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#TravelingBandJournal: Playing for the Village

We play a warm and memorable show for a little hamlet in Naukuchiatal, Uttarakhand

This has been the most surreal show ever.

The idea germinated in our manager’s fevered brain, Vijay Nair has been known for ideas that frequently border on the bizarre: go into a village and play for its people, folks who might never have seen a band before, those who may not ever have heard our genre of music before. And when Ms Shubha Mudgal invited us to her mother’s home near Nainital in Uttaranchal, we jumped at the chance!

Now what might have prompted her to voluntarily subject her poor mother, the wonderful Jaya Auntie, through the decidedly derangement-inducing experience of having to endure the madness of the Swarathma boys (and manager) in her own home, we will never know. But who are we to question her better judgment?

And so, the morning after a pretty good show at the South Asian Bands Festival in Purana Qila we set off for Jaya Auntie’s home in the hills in a little hamlet in the hills called Naukuchiatal (The Lake of Nine Corners). A bus loaded with gear, open road, and a band jamming in the back: pretty much the rock ‘n roll dream, eh? Especially true when you realize that your host is a sprightly lady in her mid-seventies, with her heart firmly set in her tees. Jaya Auntie, we would realize was way cooler than any of us.

To say our accommodation was five star would be an understatement. Three rooms, warm wooden floors, lined with books, a rocking chair, a garden, and two dogs. Crazy! The blankets are the most comfortable we’ve ever encountered, and we were ensconced in them for quite a while, dead to the world, catching up on a sleep deficit that we finally conquered.

The next day started early, with some exercises on body awareness that Vasu took, quite an experience for those with no theater experience. There’s a long way to go, before some of us become truly comfortable with our sense of space and that’s going to show on stage, once we’ve cracked it.

The sound-wallah showed up at 3pm, with a pickup truck full of the most state-of-the-art sound in Haldwani, the nearest large town. To be honest, it was primitive. But we weren’t complaining. The idea of this show was too large, and too exciting for us to be bogged down by stuff like over-driving PA speakers (yes!) . The audience was a motley mix of elderly folks settled in the hills after retirement, folks from the village (the kind who peered at us from behind ghungtas, and about 100 school kids from a boarding school nearby.

Though we’ve played better shows before, the response from this one will stay with us for ever! It was flooring!

Imagine holding Swarathma stickers (giveaways to the kids) high in the air, mobbed by 20 kids, clamouring for them, outstretched hands scrambling for the stickers just out of reach. It broke my heart to not have enough for all. And it warmed my heart immensely to sign on someone’s answer sheet! (Forearms, school uniforms, and stickers aside)

What an experience!

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