When I was a child, summer holidays were always spent with grandparents and cousins. We would all travel down from whatever Naval Base we were on to Nashik, to my maternal grandparents’ home, and to Nagpur to my paternal grandparents’ house, and to Pune to visit my great-grandparents. Idyllic holidays spent knocking about with cousins and aunts and uncles, and staying up too late playing cards, and flying kites, and listening to my grandmother’s stories, and watching Hindi movies, and eating my body weight in mangoes.
One summer in 1978, we were posted in Goa, and we were visiting my grandparents in Nashik. The jamun tree outside my grandfather’s house was laden with the most delicious fruit – if you’ve never eaten jamun I can’t describe the taste of these purple, sweet and sour, berries. Bite into them and it feels like your taste buds have exploded with rich purpley goodness! Bite into too many of them however and your bowels explode with some not-so-fun-giganormous-badness! Which is shockingly what happened to me. I know – try to contain your surprise at my inability to edit foodstuff!
To add insult to injury, I also caught some kind of nasty stomach bug – my body was just rejecting food from both ends of my alimentary canal. You’re welcome for that visual by the way! So for one entire month I was not allowed to go outside or play with any other kids or travel – let me repeat that – for ONE ENTIRE month of SUMMER VACATION I was stuck indoors! I’m going to digress for a bit now so bear with me – I was so bored during my month of imprisonment, I read every book I could lay my hands on. The pickings were slim for a 6 year old so I read all the encyclopedias and books on Greek and Roman and Hindu mythology and then I read the Good News Bible from cover to cover – except the Psalms because I was 6 and poetry was not my cup of tea! Now you’re probably wondering why my socialist, mildly Hindu, grandfather had a Bible – and that’s a story for another day but in a nutshell – my grandfather’s brother is a Lutheran minister in California who sent my grandfather the Bible in an ill-conceived but very loving attempt to convert him. Needless to say, it didn’t take – but that summer I devoured the Good Book in a flu fueled frenzy.
Anyway, returning to the story at hand – as a result of my inability to travel, my father and sister returned home first, and two weeks later my mom and I caught a train from Nashik to Bombay and then on to Goa. Because I had been sick and because we were traveling, my mom, in a fit of misguided maternal lunacy, had dressed me in layers of clothing and stuck a truly hideous knit hat on my head….in the middle of summer…in India…while we were traveling in a 2nd class train compartment without any air conditioning! I was a hot sweaty miserable mess! But then the most amazing thing happened.
Into our train compartment stepped 4 of the strangest men I had ever seen. They were tall and very white with leather jackets and thick boots and long messy hair and multiple piercings and a host of bewildering tattoos. They spoke English but no English I had ever heard – they had the most sing song-y beautiful accents and I was mesmerized. I couldn’t stop staring at them as they sat down in the seats right next to us. And I stared at them for the entire journey to Goa. The most beautiful of them would occasionally wave at me and smile – as you do when some 6 year old child, dressed up like she’s about to attempt an expedition to the Antarctic, stares unblinking at you in the most un-creepy way possible! They also had the craziest looking luggage – guitar cases and huge equipment. Beautiful Man offered me a piece of fruit which I took and was just wonderfully kind to me – like he knew how mortified I was in my gruesome knit hat to be sitting next to these alien gods!
Now fast forward a year – we are in England and watching our favorite show on the telly – Top of the Pops. And this song comes on – which will soon become a song that my father hates with an intensity he reserves only for impolite or stupid people.
And I about fell off the bed and had a heart attack! It was my Beautiful Man and his group of Alien Gods!! Yes, the same people I had seen on the train traveling from Bombay to Goa were – wait for it – Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats!!! When I try to tell my family I am met with derision and ridicule. My sister – 4 years older and therefore vastly superior stated with unveiled sarcasm – “of course a famous British rock group would be traveling by train in a 2nd class compartment in India and wave to a snotty 6 year old girl!” And even though I tried to point out that I was, in fact, pukey and not snotty, they refused to believe me.
And they have refused to believe me in all these years that have passed. But, to paraphrase the Rats – I can see no reason, ‘coz there are no reasons, what reason would I have to lie! If I did lie, wouldn’t I have made up some foreign band that I knew – like the Beatles, or Abba?! I was 6 – not an age known for subtle and insidious dishonesty, or a wealth of knowledge of 70s punk bands!
But now I have definitive proof!! The article states, and I quote,
“The Irish musician who had first toured India in 1978 visiting Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, introduced Sting towards the end of his performance.”
So suck it disbelieving family! Not only did Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats tour India – they spent 7 hours in a train with slightly nauseous 6 year old with the world’s most unflattering knit hat on their way from Bombay to Goa, and Sir Geldof kindly waved at her!