The Piano man

Having just came back home from a late night out without kids with wifey and friends, my nerves are tingling. This has got nothing to do with the night-time energy of Zurich Niederdorf – the hub of Zurich nightlife. The culprit is the Piano Man. No – it’s not Billy Joel. I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him live, and he certainly wouldn’t be playing at that incredibly crowded Zurich bar with people almost falling over him, waitresses buzzing around him carrying trays loaded with trays 6 inches over his head and his entire Piano being used as a table top by women for resting their drinks and swooning over him.

The Piano man in question here is some unknown(at least to me) gentleman probably from Poland or some other east European country. Even after reading his name a couple of time on the front page of the menu of the bar, for the life of me i cannot remember his name now, except that it sounded vaguely polish. And it’s probably for the better. Some things are best left as mysteries. So why is it that at 3 in the morning, having just reached home – I am not in bed and all i can do is write about the evening?

It’s because I can’t get the songs out of my head. I can almost taste the liquid air of that nightclub, the made heavier by the fact that i was only 2 feet away from the Piano being pounded by his fingers. And that i could read the titles and the lyrics of the songs in his notebook which has been thumbed a million times. And it certainly wasn’t for his musical virtuosity – he had the knack of murdering many songs, as he did with ‘The Piano man’. There were many passages where he should have sung Bass, but instead he sang Soprano. Many a times his tune was out of whack with the original. And top it up with the fact that i cannot really bear to hear more than half an Elton John song in a year – and he sang three of them today evening. Apollo, pls forgive me and him.

But the reason my mind is still tingling is the sheer visceral impact, energy, enthusiasm, enjoyment, vibe that the performance contained. It is another glowing tribute to the power of music, especially when you can have the pleasure of it being played live in front of you. The impact feels so much pronounced to me as at any point in time there is a song going on in my head. My first instinct when i get home it to put on some music on the divine Cadence Amayas and the Audio Analogue Puccini, much to the chagrin of my lovely wife at times.

A song being played back from a shiny disc or the grooves of a vinyl record, can never come close to recreating the magic that live music is. No matter how good or how close it sounds to the real thing thanks to good Hi-Fi gear, recorded music can never hold a candle to witnessing it being produced live. Even as I write this, Dylan is playing in the background, belting out ‘Angelina’. His anguished and soaring voice is palpably placed dead center of the soundstage, right between the two speakers, slightly recessed behind the Piano. I can almost ‘see’ the hammers on the piano, hitting the strings and producing the plaintive melody. Thanks to the incredibly fast electrostatic panels, I can ‘sense’ his movement, as he probably shifts his position in front of the microphone, pouring his heart out into the song. I can ‘feel’ his mood as he shifts gears and emotions throughout the song. The picture that he is painting with his words, is coming together very close to as he intends it to be – part Rimbaud poem, part Van Gogh painting and part Kurosawa movie. Having heard him live, his voice is an incredibly close rendition of how he sounds  in real life – shifting from indifference to total immersion in a hearbeat. It is perfect, almost.

As good as it gets, there is something missing. As I wait for the magic to happen, it just doesn’t kick in. All I can do is compare it to the sometimes imperfect renditions belted out in flesh and blood, just an hour back. There is a an invisible veil somewhere. It wasn’t there an hour back. Music is better off without that veil. If you like music, I strongly recommend the following. Firstly, play or learn to play a musical instrument (though I sadly can’t, I will endeavor to it). Secondly, buy the best possible music playback gear you can afford ( … and please don’t get fooled by thinking the Bose is all there is to Hi-Fi). Lastly and most importantly, get out and go to a live concert. Just go, don’t think too much or over-analyze the artist. If you like a musical genre, and there is a relevant live musical event happening close to where you are …. just go. Let lightning strike.

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What to expect when expecting someone at IG airport Delhi Terminal 3

This is essential reading for anyone planning to go the new terminal 3 in Delhi to receive someone. If you go without reading this, you do it at your own peril.

Last evening I played the good son-in-law and went to receive my wife’s mum at the spanking new Indira Gandhi airport terminal 3.  All the men reading this know the situation – such tasks are moments of truth with no room for error, this better go like Swiss clockwork with Six Sigma precision.

Now this is my first time there, I plan for more than enough time and get there at 1915 for a 1935 flight. And I take the brilliant ‘Kafka at the shore’ by murakami with me thinking I can devour some more pages of this quirky and tangential book. The moment I get to the arrival area, I know it’s going to be anything but smooth. Here’s why:

First of all it’s the sheer number of people standing their to receive others. This is Delhi, so the ratio is typically 3:1 (3 receivers, 1 passenger)


Using my Delhi traffic skills, I push, shove and reach the front of the crowd and soon am standing right in front of gate 3. I can’t miss her now, I say to myself. I am proved wrong immediately. From my position I only have a view to gate 3, what’s happening at the other gates is a complete mystery to me – thanks to the huge pillars blocking my view of the other gates which are miles away.

 
   

Trying to find a better vantage point I wriggle my way thru, reach gate 2 only to find the same situation repeated. View only to gate 2, absolutely no sight to gates 1 and 3.

The gravity of the situation dawns upon me, it will be disastrous if I manage to miss her. So I use all my grey cells and my brilliant skills in spatial geometry, and manage to find myself a vantage point from where, thanks to my height advantage compared to the average Indian male, I can more or less monitor gates 2 and 3, but gate 1 is still mystery thanks to the architectural skills of the designer of this airport.Getting to gate 1 doesn’t make it any better

This is turning out to be more difficult than cracking ‘the daVinci code’! I should remember to pack my X-ray glasses next time i come here, i make a mental note. Its 2015 already, I better find my mom-in-law fast! I can see my stock slipping in my lovely wife’s book, who (thanks to female telepathy) can surely sense all this confusion regarding her mom sitting thousands of kms away in Switzerland.

I am not alone though, many people around me are in similar dire straits. Practically everyone is barking into their phones trying to shout over the din,
“… Where are you, I am waiting at gate 1″
” I can’t see you, I am gate 3″
“… turn left and come to gate 1″
” .. Ok right, I coming there”
” …. No, not right – LEFT, LEFT … #*@+&! (choicest punjabi expletives)

I am convinced this receiving area was designed by the Indian consortium of telecom companies rather than an architect, for this must easily be the highest revenue grossing hot spot for them. I fall prey to their plot, try to call her, but mistakenly call my wife’s dad halfway across India, who is probably in bed by now (damn … further downgrade of my stock!).

So eventually after a few more phone calls, I catch her, a few pleasantries and profuse apologies later, we start to make our way to the parking lot. Reaching the elevator bay, both of us stand there perplexed – these must be the most advanced elevators in world – no buttons whatsoever to call them! Till we spot this small little sign next to them …

….. come on guys, give me a break!

Share this with anyone going to to the new terminal 3 at Delhi airport to receive someone, or better still if you know someone who has anything to do with the Delhi airport, pls show this to them … hopefully they might want to do something about it.

airports – grimly efficient and effectively grim

I am sitting here at my gate at the zurich airport, waiting for the wonderfully prim, proper and fresh looking airport staff (even at 2145 in the night) to announce departure of my flight to Delhi. Having finished the intriguing ‘The name of the rose’ by Umberto Eco, and too lazy to make the effort of starting ‘Kafka at the shore’ by Murakami, I start to look around me. Inspite of having frequented this place umpteen times, I cannot help but admire the grim efficiency on display around me – strong bold lines, stark colour schemes, vast empty places, shiny granite, inviting lounges with wafting aromas of freshly brewed coffe, hundreds of comfortable seats set in ramrod straight lines, perfectly arranged alluring mounds of chocolates at the Sprungli shops, and the airport music – which for all the effort that has gone into it selection – is now starting to irritate me.

It all adds up to an image of perfect order, customary of the Swiss. But is it a little too perfect? Being an Indian and having frequented many of the Indian airports, I miss that bit of life, atmosphere and drama that epitomises India – frantic announcements being made for the elusive Mr Gupta who is keeping the whole flight to Jallandar waiting because he decided to cuddle up on a bench and catch forty winks, the rookie counter clerk who has managed to lock himself out of the check-in system and cannot log in because his supervisor has gone for a 5 min break which has now extended to 30 mins, the single coffee machine attendant who is struggling to serve the 100 desparate coffee seekers but can still keep a radiant smile on his face inspite of that damned machine which keeps shutting down on him, kids running amok playing hide and seek, the earnest young airport attendants always eager to help the elderly – the list is endless . And how can one forget the ubiquitous Indian ‘policewallah’, hundreds of them are present everywhere you turn your head, resplendent in their crushed and somewhat soiled uniforms, the glorious pot belly and that constant itch in the unmentionables that he religiously attends to in public view of hundreds of hapless passengers that he is sworn to protect – but from what, even he does not know!

Suddenly I snap back into reality, a crystal clear announcement announces the departure of the flight, all waiting passengers line up in an orderly fashion, a plastic smile and a programmed ‘enjoy your flight’ later, I am on my way to the aircraft. A few hours later I will be in Delhi at the spanking new terminal 3 – which for all it modern design and amenities – will surely greet me with some of the sights mentioned above. I am sure at that point in time I will long for the cold efficiency of it’s Swiss counterpart … Or will I?

Maybe so, may be not – such are the follies of the human heart.