Thursday 25th April, 7:30 PM. George Tavern Pub, East London
I walked into the pub. It was dark inside. And outside was an expanse of an empty road with shops (mostly) run by Bangladeshi immigrants.
I was feeling uncertain about the pub and my place in there. I felt like a stranger among the groups of Bengalis and firangs who had gathered to listen to Sahana and Aurko sing that evening. I decided to be present with an open mind, an open heart, open to a new experience. As I was moving around the pub in my tentative state, a man with beautiful tresses, wearing a black outfit, walked in. He smiled at me with a smile which seemed to indicate that he knew exactly how I was feeling and empathised with my tentative-ness. I smiled back at him to reciprocate the generosity of the emotions behind his smile.
As the performance began, I realized that the man who smiled so generously at me was Aurko, the performer. Aurko had a beautiful voice. He moved seamlessly between blues, Sufi, folk Bengali and African music. He seemed very passionate about his music, his purpose as a singer and his songs.
As the performance proceeded, I kept moving into the depths of his rustic voice. At times I felt the pretence in the rustic tone that he seemed to skilfully project. Sometimes there was pure joy and strategy in his voice. When the performance got over, I decided to say bye to Aurko and congratulate him for his voice. Riju insisted that Sahana introduce me to Aurko and make the exchange of goodbyes a memorable and dramatic experience.
Meanwhile, everyone was busy congratulating Sahana and Aurko on the performance. It was getting difficult to get Aurko’s attention. Finally, Sahana insisted and got him to meet me. She said to him:
This is Z. Not only does she like your voice, she is madly in love with you – prochond premer pode gaise!
I stood still as Sahana uttered these words. I felt like I was shedding the robes of my 34-year old person and adorning the desires of a young girl.
Aurko, on his part, did not seem very impressed with a starry-eyed woman. He had changed his robes from an equally tentative person at 7:30 PM to that of a successful performer by 10:30 PM. His half smile shattered the initial connection we had made through our tentative-ness.
Where are you from?
You have a nice voice.
As we walked out to board a bus, I wondered about the identities we adorn in a city, the clothes we wear, the nakedness we feel comfortable sporting, the nakedness we hide. We are all vulnerable and sensitive. And, there are times when we turn our vulnerabilities into manipulation, our tenative-ness into sure-ity, uncertain grounds into slow and sure pathways. Yet, we will never fully know (and be sure) of the robes we adorn, the clothes we shed, what we show of ourselves and what we hide inside … … ….
Wednesday 24th April, 12:01 PM. Shoreditch Grind, East Central London
I wasn’t sure what kind of a person to expect when I set up the meeting with Chris. I had known him in HasGeek as some sort of a rockstar speaker. One of the main reasons for this visit to London was to meet him and convince him to come to India. I had known him briefly through his photos, even more briefly through geeks around me, and rather more briefly through short email exchanges.
I walked into the meeting with an open mind, an open heart. Somehow, this trip to London has naturally driven me to open my heart to new experiences. I walked into the Shoreditch Grind, looking for him. Had he arrived yet? I looked inside. I peeked outside. I grabbed a table and seat. Someone sitting on the opposite side seemed like him. I sent a SMS.
I am wearing a bright pink tunic.
The man on the other side immediately looked at his phone and then looked up. I pointed my index finger at him and then to myself. We had met, at last.
Meeting Chris was one of the most fantastic experiences of this trip. We spoke about everything under the sun: Bombay, Bangalore, London, Brighton, geeks, developer ecosystems, Indian culture, hotels, mix-ups with room bookings, squat toilets and the habit of washing the backside with water versus toilet paper. The conversation moved seamlessly and unlike the rustic tone in Aurko’s voice which was a mix of pretence, strategy and beauty, this conversation was beautiful in all aspects of its mundanity.
I have often wondered what is it about people, their spirited nature and the vibes they transmit that makes the encounter such an evocative experience. I met several people in London after the meeting with Chris. With many of them (as also with Aurko), I adorned robes of pretence, came naked in my vulnerability, loathed the outfits of (over)confidence and dwelled in the mirth of patience and understanding.
Chris and I hugged when we were leaving. The spirit in this exchange gave me a firmer grounding, a sense of courage to be vulnerable. I have often felt that places are about people. People make places. As I walked towards the Thistle Barbican, I also realized that my life’s endeavour has been this yearning and seeking for people. I am glad I found some folks in London.
Thursday 25th April, 7:30 PM. George Tavern Pub, East London. Actually, it was my phone!
And I also lost some people in London.
Sahana started the performance with a song about sleep – ghoom – and how someone had lost sleep over a loved one. As she sang this song, a sense of pain pierced my heart. I had hints of tears in my eyes as she moved from lyric to lyric, verse to verse, word to word. Soon after the song got over, I continued the conversation with EM, this time pointing to how relationships were transactional for him whereas I sought depth in emotions and relationships.
EM and I were trying to meet that day but I decided to forgo the meeting with him and dinner with the conference delegates, instead going to the performance.
The meeting with EM was causing me tremendous amounts of tentative-ness. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the meeting. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to meet, especially after 8 years. I wasn’t sure what his expectations from me were. My heart was not at peace. But the sudden insight about transactions and depth in relationships set the course of destiny for us. It brought peace to my heart. It set his heart fluttering. He decided not to meet and let our memories, persons and journeys remain like oasis where thirsty travellers come up to but cannot get the draught of water they so very much want. I now desired to meet him, to repose the trust in our relationship. But the windows were closed and the clouds had come over.
Next day, the skies were cloudy and the rains had taken over. I could see some white clouds. I was rejoicing the vulnerability and the strength I had experienced in the space of a song, in the space of an insight. The dark skies and rainy clouds were having the effect of a romance for life, once more!
The strength was brief, but while it lasted, I felt peace, comfort and most importantly, a song in my heart.
Dear London, has the romance for life that I once sported returned to me? Is the comfort in tentative-ness becoming more and more manifest? Do I still have a yearning to live and know more about life?
To London, music, Sahana, Aurko, Riju, James, Thibaut, Chris, Andy, Neha, Paul and many others.