When I was 14 years old my mother Juanita no longer wanted to give live performances as the anxiety that caused her was overwhelming even with those “Mother’s Little Helpers” otherwise known as Xanax and the live performances only encouraged her to revive that past habit of Gin.
Despite the anxiety she wanted to give her fans one last performance on the stage on the condition I accompany her after my school term at King’s School for Young Men concluded in mid May. Juanita was concerned with my insular upbringing in the lap of wealth and British colonialism and firmly believed my exposure to the world would open my eyes and rid my provincialism.
So 65 performances were arranged in North America and Europe with three in Japan and two in China. Juanita was not a superstar as her genre “Bombay Blues” was not fully appreciated commercially. So the venues would be in smaller theatres and concert halls instead of in arenas and big open fields. Her audience was an older set.
This was exciting for me escaping Bombay to the big wide world. Her record company Mumbai Marvellous had chartered a small jet from Sobranj Airlines to take her on the farewell tour. So off we went starting with a performance in San Francisco. Super cool with the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight Ashbury, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. I really enjoyed our day trip to Napa Valley especially our private tasting at Biale Vineyards where we had Black Chicken Zinfandel. During prohibition when temperance laden America enacted Prohibition Biale Vineyards did sell wine to those customers knocking on the door wanted some black chickens for their dinner. Well black chicken was the code name for bottles of wine. Alcatraz was awesome. Haight Ashbury and its dope smoking hippies and free sex was an eye opener. My dad could have made a fortune selling dope to these upper middle class hippie types. And the Vietnam War added a dose of reality.
The real fanfare for my mother was in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry which she sold out for two performances. We have lots of Holy Shrines in India and as far as country music and the blues the Grand Ole Opry was a shrine! We met a rather fat and puffy and inebriated man called Elvis Parsley I think his name was.
There was Sioux City, Denver, Detroit, New York, Toronto, Wa Wa, Winnipeg and Cornwall to name a few. Yes I saw the world and developed a love for hamburgers, milkshakes, Kraft Dinner, Moose Meat, popcorn, apples and ample pornography on hotel room channels. A young man’s dreams coming true.
Europe was less gregarious than North America especially in France where Mom was warmly received as India’s Billie Holiday. On night in Paris a famous blue’s musician B.B. King insisted he play a couple of sets with Juanita. I love French cuisine with its heavy sauces but boy the French ignore vegetables!
Yes my ignorant little eyes were penned discovering a world outside Bombay. It made me cognizant of differing cultures, attitudes, foods and taste in music. I had the time of my life. I had matured in a very big hurry.