Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Rang Bhavan is situated next to St. Xavier’s college near marine lines station. There were too many townie beauties around. For my adolescent mind it was nothing short of being in the playboy mansion, surrounded by Hugh Hefner's picks of the season. All the rock fans running screaming, singing in their traditional IROCK outfits, torn/faded/dirty jeans, mostly denim blue and with a black colored rock print Tee shirt on top. I wondered whether it was the official dress code for this event and whether I will be let in since I was wearing a normal Tee with jeans. Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Metallica were at an all time high that season and invariably you could see a lot of Cobain and Metallica on the Tee shirts. The attitude level increases with the kind of music you listen to. The Cobain and Hettfield fans walked with the “so you are the new wannabe rocker – never mind’ look while the Sepultura fans eagerly searching for people they wanted to bash in the mosh pit. A guy wearing a Slayer tee would definitely look down on a guy wearing a Jim Morrison Tee. The girls were not far behind either, some of them in the traditional IRock attire and the rest in the Xavier’s uniform. By Xavier’s uniform I mean jeans, a kurta (khadi type), chappal, a jhola on the shoulders, big earrings as accessories and an accent which is patented as the townie accent these days. I was happy to realize that there are females whose taste in music scaled beyond boy bands. After years of exposure to this cult even I have developed the attitude of looking down on guys who would listen to rap and R &B music. I guess continued exposure to the rock/metal environment invariably transfers the attitude disease to you.
Like all other places in Mumbai you always have to stand in long queues for anything, whether for a movie ticket, or your railway ticket. It was a pleasant surprise to see a long queue for tickets, I said to myself goddamn; “I didn't know that these many guys lived this lifestyle”. Even before attending the show, just at the venue gates I had started believing that rock n roll is not a form of music but a lifestyle. Standing in the queue we could hear the bands playing inside and the crowd screaming and singing along. The sound of electric guitar was exhilarating, the sound of the drums making my heart pound faster and faster. It's difficult to describe the feeling, one has to actually visit and experience the feeling.
We stood in the queue and then my friend pulled out bottles of thums up from his pocket, and offered everyone a swig. Thums up never tasted that way and then I was told that it was thumsup + OLD MONK, god damn since that day thums up and old monk have become the official drink for all rock shows. No matter how much money we have and even if there's a hotel nearby, invariably we end up drinking on the road and that too OLD MONK. Standing in the queue there was only a 20 feet wall that stood between the venue and us, a wall that divided the ‘already insane’ inside, from the ‘wannabe insane’ standing outside.
Back in those days, thums up and Yamaha were the only companies that sponsored Independence Rock. We paid our dues for the favor by mixing old monk and thums up and continue to do so till date. Rang Bhavan is an open-air theater with a small stage at the far end and circular concrete seating. On entering Rang Bhawan we were welcomed with the best abuses that a crowd can shower on any band. Apparently the band had taken some time to do their sound check and the restless crowd had started chanting “Bhenchod, Madarchod start the fuckin music”. “Wow” I said, people on this side abuse in hindi too. The air was filled with smoke of all types. The smoke from cigarettes, the fogger machine and some really weird smelling smoke too, something that smelled like Mehendi being burnt. After years of attending the shows, the smell of burning Mehendi was what I craved to smell and to smoke. The toilets at the rear side are more of a make out zone. I had never imagined that just for Rs. 60 I will get to experience booze, live rock music and live porn, this was turning out to be the best event I had ever attended.
That show had featured some of the best bands like Agni, Brahma, Pentagram and Parikrama. The time demanded that every band plays the best covers. Bands were not ranked based on how good their original composition was but purely on how well they covered Metallica, Deep Purple etc. That day all the bands were amazing with their work. Songs like Alive, unforgiven, one, another brick, highway star, smoke on the water, paradise city, jump, even flow etc were covered by these bands. In those days Farhad sometimes sang a song or two. ‘Knocking on heavens door’ being his favorite. Lately due to sponsorship commitments he tends to read news from DNA newspaper and somehow tries to make it sound as music. Futile attempt farhad, its neither music nor entertainment, stop making a jackass out of yourself. At a rock show the brain starts defying logic and laws of nature, physics etc. Thanks to the atmosphere and negligible amount of blood in your alcohol and nicotine stream you are bound to believe that you can sing louder than the band. Yes I was screaming (please note: screaming not singing) all the songs. The general practice is to head bang if you like the song or if you are high then believe that you are a wrestler and enter the mosh pit.
End of the show, as usual Farhad Wadia made a promise that the next IROCK will be bigger and better, and I would say that he has kept his promise year after year. What followed after the show was a long walk back to Marine Lines, but this time with really tired legs, a dry throat, clothes drenched in sweat and most importantly a neck that had never felt heavier and this painful. I guess head banging does take its toll on the entire body. What seemed cool back then had now turned into endless pain.
16 years have passed since that day, times have changed but the enthusiasm has not. IROCK venue has shifted from Rang Bhawan to Chitrakoot grounds. The sponsors changed from Thums up to DNA, Network 18 and the wannabe types. The music has changed from melodious Rock/Metal to the less tolerable Death Metal, technical death metal etc. We are no longer teenagers; most of us are in the senior management in multinational companies. Everyone is busy and earning enough to afford a nice visit to expensive restaurants or even a 5 star hotel, but till date when it comes to IROCK
- The same friends call up, doesn't matter if we haven't spoken for 6 months but 2 days prior to IROCK they will call.
- We end up drinking old monk and thumsup, that too on the road no matter how much money we have.
- The screaming, attempts at trying to sing louder than the band never end. End of the show we all end up with neck pain.
- Back then we cursed the college principal for making us attend college. Nowadays we curse the bosses when we are pretending to work with a headache and hangover.
- IROCK is followed by a jam session, where we pledge to form a band and perform at the next year’s concert; only to go back as spectators aged 30 but with the spirit of a 14-year-old, cant help but sing
You say you wanna go for a spin
The party's just begun, well let you in
You drive us wild, well drive you crazy
You keep on shouting, you keep on shouting
I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…
Saturday, July 31, 2010
I got off at Hatia station in Ranchi. It’s an interesting fact that the local hooch made by the adivasis is also called as Hatia. Could not help but wonder which suburban railway stations in Mumbai will be called as Taadi Maadi, Mosambi, Naarangi . That way we have Sandas Road (Sandhurst road station) and Byculla (called as Bai-Kulla meaning Lady Ass). There might be some history of country hooch trading which I am not aware of. For some strange reason I did not dig deep into that part of history, at the moment it still remains a mystery.
I got into a rickshaw; introduced myself to the driver and struck a conversation. It turned out that Mr. Laddoo Singh (yes it was his name) was in the business for the last 20 years or so. I couldn’t help but wonder why a man aged around 50, frail frame, white hair, 1 broken and the rest stained teeth, hair on ears like mangroves on a creek, and a giant unibrow that could put Anil Kapoor’s hairy back to shame; was called Laddoo Singh.
My ride through Dhoni’s Ranchi began. Most cities in India have some historical landmarks like gateway of India, Red Fort etc. Ranchi however has only Dhonimarks i.e. his house, college, ground where he played etc. We reached a petrol pump known as “Khukri petrol Pump”. The interesting fact is that 100% female staff manages this petrol pump. Right from the attendant to the money collector and the cleaners, all of them are women from the northeastern states; at least their Mongolian features and dialect suggested so. The only male at this petrol pump was a gigantic billboard of Dhoni with small text saying that Dhoni buys fuel at this petrol pump. It’s an unwritten law to compulsorily feature at least one article/feature or news on Dhoni; irrespective of quality or relevance. During my tenure I have read news of a particular road being blocked just because Dhoni was visiting a nearby barbershop. Needless to say the shop too features Dhoni’s poster and the tag line – Dhoni cuts his hair here.
I was handling Government contracts, and visiting government offices was a daily torture I had to endure. The moment you encounter people who look like Laloo variants i.e. white kurta, graying hair, mangroves growing out of ears, pan stains on the clothes you probably are in the secretariat area. The word Jharkhand actually means tree land. I wonder whether the name Jharkhand was inspired by the forest cover on the land or the forests on people’s ears.
The corridors of these govt offices are usually narrow with cupboards lined up on either side. There is usually a small gap between the rear side of the cupboard and the wall. This gap is effectively used by the staffers to try their talent in painting these walls by spitting on it with pan. The popularity of a minister can be judged by looking at the queue of people lined up outside his office. Ministers handling useless portfolios like Labour, Law, Animal Husbandry etc usually don’t get visitors. Their cabins are found at the far end of the corridor.
It was told to me that in Bihar the success or failure of a movie is judged by looking at the seats in a theater after the movie. The crowd expresses anguish by spitting on the seats, or sometimes standing on the seats and dancing on them while appreciating a song or a fight. I had heard weird stories of movie fans from southern India, but these north Indian rituals have taken it to another level.
Ranchi has places with some of the funniest names. One of the local markets is called “Bahu Bazaar”. It is situated near an area called as “Chutia”. I’m not kidding, it’s like a prominent area divided into two zones “Upper Chutia” and “lower Chutia”. Smack in the middle you have the biggest goof ups in history, 'Chutia Police Station'. We all believed that Biharis were capable of pulling off stunts, but naming an area Chutia and dedicating a police station in that name, takes their insanities to a higher level. If you don’t believe me a snapshot of Google maps is provided to the left as forensic evidence, admissible and acceptable to the thaanedar of Chutia Police Station.
Night travel and outings are rare in Ranchi. Even if you are out for dinner/party, its always better to start the return journey by 8-8:30 PM. It’s difficult to get an auto-rickshaw after 9 PM. Even if you get one, safe return is not assured. One night at around 10 PM; I caught an auto and asked him to drop me till Bariyatu. The guy agreed and asked me to wait for a minute. He went back to his gang, which was sitting below a tree, took a Chillum took quick puffs of what smelled like Charas, I was too shaken at this sight but considering that I did not have any other option, decided to hire the auto anyway. His skills in riding the rickshaw on the horrible roads of Ranchi would have even given James Bond an inferiority complex. I guess his blood red dopey eyes were not capable of looking down and locating the brake, which he hardly used while driving as fast as Schumacher on the Monaco circuit. Afraid that he might look back and get distracted, I didn’t have any courage to talk and ask him to slow down. That day I realized that in times like these you couldn't remember the Hanuman Chalisa, Ram Raksha and all the mantras. I just wished that I was drunk or stoned like him; at least in death I would have a stupid smile on my face. During the rest of my stay, I somehow got used to this ritual and it had become part of the daily routine. There was a simple rule, get drunk and then board a rickshaw.
There are very few hotels in Ranchi. The most busy area i.e. Main Road in Ranchi has around 2-3 good places where you can probably eat. Like the rest of India even Ranchi has a small eatery that has a board that says “Bombay type Food server here”. The CCD (I guess the only one in Ranchi) is a family place. Yes CCD’s are a place for families only, single guys sitting alone are considered as pimps and the girl prostitutes. This was told to me by a colleague, who was skeptical of going to a CCD for some coffee. The funniest fact is that throughout my stay I could not find a single Bhelwala/Chaat stall in Ranchi. I mean just think of it, almost 90% of the guys serving Bhel on Mumbai roads are from UP/Bihar and Ranchi didn’t have a single Bhelwala. Litti and aloo chokha is to Jharkhand what Vada Pav & Misal are for Mumbai—Staple diet of the common man.
I met one of the most interesting characters at our guesthouse. The housemaid was one of the locals an Adivasi. She was nothing less than a terrorist or the leader of the mafia. It is every Adivasi/Maoist’s birthright to bunk work and participate in a morcha (protest march) at least twice a month. These people have a lot of pride associated with these strikes. Our maid used to come over and declare "Saheb aaj Jhanda hai to aaj main kaam pe nahi aaoongi". I wondered what the fuck is this Jhanda business. Later on i was told that it is customary for them to carry a red flag and march on the streets and protest against anything. Once our maid had participated in a strike organized by a local PSU called MECON. She was neither an employee nor a fellow sufferer, but there is nothing more joyous to these ignorant souls than to participate in a strike and get paid 10 bucks to buy a bottle of Hatia in the evening. There is a prominent junction on the main road in Ranchi a bit ahead of the Hanuman Mandir. Just like the locals; I have forgotten the actual name of that junction. Every week there is a protest march that ends at this junction. It is mandatory to first block the traffic, shout slogans and then burn the effigies of the leaders. Due to this routine and regular burning of effigies, the place is referred to as "Shamshaan ghaat" (Crematorium). Yes Ranchi has a crematorium smack in the middle of the road. Our maid's schedule was to reach as late as possible, then spend the next 30-45 minutes in having breakfast and tea. If she felt that the owners are looking hungry; sometimes out of goodwill she spared a loaf of bread and couple of eggs for us to consume. Emptying the fridge of all leftovers (cheese, jam and butter included) was a daily activity. Once I had left an unfinished bottle of Smirnoff on my desk. She promptly picked up the half full bottle to take it away. I suggested that the bottle is not empty, she replied “to kya hua? Mera pati daaru pee lega aur main bottle bhangaar waale ko bech doongi”. It was her right to pick up groceries, soaps etc from the cupboard and take them home. Now you tell me whether she qualifies as the mafia or not?
There are many lines which are only heard in Jharkhand. Since separation from Bihar, this state has been in a constant struggle to prove that Jharkhand is better than Bihar. When you try to bribe someone you are most likely to hear "yeh Bihar nahi hai, yeh Jharkhand hai. Yaha yeh sab nahi chalega". This is not a statement used to convey their pride or love for the state, it just means -- increase the bribe amount. The moment you do that, Jharkhand is back to being Bihar. Jharkhandis are not aware of the term shopping. Locally it is said 'hum marketing ke liye jaa rahe hai, kaunsa sabzi le aaye?". Shopping means marketing in Jharkhand.
I had the privilege of witnessing the Hanuman Jayanti celebrations. This festival draws big crowds (thousands of people) of people to Ranchi’s city center. Different mandals/akhada’s compete with each other. The competition is which Pandal brings the tallest or the biggest flag. Last time I saw a flag, which was almost like 40 feet by 20 feet. Most of the people are drunk; the place smells like a huge factory of Hatia; the local hooch. These drunken maniacs perform stunts with swords, lathis and all other lethal weapons. Lathis, swords flying from people’s hands are a common sight. Stories of passers by losing noses, ears, head injuries due to the flying weapons are quite common. if you are stuck in the procession; these morons are capable of jumping on the roof your car and perform a stunt. Serious advice; wear a full body armor in case you want to witness this event. After all unlike their American counterparts Indian insurance companies do not offer insurance for individual body parts.These morons forget the fact that Lord Hanuman is a God in the form of a monkey; you need not be monkeys to express your love towards him. Reaffirms my faith in the saying “Bandar ke haath mein talwaar”.
My stint finally came to an end; it was time to return back to the maximum city. My greatest achievement during this assignment was that I managed to keep my name intact; still managed to be Gaurav Puranik and not Gaurav Kumar.