Monday, September 19, 2005

Rain, almost

“So this is how much people miss the rain,” murmured my bemused Filipino colleague.

We were looking at a mass of twenty-somethings waving their limbs wildly; their faces upturned to catch the teeny droplets of water that burst out of the sprinklers. We were at Dubai Rain 2005, the most eagerly awaited event of the year, if radio spots and full-page ads are to be believed.

The event was scheduled for 11 p.m. but we were warned that traffic and parking would be nightmare. So three of my colleagues and I headed off early, but even as we reached the 5th interchange on Sheikh Zayed road, we knew we were too late. There was a long line of cars headed for the Le Meridien, Mina Siyahi.

As we inched forward in traffic, I wondered just what I was doing headed for a concert which featured names I’d never heard of: Dr. Zeus, DJ Nasha, Aman Hayer, Jazzy B etc. This Bhangra/Garage/Rap couldn’t be further from my usual Western Classical/Jazz leanings. But when you’ve spent most mornings listening to ‘Do me a favour, let’s play Holi’ and ‘Bachke rehna re baba’ on the car radio, you become quite accommodating. Secondly, the concert beat wandering around malls or trying out restaurants – two of the perpetual pastimes in Dubai. Besides there was the promise of ‘rain’…

My colleague managed to nudge the car into a sliver of a parking slot just opposite the Le Meridien, and we all congratulated ourselves, not realizing at that time, that we’d painted ourselves into a corner.

Three stringent security checks later, we were inside the venue. It was a muggy night with just a hint of breeze. And a mighty lot of breezers! I was surprised to find stalls selling beer and breezers. I was so used to concerts where people sneaked in hip flasks or mineral water bottles with pale spirits, that this came as a surprise.

I looked out for the promised ‘rain’. In the middle of the venue, a square-shaped scaffolding had been erected, with sprinklers attached all across the perimeter. Below the scaffolding, a throng of drenched, gyrating bodies kept time with the pulsating beat. The remixes were trotted out one after the other, much to the delight of the crowd. We stood and watched from the sidelines, not sure if it was a good idea to join the hyper-kinetic dancers. My Filipino colleague was quite taken in by the vigorous Bhangra movements.

Although I had made noises initially about not wanting to wet my leather shoes, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. So we went into the ‘rain zone’. The first drops of ‘rain’ on skin felt uncommonly good. Memories of enjoyable rainy days flooded the mind. Hair got plastered, water dripped down one’s chin, clothes got heavy, home felt a little closer.

Expectedly, the crowd consisted mainly of Indians and Pakistanis. But there was a small group of Brits who seemed to be having a whale of a time. I was surprised to spot an Arab girl, headscarf and all. A few guys took the opportunity to do a ‘Salman’, whipping off their shirts to bare un-rippling musles and flab abs. The ratio of guys to girls might have been 15:1. So, few girls went under the sprinklers and fewer still looked comfortable coming away from them.

Each artiste was introduced with much fanfare, but it seemed to me that apart from one superhit song, there wasn’t much else in his repertoire. Realising it, a couple of them tried to work up the crowds with some Punjabi colloquialisms, and it usually worked. The artiste of the evening was, undoubtedly, Raghav. He leaped onto the stage with a bevy of bootylicious dancers and was an instant hit with the crowd. “I don’t need to tell you this,” he exclaimed breathlessly, “but your city is very hot!” He followed that observation with the very catchy ‘Angel Eyes’, so we forgave him for reminding us about the heat.

After a while the ‘nachana-vichana-kudiya’ got a bit repetitive, so we decided to call it a night. It was 1.30 a.m. The sprinklers were still in a profligate mood when we left.

We reached the car and found our exit blocked on all sides. We muttered unkind things about the thoughtless drivers, threw up inventive but impossible solutions, snarled at the inert cars, even. But there was no way out. We piled into the car, exhausted, turned on the radio and listened to the rest of the concert ‘live’.

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