Monday, February 26, 2007

Dark Side of the Moon - Live

The following post is a "time-lapse" view of one of the most inspiring and memorable incidents of my life - Roger Water's Dark Side of the Moon Live concert, that was held at Mumbai on 18th Feb 2007.

Fri-16/02 8:17pm
Naveen and I board the Udyan Express from Cantonment Station, Bangalore. Felt Stuffy. Crowded. But nothing could curb our enthusiasm. The excitement had been building up in me ever since I'd heard Waters was coming back to India. I'd missed my chance in 2001, but I knew I would give it a shot this time. And here we were - on our way finally. I checked my watch - less than 48 hours. Phew.

Sat-17/02 12:02am
The bogey was quiet. The only sounds being the wheels on the track. The only light coming from an overhead dull bulb. Yet the two of us, lying on opposite upper berths couldn't sleep. Naveen was watching the Live-8 Floyd performance on his iPod, while I was refreshing DSotM on mine. Yet again. The nth time this week.

Sat-17/02 10:23pm
I got up. Had a disturbed sleep, mainly because it was freezing with the air conditioning so un-aptly placed almost right above my stomach. Sunlight was streaming in from all angles. The train was abuzz now. We didn't have toothpaste. Naveen was better off, he atleast had his toothbrush, which we shared in turns. Eyyuck?!!? Just kidding. We made do with some peppermint he had. Had a sumptuous breakfast of bread-sauce-omelette and tea. Continued with our floyd trivia talk for the rest of the day. Discussed songs, and other common gossip. I got down only twice from that berth the whole day - when I had to take a leak.

Sat-17/02 5:30pm
Realized that our train was runnning late. Was starting to feel cramped lying in this 6" x 2" space the whole day. Hadn't eaten anything after our breakfast too, save a few biscuits. But no, this was no time to get grumpy. In just a day, we would be undergoing the "floyd experience".

Sat-17/02 8:15pm
Reached Mumbai. Got down at VT, which was the last stop. Finally. 24hours in a train was not ideal preparation for me, but the night was still young. Called up Shahil, who said he'd meet us in an hour. Walked to Marine Drive. My first real experience of Mumbai. The only other time I'd been here was more than 15 years ago. Hardly had any memories about that trip.

Sat-17/02 8:40pm
Breathe. Breathe in the Air. Don't be afraid to care. Standing at Marine Drive, looking at the Mumbai skyline, the Queen's necklace and gulping down the cold air was refreshing to say the least. Gave me a feeling of being back in NYC. I'm serious. Just picture this. The taxis. The skyline. The buzz. I love big cities.

Sat-17/02 9:30pm
Met up with Shahil, whom I hadn't seen in two years and James Swan, whom I'd never met but heard a lot about. We were at Geoffrey's, in Marine Plaza, a Dawood Ibrahim owned hotel according to our Mumbai expert - Shahil. Had a whale of a time.

Sat-17/02 maybe a few hours later?
Crashed at our hotel, which was in West Andheri. Air-conditioning and Cable-TV. Bliss.

Sun-18/02 9:55am
Woke up. This was the big day! was cold, and the blanket made it cosy. Comfortable. I was already starting to feel numb. :) Shahil didn't get much sleep and space it seemed, cos he said I'd slept in a fetal position. Don't ask me!

Sun-18/02 11:30am
Brushed. Refreshed. Settled down in bed again watching VH1. DMB's Crash Into Me was on. Talked with Naveen and James about their Kuwait UIS days and how they'd played cricket with Dinesh Karthik then. Shahil had left in a hurry to his home, in Panvel, more than 60km away. Why? Small emergency. The concert tickets were playing hide-n-seek and had been left behind at his place. Nothing is ever complete without a lil drama is it?

Sun-18/02 1:00pm
James goes home, he isn't there for the concert. Naveen and I dress up (with me wearing my floyd tee proudly) and get out into the sun. A vada-pav and an auto-ride takes us to some Citi mall. Have brunch at a so-called italian place called Ginger Marie's. Stomach's happy. Good to go.

Sun-18/02 1:45pm
Shahil calls. He's at home. The tickets are safe. He's starting back, and tells us to meet him at the Barista opposite National College in Bandra. We were to meet Vineetha too, our STCS batchmate, and so decide to rendezvous with her at the same location at 4:00pm.

Sun-18/02 3:01pm
Naveen and I are walking around the Citi mall area, checking out the crowd. We'd been doing this for the last hour. And I'd been refreshing Time's and Comfortably Numb's lyrics for the guy. To make it more interesting, we decide to start singing it spontaneously in mallu. "Njan orru kutti aayirinappam, enikku orru pani vannu...ente kaikkal randum vellya panthinte kootu ayeee". Yentammo....

Sun-18/02 4:34pm
At Barista. Shahil and Vineetha have arrived. I keep looking at my watch almost every 5min...are we gettin late? The gates open at 5:30pm and the show at 7:00pm sharp, the ticket says. And I know about concert queues...MLTR and B.Adams in the past have taught me to go early and book your place. Shahil and I say our goodbyes to Vineetha and head out. Naveen will come along in 30min.

Sun-18/02 5:25pm
Reach the MMRDA grounds at the Bandra-Kurla complex. This area is so different from the rest of Mumbai and seems so spacious. The crowd is huge. The long snake-like queues seem never-ending. I get a reality check. There are more than a 100 people wearin the same floyd tee that I hav on. We somehow sneak in between and wait for the gates to open. A huge cheer goes up when they do open. Security was high. The cops knew that floyd fans tend to be a little extreme, to say the least. Not all though :)

Sun-18/02 5:55pm
We're in. Hardly 4-5 rows from the stage. But I pull my friends a little further back, cos I want to see the stage in one straight view, without having to keep turning my neck. We're dead centre. We sit down to save our energy. And our places.

Sun-18/02 6:37pm
It's packed now. The crowd is bustling. The electricity in the air is unbelievable. People have smuggled in everything imaginable and smoke rises from all around me. The Mumbai sun is setting now. There is not opening band, but Chuck Berry plays softly in the background. The tuning crew on stage is greeted with cheers everytime they strike a note. It's crazy. And I'm loving it.

Sun-18/02 7:10pm
It's dark and 10 minutes past the scheduled start time. People are getting impatient. The only visual aspect now is the picture of the scotch bottle, ashtray and the radio on the giant screen in front of us.

Sun-18/02 7:25pm
I keep looking ahead and suddenly see smoke rising on the screen. It's no longer a still picture, but a video now. I go crazy, screaming...along with a few thousand. The show is about to start. Madness.

Sun-18/02 7:30pm
Everything goes pitch black...only wild screams are heard now. We see the band trooping onto stage. After everyone has come, Roger Waters steps to the front, the bright white spotlight shows him with his black base and one hand raised, fist clenched. Absolute madness all around me. The crowd erupts in unison.

Sun-18/02 7:32pm
Everything goes black again....and then the stage erupts in a bright flash. In the Flesh. Fireworks go off behind the band, matching the loud guitars. I go numb. I feel I've got my money's worth already. Little did I know that I would keep getting it's worth over and over in the next 150 min. This is why a concert is so special. It's so damn REAL.

Sun-18/02 8:00pm
Mother. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. And then, Shine on you... starts. Ian Ritchie plays the spectacular sax piece to loud crowd cheers. People in the front start bowing down in respect. Have a Cigar is done briliantly and by now, you are fully immersed in it..the lights..the quadrophonic sound..the works. They play Wish You Were Here next. Dave Kilminster does a good job in place of Gilmour. But you still missed him ofcourse. The crowd sings so loudly, almost eclipsing Waters. Southampton Dock and Fletcher Memorial Home are next.

Sun-18/02 8:15pm
Perfect Sense I and II is next, with the last bombing sequence ending with an actual mini-explosion on stage. The Floyd Experience. Waters then plays a new song, Leaving Beirut, one of my picks of the whole show. Awesome video and strong lyrics. Sheep is next, and a giant pink pig is set into the sir and hovers over the crowd during the song. At the end, the ropes are cut and it takes off into the Mumbai night sky. An unforgettable sight. That marks the end of the first part of the show. Waters announces that the band will take a 5 minute break and come back with Dark Side of the Moon.

Sun-18/02 8:50pm
Again madness when Speak to Me and Breathe starts. On the Run. Time is next and was simply oustanding. Great Gig in the Sky. Money. Us and Them. Brain Damage. Eclispe. The non-stop rendition of one of the biggest hit albums of all time left us speechless and breathless. And hoarse. Screaming lyrics at the top of your voice ain't a very nice thing always. The band did their pseudo-farewell next, with the crowd chanting "We want more! We want more!". Waters then came back and slyly said, "Oh, if you needed more, you should have just asked". He introduced the band next, Dave Kilminster, Snowy White and Andy Fairweather Low (guitars) and John Carin (keyboards) getting the most applause. Everything goes black again. The cheers go wild.

Sun-18/02 9:21pm
The stage again blasts into life with Happiest Days of our Lives and Another Brick in the Wall-2. Magic. Absolute crazy-crowd-go-crazierer. Vera and Bring The Boys Back Home are done next. Lastly, but not the very least, Comfortably Numb. The lead drives us all into the air...but again..Gilmour? Yes, he was missed. So was Nick and Rick too. But this was awesome enough, and you have to accept you cannot have everything.

Sun-18/02 9:58pm
The show is over. Realization hits and almost drowns my euphoria. I can't believe it's over. People don't wanna leave and sit where they'd been standing. We manage to get out after over 30 minutes and reach Bandra past 11pm. Eat dinner and that's when I realize how much my back and legs ache. Phew. We'd been through Hell and Heaven without realizing it.

Mon-18/02 1:00am
Naveen and I reach back at our hotel. But we couldn't sleep. Oh no, not this night. We kept singing and listening to floyd songs for quite some time.

Mon-18/02 5:00am
Woke up from a fitful sleep and took a taxi to the airport, where we boarded our Air Sahara flight back to B'lore. My body was aching, my head was spinning..but I was still feeling on top of the world. I couldn't help but think...

Now I've got that feeling once again....I can't explain....

Monday, February 12, 2007

To tip or be a prick?

It's been awhile since my last post. And the reasons? Most prominently, the lack of time, and other things...well, excuses none the less. But the last month's been fun too, lots of things happening at a pace that does not make me sit n brood that life is boring. But life is crazy I should say, and gives you twists and turns when you least expect it. If life was a crazy stage drama, that would make the actors on stage behave in ways that would have to seem crazy right? Which is why every once in a while you come across people who behave in ways that can surprise, shock, or even humiliate you. All this when you least expect it.

Let me elaborate.

Just the previous week, on a Friday night, my friends Sohan, Naveen and I were having a good time at Styx. We were just finishing up, Sohan had paid the bill graciously, adding a tip of around 30-40 Rupees, when the waiter came back to us. "Sorry Sir, but usually people tip us more here". Whhaaaaat The!!!...What is that supposed to mean...Was he asking us for more..Or did the guy suddenly decide to follow the unwritten US tip rule, which is 10-15% of the bill? Sohan looked a little ashamed and started reaching for his purse again, but I was in no mood for that. I didn't want to take the same BS again for the second time in just over a month.

Confused? Read On.

I think I must have given the waiter a quizzical/dirty look, for he came over to my side. The guy seemed pretty ashamed himself that he was asking us for more. "You see Sir" he said to me, "We do not get much salary. Tips are one way we earn cash". I tried to smile, but couldn't. "Don't you think we have already given you a decent sum?", I asked him. "But sir, please sir, people do give us more too." I gave him one of those pitiful but disdainful looks again, and he must have thought I'd explode or something, for he said pleadingly "Sir, please do not feel bad or angry Sir. Only if you're willing Sir". Atleast this fellow had manners, I said to myself, and so I told him, "It's ok. We're sorry. No problem." And I nodded to Sohan who paid him twenty more.

As we walked out, Sohan and Naveen were feeling pretty shocked. "Can't believe he just did that dude!" I was actually feeling a mix of deja vu and relief. Relief? Yes. This wasn't half as bad as what had happened a month earlier.

We were in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was past 9pm on a chilly December 29th. It was the last day of our US trip, and we were to board our return flights the next day. We had finished up with work, said our goodbyes to friends at office, when Charles offered to take us to this slightly upscale Ethiopian restaurant, aptly callded Addis-Ababa. David Tucker, another employee at office, was already there, sipping on Guinness Stout. We were happy to enter the warm cosy interiors of the place. Me, FatRat, WonderKid and Spandi along with Charles. It was a respite from the bitter cold outside. Now everything seemed good about this place, and the excitement of trying out a really different cuisine made our already-hungry stomachs growl with anticipation. Umm..atleast mine did. The waitress seemed very nice too, greeting us with warmth, and saying "Oh, we have Indians today!" She then surprised us all, saying "I've been to India!" Oh really? "Yes, I studied for two years at Pune". Excellent. And she gushed about how she loved the idlis and masala dosas and other Indian dishes. "That's very nice", we said, slightly surprised to having met someone who'd been to India in a place like this. Well, after a few more pleasantries had been exchanged, she took our orders and left. But she came back just a short while later, cos she'd got confused about the number of orders. She'd thought there were just five of us, but we literally finger-counted and explained to her that there were actually six in our group. "Oh my mistake", she gushed, "I'll be right back with your orders." Just as she was passing us, WonderKid muttered to me, "She sure didn't take math classes in India", and I snickered at the snide remark. But from the corner of my eye, I noticed her head turn by just the slightest of degrees, and wondered if she had heard his comment.


Twenty minutes later, six happy people had finished their dinner. FatRat looked delirious with joy as he often did after a satisfactory meal, which for him, is rice and sambhar. The bill was brought and I decided to pay it on behalf on we 'Indians', as a farewell treat to Charles and David. The total was around 94$. Three seconds of quick mental math and I decided to put 105$ between the brown leather. (Which was exactly 11.7% I now know, but at that time I'd made sure it was between 10 and 15%, so I knew I was in the green. Pun intended.) However, less than sixty seconds later, our "oh-so-sweet" waitress came straight for us.

Revenge. Ethiopian Style.

Her previous cheerful demeanour had vanished. If looks could kill...(yeah you know the rest), or even cook, I would be spicy flavoured Ababa-65 Chicken gravy by now. She "almost" slammed the book in front of me and exclaimed "You have NOT paid 15% of the total. It's hardly 10%!!" Gulp. I think my face went through colours of mild orange to bright pink to dark crimson. All six of us looked shaken. "Oh sorry" I squeaked. Almost everyone reached for their wallets at the same time.We managed to hurriedly put in a few extra dollars. Even more than a few. Who knew she wouldn't go berserk if we again missed the mark by a few cents!? We totalled it to 112$ (19.1% for the quant-curious), gave it to her (who didn't even say a thankyou back if I remember correctly, but I maybe wrong cos everything was happening in a blur) and walked out of there as fast as we could. Phew.

It felt really bad at that time cos we all felt she'd behaved inappropriately. But one thing was certain - she had made sure that we got one thing straight.

She knew her math alright.