Selected Yambient Words

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the Tooth Fairy DOES Exist...

The Tooth Fairy exists...

Although, last night she may have made a mistake. None of my teeth fell out yesterday. Even so, I woke up this morning to find two shiny pound coins under my pillow. I have no idea how they got there.... the only explanation is the Tooth Fairy.

Maybe it's a message from her to tell me to drink less fizzy drinks.



Yes yes yes yes!!!

Excitement abounds, we have new Yam Boy and Goonda-Raj tracks up and out and ready to go... Wicked stuff wicked stuff...

First up we have:

Superheroic Poetry (The Further Adventures of the Fantastic Yamtastico): a booming thriller about Yamtastico's battles against the evil Ignorance-wallah. It features an all-star cast. Watch out for part 2, how the Dynamic Duo of Yamtastico and Goonda-Raj came about.

Earth's Shadowlands featuring Swami Baracus:

This is collaboration with the immensely talented rapper, Swami Baracus. It's all about climate change and trying to make a difference in these times of organic this and recyclable that.

If Only All Policemen Were Cuddly...:

This is a remix of an old idea featuring reports from an actual incident that befell Yam.


Meat Tombola, and other stories from Friday Night

Meat Tombola:

Meat tombola
Killed my sister, Lola
She was sipping coca-cola in the middle of the summer
When it fell down on her
Now she needs a heart donor
Or she'll catch ebola
Sitting on the sofa...

Death by meat tombola...

Peepul Centre:

Last night was supposed to be my last gig as a D'Archetype (proper), before becoming collaborator and hopping off to Kenya for a year. Sadly, Shane was in hospital this week (get well soon!!) with mystery knee problems so he had to drop out of the gig. So it was just Sam the Secret Weapon and me. We spent the day rehearsing D'Archetypes songs with me doing Shane's bits. I even did a version of Jerusalem. We felt ready so we headed up to Leicester. We met up with Sam's old friend Phil in St Albans as he was to be driving us up.

As we bombed up the M1, we were called by Amy May, out on tour with a crazy medievil prog rock group called Circulus. She gave us a mission. We had to write a song en route called 'Meat Tombola.' We thought about it, Sam came up with a gorgeous bass line and we wrote the lyrics above. We sang them over the phone to an impressed tour bus on its way to Liverpool. We gave Amy her titled. She and Circulus had to write a song called 'I Don't Like the Toothpaste My Mum Buys'. As we waited for her response, we rehearsed in the back of the car as Phil tapped out a rhythm section on his steering wheel. Amy called back and told us the song title was rubbish and they had adapted it into a new song called 'Minty Mummy'. It involved a rather orgasmic sounding vocal percussion and Amy rapping. It was truly amazing.

We finally arrived in Leicester and navigated the flyovers and ring roads and found the venue, two hours late for our soundcheck. We soundchecked, were shown to our dressing room and grabbed some food. As we neared our last bites, we were summoned to play. We grabbed our guitars and stood at the back of the room. As we were announced, we started playing mariachi music and walking through the crowd, playing booming spanish rhythms as we made our way to the stage. We got to the stage and started playing. The crowd was extremely reserved and muted and we weren't too sure how well we were playing. We played our hearts out, running through new numbers, D'Archetypes songs and Yam Boy songs. We got laughs, dancing children and a bit of clapping during London. But the overall reaction was quite nonplussed. The two best songs that went down were a new one about my mum, called 'Mangoes', that Sam played the most deliriously delicious solo for, and a crazy boisterous rap/beatbox/guitar cover version of Punjabi MC's 'Mundian To Bach Gaye'.

We finished and walked off dejected that our energetic performance compensating desperately for no Shane was met with not much of a reaction. The feedback from the venue was that the material was too intelligent and poignant for an audience wanting easy listening. This made us sad as we tried to give our message the most accessible sound we could. But then, this wasn't so much the arts centre we thought it was... it was ful of old ladies, masis and aunties, and little kids, for whom the political content was probably too much. Also the rap delivery was probably too uptempo for them.

We had done as good a job as we could though.

Teenagers Lie, then They Steal Your Bike:

As we waited in St Albans for our ride to Leicester, we were accosted by a group of 7 14 year old teenagers with the need to swear. Sam was dressed in an eccentric manner anyway. He was wearing a big 60's hat, alpine boots and a white Japanese dressing gown, with a massive grapefruit peeking out of his pocket. The teenagers ran up to him and asked him why he was in his dressing gown and whether he was going to Amsterdam. They asked him why he had a big orange in his pocket. He explained to one that it was a grapefruit. Another boy ran up to us and said, 'Wow, that's a huge orange.' The previous teenager turned to him and shouted, 'It's a fucking grapefruit, you fucking idiot' in that brilliant way teenagers do when they want to hoarde new information over their peers with superiority. The teenagers walked away and then returned, begging Sam to give them his orange. He reexplained that it was a grapefruit and said no. They called him a fucking wanker and ran off to hang out on the first floor of an adjacent car park.

Phil drove up and parked in front of the car park. The teenagers peered down and watched us loading up into Phil's car. They begged some more for the orange. Sam reexplained it was a grapefruit. They called us fucking wankers. Sam threw the grapefruit up to them. They watched it fly behind their heads and shouted down to us that we were fucking wankers. So much for Sam's act of fruity kindness. Don't they realise a grapefruit counts as one of their 5 a day fruit'n'veg? Anyway, they threw the grapefruit back down, narrowly missing Phil's car.

Fucking teenagers.
First they lie, then they still your bike.


Imagine a place on the M1, a sanctuary for all Daves, from Big Dave to Fik Dave to Dave the Bouncer... they can all live in Daventry, near Northants. Read 'Book of Dave' by Will Self.

Recording with Swami:

I recorded with Swami on Thursday. First off, his studio is amazing, and is a guitar haven. Secondly, he is a producer with amazing communication skills. I have worked with loads of producers, and they have never been as diligent with me in getting the best out of me apart from Goonda-Raj. Now I've worked with Swami. When an MC brings lyrics to a beat, he doesn't always have the concept of what will work as a song in terms of actual songwriting, what will work musically. It is the producer's job to ensure the MC gets the delivery right, gets the cadence right and gets the interplay of words right. Also, the producer needs to make sure the MC/rapper/vocalist is doing what the producer wants for the song. I came into the studio with lyrics and an idea of what I wanted to do. After long discussions and brainstorming about what to do on the track with Swami, we rewrote the lyrics, worked on the delivery of each word in each line and rehearsed it till it was perfect. Then we recorded guide vocals then we recorded multiple takes till he had a treasure trove of material to pick the best bits of. He definitely worked me hard and got the best out of me. I look forward to the track. Big up Swami...

Next week is my last week before I leave... so

-rehearsing for America
-sorting out loose ends (££££££ etc etc)
-leaving drinks
-a few collaborations
-seeing friends and families....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Snapshots of the Past Week


So, last week Shane and I were getting together the press packs for the D'Archetypes first release, 'Jerusalem; (coming in Nov... buy it from We had the idea of selling weeds/grass from this green and pleasant land in little baggies commonly associated with eighths of weed, with a little D'Archetypes sticker, as a little promotional item. I spent most of the afternoon cutting grass with scissors and my bare damned hands and weighing and measuring eighths of grass to roll up and stuff into this special bags. Nice way to be employed, I thought... this is my job, masquerading as a drug dealer for a laugh. Brilliant fun... highly recommended. Although the grass fumes, with a fragrant faint whiff of dog piss, do get to you after a while and you start to automatically skin up and try and smoke them. This is not recommended. So, when you do your bagging up of grass, do it in small doses.

And just say no.


God, temping is tedious. I took a temping job earlier this week for a bit of extra cash. I arrived at the school on time, and found myself in a cold Portakabin facing yellowing piles of paper. I was soundtracked by a shrill Australian making sneaky personal phone calls. I had to type up the numbers on all the sheets into an excel document and write the name corresponding to the number next to it.

This was a three hour job, tops. I had to make it last for eight hours. I started typing the data up... listening to the shrill Australian's baby talk to who I hope was her boyfriend on the other end of the phone. 90 minutes later I was half way through my day's task. I struggled to stretch the task over eight hours. I managed five and gave up and came home, my head throbbing, my brain cells actually leaking out of my ears and actually physically dying in front of me. Depressing.

Lying to Coppers

Last week, we did some filming for Shane's one man show (check the D'Archies page for details). It was pouring with rain so we decided to go into some train stations and film my verses and choruses in 'Shakin Spears'.

We took to a crowded King Cross and I stood there being filmed. We got told to move on by three different people. We went to the British Library and do a quick guerilla shot in the gardens. Then we did a quick take in front of fifty builders on a tea break. We then rushed up to the Swami Narayan Temple in Neasden (the amazing one) to film more. They had erected marquees in the grounds as it was Diwali. We decided to take the camera into the grounds anyway and do what we could. We were expressly told by four coppers that cameras were not allowed inside. Shane attached the camera to his belt and pulled his top over it. We walked up to the door and stopped. They had X-Ray machines and metal detectors everywhere. It was to be quite the job. We ran around doing MacGuyver-esque manoevres trying to exploit a weak point in the security. There wasn't. These Hindus are good man. Not even MacGuyver could find his way in.

Other things:

- Goonda has mixed three new tracks. The mixed versions are currently in the post to me so expect a mega upload this weekend... Huzzah!!
- Predictive text doesn't recognise the word 'Hurray'... it always comes out as 'Huspaz'.
- I am recording with Swami this week.
- Shane is ill so Sam and I are rocking the Peepul Centre ourselves.
- The new twist in the Civil War Marvel comics cross-over involving Spidey vs Iron Man is a stroke of masterful genius.
- That 70s Show and Scrubs are Yam's new favourite sitcoms.
- Magical Anjali's new tracks are BANGING.
- Yam leaves in 3 weeks for Kenya. He is scared and a little sad but exhilerated at his forthcoming reunion with Mrs Yam.
- New Mo Magic album is great.
- Oh my god, The Departed is the film of the year.
- We love you all.
- One old school friend is a well known stand up comic, Another, Nimer, as previously mentioned, won a frickin Emmy... and Brian who was geeky at school (weren't we all?) is now a ladykilla!!! I witnessed his moves in action last Friday.
- Check these new trailers out... one is for the new Tarantino/Rodriguez film and looks amazing:

Laters for now...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diwali 2006: Season's Greetings

Happy Diwali everyone. I hope your's was full of love and light and will signify an increase in your fortune and prosperity.

Last night, my family celebrated Diwali at my parent's house. We've celebrated Diwali at mum and dad's house every year ever since we've lived at this house but yesterday there was a Mrs Yam-shaped void that everyone noted. She has attended Diwali for the past two years and is now an integral part of the family. So her absence was repeatedly noted.

Diwali is always a funny affair. Whenever non-Hindus ask you to explain the concept behind Diwali, the easiest explanation is to say it's India's Christmas. Which is a shame, because it is nothing like Christmas. I don't really celebrate Christmas, but man oh man, the vibe on Christmas Day is electric, with the prospect of stuffing and presents thick on the air.

Diwali doesn't work like that. There are no presents, no excitement. Beyond a few courtesy texts and phone calls during the day, Diwali doesn't happen till about 7 where you eat, then you light some fireworks, then you eat then you go to bed. Which is what Diwali is to me. Well, I guess it's slightly different for women. They spend the whole day in the kitchen. No change from Christmas then.

This year, I tried to make it different by helping my mum in the kitchen and cooking what I could. She was kinda receptive, although she wondered what my boyish game was.

When it came to actual Diwali styles, we all sat down to pray. As we waited for my granddad to finish writing out the blessed sheet of accounts (that we were in effect blessing for dad's company). I listened as my two uncles argued about the origins of the god Ganesha. They were both wrong in their own sweet way, but adamant they were right. I grew up reading and devouring Amar Chittra Katha comics, which depicted the origin stories of all the Gods. They also told all the stories in 24 page spreads. So I feel like my knowledge of Hinduism is really good. I read those stories. My uncles didn't. And their knowledge is a bit rubbish. Listening to them made me laugh, and when I tried to correct them, they shot me down. What did I know? I am a coconut!

We prayed and chanted and sang. The family was tuneful and rhythmic as useful. Eveyone was singing in different keys at different speeds with different volumes from different prayerbooks. It was amazing. When I introduced some percussion (clapping and slapping my knee) to give everyone a tempo to work to, it confused them more.

Fireworks next: My uncles were more daring than ever, standing close to fireworks, poking Cathering Wheels to increase their speed, laughing and screaming. We were using year old fireworks and thus there was less bang for our buck. We ate a feast.

Then we sat. My uncles and dad continued their theological misinformed discussion about Hinduism. And they were all so slightly stubborn and wrong, I couldn't listen to them. I sat with the girls and we gossiped about various members of families and various beefs each had with the other. It was hilarious. I let slip that I had written a short story about some of the beefs in the family and it had been printed somewhere. My mum panicked and demanded to know the contents so she could assess how much trouble I could get into if anyone ever found. I laughed and said that you're supposed to write what you know, and unfortunately, my warring family is a brilliant and unending fountain of material. My cousins and sister were so excited. They thought I was striking back for the team. They insisted they read it. I smiled enigmatically. They begged. I decided, it was midnight, nearly bedtime, I would read them a bedtime story. I read them the story, they shrieked, they laughed, they furrowed their brows at the high-brow language (!). My mum panicked. Her worst fears were confirmed. I had certainly not held back. I had embellished and I had reported the truth about our family.

My cousins thought it was brilliant. They insisted I record some of their beefs with family members in some of my stories. They begged me. They said they could come round and give me information. I nodded and said that we'll see. They pleaded. Mum said NO, she couldn't take more and no one could tell me any more gossip anymore in case it ended up in my next book or a short story. She was only half-joking.

Everyone left, leaving mum and me talking about getting older. Mum also told me some stories about her family. The less frivolous ones, the sadder more tragic ones. I had been recounting the silly stories about how petty and ridiculous people were. Listening to my mum reminded me that some things are more serious than I report them to be, and hell, families can be difficult.

Happy Diwali 2006. Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Short Short Story 6: A Henchman's Work Is Never Done

Short Short Story 6: A Henchman's Work is Never Done...
Unemployment is boring. Beyond meeting friends for lunches you can..t afford and drinking endless cups of tea watching endless repeats of ..Cheers.. on endless channels of Sky, there really ain..t much in it. Sending out job applications, downloading tasteful and tasteless pornography, emailing friends who are at work and creating increasingly outlandish sandwich combinations, these are the routines you inevitably fall into, apart from waking up later and later, and ignoring three quarters of your mail because they contain bills.

I need a job. Badly.

I scour most job listings, have my CV advertised on the most and least reputable recruitment websites on the net, have had meetings with job agencies specialising in all manner of work from investment banking to silver spoon catering, and nothing has come through. Also, nothing seems to have taken my fancy. Also, I don..t know what I want to do. Maybe I want to be a henchman for an evil megalomaniac, hellbent on taking on the world. I have never, ever seen a listing to be a henchman for a megalomaniac. Where do these guys advertise? How do you get a job with a megalomaniac? What special skills do you need? Weapons training or karate skills or fast car driving? How much do they pay? Do you get to keep the uniform? Can you get fired, or do you only leave in a bodybag? I have always wondered these things.

'Required: Henchman to work for evil megalomaniac. Good for graduates. £20,000 p.a. Must be prepared to work long hours and give own life for cause of world domination. Must be CRB checked and have clean driving licence.'

I have definitely never ever seen anything like that, ever. But, I guess, megalomaniacs are quite the cautious species. Maybe a lot more subtle than that.

'Required: Project Coordinator to work for ambitious corporation with international plans. Perfect position for graduates. Must be prepared to work long hours and dedicate themselves to the corporation..s vision. Must be CRB checked and have clean driving licence.' seen loads of those types of adverts. Maybe covers for the real thing. Yeah I reckon that..s it. These non-descript adverts for no position in particular. They must all be fishing for a henchman. They can..t all be for some miscellaneous desk job in an anonymous company doing photocopied tasks where you fill in forms, and transfer data from paper to computer and create graphs and none of it quite makes tangible sense in the real world.

Can they?

They must all be megalomaniacs recruiting more and more henchmen, no? I mean, the rate these guys get through their henchmen, what with disposing of stupid ones to make examples and government spies dispatching of whole platoons of henchmen.. there must be quite a high turnover rate.

I don..t understand this whole megalomaniac..s henchman thing. I mean, they can..t ever think it..s going to end well. And what of their families at home? And where do they go after work and do they ever turn up to work hungover? And do they spend their days chatting rubbish to their mates over the internet instead of working.

..God, my boss is such a wanker. He wants me to work late again! Wants me to torture some spy or some shit. Anyway, Brick Lane again tonight boys and girls?..

Or do they have time to spend with friends outside of work? It must be quite physically and mentally demanding working for a megalomaniac. Also there seems to be a lot of overseas travel involved. Actually, the megalomaniac..s human resources department should make sure they include that on their adverts. Loads more people will apply. required to spend all your time in some complex on some hidden tropical island somewhere realising your boss..s evil machinations..

Do you get paid overtime for that?

I wonder if you get Christmas Day off? I might apply next time I see one of their ..adverts...

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Dream In Which History Repeated

A Dream In Which History Repeated

Last night, I dreamt I was in a classroom doing a poetry reading for the guy who was my chemistry teacher in school. I had brought my guitar in (the new team member, Jasmine the Jazzman guitar) so I could play guitar for another classmate. As he was asked up to read his poetry, he shook his head at me to say that he no longer required my guitar. I was a little annoyed because I had made the effort to bring it in.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the guitar falling to the floor. I looked up and two young 6 year old girls had taken my guitar and snapped it in two so it was left with the same death-knell injury delivered in real life to my guitar Velulah back in summer. I was intensely upset, especially when they refused to compensate me.

I had to wake myself up and look at Jasmine the Jazzman just to ensure it was, as they said in Dallas, 'all just a dream'.

The night before, I dreamt that a peripheral friend of mine had been given his own sitcom starring Kate Hudson as the girl next door. The dream involved watching the pilot of the sitcom, and it being incredibly and cringe-inducingly unfunny.

Sorry man!!

Thank the Lord for the Sky channel Jetix... I wake up every morning, switch on the laptop, start work and put on Jetix... in the background, I get the 60's cartoons of Fantastic 4, X-Men and Spidey... brilliant!

Goonda-Raj is currently mixing 3 new tracks. Uploading in the next few weeks!

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Tribute to Nimer Rashed

A Tribute to Nimer Rashed

This guy is seriously the man... the hottest writer in the country... He's one of those secretive geniuses who will always enquire about your projects and keep his underwraps and be really interested in you, all the while perfecting him. This guy is a true genius. I'm sure he's secretly written oscar winning films and Booker-winning novels but is waiting, calucating and incubating, waiting for the right time... well, screw it... let's celebrate him!! He's just won an International Emmy for gawd's sake!! A true friend and someone I'll be close to for the rest of my life. He is humble, talented, sweet and truly blessed with individuality.

Read his short stories here:


love and respect everytime,


thus endeth the web-love-in

Chapati: The Last Stand

"It's over... you don't need to tell me... I hope you feel safe in your sleep... I won't kill myself trying to be in your life..." Damon Albarn

Fuck a Chapati retrospective... when it was hot, it rocked, when it was not it was tedious. I had a great time, most of the time. Let's talk about last night, which rocked harder than your seventh pina colada. It was always going to be the last Chapati, due to my impending Africa trip next month. I decided to keep it simple and rock the party hard with some DJ sets. So, i belled the one Magical Anjali cos she's always got the beats for bollyhood freaks, and she was down like wells in the guaon...

sorry, I must interject here, and inform you that I am brimming with similes today, like a simile cascade <--- see what I mean.

At the least minute, I decided to do an acoustic troubadapper-rapper set, to preview some of the material I will be taking to America (or, as the desis say, Umrikaaa) next month and then to Mombasa to produce as the first Bala Ashonis/Blatteroons release next year.

Halfway through my DJ set (think KMD/Black Star Liner/Plan B/Portishead/Nitin Sawhney), the DJ's second worst nightmare happened: a cheeky cigarette nearly set alight one of my records. Then the DJ's worst nightmare happened: the needle of one of the decks snapped off and scratched up my favourite Cornershop 45 (no Brimful of Asha for me :arf:). So we had to rock the party with the one deck soundsystem bhangra-funk styles. We managed it.

I did an acoustic set, comprising of old favourites, acoustic intepretations of Goonda-Raj-produced ditties, a freestyle with everyone's favourite Dirty man, Bonecatron. I ended up 'Mangoes', a new song about my mummy. Don't worry, it's not as slushy as one would think. It's very silly, quite tragic and a hint of bittersweetness.

Anjali rocked the party hard with bhangra and sitar-funk vibes, killing it and getting people dancing. We had a blast... now it's over [sad face]

oh man, brixton is where it's at... the place was popping last night. Sadly that was my last residency at the ritzy cinema. had some great times, we've rocked it with dancers, quartets, rappers, poets and cross-dressing. sad that it came to an end yesterday. anjali and i rocked the one deck soundsystem bhangra-funk vibes....

I'm off to NY in 3 weeks, with Hard Kaur, to perform at a Hip-Hop festival and do some panel-discussions on the global impact of hippety hoppety. Then i'm off to Mombasa for a year, to chill, write and make music... oh, and teach Kenyans how to rap in school rap clubs i will be running.

I'll still be around to chat rubbish and hit you up with my random thoughts. Check this blog on the regs. It's updated weekly, it's quite entertaining and you can read my short stories, as well as check the status of the album i'll be writing over the next year, and the book i've just finished writing... hopefully, that should be out too in the next 12 months! It's called 'I've Forgotten My Mantra' and it's been illustrated by my good friends at

so, yeah, that's about it guys!! keep in touch, check the blog and i'll see you next yurrrr... keep it str8 h33t...

oh yeah, before we go though, Goonda-raj and i have produced three new tracks, "If Only All Policemen Were Cuddly", "Superheroic Poetry" and "Music For Climate Change" featuring Swami Baracus. It should all be up for preview on our profile page shortly. And The D'Archetypes' 'Jerusalem' EP will be available from itunes in 2 weeks time, and on CD through in November!!

Oh yeah, can you help a brother out...

The Blatteroons or The Bala Ashonis... you decide.

Much respect,
Jean Claude Van Yam

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Short Short Story 5: We're Really Happy to Have you Here

“We’re really happy to have you here, Amit. Can’t wait to get you stuck in. Can we get you anything? No? Okay, we’ll leave you to it.”

Amit’s first day and he was nervous and he was well-dressed and he was more than eager to please. It was, after all, the bottom rung leading to his dream job. He had to make the most of this opportunity to start in the industry he had always dreamt of working in. He glanced over his job description and the introductory books he had been given to read, as well as the staff handbook. He could sit here and absorb these until two o’clock when he was to be met by his team for his first team project meeting. He smiled and leafed through the books he had been given, making both necessary and unnecessary notes.

The rest of the morning passed quite uneventfully: He snuck a few emails to his girlfriend and friends; he made two cups of tea; he continued making notes; he did a doodle of Spider-Man; he made small-talk with some of his new colleagues and got more and more bored as the clock seemed to tick by slower and slower. Suddenly, the bottom rung of the dream job wasn’t so exciting. He found enough in it to keep him interested though. Just about. Two ‘clock eventually came about and Amit walked over to conference room A for his first team meeting. The rest of the team joined him soon afterwards and he was introduced to each one in turn. They all seemed friendly enough. They told him they were looking forward to working with him, to having him on the team. The team leaders began discussions about the next few projects that they would be working on. They discussed various ideas and directions. They talked about branding and they talked about future planning. Amit kept a relative low profile in the meeting. He laughed at the odd joke. He made a few quips. He made a few suggestions. Well, they weren’t suggestions, they were the beginnings of suggestions but as it was his first day and people weren’t used to the sound of his voice, he wasn’t able to get past “But…” or “If you…” before people talked over him.

Jobs were delegated, tasks were handed out and people were given due dates for each action. Amit was noticeable by his lack of anything real to do. He had hoped he would be tacked to a lower level project and be given menial jobs to do, just so he could get stuck in and see how the team operated and thus, start to fit in and fill in where he was needed.

The team meeting ended two hours later and everyone filed out, all coffee-d up for the last hour of the day. Amit held back so he could talk to his team leader and demonstrate his abundance of enthusiasm. The team leader however was sprightly, the first out of the room, and Amit had to stop himself rudely pushing past his new colleagues to get out of the room and chase her. He waited till most people were out of the room and he politely pushed back into the corridor. By the time he had caught up with her, she had ended up in her office with the door closed. Amit knocked tentatively. He wasn’t really thinking. His idea was just to go for it, balls akimbo, confident, and full of enthusiasm and energy. This was the mark of the new employee on his first day.

He knocked on her door. She looked up and saw him through the glass panel to the side of the door. She beckoned him, beaming. She asked how he was, how he found the team meeting, how he was finding the induction process, if there were any problems, what his favourite project was… he used this moment to interject and say, yes there were a few projects he was particularly interested in. He was keen to get stuck in so were there any projects she felt he could join in on and get stuck in, throw himself in at the deep end, as it were? She laughed. She looked up and said Amit needed to slow down. He smiled back, diplomatically.

“There’s no rush, no rush at all. Take your time. We’ll find you something to do soon enough. Look, Amit, just so we’re clear, we hired you because you seem so lovely, you’re a sweetheart. Your CV reads well too. So don’t worry. Give it three, four months and we can start thinking about slowly introducing you to a project in a low impact way. In the meantime, get to know the job and yourself and your environment. So, there’s no rush eh? Let me know if there is anything else.”

Amit smiled, thanked her and returned to his desk. He looked at his necessary and his unnecessary notes. He looked at the materials he had been given as induction. He opened up a word document and started typing up his notes quickly. As soon as he had enough words written on his screen for it to appear like he was working, he stopped.

He opened up an internet page, logged into his email account and sent out an email to three of his close mates:

Bit shit here. Going to be a doddle. So, someone entertain me. Scarlett Johansen [sic] or Jessica Alba?… discuss.

He clicked send, sat back and awaited the responses. They would come back soon enough. That dream job was slowly fading away into the reality of mundane office life.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Short Short Story: Conversations With My Grandfather

Conversations with my Grandfather

While the women toil in the kitchen, men toil in front of the television, wincing as another wicket falls and as their beers edge towards to the bottom of their cans. I’ve asked the women about forty times if I can help or do anything. They’ve all laughed at me and told me to sit with the men. They kinda appreciate the offer but realise that kitchen-work is their Gujarati boon in life and thus can handle it. It doesn’t stop them having a dig at me for being a man though. “No, no, it’s fine. Go and sit with all the men. Go on.”

The sarcasm makes me go and sit with the men in defiance. “Ha,” I say internally. “I will, and you can’t stop me. Woman.”

I sit with the men. My dad and two uncles are engaged in some serious cricket watching. It’s an India versus Pakistan grudge match, so their eyes are glued. India are doing particularly not very well.

My grandfather recognises my ambivalence towards the cricket and turns to me.

“So, what is your job at the moment?”
I’m unemployed at the moment, and using that unemployment to write my tiny little spider-man pants off. “I’m a writer, grandfather. I write. I’ve just written a novel.”
“Awwww, do you? That’s sweet. What about money? You can’t work for no money.”
“I get paid grandfather. Anyway, making loads of money doesn’t bother me that much.”
“That’s nice. You could be a well-paid lawyer right now. Instead of being unemployed.”
“Money isn’t everything.”
”Money is God.”
“Are you a Communist?”
“No, I just want to make enough money to be happy. God is God, if there is a God. Not money.”
”You sound like a Communist.”

Another time:
“So, you make music too. How much do you make?”
“I don’t know. I try to make a song a day.”
My grandfather laughs at my apparent stupidity and hits me on the knee.
“No, how much money you make?”
“Depends on the concert. Why?”
“Just making sure you’re not living like a vagrant. I worry about your money. Would you like to borrow some? I haven’t got much to give. But I would gladly give you money if you need it.”
“I get by.”
“You can’t get by on much. This is not a good career for you. No future. Not like being a lawyer. You could make so much money, you could buy a huge house.”
“I’m fine, grandfather. I get by well enough and I’m doing well. I am happy in my life.”

Another time.
“So, all these concerts you do, how do you come home?”
“I dunno. By taxi or bus or whatever.”
Concerned face.
“What precautions do you take from being attacked?”
“I’m careful.”
”You should be careful. You know what people are like these days. They’re just after your money.”
“Granddad, we live in leafy Middlesex. It’s fine.”
“Just make sure you keep your money in your sock or make a special secret pocket in your jacket. And always offer them your watch first. That way, you don’t lose any money. If they say no, then offer them your jewellery or phone. If they say no, they can check your wallet and it will be empty.”
”Why carry a wallet then grandfather?”
My grandfather laughs at my apparent stupidity and hits me on the knee.”

I ask him another time why he values money over human contact and happiness. He laughs and responds that money brings happiness. I ask how, if you end up in a job you hate working sixty hours a week and never having the time to actually spend your money. He tells him I am being young and naïve.
I exclaim: “God, I must seem like such a hippy to you lot.”
He scoffs, “More like a Communist.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The D'Archetypes in India

Thursday: Mumbai

We landed in the evening heat. For twenty seconds between the heavily air-conditioned airplane and the heavily air-conditioned airport building, searing heat tickles up our trouser legs, our brows moisten with pearls of sweat and… ooh, lord it’s just hot.

We pile through immigration, busk at the luggage collection conveyor, chat to some heavily starched sailors, try and drum up punters for our gigs in Mumbai from the passers-by and watch stoic scary guards soften and ask us to watch them tap out tabla rhythms on counter-tops.

We arrive at the Sun and Sand hotel in Juhu beach and it’s lovely. What was my cousin so scared of 2 years ago when we tried to stay here and he said categorically no. The rooms are gorgeous. Sam and Shane have a huge suite for one night. Amy can see the sea from her room and I’m just happy to swap my shoes and socks for slippers. We wander down to the beach. Guards tell us we cannot go down to the water as the beach is extremely dangerous. No one tells us why. Sam goes anyway and a guard rushes out to tell us off. They repeat that it is extremely dangerous. The suffocation begins.

Friday: Mumbai

I oversleep as Shane, Sam and Amy go to visit a guru in Breach Candy. I try to follow them later on but Breach Candy is a way away so it’s not worth it. I take a cab to Bandra and wander around a market and visit a Waterstones-esque bookshop called Crosswords before returning to the hotel for some gorgeous pool action. I’m soon joined by the others and their tales. Shane has found me a Krrish mask. We swim and then Amy is asked to do some press for a woman’s magazine about being a woman. They dress her up in one of her fancy Paris Motel dresses and make her wade through the shallows of the sea. A crowd of over-anxious men gather to gawp at her and smile and oscillate their heads. She causes quite a stir.

Then, it’s gig time. We gather our things and head to Café Mocha in Juhu. It’s a coffee shop with a sheltered outside bit on the beach. Outside, people smoke hookahs and inside they sip coffees. It’s hot. The stage is tiny but it’s intimate and that’s how the D’Archetypes get down. A bright camera shines on us throughout our performance, so it can broadcast our moves on a screen in the outside bit. It’s hard to vibe with the crowd as we cannot see them. First night nerves beckon and we get through the set quite nervously. People seem to enjoy it though and so our fears are momentarily quelled.

We meet Jesse who helped to bring us out to Mumbai. He’s quite anxious to take us out to a club called Xenzi and then to Insomnia (90 minutes away in the Taj, a tourist trap). We stay at Café Mocha as Shane has met some old friends. Sam Amy and I eat and chat to some lovely friends of Jesse’s about designing computer games and the quirks of the British. We move on to Xenzi, which is apparently the cool place to be. It is really cool but just like being in Ibiza or a Hoxton house bar. House music throbs. You can’t hear anyone talk. Drinks are superbly expensive. Sam and Amy get down on the floor. I join them for a spot of ‘dance like a…’ where you call out different inanimate objects to dance like. Shane disappears and meets a guitarist called Randolph and his girlfriend Monica.

After Xenzi closes, Jesse urges us to join him at Insomnia. We are all tired and Randolph has invited us to his flat around the corner. We decide to join him, which causes minor friction with Jesse.

Randolph’s flat is lovely and we have a nice time playing charades, listening to tunes, chatting and connecting with people and hear Shane’s friend Martin’s story of his experiences with a Kali death cult in Varanasi. Eventually, though, drunkenness and jet lag combine to form a massive collective spaced-out feeling in all of us, and we all grab a cab back to the hotel.

Saturday: Mumbai

We wake late. Well, I do… Everyone else heads to the beach. I’m suffering insomnia so not really sleeping till daylight and they are grabbing a few more hours than me. I join them on the beach and then I decide to head to Santa Cruz to buy a sherwani jacket and look at some instruments. The others stay at the pool. I successfully buy a cheap jacket and a cheap guitar. This is after being lectured on economics by a shop assistant and discussing the craziness of currency. £1 is Rs100. Rs1 is less than a penny. Does my head in. I return and we have a quick swim and debrief in our room before heading into the centre of Mumbai.

We are playing in a girls’ college in Breach Candy, called Sophia (pronounced So-fire) College. It’s a convent college. We are urged not to swear about a thousand times. We worry a little about what is acceptable and what is not. On arrival we find nuns and over-attentive stage managers and we panic a little. It’s a huge auditorium with a massive stage.

There is a strange vibe between us all but we plough on anyway.

We’re a little lost in the big auditorium. Beyond the spectacle of the costume changes, our dramatic entrance piece goes over the girl’s heads. We are heckled and people leave in droves. When the music starts, they all get into it and whoop where they need to, and shriek at all the dancing bits. The ones who make it to the end seem to really enjoy it, though the material is probably a little too challenging for them. I try to fill the huge stage with energy and jumping and dancing and it seems to push our performance up to fill the big space. We are too used to intimate gigs.

The weird vibe permeates after the performance. Shane heads out to party. Sam, Amy and I head back to the hotel. They retire for the evening so I head down to the beach to stare out across the Indian ocean. I phone Katie and I speak to her as we both search for each other across the sea. I feel really sad. I miss her so much tonight. I am so close to her. I eat an excessively creamy kebab and drink a beer in the hotel bar. I read my book, “A Night at the Call Centre” and then retire to bed.

Sunday: Mumbai to Pune

It’s Amy’s birthday today. I give her a present of a carnatic violin book and we all pack to move on to Pune. We leave between 9.30 and 10. Everyone is mashed from the night before. Amy and Sam stayed up late. Shane got in at 6ish. I couldn’t sleep all night. The energy is low. It’s a pleasant drive out of Mumbai through a bit of the countryside, taking in a truck stop where we eat greasy comforting Batata Vadas. We hit the mainland and drive through fields. We sleep and sing and beatbox and write poems about the inspirational countryside.

We arrive in Pune. It lacks the city-like pretensions of Mumbai. It seems more like a normal place. Our hotel is a lot more normal as well. It has a huge gallery in the lobby but the rooms are smaller and more down to earth. It’s so much nicer.

Amy and I head to the pool. It’s horrible and not deep enough to swim in. We get dressed and we all go for a walk around the block, ending up in the Indian HMV, Planet M, buying CD’s and DVD’s for home. Opposite is a really American looking strip mall. The whole world is USA’ing, much to my depression. We return. Shane and I are sharing a room. We had sent our costumes down for pressing before leaving. There is now confusion as to where the costumes are, which lasts a good 15 minutes.

It’s a 30 minute drive to the venue, another Café Mocha. This one is also a venue within a venue. There is no stage for us, so we take one of the booths near the front door and turn it into a stage. Shane and I do a good little interview with the local newspaper, while Sam and Amy soundcheck. We have decided to do the gig all acoustic, no backing tracks, without the dramatic beginning. No costumes. Just Kesh and Shane and Sam and Amy, rocking it like a band.

Performance-wise, it is our strongest one and we all buzz at the end. We all really enjoy the performance and think we’ve all done a good job. This does well to create a vibe between us. After our performance and after I’ve hustled some CD’s to the crowd (this has been my job all alone, dressed in my Krrish mask), we have a chocolate cake for Amy. The waiters all sing happy birthday to her. The crowd joins in. Tas, our lovely Nina Wadia-esque British Council liaison takes us to an amazing paratha hut where we all order different types of paratha. They are all amazing. I start to wash mine down with a salt lime juice before realising it is dirty. Upsetting. We find some street children and give them the last few pieces of our cake.

We head back to the hotel to celebrate Amy’s birthday. We all get dressed up and join Amy for champagne in the bar. It’s lovely. We have some fun. Shane deejays (after 1 hour of convincing them to let us put on some music instead of the AOR soft rock they already have). Sam and Amy dance. We are told off for the dancing and for Shane playing an electronica version of “Vande Mataram”, a sacred song that the barstaff feel should not be played in such a den of inequity.

We retire to our rooms where Shane and I chat for a bit. As we’re settling down to bed, the phone call arrives. Sam tried to do a knee-slide across the floor and tore his knee open. He is rushed to hospital for stitching. The secret weapon has been compromised.

Monday: Pune to Kolkata

We have a morning in Kolkata. Shane wakes early and goes for a walk. I wake moments later and go down and sit and read and eat a horrible breakfast. We wake Sam and Amy and decide to head to an ashram nearby that Shane and Sam are interested in seeing. Unfortunately, this place of spiritual healing has rules concerning visitors, and hefty prices and we are too late and poor to go inside. Sam and Amy go for a walk. Shane and I walk over to a school for the blind across the road, where we are given a tour and meet some of the amazing kids. They have their own Marathi Braille and are all so energetic. Smiling, we stop for a masala chai. We catch up with the others and head back to the hotel, where Vijay, our gentle driver takes us to the airport.

After much confusion about our luggage (why are there so many instruments? Why does Shane have all these electronic devices? Who are we?), we are finally allowed on to the plane. The plane stops in Mumbai first, before going to Kolkata. We do not realise this and so when the captain announces we are going to Mumbai, we all shriek and panic that we are all on the wrong plane. Everyone laughs. We are fine. The plane goes to Mumbai first, then to Kolkata. The flight is uneventful. Shane watches ‘Rang de Basanti’, I read, Sam recovers from stitching and Amy makes song notes in her little book.

We arrive and take taxis to our hotel.

Oh my god, our hotel. Oh my god, our hotel… is… truly amazing. It’s 5 star. It’s massive, a huge complex. Between the main building with all the facilities and the rooms is a huge watery lake with lily pads and pagodas in the middle. We are all given the executive suites. They contain triple beds, DVD players, a seating area, a lazy boy massage chair, a shower and a bath and a screen from the bath opening into the main room. The rooms are gorgeous. Truly breathtaking!

We are performing in the hotel, so the hotel staff have upgraded us to executive suites… each. We hang in our rooms. I order a pizza, massage myself in my massage chair, watch Spider-Man DVDs, phone my mum to wish her happy birthday and fall asleep.

Tuesday: Kolkata

I wake early and go to the sauna. I take a long luxurious swim, then naked Jacuzzi and a steam and then back to my room for a hot gragrant shower. I go to breakfast and eat a hearty buffet of everything I could want. I gorge on fruits and puris. Gorgeous. I’m joined by the others and we then have interviews for most of the day. Shane and I do most of the interviews. We take photos out on the grass in the humid Kolkata stickiness. We eat, soundcheck, do a TV interview and rest before having a quick rehearsal and then heading to the venue.

We decide to do the gig acoustic again but re-add the dramatic beginning. I introduce the piece, create an audience-performer contract allow the audience into our world and then it starts. Shane arrives as Madhu.

We get many many laughs. Kolkata gets us. We put in a hearty performance and Kolkata, laughs, cries, dances and whoops. They really enjoy it, they really really enjoy it. We get the biggest and warmest response here.

We are happy. After the gig, while hustling CD’s, I meet Sammi, a hip-hop obsessive from Kolkata and another rapper. The rapper freestyles for me while I beatbox before disappearing. Sammi and I chat hip-hop, getting mad geeky (discussing rare Japanese import only 12”s etc etc). We drink… a lot. Then we head to quieter surroundings where Sammi and I have a furious and fast witty freestyle, crossing continents. We laugh hysterically as we get mad stupid and lyrical. The alcohol has loosened our internal rhyming dictionaries. There is a lot more dancing and silliness. Shane then drops his “Menstruation” poem to the crowd of dancers. They laugh nervously and with embarrassment. No one has said penis in public before. We meet another Shane. Sam teaches me breakdancing.

We go grab some dinner, and have an interesting chat with Sammi about the nuances of Kolkata. He, Shane and Sammi’s friend Diya join me in my room. We drink beer and listen to assorted hip-hop on my laptop.

Then, sleep. Well-deserved content sleep.

Wednesday: Kolkata

Our flight does not leave till the evening so we check out of our bling rooms and into Shane’s bling room before heading to the centre of Kolkata to look at musical instruments.

As we wait on the street, we buy ice creams for kids and marvel at the sexual self-help books being sold on the newsstand. A man approaches me and asks where I am from. I tell him, he tells me I have a really nice body and walks off. I am perplexed. We find a street full of music shops. Amy buys a zither, and she, Sam and I buy tabla machines (drum machines for tablas). It is so hot outside though, so we quickly head back to the hotel where Shane and I take a dip to cool down. We check out. We are ready to return.

We end up doing a gig for the staff to say thank you for their attentiveness to us and we have a grand old time. It’s our last gig in India.

And we leave.

Thursday am: Kolkata to Mumbai

Our journey home is uneventful apart from us seeing Hritik Roshan at Mumbai airport, looking so effortlessly cool. As we rush towards him to take pictures (alas, my Krrish mask is packed in my suitcase), we find him shouting and screaming at airport staff for not looking after him properly. We take cheeky photos of Shane and me in the background.

We get on our flight. Everyone is tired. We all fall asleep.

An intense trip, full of interesting experiences. Definitely worth it. Things change, things mutate and people, away from their home-life, are able to see things a lot clearly. An amazing experience.