Thursday, September 18, 2008

Video Coach ki haseen yaadein

If you have stayed in Mumbai, you might have traveled by the local trains at least once in your life. I have traveled, daily almost for three years. This is a simple effort of listing some observations.

Central Railway has more video coaches compared to western railway. For those who are not aware of the local train lingo let me explain the concept of video coach and its importance. A video coach is the compartment in which the ladies coach and the gents coach is separated by a small window (grill) providing unobstructed view of the ladies compartment to the cat-fight hungry males of the gent’s compartment.

It is always entertaining to watch the expressions of the female travelers. I believe that some girls watch others in a more embarrassing way than a guy checking out a girl. A man will simply look at the face, the vital assets, that’s it, our world ends there. For girls it starts with the colour of her hair, analyzing which celebrity’s hairstyle she has copied to the brand of the top she is wearing, whether it suits her figure. In short all the way from the top to the bottom, the last comparison being whether the colour of her nail paint matches with the color of her hair, dress etc. All this will probably take her less than 15 seconds, and that I would say is some serious talent. It is equally funny to look at the way these females will point the odd ones out, without even pointing a finger, just by making signs with their eyes and tilting their necks.

Amongst all the checking out you will probably hear a very loud sound, females fighting for the seat, or if there has been a stamping of feet, the reason is not important but the result is. The fight is really interesting if the two females belong to two different worlds. One being a girl from a sophisticated well to do family, wearing a good pair of jeans, a nice top, fashionable sandals, someone who resembles the small time model on page 55 of Femina , ( In simple Bambaiyya Hindi, ITEM) . Opponent of our item being a “kolin”, more famously known as the macchiwali and for my friends unaware of both, a fisherwoman clad in the traditional saree ( I wonder if it’s an unwritten law that a machhiwali should only wear sarees green or yellow in colour).

What makes the macchiwali noticeable is the quantum of jewels she will be wearing. Most of the time wearing at least ½ kg of gold, necklaces that look large enough to serve as chains to attach a small ship’s anchor or maybe even pull a car. Anyways just imagine the situation when females from such diverse backgrounds enter a fight.

Our item will usually make a sad face looking at the macchhiwali, muttering something in English. The macchhiwali will usually respond with a very brave loud comment. Being a very sophisticated girl, our item responds “excuse me’’ in her polished accent. There is nothing more annoying to any macchiwali than to hear someone talking back in English, call it jealousy or pure instinct the words “excuse me”, are also considered as abuses. At this point the machhiwali starts responding with the best of its kind abuses in Marathi, call it a habit, our item has to respond back in English. If she is traveling with a friend the first lines usually are “Oh shit/yaar shiiiiiii look at the way she is talking”. And then round one of the bout begins. The cat fight goes on with the macchiwaali trying to hurt our item with her abusing; now in Hindi, I guess butchering Hindi language more than her opponent. The fight continues and the male passenger across the grill is enjoying the show. The scene reminds of the scenes from movies where a criminal is watching a fight from behind the bars and is enjoying every bit of the action. A crowd would have already gathered near the screen (by now it has turned into an entertainment screen). It’s interesting to note that there will be guys stamping on each other’s feet or pushing each other, but instead of fighting they show great understanding. Instead of screaming or fighting, they will make some space for the other guy so that even he can get a glimpse of the ongoing entertainment show. Amongst all the screaming and shouting some old lady will play the role of NATO and bring about unwanted peace. Citizens of the neighboring coach hate this NATO delegate, and the peaceful citizens resemble the rebel army, upset that NATO has struck again. I hope that Lalu or P Chidambaram do not read this post and introduce new entertainment tax for travelers in the video coach.

Recently saw some advertisements on the upcoming Mumbai Metro railway project. The metro project promises commuters with AC coaches, automatic doors and a journey in a train which is not crowded. It somehow disheartens me to think that if there is no rush in the train and any pushing or pinching, there won’t be any cat fights (I pray that it does not happen). In such a scenario will the travel be as entertaining? will the cat fights come to an end? I hope that all the items find some reason to fight and that the entertainment in the video coach does not end, but now it becomes more pleasurable with cushioned seats and air conditioned environment.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Independence Rock, the Magical Journey

The year 1994 , the year that i became a teenager ( a big step forward). Full of energy and a rebel without a cause, I guess every teenager is in his/her own small way. It was always my habit to hangout with guys elder to me, and one such friend (They were more like idols to a stupid teenager trying to act cool) once told me , now that u r a teenager its about time we make you a man , lets introduce you to ROCK Music and an experience called Independence Rock. All excited I told my mother that i am going for a rock show and being ignorant about what rock music was, she had absolutely no objections ( sometimes i hope she never had found out what rock music was or what goes on in a rock show).

Two bus rides, a train travel and after a kilometers long walk from Marine lines station we finally reached Rang Bhawan, the ultimate venue for a rock show that ever existed in India. For someone in school , looking at the Xavier's crowd was like being in playboy mansion , surrounded by Hugh Hefner's picks of the season. All the rock fans in running screaming, singing in their traditional IROCK outfits , torn/faded/dirty jeans, mostly denim blue and with a black colored rock print T-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 T with jeans. Nirvana and Kurt Cobain were at an all time high that season and invariably you could see a lot of Cobain and Metallica's on the T shirts. It is quite interesting to observe the body language of these guys. The heavier the music the music that you listen to more the attitude and pride in your walk. A guy with Slayer would definitely look down on a guy wearing a Jim Morrison T shirt , a look that "Get Lost u wannabe". After years of exposure to this cult even i have developed the attitude of looking down on guys who would listen to nu-metal /alternate rock, i guess continued exposure to the environment invariably transfers the attitude disease to you.

Like all other places in Mumbai you always have to stand in long queues for anything , be it a movie ticket, or your railway ticket. It was a pleasant surprise to see a long queue for tickets, I said to myself god damn, 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 this is not a form of music but a lifestyle). Standing in the queue we could hear the bands playing inside. 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 or 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 us and the venue, a wall protecting the insane already inside the show from the wannabe insane outside.

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 Bhe....od Mada ....od start the fuckin music. Wow i said, people on this side abuse in hindi too.
The air was filled with smoke of all types, from cigarettes to J's to the white smoke used as special effects for the stage. Under the main spotlights, the laser lights, the smoke takes the most weird colors and probably for me this was the best example of teamwork , the organizers contributing the lighting technology and the 2000+ crowd contributing the smoke hehe

That day had one of the best bands in India lined up to perform their act, 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 (i did not have any prior experience to compare). Songs like Alive , unforgiven, one, another brick, highway star, smoke on the water, paradise city, jump, even flow etc were covered by these bands. I will refrain from getting into the details of all the tracks played , for the fear that i will run into 100 more pages of text.

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 throat dried because of all the smoking, shouting screaming, clothes drenched in sweat and most importantly a neck that had never felt heavier and this painful. I guess headbanging does take its toll on the entire body. What seemed cool back then had now turned into endless pain.

14 Years have passed since that day, times have changed but the enthusiasm has not. IROCK venue has shifted from Rang Bhawan to Chitrakoot, We have jobs as senior managers in multinational companies, all of us are 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 IRCOK 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 , trying to sing louder than the band never ends
  • end of the show we all end up with neck pain. Back then we cursed the college and now the bosses at work because with the hangover and pain we still can't miss office the next day

I pray that this journey never ends and that the madness continues !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!