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Chapter 5: Lahore Aloha

April 5, 2013

Daisy had gone straight back out to the festival once the hot dogs were gone.

“At least take your phone,” said Ian.
“What for? Who would I ring?”
“You might get into trouble,” he suggested.
She looked sceptical, but fished the phone out of her tent and slid it into her back pocket.
“See ya!”
“Don’t stay out too late!” he called after her. More for the look of the thing than anything else, because he was certain that she would do just whatever she thought best, no matter what he said.

Daisy turned to answer, although carried on walking, backing away from him. She rolled her eyes dramatically toward the tent next door, to Falcon’s perpetually fag-lit parents.
“Yeah,” she said. “And don’t you inhale.”
“What?”
“God, Dad, you’re such an
innocent!”

She flung her arms out in a theatrical shrug, signalling his hopelessness, and then spun around – graceful as a ballerina in Doc Martens – leaving him with the dishes.

He washed up, put on a jumper, picked up his camera and strolled towards the festival fields. The light was starting to fade, but he was confident there would be plenty to shoot.

There was a big moon, yellow and almost full, rising above the tree-line. He took half a dozen frames.

He had seen Glastonbury on TV. Big music stages, amplified sound, amplified personalities. Loud new boybands and skintight old rockers. Big crowds, mud.

He was worried about the toilets. It was still the first day, and it was alright so far. But he had heard horror stories of poo-crammed portaloos, floating in rivers of mud. He tried not to think about it. They could always go home, if it came to that.

But the festival was not the horrible Glastonbury of his imagination.

A sort of street curved away from him, rows of tents of varying sizes. A signpost declared that the Healing Fields could be found this way and the Master Crafters were that way and the KidZone was over there and… A touch overwhelmed, he took a picture of the sign and strolled down the avenue.

There were traders of all kinds – books, veggie burgers, clothes, trinkets, curry, toys, mooncups, wood carvings, hemp, pancakes. There was a place selling nothing but adult-sized fancy dress costumes. There was a pizza theatre: he photographed a clown, juggling dough while a woman with three kids watched and clapped.

He had been hearing drumming, and soon found the source – an overflowing tent sandwiched between a coffee van and a place called Earth Ministry. Goddess worship, Pantheistic communion, Visit the Green Man. A green man, now that would be something to see. From Mars, perhaps. A statuesque woman had her back to him, straightening out a wall-hanging inside. He wondered if she was the Goddess of the sign. Smiling, he snapped her, and moved on.

At last, Ian found something closer to his expectations: a music venue.

He went inside. The dim interior was lit with tealights, suspended in lanterns from the roof of the marquee. The floor was carpeted red, over a plastic groundsheet. The walls were draped with coloured fabrics, in swags and folds that made him feel he might have stumbled into some exotic harem.

At the far end was a bar, of sorts, and part way along the back wall was a roped-off area something like a stage. There were low tables, and still lower benches, on which perhaps a dozen festival-goers had gathered. Old and young, some were oddballs, some looked as plain and square as Ian himself.

On the stage, three musicians were setting up. Not the amped-up youth of his imagination at all – they were old people, wrinkly. Acoustic. A chalkboard sign announced that they were Lahore Aloha. He decided to stay. This had to deserve a beer’s-worth of his time.

“What beer have you got?” he asked the tall, thin lad behind the makeshift counter.
“No beer!” he said, jolly in a way no barman without beer ought to be.
“No beer?”
“No license,” he explained. “The whole site’s unlicensed. You can only drink beer if you brought it here yourself.”
Ian thought of the four small cans in his tent. The long weekend suddenly seemed longer.

“What have you got then?” he asked.
“Chai – herbal tea – chocolate chai. We’ve got brilliant cakes.”
Cake?
“No coffee?”
The boy looked apologetic.
Ian was at a loss.
“What’s chai?” he asked.
“You’ve never had it? You should try some.”
“What is it?”
“Oh, it’s just milky tea. With some spices in.”

It sounded vile, but everything else sounded worse, so he handed over three quid for a mug of chai and a slab of cake to wash it down with.
“You get fifty pee back when you return the mug,” the boy explained.
“Right,” said Ian.

He found somewhere to sit, and watched the band’s final preparations.

Finally, the guitarist – a man with a silvery beard so enormous he would have to take care to tuck it behind his guitar – stood up to greet his audience: “Evening all!”

One or two of them called back: “Evening, Rosh!”
He grinned, and acknowledged his friends.
“Hope you’re all having a good time here at Be The Change!”
The punters responded half-heartedly – a few yeahs, a smattering of applause – they weren’t quite in the mood yet.
“We’re very privileged to be playing here for the first time,” he went on. “And we’re loving it already.”

Ian sipped his chai. It wasn’t as bad as he expected. The cake was alright too. Oversweet, though.

I’m Roshan -” There was a muted cheer.
This is Zane on drums -” The drummer raised his stick and grinned toothlessly. The lack of teeth made him look older than he was, Ian thought.
And give it up for Fatima, on sitar and vocals!” The audience clapped, politely feigning enthusiasm.
“We’re going to play – well, a little bit of everything. We hope you like it.”

The beardman sat down. Ian raised his camera to his face and framed a shot, waiting for the right moment.

The band began to play.
Ian slowly lowered his camera.

The first song was the mournful cry of freedom past; the second was the razzmatazz of Bollywood; the third was a vocal solo in which the weathered Fatima shone with the poignant beauty of a tearful maiden. The music was exotic, classic, spiritual, glorious.

He put the camera down. He listened like a man who had never seen any need to take the Quo off his iPod, suddenly stepping into the light of ages.

He listened.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2013 12:50 am

    Wordcount – 1109
    Prompt – (1) A photographer (BrendaAlicante) and (2) chai (SBF)

    Please suggest prompts for Chapter 6 in the comments!
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

  2. April 6, 2013 1:21 am

    gold

    • April 6, 2013 10:23 am

      thank you 😀

  3. brendaalicante permalink
    April 6, 2013 7:21 am

    I think the story is developing nicely and am enjoying my daily ‘fix’. I’m not sure if Lena is intended as the main protagonist or if the focus is intended to be on a few characters and not just one. I don’t think any more are needed, perhaps those now present could be en-laced by a common interest – maybe music or/and sustainable food production – and then interactions and mutual compassion developed. Am I ‘helping’ too much? I like the photographer, male photographers tend to have a stylish attraction for women in particular.

    Prompt – Calamity – all hands on deck.

    Good luck

    • April 6, 2013 10:26 am

      I’m focussing on a small group – I agree, I have enough now! (I wasn’t going to introduce any more at all but after chapter 3 I felt I needed Fatima to stop the mix getting too “blokey”) Time to start weaving them together and then – yes, calamity! 🙂
      Feel free to “help” as much as you like. xxxx

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