You came singing through my soul

“And now, Carlos Santana coming to you live from Galgotia University grounds”  (Seriously?!)… is not a sentence I ever expected to hear. But I did. And it was music to my ears.

After the Metallica disaster I’d given up hope of any big act making it to Delhi/NCR. But Korn and Enrique (neither of whom I was interested in) played to packed audiences, and went off super-smoothly. I did want to go for Megadeth and headbang (so what if my knees wouldn’t last beyond the first 3 minutes of shaking like a maniac?) to A tout le monde but that was the weekend Tambi was in town with Baby Button (yes!!). By town I mean at my parents’ place so we all trooped back there. I kept telling him it was a testimony of my love for him that I picked him over the chance to see Megadeth live. The OA on the other hand was all – “Eh? Megadeth? Who?” I think I should have had these on a checklist before I married him. He also caught Iron Maiden in the US and even Alice in Chains. And he doesn’t even like their music. :( I missed that night because I had made plans to meet a friend who I never thought I’d get to meet in this lifetime. But seriously, where is the justice I ask you. And how did I marry a man who isn’t a fan of any of these bands? Oh well.

And when I heard that Santana would be playing after the F1 in Noida I jumped at the chance. I don’t know how other cities do it but the idiots here (DNA again, of course!) had not arranged for parking. The F1 parking and signage was brilliant and we followed the arrows naturally assuming that we’d park in the same place, only to be told that the parking lot would shut at 7pm once the F1 audience had departed. We asked the traffic cops milling around on duty, where we should park –  We don’t know, they shrugged, just don’t park here, because we’ll tow you away. Gee, thanks, that is helpful. Finally we just parked down the road in broad view of two tow trucks. Entry was to have opened at 3pm but it only opened at 5pm. After two hours of mucking around in the dust I was this close to collapsing. Why is it harder to stand than it is to walk?

We finally got in and my bladder was about to burst (does this fall into the realm of TMI?) and the port-a-loos that had barely opened up to junta were filthy and already wet and out of water too! WTF?!

After all that misery (can you tell how old I am?) I collapsed in the grass and then Soulmate began to play. The OA and I always try to catch them when they’re in town. Something about them makes my toes curl. I love Tips’ vocals and attitude and Rudy has a voice that sounds like smoke over whiskey. Yes, okay, it is clear we love them.

They were the perfect band to open for Santana because they set the mood and it was almost a spiritual experience to just lie in the grass, dusk falling, staring at the sunset- tamed and hazy through the settling smog and then watch a sliver of silvery moon peek out. To be invited to open for an act like Santana is huge and I think they picked the right band for it.

That said, I feel bad for opening acts. The audience has paid a solid price for the main act and many of them may not have even heard of you. And so it was for Soulmate, with most people getting impatient, the anticipation for Santana getting unbearable. Frankly I’d have driven from Gurgaon to Greater Noida just to hear Soulmate anyway.

And then a ripple ran through the crowd. We weren’t quite sure what it was about, but we sat up anyway. And there, standing behind Tips, his trademark hat on, was Santana, playing for her!!! I can’t tell you how excited I was. My first big gig, the great man Santana himself, and such humility, yet such confidence. He came in with a blast of smoke and when it cleared, not too many people lying back in the grass and semi-dark noticed the extra person. Until someone saw the brightly-patterned jacket and hat and froze.

It was overwhelming, and I felt like a college kid, tears of excitement springing to my eyes. He didn’t try to steal her thunder, playing a tiny bit and floating off the stage after his little joke. Soulmate finished the act as the audience courteously stayed mum but impatiently shuffled around, waiting for them to wrap up.

And when Santana finally came on, the crowd went wild. You will understand this was not easy because half the crowd was over 50! It was cute to see all these older people, some bald, some fully white, wrinkled, all eyes ablaze. Nothing like my shabby jeans and nondescript shawl. These were all in expensive jeans with nary a frayed hem, discreet logos on their neatly ironed pockets and suede driving shoes. Oh yeah, this was another generation coming back to see their idol and this was definitely a far cry from their Peace Brother times.

I called my dad when they played Black Magic Woman. It was the closest he’d ever come to hearing his idol playing live. He’d badly wanted to come but things hadn’t worked out and I was feeling miserable and guilty. Apparently guilt trips come easy to me and I’m thinking of becoming a travel agent for them. It was lovely. Dad singing in my ear on the phone and Santana live in front of me. And then he said, “People below 50 shouldn’t have been allowed in. You don’t know Santana like we did.” True, Dada.

At some point my knees gave out entirely and I sat down in the midst of a thousand stamping, dancing feet. I’d probably be trampled to death, but I didn’t care and couldn’t have done much if I had cared. I was in awe of their energy. Performing, dancing and singing for 2 hours at that age can’t be easy. His wife Cindy drummed for a couple of numbers and was mindblowing. Reminds you that often one half of a famous couple gets overshadowed. My other thought was – damn, but she must have fine biceps!

He spoke a little through the show, talked about peace and the inner light. I don’t know about others, but if my life had Santana playing the background score I’d be at peace and nursing my inner light! I tried hard to live in the moment, closing my eyes, letting the music take over and feeling the energy of the crowd.

Soon the evening was over. Much anticipated and over too soon. But a dream come true and one I would close my eyes and relive for years to come.

And because some of you may have missed Santana, I’m going to share with you, the house pictures of a friend of mine. I love her place. It’s not one of those new modern minimalist characterless places and I love it. I’m always finding something new in a new corner and it always has a fun story. If homes reflect character then hers says warm, inviting, nuanced, interesting, fun, quirky, doesn’t take herself seriously, has taste, eclectic and above all, absolutely original. I’m tired of people seeing someone’s home and lifting an entire idea or wall design. It’s heart breaking for those who spent time coming up with the idea. Enough talk now – go enjoy.

All about books and CROCUS 2012

I’m late, I’m late, cried the White Hare. And so am I. Late for what? For my CROCUS 2012 announcement post of course!

After a lifetime of being scared of math and science I broke free a couple of years ago. I’m free and I now believe I can fly. :) Getting to the point, this year we’re focusing on Math and Eco-Science. To my surprise I had loads of books I could have reviewed and actually had to struggle to keep it down to two. So go ahead, and knock yourselves out. Enjoy!

Once you’re done enjoying the reviews, here’s a request. Can you support this collaboration with Kranti that we at Saffrontree are working on? Kranti helps trafficked women and sex workers get back on track. All we want is for you to donate some books to them. Think you can do that? Please do – there is nothing better than sharing the joy of reading.

And finally, our very own Art’s book Have you seen this? Quirky, funny, easy to read and most importantly, in Hindi as well as English, we love it at the mad house and are sure you will too. Go buy your copy today!

Before the street lights come on

It’s dark and I’m running down the little path, my heart palpitating, my palms clammy, my eyes seeking, seeking. I pass adults on cycles, dog and their walkers, guards slouched over lathis, and then in the distance, floating through the dark I hear two crystal clear voices. Mine, my heart sings out. They are. Mine, that is.

It is the first time I’ve let the kids go to the park alone, no shepherding and chaperoning them. And this doesn’t come easy to a victim of much, much child abuse. In my mind, a predator lurks in every corner. And yet, at 5 and 7 my brother and I were playing hide and seek across 10 houses and two streets. Yes, that was 25 years ago and in another time and place. But my children have a right to that freedom, that independence and that time away from mama.

I spent a couple of days agonising over it. Maybe I should give them a mobile phone so that I can stay in touch, I think to myself. But the very core of me rebels against that idea – either I let them go without that dog’s leash or I continue to guard them. The  free spirit won and I chose to let them live a little.

The start was inauspicious. They wanted to take their cycles but the OA’s fancy geared cycle was parked in front of theirs and they ended up buried under a pile of metal. I dug them out and threw them out of the house unceremoniously. Only to realise they were still in their flipflops. Get back in and wear your shoes, I called out and disappeared to get them a bottle of water.

I came back to find them gone. Had they worn their sneakers? Wouldn’t they need water? Who would keep an eye on the bottle as they played? Ours is not the safe environment of a high rise. It’s an open but gated community of sorts with many an opportunity for strangers to slip in and out.

I decided to get some work done since they’d gone and sat down in front of my laptop. It was dark when I looked up and my page was still blank. Where were my babies? And then because sunset wasn’t enough, there was a power failure.

I dashed out of the house into the pitch black, leaving the door wide open in case they came back while I was out hunting for them. And then I began to run to the park, gimpy knee forgotten. Which is when I saw the two figures come floating through the darkness. Blurred at the edges, chatting away in the clearest, dearest little voices. What struck me before all else was that they’d managed to come to a consensus as to when it was time to come home and were sweetly and carefully skirting the edges and heading back together.

I called out and they started. Then a squeal of delight and two sweaty, dirty little bodies flung themselves at me. Mama was here and now it was her job to look out for traffic; they could throw caution to the winds. I felt a surge of pride and satisfaction.

So I put all misgivings aside and gave them the line my mother was given before me, and her mother before her, ‘Next time, be home before the street lights come on.’

A generator roared to life and the street lights came on. We walked home hand in hand.