My private performer

He sat in a small alcove at Torre Norde of the Placa Espanya. With his geared cycle behind him, a small mic and amplifier fitted into his soundhole and his guitar cover lying open in front of him, all he did was sit on his tiny stool and play.

He didnt get much of a notice, except people passing by would always slow down to listen to a snatch of what he was playing or to empty their change/coin purse of 5 and 10 euro cents.

Funny though, he really didnt look like he needed the money. He had a long aquiline face, with an appropriately placed french beard, clean cut looks, black sweater with a warm black scarf around his neck, a great pair of glasses and shoes. No, he really didnt look like he needed the money.

I sat on the steps in front of him, tired of carrying around the tiny bit of groceries I bought in a hurry. Walking all the way around town with them in your backpack, has got to be the most surefire way of getting a killing neck/nape/back ache. I was more than happy to set them down and sit for a moment’s rest.

I wasnt expecting an outstanding performance, but I got one. One song, and then another – each one bested the one before. He noticed me, I clapped after each – grinning madly from ear to ear. I tried to take a video – covertly – without thrusting a lens into his face. I sort of  succeeded, capturing the legs of all the other tourists walking by, in the process.

I stopped the recording after a bit of one song, to stop worrying about whether my memory card was filling up, and then, he began.

The one song, I probably was waiting for since I got to spain. It filled the small cupola and alcove with notes that were oh-so-strong and yet had a sense of gentle longing about them. The sounds bounced back and forth between the red brick walls and the curves of the columns  – just like they bounced inside my inner ear and my cranium. I dont know what they hit on their way, but they were resplendent. I kept trying to correlate his fingers on the fretboard with what I was hearing. I gave up after exactly 30 seconds of doing this. I was not there to study and understand, heck, I do that all the time! I closed my eyes, held my bag closer to me and just listened. The closest approximation of what it sounded like is the song on this page called ‘Dont you care’ by Los del Norte. A deeper, stronger, more sad version of this.

I left a small note in english (sadly) and 5 euros in his cover. I knew he didnt need the money at all, but I felt his performance earned it.

Walking back from my flamenco evening, with colours and the staccato of heels on wooden floors in my head, I bumped into the very same guitarist with his set of rambunctious and extremely genial friends. We unsuccessfully tried to talk in broken english and fast spanish. It only ended up in perplexed looks, wide grins, lots of hand movements. Alise from Panama, stepped in after a particularly long spanish sentence and translated the whole thing in perfect english! I was most pleased and relieved. I was a local celebrity among his friends – the girl who stayed to listen to him play and left a note! He was most pleased and invitations to join for a drink came from all directions! There was no way of saying no and heck, I had nothing better to do anyway!

“La Carboneria located in the twisty alleyways in front of the Cathedral offers free Flamenco shows nightly at 11PM” is all what wikitravel has to say about the place we went to; which is quite a pity. It is one of the most quaint, interesting, awesome places to hang around in Sevilla. Carboneria, used to be the place where coal was hoarded and sold. The signs remain, small sooty corners in walls, covered up with plaster, paintings and posters. Beneath a small chimney sat a small piano where a small, non-descript man was clearly enjoying himself. Further inside was a small picnic area, filled with benches and people with tinto de verano, sangria or their poison of choice. A small elevated table stood towards the centre of the room with 3 chairs, which hosted a small, intimate but forceful flamenco performance.

The evening passed discussing poetry, philosophy, neurons, music, rhythms and in the same vein –  tissue slicing, microtomes, paraffin embedding, brain slices, staining and Ramon Y Cajal. My kind of crowd, totally.

I walked back to my hostel a happier, slightly giddy, grinning backpacker.

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Rustling up Ratatouille

French Cuisine never did interest me that much.

Long ago, when I roamed around in my dad’s shorts and sneakers, and didnt know there was life beyond basketball, science books and quizzes, I started reading about Europe and the constituent nations. America paled in comparison. Each country with such unique peopl, customs, culture.. and ofcourse *in a small meek voice* food.

I always thought it would be full of bland meat and boiled vegetables. To be frank, I thought all of Europe subsisted on this kind of food. But that was long ago.

My epicurean uncle came over once and I got a rare treat of dinner in an upmarket restaurant. After the first mocktail and pasta of my life (which were out of this world), I decided to go wild with dessert. I had “poached pears in wine”. For a, yet gawky, 18 year old, pears, deliciously marinated in *real* wine was something I couldnt even imagine in my dreams. And that night, I heard my slightly tipsy uncle talk about good food – how to cook it, embellish it, savour it, live it.

In my geeky brain, in some silent corner, amidst all the clank of cutlery and good bonhomie… Food began to gain more importance than just a provider of ATP.

I must have mentioned one-who-lives-to-eat; in my previous post, a dear friend I didnt discover until a few weeks ago.Now, when I am all set and ready to leave NBRC behind for good. Strange how some ties bind you at the lastest minute possible. There are very few people I will genuinely miss being around, and he is definetly one of them.

We went on a date.

I took him to Ratatouille, the movie, which I loved because the lead character was a rat. I hope he loved it too because the main theme of the movie was cooking and food!

He took me to Old Delhi, his favourite haunt, his hunting ground, his backyard, the back of his palm.

We walked, almost tripped and tiptoed through arms-stretched-wide-width elaborately named gullys in that sweltering mid-afternoon heat. We sank in the aroma of the biryani he bought and I ogled at the succulent kebabs. The colours, the sounds, the smells, the people…It was a whole new world.

This done, we straight made our way to Jama Masjid. Even the heat radiating from the red sandstone seemed bearable, because we made our way to the top of the minarette. With the wind in my ears and a living city beneath me to behold, I didn’t go click-happy, like I always do. Instead, I just moved around and soaked in the far-reaching views of Delhi on a perfect, clear day.

Phirnis are the best antidote to the heat and the thirst, after an expedition like this one. 2 phirnis disappeared, without a complaint as we sat at Karim’s and cooled ourselves down. A few minutes later, we were ready for the 3 hour journey back home.

On the bus ride back, I leaned back and thought about the day. It was a near perfect day, in terms of fun, frolic and food.

Maybe I should add one more item on my ‘to-do-list’ when I get home –

Learn to make Ratatouille.