It's 6pm and I'm sitting in front of my mirror wondering how much jewellery is too much jewellery as I attach my nath and remove my tikka. I'm on my way to meet Himesh Patel at the pub over the road to discuss getting him on Burnt Roti's podcast, before wandering to Dalston to see Swet Shop Boys perform in Birthdays. I'm wearing my faux fur coat and carrying my favourite bag, my nath swaying against my face as I skip into the pub. I'm definitely not prepared for a gig. It's been a while. When I was younger, I would attend every gig I possibly could and head straight to the front of the crowd. I'd be the one moshing violently and crowdsurfing, screaming the lyrics until I couldn't scream anymore.
Now, I stand at the back of occasional gigs, clutching my bag and giving evil looks to anyone who bumps into me. Age has made me bitter.
We get a drink and instantly fall into conversations about Bollywood films. I tell him he has to watch Haider (I love that film) and we start talking about old Bollywood cinema. I joke that we haven't discussed the podcast and minutes later we're joined by others coming to the gig with us, including Guardian writer Coco Khan, who also happens to be another writer in The Good Immigrant. We're 'a bunch of good immigrants' and suddenly we've created a safe space for ourselves. We're making comments about stereotyping and laughing at someone's assumptions on diversity. It's comfortable and beautiful.
Swet Shop Boys have helped create this moment.
We start making our way to the gig and comment on the other The Good Immigrant writers that are attending (I'm an honorary member now), excited to extend our family.
We clock Himanshu standing outside the venue, and I go in for a quick hug (he exclaims 'PEATREE!' and I realise I've never told him my actual name) before making excuses and going to the bar. I don't want to force myself on anyone to talk about Burnt Roti, but I'm also aware I haven't had enough alcohol to ignore this sentiment.
I go downstairs and realise I'm walking behind Riz Ahmed. I lower my eyes and pretend I'm not bothered, but deep down all I want to do is scream 'CAN I INTERVIEW YOU'. Instead of running through, he stops and talks to everyone who smiles at him and I realise this isn't my only chance to embarrass myself. Don't worry, I definitely embarrass myself.
We're surrounded by black and brown faces, each one there to celebrate in togetherness. It feels like one big hug. I'm standing with BAFTA award winning scriptwriter Vinay Patel, who's trying to get me in a position to actually be able to see anything. I look around at the talent surrounding me and I feel overwhelmed with love and pride. These people are not only talented writers, actors and musicians, they also look like me. I look up to these people, and here we are one.
Swet Shop Boys start and everyone screams. I still can't see anything, but I don't need to. I'm already dancing, eyes closed. I try to film Tiger Hologram, but I'm dancing too vigorously and I might as well have covered the whole camera with my thumb. I get a shot of tequila half way through and I'm back to dancing. Suffice it to say, I haven't danced that much in a long time.
I can feel Heems and Riz pumping their words through my veins (it's probably the booze) and I'm flying. I've been to some gigs recently (including Nitin Sawhney a couple of weeks ago, which was amazing), but nothing felt as visceral as this. I'm still smiling thinking about it.
The set ends and we find ourselves stumbling back upstairs, to get more drinks and talk about what we've seen. I've had a few beers now and I head back downstairs to see if I can talk to the boys. I approach Himanshu:
'I'm a massive fan of Burnt Roti'
I'm beeming with happiness as he says this.
'I love everything you guys do'
This is the surge of confidence I could have done without, because off I go to find Riz. I stop him as he finishes talking to a group of fans.
'Hey Riz, my name's Sharan, I run the magazine Burnt Roti, you've probably heard of me'.
What did I just say.
'I mean. We've emailed you a few times'
'I like your jewellery'.
I laugh the weirdest laugh I ever have.
We pass more pleasantries and I grab Himanshu for a selfie. He grabs Riz and I have the happiest moment in a long time, squashed lovingly between Himanshu and Riz for a photo.
It then hits me how star-struck I was. I used to listen to Das Racist and managed to get Himanshu in the first issue of Burnt Roti, talking about his solo work as Heems and even in that interview, he talks about the South Asian musicians/writers/actors that he turns for advice and help.
Community is important and it's not segregating, it's about having people, who are like you, to show you how valid your aspirations are.
I look at Himanshu and Riz and I think about when I used to want to act (when I was super young, I also said I want to be an 'ambulance', so none of this was taken seriously), but didn't think it was possible, unless it was Bollywood (but I couldn't speak Hindi fluently enough, so wrote that off, as if it would be my only stumbling block). Riz and Himanshu are showing younger generations that they can do what they want because look at them! Look how successful and talented they are! We are seeing people that look like us on TV and Film and we're not all terrorists anymore. We're heroes and complicated characters.
We can be successful musicians, we can sample elements of our culture into our music and it will be appreciated. There weren't just brown people in the audience, singing 'mere mehboob, aaja'. Zayn Malik sang in urdu and he's one of the biggest celebrities in pop music.
The next day I saw this tweet from Vinay and I nodded so hard my neck still hurts.
The gig was great, but it did more than just allow me to appreciate their music, it made me feel like I was part of something larger.