was dehydrated so that I didn’t need to use the toilet, but I could barely straighten up, so tightly knotted were my muscles/innards? The OA came home from work, took one look at me and said we’d either go together or not. I’d told myself that it wasn’t the end of the world if I missed it but I wasn’t able to buy my own story. And I didn’t want the OA to miss it, heck, I didn’t want to miss it myself. So we planned it such as to get there as soon as the opening act had finished. And as we parked and walked towards the lights arcing across the sky I forgot the navel and began to feel the butterflies.
A crowd of 20,000 and a live wire atmosphere. At this point I must be a snob and say I wish junta wouldn’t show up for an event if all they can do is name two songs. I saw loads of people who couldn’t sing along because they didn’t know any of the music. The reason behind the snobbishness really is that we would have a little more place to move if less wannabe types had shown up! Yes, yes, selfish! But that’s how it is. Everyone wants to say they listened to GnR growing up but won’t be able to name even two albums. Why then pack up the place for real old fans? Rant over.
My stomach ached but just knowing that I was listening to Estranged live, kept me on my feet. That and the crowd holding me upright long after my knees had given up the job.When you’re my height your impression of a rock show is loud music, the smell of weed mixed with sweat and that tall guy’s dreadlocks getting in your nose and mouth. This one was no different.
The OA of course towers above general junta and kept looking down in concern. Did I want to go home? Bathroom? Was I okay? Should he carry me? No, no, no. Carry me, I repeated in mock horror and genuine embarrassment. Yes, of course he said, looking offended. Did I think he couldn’t? Err.. no, I hastened to assure him. It wasn’t his capabilities I was doubting – it was my weight that would be a problem. What nonsense, he said – you’re just the right size for me. Erm. That is sweet, but no.
My earliest memories of how true love manifests itself at a rock show are from a college fest. Every batch has its first couple and my favourite was this petite girl with a riot of curls and a navel ring, and her very cute boyfriend who towered over her. The rock show during our college fest was on and she was hopping from foot to foot trying to catch a glimpse of the stage. And then he hefted her up with ease and plonked her down on his shoulders. Villager that I was, I stared, slack-jawed. What? In public? In college? And then I changed my tune to, how cute! Me next! Even though I was a mere 43 kilos, the then boyfriend couldn’t have been more than 53 kilos, almost a foot taller than me though he was – so I thought better of suggesting that he lift me up. Plus I have a huge dread of public displays of affection and I liked it fine down there, holding hands and staring at a back in front of me, imagining what the stage looked like.
So the OA’s offer was a dream come true, just 17 years too late. But there was no way I was climbing up on his shoulders and making a spectacle of myself. I had a gazillion friends in the crowd and a reputation to maintain, as a 34 year old mother of two. Until Sweet Child of Mine came and all sane thought vanished. I threw my jacket at an unsuspecting friend, tapped the OA on the shoulder and hopped on without a thought for his well being or my dignity. I saw the stage for the first time and I screamed like a banshee and waved. The crowd screamed louder, surged, waved, lighters came out (don’t ask me how they got them in) and in general I felt like a 16 year old. And the 16 year old me got closure in so many ways. Here I was, sitting on my better half’s shoulders watching GnR - and he hadn’t keeled over under my weight and died yet, pushing 40 though he is! The man doesn’t do poetry, roses, chocolates or diamonds. But what he does for these old bones, I don’t know any other man who will.
When he took me down I was so content, I could have gone home right then. But not quite. I had to see the piano being rolled out for November Rain. THEN I could die. By the time it came to an end I was on cloud # 9 and ready to push through the crowds to get closer. The band was throwing plectrums into the crowd and I didn’t see them come, let alone see where they went. And so at the end, on a stranger’s encouragement I went down on my knees and dug around in the dirt. And I was rewarded.
Now I am back in bed, dying. But at least I can go in peace. :p