Friday, June 16, 2006

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 4th and 5th June, 2006

June 4th, 2006
The early hours of Monday. The band and I have freshened up after our long road trip and have had dinner and yapped a bit with the ladies of the house. We are all tired but the band decides to have a meeting. I stay awake despite my deadly drowsiness. It is one of the most important meetings Cassini’s has ever held and I am honoured to be attending it.
It’s about 2 AM when things wind-up. We have a long day ahead and need to sleep.


Morning. RSJ has been phoning the band non-stop – tonight’s gig at CLIMAX looks like to be a major one indeed. Everyone is excited – and we have also been reading reports in the Delhi newspapers about the band – some are favourable and some extremely ambiguous, but in general we all seem pleased and excited that the band is getting some positive coverage.
Nikhil Alva, a reporter from RSJ is supposed to be our liaison agent for the day. He comes over to meet us at around about noon. The plan is to shift the band to a guesthouse close to the venue, so we pack our stuff and follow our escort Mr. Alva.
Our 1st stop is in a field (which actually reminds me of a garbage dump) – this field is supposedly adjacent to the RSJ office premises. We are left standing in the heat and totally at our wits end, while Nikhil goes hunting for an official RSJ vehicle that would take us to the guesthouse. After a long wait he finally returns and we all bundle into another deluxe vehicle and head off to our next destination: Chittaranjan Park.

Chittaranjan Park. I’ve heard tons about this place, but have never been here before. It is supposedly a “little Kolkata” in the heart of sprawling Delhi… and the moment we enter this locality I fall in love with it, as do the rest of the band members. All around us we see houses with Bengali names on their address plates. And signboards in Bengali as well. It seems like we’re driving through Salt Lake, and we feel totally at home.
Of course, like I mentioned – Chittaranjan Park being almost a carbon copy of Salt Lake, we take ages to locate our guesthouse (For those of you who have ever visited Salt Lake, you’ll know what I mean). We end up driving in circles for the next 10-15 minutes desperately seeking the guesthouse. The driver and Nikhil are as lost as we are. Anyway after a loooooong search we finally locate the place. Nice cozy room it is too. Nikhil takes his leave but before doing so he informs us that the car would be picking us up at 4 PM, becoz our sound-check is at around 5ish.

We order lunch and watch a bit of TV. Towards the evening a friend of Sookie drops by – Amartya. I’ve met him at Someplace Else before, so it’s cool to see a familiar face in big bad Delhi. He loses no time in asking me what appears to have become a customary question, “Are you Sukanti’s younger brother?” – I believe I’ve been asked this question so many times this trip that maybe it would be a good idea to actually become his blood brother. Officially. In a court of law thingie.
Anyway. We spend some time listening to his weird quirky yarns. It helps to kill the time at least, becoz as usual, our transportation to Climax is nowhere in sight. Phone calls are made to Nikhil and Shivani (RSJ Assistant Manager - Events & Promotions) and they re-assure us that the car would be arriving soon to pick us up.

The band starts their usual pre-gig preparations – the theme tonight seems to be “all black”. So everyone decides to wear black tees. John borrows my “Shadows Fall” tee and it looks kinda cool on him, even if I say so myself! They also decide to play an all-original set – another move I find sensible.
The car finally does arrive. We say bye to Amartya who promises to be at Climax by 7 PM (that he didn’t turn up at all is a different story altogether!) – and head off to rock Delhi!!

Climax. My 1st impression of the place is like “WOH MAMMA”!!!
Speaking strictly in a Kolkata context, Climax reminds me of a cross between ROXY, B.E.D. and SHISHA (all happening night-clubs back home). It’s truly a swanky joint and extremely upper class. But holding a rock gig here??? Pardon me, but I am pretty skeptical – especially when I notice that the stage is outdoors.

We take our equipment inside and pile them up in front of the stage. The RSJ staff comes up to greet the band, and we meet the lovely Shivani as well. I’m smiling inside, becoz I’m sure the RSJ staff are thinking, “Who the hell is this guy with the Queensryche tee? And why is he with the band??”
Them Clones is on stage doing their sound check – and we get a taste of tonight’s sound system – pretty much what we had expected, state of the art gadgets and crystal clear sound all around. The band looks happy, and frankly, so am I.

About tonight’s gig – Cassini’s are the opening act, followed by Them Clones and Mumbai rockers Vayu. I personally am excited about Them Clones, becoz I admire them a lot and I love their sound. Of Vayu, I have absolutely zero idea about them, but they seem like seasoned performers, and any band which can make it from metal crazy Mumbai must be good!

We roam around Climax (looking for the bathroom) waiting for our sound-check turn. In between I get to meet the grand old man of Indian rock, Amit Saigal. I exchange a handshake and a pleasant hello with the dude and I get the same bewildered look from him as well… “who is this guy with the band anyway???” But I am positively chuffed.

The guys finally go up on stage for their sound-check. Pretty elaborate it is too, I should add. But everyone seems pleased with the way things are going till now.

And now, the long wait. The gig is supposed to start at 8 PM, but this being India, nothing really ever does start on time. So we wait. And we wait. The crowd slowly starts to trickle in. We go to the gates becoz we have a few passes for friends and acquaintances. And we find out that this night-club has a dress code as well – no jeans or sneakers or sandals!! Eeegad!!! Bloody murder!!! Luckily this rule has been relaxed otherwise hardly anyone would be allowed entry!
Outside we meet Lena and Rose and Abhishek Tiwari – another Delhi-based fan of the band. Also outside is Ludo’s pal Mainak and Tukan.

Inside its pretty crowded now. And it’s a pretty hep crowd – totally unlike what I am used to seeing at my favourite pub Someplace Else back home. I’m not sure whether these people are here to listen to the music or to just socialize the night away. But I keep calm anyway – no point in getting agitated even before the show has begun.
My pal Abhishek Majumdar finally arrives as promised, and I am delighted to see him – and as promised, he brings along a few of his pals as well. I also am happy to see Hemu Adhikari, an orkut pal of mine. Tall guy he is, and a nice “Cannibal Corpse” tee he is wearing too (or is it “Cradle Of Filth” – my memory!!!).

Amit Saigal and the band finally get up on stage. Mister Saigal says a few words and formally declares the start of the PUB ROCK festival in Delhi (lucky city, I’m already jealous!!). He introduces Cassini’s Division to the crowd and lets the festivities begin!!And begin they do – the band dish out “Drown” to the crowd. And it’s an excellent rendition as well, I might add. “Drown” is followed by the usual suspects: “Only For A While”, “Higher”, and “Animals”.
However, something doesn’t really seem right here. The crowd isn’t really getting involved or anything. They’re sitting on the ground and applauding after each song. And there are a few shouts of appreciation from behind as well. But not a single indication that there might be any headbanging or moshing happening tonight. I feel pretty disappointed.
Anyway, the show goes on – the band play “Stay” – and that perks up the Delhi crowd! I can see some of them bobbing their head now.
“Satyr9”. Awesome start to the song, and the crowd seem to like it a lot – the excitement on their faces is pretty visible.

I’m looking around however and I still see no signs that any moshing might take place. But at least the crowd behind the bar is jumping up and down with excitement. Unfortunately the crowd in front of the stage seems to be hard-core heavy-metal fanatics (I have read a lot about this underground group – they only listen to metal, the heavier the better!) and though they seem to be enjoying the music, they don’t show any signs of getting up.

And then… disaster! Rahul’s mic suddenly starts to fade out during the rendition of “Fake”. I don’t know whether he or the other band mates even realize this, but it’s definitely sounding bad, almost as if he’s whispering on stage. Lena frantically rushes off to the sound guy who raises his hands helplessly. After the song I shout out a few swear words about the sound. And a few guys in the crowd do so as well. Thank God. Coincidentally the AAJTAK camera-man starts to focus his gadget on me after my swearathon, which is a wee bit embarrassing – and I also get stared at by the pretty AAJTAK TV reporter. Stare, mind you, NOT ogled at!! I decide to mind my language for the time being – looks like Delhi can’t handle my weird Manipuri act.

Anyway, what to do, CD continue their Delhi onslaught with “Void Void” which goes down exceptionally well with the crowd. As is expected. And then follows the crowd puller “Caesar”.

Unfortunately, another guffaw enfolds here as well.

For some weird alienistic reason, one of the RSJ guys (a pony-tailed dude in an Arsenal tee) decides that this is the right time to tighten up a screw of one of Ludo’s cymbals… yes, during the midst of the song. So Ludo is rendered playless for a few minutes, which is absolute madness. And the guy also manages to disconnect Sookie’s guitar as well. So there you have it – for the 1st time ever, a semi-nude version of “Caesar”! I’m boiling mad by now.

The rest of show goes on without anymore sound or equipment hitches – “Glow Worm” and “The Urban Phenomena” are appreciated with a good amount of clapping and cheers. But no calls for an encore, unfortunately – this crowd either did not enjoy the show or they happen to be the most decent crowd ever to have been present at a Cassini’s gig. I am absolutely bewildered!! But anyway, I guess I can’t complain – it was definitely a sizable crowd, and there was no hint of the intimidation factor that I had heard so much about. Delhi rock lovers are considered to be the toughest people to play to in the country, so in hind-sight I would have to say this was a pretty good gig by Cassini’s – but it didn’t rise to their Sunday “Someplace Else” heights, thatz for sure.

The band seem to be disappointed with their performance though and they vanish from Climax with Chintan Kalra and Dilip Ramachandran (both of PARIKRAMA fame) – I guess they need time to reflect on tonight’s performance and over-all crowd reaction. So I let them be.
I stick around and check out Them Clones who are now on stage are busy wowing the crowd with an all original set. I like this band a lot and it feels good to see them playing live after almost a year.

I spend the rest of the evening hob-nobbing with Lena and Rose and the rest of Cassini’s support line. And with the crowd of Delhi socialites – they are an interesting bunch of people, the likes of whom you don’t really get to see in Kolkata. The crowd has magically decided to stand up now and all those scary metal-heads who were initially sitting are now head-banging with gay abandon to each Them Clones song! Well duh, Them Clones are a Delhi band after all, so I guess it’s very natural that the Climax crowd loves them so much. Sniff. Reminds me of the Sundays back home at Someplace Else when Cassini’s Division play to a full house. Sniff.

After Them Clones, it’s now the turn of Vayu to get up on stage. The Cassini’s gang co-incidentally decides to make their re-appearance at Climax again with Dilip and Chintan. We stick around to watch Vayu who are a classic rock covers band. And they give a really tight performance with loads of classic rock crowd-pullers. Their front-man 2Blue is quite the showman. He even tears his tee off and offers to give it to the woman (or was it a hetero-sexual offer this? Don’t really remember!!) who screams the loudest during their show. I wonder if he really did give his tee away. I didn’t stick around for that scene, thank god.
Anyway, personally I feel Kolkata’s very own Hip Pocket is a much better classic rock covers band than Vayu – but Vayu certainly does put up a very impressive show, they seemed to go down with the Climax crowd extremely well.

SO, the 1st Pub Rock show ends and it looks like it’s been a major success. As in Dhanaulti, here too members of the audience come over and pat me on the back and shake my hand and tell me how much they loved Cassini’s sound. One bloke even comes up to me and says that he has my number and would be calling me up to book Cassini’s for another Delhi show in October. Ya right! Like I believe that bullshit… a taste of Delhi for you!

It’s past midnight now. All I wanna do is eat dinner and go to sleep. I have a flight to catch at 9 AM in the morning and I am in no mood to party whole night. Unfortunately the night is still young – and no one really is concerned that it’s already a new day, Monday –
5th June, 2006

We have a quick pasta dinner and I manage to get the band to pose for a few snaps with the Them Clones guys who are sitting at the table adjacent to us. Dilip from Parikrama is also around and he wants to take the gang to his pad to hear an uninterrupted acoustic version of “Caesar”. And Chintan is coming along too. So that means I have to tag along! Oh dear! I’m more worried than sleepy now becoz it looks like it’s going to be a looooong night.

We follow Dilip back to his flat in South Delhi and I must say it’s an extremely well furnished place. Chintan and a few of their friends join up as well. So after the customary jokes, the band get down to business – Rahul plays and sings them “Caesar” and a few other tunes like “Simba”, “Rumble” and “Mister Mishra”. Our hosts are absolutely delighted with their mini performance. Chintan and Dilip dish out a lot of words of encouragement for the band, and it really is wonderful to see such established musicians speak so highly about this “controversial” Kolkata quartet. They even call them the “FUTURE OF INDIAN ROCK” – now that my friends, is the mother of all praises!

Unfortunately I ain’t in much of a sociable mood – so I sit quietly in a corner sipping away at my peg of Absolut Vodka feeling sleepy and worried drunk. Worried that I ain’t gonna get any sleep and that I’m gonna miss my morning flight. Anyway. It’s a pleasant party notwithstanding and I do enjoy myself even though I generally keep mum. If either Dilip or Chintan is reading this then I apologise for my weird behaviour. I’m generally not that bad a bum or party-pooper. Well most of the time at least.

At approx. 4 AM we decide to call it a night (or should I say morning??). We say our thank yous and byes to our hosts and head back to CR PARK. The trip doesn’t take too long – the roads are empty after all!


And that my friends ends my part in this journey of mad-cap mystery. I guess I’ll just add that I did manage to catch my Kingfisher flight after just 1 hour of sleep back at CR Park. My last memory of the band is:
- Ludo snoring away to Kingdom Come.
- John snoring away to Kingdom Come as well.
- Rahul underneath his blanket.
- Sookie downloading in the bathroom.

The CD guys leave for home in the evening by train. I hope none of them strangle anyone on their way back or is force fed poison.

A week with the band – one of the best experiences I have ever had – I got to hang out with not only 4 talented musicians, but also 4 really good friends. It was one of my best vacations ever, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me and also for letting me be a part of their world – the nutty, crazy, totally blow-your-mind-out world of CASSINI’s DIVISION.

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 3rd June, 2006

3rd June, 2006
We stick around for a jam session between Advaita and a few other professional musicians, but hunger strikes us real bad and we leave after a few songs. It’s way past midnight too, and we had been promised a car by Ajay Romola to take us back to Delhi as soon as our show got over. Unfortunately there is no car and we aren’t sure what to do. Shampa, a friend of Vivek, suggests we stay back and hitch a ride to Delhi in the morning. And ultimately after much discussion with Ajay we decide to do just that. We need the sleep anyway – the bus journey the previous night still has us pretty much K.O.ed.
We go back to our room and chat a bit with Vivek who is absolutely bowled over by Cassini’s performance. We get to talking about music and good ‘ol Kolkata for some time, until Vivek goes back to his room. John on the other hand has gone A.W.L. – and everyone is worried about his whereabouts. Rahul and Ludo even plan a search party for the lost member, but Sookie is snug between his sheets and is in no mood to budge. What to do… me and Ludo take a few more swigs from the hip-flask. And wait.

Finally John arrives, and it’s past 3 AM!!! He tells us that he’s been to the potato farm looking for leopards… I don’t know whether to turn into a leopard myself and eat him up like a potato!!!! Anyway, we go to sleep becoz we all want to be fresh tomorrow for our long journey back to Delhi.


We’re all up and raring to go back after a good night’s sleep. We enquire about our car back for Dehra Dun, and are told that all arrangements have been finalized – the plan is to go to Dehra Dun and from there we board an A/C vehicle back to the capital.

Me and Ludo decide to go skulking around the back-roads of Dhanaulti before we leave – it’s really an awesome hill station and I sincerely wish we could have stayed longer. I guess maybe at the next Dhanaulti show. After a cuppa tea we head back to the hotel to get our stuff and along the way we meet the Delhi band Manthan. Nice chaps they be. Anyway, we say bye to Andy and Ajay and Vivek and Shampa and get into our vehicle. And off to Dehra Dun we are!
Within 15 minutes of our journey I start to feel woozy – it can only mean my body is succumbing to motion sickness!! I promptly decide to spend the rest of the journey with my eyes closed and listening to my mp3 player. So I miss most of the bullshit that takes place during the ride back. But I do have the good presence of mind to open my eyes occasionally to take in the beautiful scenery around us. Uttaranchal is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful states of India. The sight of mountains all around is awesome!
We drive through Mussorie and reach Dehra Dun after a few hours. Another change of vehicle – this time a Mahindra Scorpio is at our beck and call… boy, the band sure knows how to travel in style!

We continue our journey – near abouts Meerut Rahul starts jumping up and down in the car – he’s spotted a forest full of “weed” growing on both sides of the road – a proper cultivation in the truest sense of the word. We stop for one of our customary tea breaks and Rahul wastes no time in getting a leaf sample, which he presses between the pages of John’s notebook.

And the journey continues. The weather is unexpectedly pleasant – it’s been raining throughout the state. We pray that it is raining in Delhi too.

Lunch, somewhere near the borders of UP and Uttaranchal. And boy, can these guys eat! Barring Rahul, the rest of the band members have appetites that would rival Bhima’s or Kumbhakarna’s. And this has rubbed off on me as well. We all gorge on a repast that would surely have fed a minimum of 10 people. I feel kinda sick after our late lunch – I never seem to learn that gluttony is a cardinal sin, but I still pray to God that I don’t end up puking in the car on our final leg of the journey.

Anyway, we are off once again – and apart from the customary tea break in the evening we seem to be making good ground. The guys spend their time listening to a lot of music – hindi as well as hip hop. (yes yes yes , not alternative or metal!!)We finally reach Delhi. It’s past 10 PM. I am absolutely pooped. Thank god the weather is cool. And it’s great to be back at Lena and Rose’s apartment where the toilet is clean!

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 2nd June, 2006

2nd June, 2006
It’s way past midnight and yet none of us can sleep – mister bus driver is driving as if he’s being pursued by a T-Rex. The bus swerves dangerously from one lane to the other, barely avoiding lorries and other buses approaching from the opposite lane. We also notice the guy nodding off at the wheel!
Everyone is holding on to the edge of their seats now – I keep on remind myself that this ain’t no scene from Keanu Reeves’ “SPEED”!!
Anyway, after much hollering and swearing we wake up the driver’s assistant who has been ‘till now, sleeping like a baby! Asshole!! And we also force the driver to take an impromptu tea-break. In fact we all need a tea-break as well, after that hair-raising experience!

The rest of the journey goes on peacefully – Ludo wakes me up at around 3:30 AM when we are passing through Hardwar. I personally am not a fan of places of pilgrimage, but in this case it is absolutely awesome viewing this holy town in the early hours. The air is getting slightly nippy too, a sure-shot sign that the mountains are close by.

We arrive at Dehra Dun at the break of dawn. I love the look of this town – reminds me a lot of Shillong, one of my favouritest places on this planet.

Anyway, the first part of our trip ends at Dehra Dun. We are asked to board another (much smaller) bus for the 2nd and final leg of our journey. And this we do… up and up we go – the air starts getting cooler with every passing minute. And I am mesmerized by the view of the mountains and green around me – it’s great to be up in the hills again!
Most of the passengers are either sleeping or staring groggily at the mountains like zombies. Actually, so am I!!
There is a huge box full of milk packets on the bus as well, and a few of these packs suddenly decide to make this sleepy journey more exciting by leaking all over the front of the bus. In no time we have milk all over the floor and the bus starts to smell like a diary product. Anyway this hiccup, we finally reach Dhanaulti – as the bus parks in front of Andyji’s “Evolving Cafetaria” I get my 1st glimpse of our host Andy Baines – a tall gentleman with a huge mop of “dreadlocked” hair and an extremely warm smile. Ajay Romola, his assistant shows us our rooms – I decide to bunk in with Rahul and John for the time being.

After a quick wash-up and potty session we all decide to go have brunch – it is almost 11 AM, and the band is supposed to be playing in the evening. After a hearty helping of aloo parathas and double omlettes we all head back to our rooms, where the others decide to catch up on their sleep. I decide to take a warm bath instead but am horrified to see that none of the locks on the bathroom door work!! And ditto in the other room as well. To soak or not to soak?? Well I choose the former with much trepidation!

By the time evening approaches the gang is as fresh as daisies. I’m pretty much amazed that anybody got any sleep though – the sound system has been blaring non-stop since noon and it’s been driving me bonkers.
Anyway, we hop over to Andy’s joint, where Ajay hands out our entry cards for the show. The venue, by the way, is in the back-yard of Andy’s restaurant – a nice comfy area which seems capable of hosting 100-150 odd people – but not more. The previous edition of “Dhanaulti Rocks” was held on a more grander scale, but none of the bands seem disappointed with this year’s venue as a whole. We stand around and check out the guys from Vishnu who are going through the motions of their sound check.

The sound… hmm. 1st impression – not too good. Me and the band have a quick cuppa tea and head back for a pre-show meeting in our room. Strategies are chalked out and a rough song-list for the show is assembled. Everyone is pretty relaxed, and the general consensus is that if the band can play good at a pub the size of Someplace Else back home in Kolkata, then the sound over at Andy’s shouldn’t be much of a deterrent for a good show. And I have to agree with them.
We soon hear Bobby Cash dishing out his country songs to the Dhanaulti crowd from our hotel room. Rahul decides to go check him out and we all follow him down to the venue as well.
Bobby Cash! Wow! I never really liked him much but after watching his performance tonight I have to admit that he’s one helluva artiste and an extremely talented guitarist as well. It was a fascinating show. At one point during his performance the power goes away, but he’s totally nonchalant and continues playing despite.

Vishnu is up next. And they don’t waste any time in churning out their collection of Guns ‘n Roses covers, with a few Iron Maiden ones in between. Pretty cool show they put up.
We take a quick rain-check before their show ends – the guys go back to their rooms for a final round of preparation – and it’s a pretty funny sight watching them get dolled up before their show!!!
- John takes out his “FAMOUS” Mclaren jacket from his bag. And despite the constant leg-pulling from Sookie and Ludo, he decides to wear it on stage anyway. And he also busies himself with painting his finger-nails black and applying kaajol on his face. His objective seems to be to look as gothic as possible during the show.
- Rahul can’t decide whether to wear a sweater on stage, or his “99.9% Evil” tee-shirt over his sweater. In the end he chooses neither and puts on his “Wasted” full-sleeve jumper.
- Sookie takes a quick rush to the loo and comes out grinning like a Cheshire cat after a few minutes. I presume he’s been downloading.
- Ludo takes a few more swigs from my hip flask – and cracks a couple of “Chewing-Doing” jokes which irritates everyone no end.

Finally we are all ready – the band that is. We carry the equipment down to the venue and wait for Vishnu’s cover of IronMaiden’s “Invaders” to get over.

I help the guys put their toys on stage and select a strategical point for myself so that I can shoot pictures of the band in peace. The crowd has kinda thinned after the Vishnu show – I see a few excited (and possibly drunk) American tourists jumping up and down in front of the stage. Vivek Mattoo, a fan of Cassini’s Division joins me as well. This guy is a true member of the CD underground army – he’s from Simla but works in Noida, and he’s bunked a day’s work just to see the band play live. I tell him about the band’s new sound and he’s absolutely on tenterhooks, waiting for the show to start.

And then the music begins!!!

The band initially plan to dish out a few covers (as an unofficial sound-check) becoz they aren’t too sure about the quality of sound. So they start off with Dashboard Confessional’s “VINDICATED” but I cannot hear Sookie’s lead AT ALL! And the backing vocals sound like someone is singing in Paris and not in Dhanaulti. But the song goes down well with the sparse crowd.
R.E.M.’s “IMITATION OF LIFE” is up next – the band sounds a bit better now (after Andy has done some knob-twiddling no doubt) – so plan-B comes into picture – a full-fledged assault of Cassini’s originals for the crowd!!
Drown, Only For A While, Higher, Stay… they all come in quick succession. By the time they play “Stay”, the crowd has increased considerably. I smile smugly and yell back to the band “Kheye gachhe, crowd kheye gachhe” (loosely translated from Bengali to English: the crowd has fallen for your stuff hook, line and sinker!)

And then the highlight of the show – the 1st ever rendition of “Satyr9” at Dhanaulti. The crowd are thunderstruck and don’t know what has hit them – and then the moshing starts!!
I have already decided that I won’t be indulging in any head-bobbing activities – so I hide behind a pillar and busy myself by snapping away merrily.

The band complete their white noize assault with “Fake”, “Void Void”, “Caesar”, “Glow Worm” and “The Urban Phenomena”. The crowd up front goes completely berserk!! I see the members from Vishnu and Advaita and Orange Street starring intensely at Rahul and the gang from the back rows. Awe? Admiration?? Jealousy??? …I really can’t say.

But the bottom-line – Cassini’s Division bring down the house on Dhanaulti Day #1. The crowd don’t let them get off stage until they play an encore – so they go into another round of “Satyr9”, which turns out to be the night’s biggest hit.

The crowd cheers as the boys come off stage – and I get a few pats on the back too from the crowd (they obviously think I’m their manager or roadie or groupie or WHATVER!!!!)
It’s been a highly successful show despite the patchy sound. The band has won over the Dhanaulti crowd with their unique sound and undoubtedly added a whole bunch of people to their fan list.

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 1st June, 2006

1st June, 2006
The bus to Dhanaulti is in the evening, so we have a lot of time to kill. Unfortunately the oppressive heat discourages us from going out for a city stroll. So we spend the day inside – and Rahul plays his new conceived tunes for the other band members. Needless to say, they sound awesome. He also jots down some real cool lyrics for these tunes in the wink of an eye – and voila, A new Cassini’s song!!
The band gets into the thick of things now, and come up with some other cool tunes for possible new songs. They also discuss strategies for their new album. It feels really nice to be a part of these discussions – especially when they ask me for my, AHEM, opinion!

We also spend a bit of time listening to the songs on my mp3 player – the guys like the new BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE and DISTURBED song on it. We talk about LACUNA COIL and LINKIN PARK. And also about one of Sukanti’s favourite bands, SLIPKNOT.
Meanwhile John is walking around the house in his socks the whole day, something we cannot understand for the life of. I assume that it’s some kinda fetish thingie… can’t be anything else.

We go out in the evening for some provision hunting – namely mineral water and medicine (avomin for me) and cigarettes too. I also need some whiskey and John needs black-nail polish. So me and Ludo and John go hunting for those as well. After much rickshaw hopping and “astronauting” we find our stuff. And by the end of our little outing Ludo has labeled all the shop keepers of Patparganj as “astronauts” … poor Delhites!

John and Sookie make a few phone calls and find out that our bus is to depart at 8:30 PM and not 6:30, as we had been initially informed. We also get a few calls from RSJ who are delighted that the band has arrived in tip-top shape for the Sunday gig at CLIMAX – part of RSJ’s much publicized month-long “Pub Rock” festival happening in Delhi.

Anyway, the time for “Destination Dhanaulti” approaches. We set off for the bus start-zone. It’s a nice bus and besides us there are members and friends of the bands Advaita and Vishnu… a few others too, whose band names I don’t remember. We manage to get front seats – Sookie and Ludo initially sit in the cabin beside the driver. After a quick roll-call the driver revs up the engine – and we are OFF to Dhanaulti.

I spend the initial part of the journey sleeping and occasionally swigging whiskey from my hip flask. Ludo swigs away with me as well. Everyone seems pretty excited – old pals meeting up and swapping manly jokes in the rear section of the bus, others are busy smoking the night away. We stop at a nice dhaba for dinner in between the journey – and after dinner the bus driver (who is pretty much drunk) decides to make our journey more exciting. For some weird reason he decides to start the journey without half the passengers who are still at the dhaba having their meal! After much shouting and cussing he drives back to pick up the rest of guys. And then after another restart he has to stop again – this time John has left his cell-phone behind at the dhaba!

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 31st May, 2006

May 31st, 2006
Morning. The train is running late by a bit. Ludo is still sleeping. The others are up however. Well actually, it seems like Rahul, Sookie and John couldn’t sleep a wink, so they were technically up the whole night. Rahul is also worried that his guitar might have faced irreparable damage after spending a night under John and Sookie’s hard guitar cases. They debate about that for the next 10 minutes till morning tea is served.
After tea I pass on my METAL HAMMER magazine to Rahul, the pages of which he starts flipping through gleefully. Sookie busies himself by brewing another killer cup of coffee. After a nice breakfast I suddenly experience one of those weird Manipuri mood-swings and start yelling and swearing in Bengali, much to the embarrassment of John.
After an hour or so of my torture we finally reach New Delhi.

Delhi! Whew!! What can I tell you – man, it’s burning HOT in our capital city. And hello??? NO humidity you say? Woh! My 1st 10 minutes here tell me that it’s almost as bad as Kolkata.
Anyway, we all bundle into a cab and head for Patparganj (located on the other side of the Yamuna river) – the residence of Rose and Lena (John’s sister). On the way we ask the cabbie to take us to the nearest booze shop. But the guy can’t seem to stop grinning as he informs us that liquor shops in Delhi DO NOT OPEN BEFORE 1 PM!!!!!
WHAT???? What kinda weird debauched system is this???? We are so stunned (well me and Ludo at least… Rahul keeps on saying “I told you so, I told you so”) that we don’t utter a single word during the journey. I am already starting to miss good ‘ol Kolkata – at least things are a lot more NORMAL back home!
We finally reach our destination – we are tired, and sweaty, and hungry. And our stomachs don’t feel good either (courtesy: last night’s chicken curry dinner). Anyway it’s great to be inside the comfort of a well-furnished apartment. Lena and Rosamma are both at work, but they have left a load of instructions on a piece of paper for us – food in the kitchen, eggs in the fridge, don’t use the 2nd tap on the left, turn on the A/C, yadda yadda yadda.
They both make their appearances after an hour or so – and Lena brings along some beer and wine and a bottle of whiskey for me. God bless her. I am introduced to the 2 ladies as “the fan from Kolkata” – and I don’t know whether I should be proud of that intro, or whether I should behave like a dancing bear and show them some stunts! Anyway!

After some much needed rest we all feel re-energised. Ludo and Sukanti go out to meet a friend of theirs (Mainak). Rahul seems to be in a major artistic mood and he spends the entire evening strumming Rose’s guitar and making notes in his diary. I finally get over my initial shyness and start behaving like the crazy Manipuri that I am, much to the delight of Lena and Rose. John doesn’t know whether he should shut my mouth with scotch tape or run away. The whiskey is definitely not making things any better.

We end the day with some more astounding Delhi facts – courtesy Ludo and Sookie… it seems that cigarette shops in this city all shut-down by 11 PM. But not so the ice-cream wallahs – they roam the streets at night selling their wares to the ice-cream starved citizens of our capital city, and people actually seem to buy these icicles even at the ungodly hour of 1 AM!!!

Boy what a weird city this is.

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 30th May, 2006

May 30th, 2006
It’s a hot and humid Tuesday afternoon - John, Ludo and I meet up at Ruby and hitch a cab ride to the Sealdah station. Taxi-rides are pretty uneventful in Kolkata, but not when you are traveling with 2 crazy members from CASSINI’s DIVISION who spend their time bugging each other. I get my first taste of Ludo’s “Astronaut – Ass” mantra, and it leaves me totally perplexed! But what leaves me more dumb-found is when Ludo gets down somewhere near Moulali to buy cigarettes from a shop that sells car batteries!!! (An honest mistake, I know!)
The journey hasn’t even begun and yet the signs are ominous – this is going to be one helluva mad-cap journey!

Rahul and Sookie are already at the station by the time we reach. The Rajdhani is on time and we find our compartment. Unfortunately our seats seem to be scattered all over, so after stuffing our luggage on board, we spend the initial part of the journey keeping to ourselves.
- I spend my time reading the manual of my digital camera, but I don’t make much headway since the instructions are all Greek to me.
- Sookie busies himself by making himself mammoth cup after mammoth cup of coffee.
- John gets down to stringing his bass guitar.
- Ludo chats with a few co-passengers who are excited to be traveling on the same train as a pony-tailed rock musician.
- Rahul? Oh he’s busy reading. He finishes 2 magazines before dinner-time, and then promptly starts reading a collection of fantasy short-stories, absolutely oblivious to the leg-pulling going on between the other 3.

And in between all the above we do a lot of munching and crunching – the stewards on the Rajdhani spend a whole lot of time feeding us. We burp our way through the initial part of the train ride.
We also get together in between the munching and crunching to discuss the current rock scene in Kolkata and also about Someplace Else. This is never a cheery topic, and despite the recent success of Cassini’s (** touchwood **), Rahul reminds the other band-members that it will always be a struggle for bands in Kolkata, regardless of them being “THE HOBOS or LOS LOBOS”!
And so the journey continue…

Dinner is soon served – and it’ s chicken curry. However my advice to all of you would be to
avoid it all costs the next time you travel by Rajdhani. Not unless you wish to spend a night of stomach clutching and loo running!! Seriously – by the next day 4 of us are feeling quite miserable and we blame the chicken for our plight. But that is another story.

There isn’t much to do after dinner, so I decide to go to sleep despite it being only 10 PM. The others spend their time in more productive ways no doubt. My last memory before I conk off is that of John praying on his bunk and Ludo swigging away at a peg of rum concealed in a bottle of Thums Up.