Updated: Apr 12, 2020
From a near-missed flight in Bangalore to brushes with stern air-hostesses, Swarathma arrives in UK for their 10-day tour.
It’s not a very long way from the jam pad to Bangalore International Airport, about 50 kilometers at best. It takes about an hour and a half, after you’ve weaved through traffic to get to the expressway. But in that time, all we could think about was how long a way it was from Swarathma’s humble beginnings. That we were actually in a cab, gear and all, headed to the UK for a tour! The stress of packing, visa application delays, health insurance and all the rest of it could not dull the shine at the edge of this moment – we were off!
Now you would agree with me that getting to the airport at 8pm for a 9.30pm flight uncharacteristically early for Swarathma. We’re used to catching our trains and planes by the skin of our teeth. So as we ambled into the check in counters of Air India we were smug. We might even get to choose our seats, we thought. That’s when we were accosted by Numbskull One. “Which flight sirrr?” she drawled rather nasally. AI for Mumbai we replied. “Sorry sirr, flight is closed”. Err, WHAT?! Indeed, the flight to Mumbai was rescheduled to 8.30pm. What, inform the passengers? What an absurd idea! So we joined a clutch of hapless passengers who were as nonplussed as us about whether they implemented Daylight Saving in India and didn’t inform us.
Fortunately there was another Indian Airlines flight to Mumbai and they put us on it, with our quarter of a ton of luggage. Phew. You should’ve seen the look on the face of the lady at check-in when we showed up with SIX carts of gear. Someday we will do an India TV style expose on the sheer magnitude of the Swarathma gear.
The flight from Mumbai to London was a Boeing 777 that was filled with the most rabid air-hostesses who have ever flown. Indeed, hardened criminals from the Ladies Jails have been rehabilitated aboard Air India. Service with a bark and bite was their motto – Montry made the mistake of asking for something to drink and she almost reduced him to tears with her glare and stentorian response. “I’ll get it for you later!” she snapped, with a piercing glare that made us feel like school boys. Ah well, I’m sure she was having a bad day.
Day-One: London Times
We spend anxious moments at the luggage belt of every airport. “Will mine make it?” is the constant concern. The Klong Yaw (the tall Djembe you hear on ‘Let’s Go!’) didn’t make it to Singapore the first time and a search and rescue party had to be deployed when we made that trip last October. But this has to be said for Air India, all nineteen (yes!) pieces of luggage made it in nineteen pieces. Yes, there was a one-on-one correlation for each. So we stepped out into the bright sunlit London morning, quite taken by the chill. The sunnier it is, the colder it is, apparently.
We were struck by how the crew from FMM (the music label launching the Soundpad album in the UK) were prepared for us. One van took us and our personal effects to the hostel where we were staying and a cargo vehicle took our gear and would report straight to the venue on the day of the shoot or show! Some neat foresight there, I must say.
‘The Clink’ was the somewhat kitschy moniker of the hostel we were staying at. A no nonsense youth hostel, comfortable but basic in approach, and frequented by hordes of budget travellers. The chief feature of the bathroom (as a scalded Jishnu would find out next morning) was that the shower had a single temperature setting and would operate for 30 seconds only before you needed to push the shower button again! Neat way to save water and cost of fittings in one go.
Our rooms weren’t ready yet, so we headed out for some lunch and were taken under the wing by Tasneem Vahanvaty, Supreme Commander of the British Council India, the project’s mainstay and head girl of her school (OK, not the last bit). Over the months leading to the trip she’s coordinated, cajoled and castigated the four bands chosen by acclaimed producer John Leckie for this ambitious Indo-British project. She was there for all the sessions in Yash Raj Studios while we recorded our two tracks and it was great to see her again. She also knew everything there was to know about London.
So along we went, to King’s Cross Underground station and bought ourselves day passes and headed down to catch a train to Piccadilly Circus, en route to Trafalgar Square, first on the list of things to see.
As we boarded the train (all seven through the same door) there was a strange beeping noise and the door slammed shut in the faces of Montry and Pavan who were left hapless on the platform. Swarathma is a bunch of farsighted guys, so we took a SIM card from India. We also had about 200 pounds a head. BOTH of the above were with Sanjeev, who was in the train. The boys outside had no money, no phones, and no idea where to go! What could have resulted in disaster ended well, fortunately. Pavan heard me yell “Piccadilly Circus! Piccadilly Circus!” as we pulled away and caught the right train and some frantic searching later, the boys reunited.
Tasneem, however, was not amused and made the duo prone to get lost stick with the rest of us like calves to a herd. As for the rest of the day – South Bank, check. Big Ben, check. London Eye, check (from outside). Westminster Abbey, check. Buckingham Palace, check.
As we headed back, it was 8pm and bright sunlight prevailed – a bit hard to get used to! Of course, it was past 2am in India so our eyes, reddened with sleep, would droop often. We headed back and spent the night in the clink.
[Photo] Montry, Vasu and Pavan levitate on Brighton Pier. Photo Credit: Alison Baskerville
Text: Jishnu Dasgupta
Images: Pavan Kumar