Image: Copyright Vijay Kate
They were sitting right in front of the stage, but had been oblivious to everything around them for the past half hour. They’d been sitting so long she had little red creases on the back of her calves from the way she crossed her legs.
And it was all his fault…
It had taken him weeks to build up the courage to invite her to one of his performances. She was the best part of his day job; a vibrant, irreverent beauty who made the cubicle dividers shake with her belly laughs. He could barely tear his eyes away from her whenever she stalked through the office on her wedge heels, her glossy hair tumbling down her back.
A colleague had unwittingly helped him out by asking him about his next performance while she was in earshot. She wanted to know more, and the colleague started praising his musical abilities to the high heavens (in the process earning himself a lifetime of bummed cigarettes). So it ended up with her wanting details of where the bar was and he offering to pick her up on the way.
He decided to go with an auto-rickshaw for three reasons: a taxi would look like he was trying to impress her; they would be squashed close in the back of an auto; and the auto also suited his financial situation better.
On the way to the bar, she talked with him about his music, and where he got the inspiration for his songs. The combination of her perfume wafting over him and the frequent pressure of her thigh against his made it hard for him to concentrate on replying. He wanted to tell her she was his muse, that he had channeled all his lust and desires and dreams about her through the six strings on his guitar. Well…maybe not all his lust…
They reached the bar far too quickly. Inside, as he ordered drinks for them, the bartender pointed out the agent from Fusion Records at the other end of the bar. All the pieces were coming together tonight…
But then Sachin walked in. The successful, suave entrepreneur coming to support his best friend strumming his way through all the city’s dives…because slumming it a bit with the bohemians always makes for a fun night out.
She and Sachin honed in on each other as soon as their eyes met. He became invisible once more, feeling more and more like a third wheel as he watched their eyes linger on each other, their bodies angle towards each other, her playing with her hair, Sachin sitting up straight with his shoulders back to widen his chest, their tongues licking their own lips in substitute for the other’s.
It was time for him to get on stage. He felt physically sick as he sat in the spotlight, which spilled over onto the tips of their shoes. His heart was breaking, climbing up his throat, burning a hole through his ribs. He thought he would vomit on the mike if he tried to sing. And in an emotional sense, he did. All the agony of having his dreams ripped to pieces right in front of him poured into it. The sounds created were phenomenal. The agent left his drink untouched. No-one in the room could ignore the voice bleeding through the speakers… except the two people sitting right in front of the stage.
It was his best performance ever. It earned him a contract from the agent, a regular gig at the bar, and his first step away from the 9-to-5 rat race. Every time he performed from that night forward, he thought of his best friend stealing his love from under his nose. And it was easy to remember the misery, because they were an item afterwards, and paraded their happiness together in front of him no matter where he turned.
And that’s the story of how India’s greatest bluesman was born. He was a a musician beyond par for several albums… until he met his own thunderbolt one night at a blues festival in Goa. He never made another hit record once his heart was healed.
(Inspired by a photograph by Vijay Kate)