Life moved on. My life was filled with music, even when I wasn’t behind the console. I had gone crazy grooving to imaginary music all the time. The tracks would continue reverberating in my head even after I went to bed. I would put my head below the pillow, but I could still hear Ricky Martin scream through it ‘Here we go Ole Ole…Cup of life…’.
I was on my way to the pub one evening. I stopped at the signal. A man wearing a yellow helmet and a parrot green shirt perched on a pink Lambretta stopped right beside me. Two eyes blinked at me from inside the peculiar helmet to get my attention. I looked hard but it resembled nobody I knew. The man took off his head gear to unveil the hidden emotion. It was the senior waiter at the pub, smiling end to end. I had never seen him in this fashion. His dark grey blazer had gone to the laundry for its annual wash, and he was looking liberated in this make-shift costume. His wife sitting behind him replicated his smile.
“Not coming to the pub today” I yelled.
“No. I’m taking off today….Ha ha….I know that the manager is not coming in tonight, so I’m gonna celebrate.” He yelled back speeding away in his Lambretta that rattled a celebratory tune to his freedom.
“The manager is not coming in tonight….the manager is not coming in tonight…..THE MANAGER IS NOT COMING IN TONIGHT”
This echoed in my ears till the meaning fully sunk in. It meant that the night was entirely mine. I mentally lined up all the heroes who had remained unsung in this venue. Tonight, the walls will bounce back tunes that they’ve never heard previously. Tonight, the woofers will freely kick bass till the windows rattle. Tonight, the tweeters will hiss away all their caged potential. Tonight, the bouncers will get an increment. Tonight the bartenders will ache with pain. Tonight the bar will run dry. Tonight the loo will stink. Tonight belonged to me.
It was a Wednesday. I knew that the crowd will gather in no time. I started getting ready with all the arsenal to knock them down.
The electric guitar penetrated across the speakers in the room. At an inconsiderate volume. A guy at the snooker table missed his shot. He flung his cue in fury and walked up to me.
“Do you mind. We’re playing here.”
“Do you mind. Even I’m playing here. And that too, after a long time.”
The Nirvana chick shrieked like was struck by a bolt of lightning. She downed her tequila in less than a second and spun round and round, adding surround sound to her shriek.
I kept her spinning with Burn and Carcass and Megadeth and every other rejected request of hers, till she ran out of winding.
Soon the pub was full with people jumping around like the floor was electrified.
I was waiting to unleash the incorrigible Indians on them, and get them dizzy with orgasm. The thing with Indian music is that it can accommodate any lack of dancing talent. You suffer from no embarrassment because anything you choose to shake, is already certified as a worthy move by some Bollywood character. It never demands committent to one dance movement. Fly a kite. Spin a top. Put your hands on your hips and gyrate. Flip a dosa on the tava. Tap your bum. Lift your hand and look at the ceiling. Everything is a certified Bollywood move.
It never expects rhythm. It never expects grace. It needs no technique. And above all, everyone knows the lyrics. Knowing the lyrics and singing along is a dance step by itself. Atleast the lips move in a choreographed fashion.
I was waiting till the alcohol drowned everyone’s self consciousness. And when I knew for sure that the crowd had warmed up to stupidity, Tom’s diner “ta ta da da tata da da” suddenly blended to…………”ku kuku ku kuku kuku…….hai chori………”
The waiters turned around to check if they actually heard what they heard.
“Choli ke peeche kya hai…choli ke peeche”
In one single stroke I had knocked the ‘town’ off Downtown, and replaced it with ‘market’.
This happened at a time when the song you heard at a pub or a club was not the same you heard in the car on your way back home. Bollywood was frisked right at the entrance, leaving you with a choice of music as limited as the space in that paper napkin.
This track opened up a dyke which flooded me with requests. Requests that could put a dance bar to shame.
Two young surds walked in and gleamed with joy when they were greeted by familiar sounds. They looked at this new glamorous platform to exhibit their dancing prowess, that they so far had wasted on old chachas, kakas and buas at some baraat.
They pushed their way to the centre stage and broke into a bhangra. Mid-way, one of them rushed towards me and said
“oye….yeh sab chhod yaar…kuch bhangda shangda bajaaa oye..”
I slipped in ‘Gur nalo ishq’.
And they picked a random waiter leading him to tables like he was the dulha on the horse. They shook their shoulders and bent backwards till the crowd felt tipsy.
The Mauritian entered ignorantly doing his regular step. And suddenly stopped when he found his rhythm missing. He looked up to cross check if it was the same pub. Hopes of his favorite daddy track went up in a puff. He waited till the vibrant bhangra beats submerged his cynicism.
He sent me a paper napkin.
“Screw Puff Daddy tonight. Keep this going Bro.”
Bally had prolonged this track adequately. The energy spread to every member in the hall. Soon everybody circled around the two bhangra boys clapping and urging them to go on. The Mauritian was feeling left out as his subtle grooves went unnoticed against the Bhangra boys’ thunderous moves. He realised that tonight demanded more of him. He stepped up his steps, by making suitable modifications to his hip-hop routine. And dived right in the middle to join the party.
I was enjoying myself. And was busy cuing Daler to take over from here.
Something seemed to be hindering my progression. It was a shiny metal object blurring at the corner of my eye.
I turned to shoo away the disturbance, and froze mid-way.
It was the manager pointing a gun at my head. I could see rage in his eyes, with flashes of myself as pulp. And spared one flash to the Lambretta waiter in a similar condition.
The Manager’s appearance was scary enough, and this suspect toy in his gigantic hands triggered off my involuntary functions.
Robotically, my hands reached towards the corner where Nat King Cole sat. My fingers automatically reached the cd tray button. Nat King took position and slid inside on his mission to bring this madness to a grinding halt.
“O rabba lagna kise dooja ve…..unforgettable, that’s what you are’
The manager left the scene in a huff, letting my limited imagination to predict the circumstances.
I regained consciousness with a paper napkin ball knocking me down. It was the Mauritian’s cannon ball. I looked up and saw him between two heavily panting surds. They were staring at me with their hands on their hips with Nat King moaning in the background.
In a few moments I learnt all the abuses in Punjabi. The left over ones were tutored by the second surd.
That minute, I decided to end my career before my life. I started packing up.
And just before I left, I noticed the paper ball.
I picked it up to keep this one as a memorabilia of the hundred balls hurled at me, which I had ignored all these days.
Just out of curiosity, I unfurled it to investigate further.
Inside it was a crumpled 500 Rupee note with a writing on the napkin…
“You rock, Bro”.