I met the love of my life in the summer of 2002. A common friend had introduced us. Ironically, my first thoughts about her were, “oh man she’s ugly!” and “there’s no way I can like her”. Moreover, I was going steady with my then current love interest who satisfied me in every way.
Things changed when I finally decided to give this ugly damsel a try. I spent some time in getting to know her better, and found that I had been foolishly shallow. She was everything that I ever wanted! She mesmerized me, intrigued me, and drew me towards her; one thing led to another, and before long, I took her home. That night, my life changed for the better.
It was late at night, so we cautiously sneaked back to my apartment. I had second thoughts about what I was going to do, but I went ahead with it anyway. The one thing that kept bothering me was that I was afraid the noise would wake up the neighbours. Damn them, I couldn’t control myself! I opened her up and slid her into my 2600W music system and pressed play. (Hey come on, you knew that it was coming, didn’t you?! I’m overdramatic sometimes, I know. STFU.)
The next thing I knew was that I was blown away! Ahem, well not that way. The first track: “The Number of the Beast”, the second: “Can I Play with Madness”. By the time “Fear of the Dark” ended, I was all over my Maiden! I immediately kicked out all the embarrassing nu-metal CDs from my shelf and displayed my new found love prominently on it. I felt proud losing my musical virginity to a heavy metal band.
Somewhere around 2007, a friend told me that Maiden were coming to India. I couldn’t afford to miss up on this opportunity. I had started daydreaming about what the concert would be like, when the Mumbai University took a piss right through my dream. Stupid engineering exams! Maiden came, Maiden saw and Maiden rocked the shit out of Bangalore, while I was left headbanging (literally) over Internet Security and Project Management. Bah!
Life gave me a second chance in 2008. Maiden were to kick off their World Tour “Somewhere Back in Time” in Mumbai! There was NO FUCKING WAY anyone could stop me this time. Oh yeah, I was more determined and motivated than a Jihadi on a hijacked plane. After all, it was a matter of life and death (clever, ain’t I?). I continually pestered my friends to buy a ticket for me (as I was in Kerala and the tickets arrived late in stores here, aargh). Finally, my friend Dhirubhai gave in and got it for me. Thanks homie!
The concert date inched closer and I had trouble sleeping at night. I couldn’t hold back my excitement. It was going to be awesome.
Feb 1, 2008: Saha, Nonu, JointGuy and a couple of others were waiting at Bandra Station on the Day. It was amazing to notice how well publicized the entire thing was : even the autorickshaw drivers knew about the concert! Some of the shrewd ones had even come up with an ingenious passenger-attracting strategy – catching hold of every black tee wearing guy stepping out of the station and asking, “Boss, Iran Madam leke jaaon kya? Sirf 60 rupiya!”
On reaching the venue, we were shocked to see that only 15000+ people had assembled there, with just 4 hours left for the concert to start.
First up, CRI winners Nerverek took the stage. Judging by the number of middle fingers flying in the air, these guys weren’t exactly a hit with the crowd. Nevertheless, they kept on playing, and slowly but surely, there was a sharp drop in the number of middle fingers. Not because they were playing well(!) or anything, but because the food stalls had opened and the samosas looked delicious! Needless to say, choosing the samosas over the band wasn’t a difficult choice.
Then the most wonderful thing happened: they played their final song and got off everyone’s nerves.
A relieved crowd returned, only to find that Lauren Harris and her all-girl band had taken over from the boyband that played earlier. All these unnecessary sidehows were extremely irritating and we decided to cut loose. At least 666 abuses flew within the space of a minute. Then someone yelled, “Arre gaali mat do Lauren ko, Iron Maiden iske baap ka band hai. Harris uncle ko bura lag gaya toh agli baar nahi ayenge woh.” We froze on hearing this and stopped immediately. Meanwhile, the crowd had already started moving towards the food stalls for another round of samosas.
Parikrama came on next and finally there was some respite. The build up to the grand finale couldn’t have been any better.
Parikrama left. The stage looked eerily empty. Everybody had suddenly gone quiet. You could smell that nervous excitement in the air. Everybody knew what was coming next.
And then, the lights went off. When they came back on, all 6 of them were on stage. Winston Churchill spoke about not surrendering, planes were flying and the rest of the night was just a series of phantasmagoric, disconnected memories.
I can never forget the collective roar that greeted the opening riffs of Aces High. My adrenaline levels must have gone through the roof. Sheer frenzy.
I remember experiencing delirium and hysteria at one point of time, and pushing my way through the sea of black to get closer to the stage.
“You’ll take my life, but I’ll take yours too.” I couldn’t feel the ground beneath my feet. I looked around me and all I could see was a blur. A swirling mass of spellbound figures swaying to their Masters.
I can recall only the start of Run To The Hills. I passed out midway through the song. A guy in the crowd noticed this and was kind enough to drag me out. I don’t know what would have happened otherwise. A bottle of Aquafina (yes, water) later, I was right back in it.
Nearly decapitated myself as the evening progressed.
My vocal chords begged for mercy, but Bruce was adamant. I couldn’t possibly say no to him, could I?
By the time the guards marched him to the courtyard, I was down on my knees and voiceless.
Completely wasted and disoriented, I stumbled out of the venue; reaching home without collapsing on the road seemed like a remote possibility. But even then, I felt absolute bliss.
I’m still not sure if it was a dream, but the purpose of my existence has been fulfilled. I can die happy now.
Up the Irons!