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OPINION | Are Tickets for U2 Concert Pro Bono?: Question That Led a Hilarious Joke and History of ‘Good Word’

File photo of U2 performing on stage. (Image: AP)

File photo of U2 performing on stage. (Image: AP)

Music band U2 is coming to Mumbai and everyone seems to be in a frenzied hurry to get the tickets or passes for the concert.

So, U2 is coming to Mumbai and all the dudes, machaans, bros, dude-bros and bhailogs, not forgetting the bhadraloks with a mid-life crisis and docile mojos have suddenly woken up. The music of our childhood is coming to town. It's time to wake up and be prepared. Like Boy Scouts, all us 30-pluses... Okay, 40- pluses, have started reaching out to their old school WhatsApp groups and telling the world in and around Bandra-Worli sea link that the “boys are back in town”.

Yes, I know that this is the wrong song reference and they are coming here for the first time. So, let’s get the facts out of the way first. The Irish legends will play in India, at Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium, on 15 December as part of their 2019 Joshua Tree Tour.

Yeah, literally to bask in the Indian Summer Sky and all that jazz. But, we Mumbai city dwellers and Aarey tree- huggers may actually not have too many reasons to smile because this iconic tree (The Joshua Tree - the image of which was shot by photographer Anton Corbijn, who travelled with the band for three days in December 1986 trying to find the right spot for a photo) which had fans flocking to it in the Mojave Desert was felled, vandalised and obliterated in 2000.

But this piece is not about irony. It's actually about a joke... yes a lame PJ (poor joke to the millennials, with the hope the term does still exist with them woke folks too, only to realise that the only PJs which are really “lit” with them are pajamas).

So it all started with my WhatsApp groups coming abuzz. Many at a time. The hustle had started and people reaching out to their buddies because some of their better halves had already done the Bieber and Demi Lovato shows. “Kya yaar, total paisa waste tha!” cribbed one of my pals in his newly acquired Mumbaiyya accent. “Bieber was not even singing, man,” he said. “Just putting Auto-Tune and drinking mineral water on stage.”

The Joshua tree in the background

He also went on to say that his car had packed up and he got into an autorickshaw to reach the venue and all he got to listen to was Auto-Tune. After a few consolatory utterances, I mentioned to him that he already got that on the ride... Auto--> autorickshaw --> sound of autorickshaw--> Auto-Tune. Geddit? I know all of you grasped it in the beginning. He didn’t. No offence meant to the Bieber fans or Beliebers or Beeple or whatever you want to be called.

So WhatsApp group Rockstreetboyzz buzzed. Yes, it’s a nod to the legendary Rock Street Journal (RSJ). And the boyzz (yes, with the zz) was a nod not to ZZ Top but our juvenility. Remember “Hello Frendzz”? R.I.P, Amit Saigal, the world is a better place because of people like you. Now coming back to the joke. Networks were buzzing. Are buzzing. People are making calls, connecting with old fellow rock fans so that all of them can gang up in one big imaginary non-existent mosh pit for geriatrics.

Okay, U2 music is not the mosh pit kind, but this is imagination. The Big Hustle had started. Who is getting the tickets? Any contacts for passes? Sponsor kaun hai? So was our Rockstreetboyzz. I just happened to mention on that group that “Are the U2 tickets PRO BONO?” The group went silent. One friend sent across a screenshot with the floorplan/seating plan/ ground plan with the ticket cost. Another pal, one of the Asthadiggajas of the group said, “Chindi fellow, haven’t you changed? Can't buy a U2 ticket? Your U2? Our U2?” I stopped him before this would relegate to our We2, We2Ours2, Me2 to maybe even #wetwoo. By the way, Mumbai Terminal-2 has a mascot called Titu, (T-2), but I digress.

I had to explain the joke. It's the most painful thing. The last and cruellest cut on any sane mind. The hurt. The pain is unimaginable. All the apna “pun” is lost when a comrade, a brother in arms (again bad song reference) doesn’t get it. But the die was cast. U2 --> Bono --> Pro Bono. Geddit? Few smiley emoticons followed. Small gratification. Then I tried it on three of my team. Music lovers all. Fell flat again. Then two of my family. Same fate and multiple facepalms. And many after-smiles, if that word even exists. Not to be deterred, I decided to pen this. This, a journey of words, and why my “Bono” joke is a “good” one.

The Joshua Tree hogging the back cover of U2’s “The Joshua Tree” album released in 1987

Well, if you actually look at it, the word bono originates from the Latin “bonus” which means “good”. The fact that the Latin word gives something additional to your salaries at the end of a year or a term is literally a “bonus”. So once you are post your Navaratri dandiya and enter the realms of Diwali, that a sum of money is added to your yearly kitty is really possible because you have been “good” the past year. There was also a kindly old priest who went by the name Bonus. As all good things need to come to end, he did too, with 11 other mates.

He was martyred by the Roman emperor Vespasian's kind men, in the 6th century. Since the priest was “good” to his last sermon, he was quite a hero and many families named their kids after him. Literally, people spreading the good word, deed and seed. The Italians made it cooler with names like Buono, Bonafacio, Bonavento, Bonaventura and it found it’s manifesting in Spanish named songs like La Isla Bonita (which means The Good Island) and gave companies likes Buena Vista (The Good View) their name. But let's leave Buena for another day and stick to Bono.

Search on Google for Lypton village in Ireland and you will not find much on the maps. This was a smallish chimerical dwelling in Ballymun, Dublin fuelled by the fertile imagination of the founders of U2, and its eminent residents went by the names Paul Hewson, Fionan Hanvey, David Evans and Derek Rowan. It existed only in their heads. It has its own set of rules, must-haves and have-nots and, as all phantasmic places like Shangri La, Springfield, Rivendell, Hogsmeade, Dragonstone, Yoknapatawpha County or for that matter Bikini Bottom from Spongebob Squarepants, its own idiosyncrasies. Moreover, it existed only for a few years in the 1970s but its contribution to the world of music is monumental. It was a land of words, music, art and make-what-you-can nicknames. Very similar to the concept of daaknaam in Bengali, only that your friends would repeatedly take shots at naming you unlike your parents. Either way, you could never do anything about it.

And for the sniggering people of the south, let’s not forget our nicknames where our parents’ creativity stretched from Kunju, Kutty, Kanna, Baby to ... ahem Baby, Kanna, Kutty, Kunju. Lypton village had its own language and nomenclature. It is why Fionan Hanvey, David Evans, Paul Hewson and Derek Rowan are Gavin Friday, The Edge and Bono and the artist Guggi now. Most of these guys hated the names given to them. No one wants be called Edge even if they are living on it. These names were supposed to represent their persona.

Bono had a string of names, most of which were his own doing. He loved word games and giving nicknames and then ended up facing the music from his teammates. He was called Houseman, Huyseman both of which originated as shortened versions of Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang. Then his name got onto the Bon path. He was called Bon Murray. He supposedly hated it. Gavin Friday named him after a hearing aid shop on O'Connell Street. The shop was called Bonavox but was changed to Bono Vox because Gavin felt it was better because it meant “The Good Voice” in Latin. Paul Hewson hated it and rechristened himself Mr Paul Vox. But as fate would have it, “Good” always triumphs and Bono it was. Gavin won. So much for friendship being forged when he literally crashed a party, which he was not invited to, and was caught by Paul and Guggi trying to steal something from the house.

So let’s take a small walk down words which have emanated from literally “The Path of Good”. Some have found major prominence in the world of business, and others are generally good to know.

Bon Appetit!

To emphasise on the point, here is the literal meaning of all the reference to Good/Goodness.

So let’s take a small walk down words which have emanated from literally "The Path of Good". Some have found major prominence in the world of business and others are generally good to know!

Bonafide: Literally means ‘with good faith’ in Latin and is the ablative singular of bona fides. In English, it is used as an adjective and occasionally used as a noun (bona fides) to refer to a person's credentials or proof of trustworthiness.

Bon voyage: Originated from late 17th century French, literally meaning ‘good journey’, it is used to express good wishes to someone about to set off on a journey.

Bonanza: It means ‘fair weather, prosperity’. Dates back to early 19th century (with US origins, especially with references to success when mining).

Bonbon: Borrowed from French ‘bonbon’ and reduplication of bon (“good”) from Latin bonus.

Bonhomie: Late 18th century: from French, from bonhomme ‘good fellow’. The native equivalent of it is Goodman.

Bonism: The doctrine that the world is good, although not the best of all possible worlds. Latin origin: bonus meaning good

Bonitas: "Pretty, Cute" in Spanish and Portuguese

Bonne: Late 18th century from French, feminine of bon - ‘good’. Largely referred to a French nursemaid or housemaid.

Bonny: "pleasing, good-looking,". A general Scottish epithet of appreciation, but often used ironically. Origin presumably from Old French bon meaning "good".

Bonus: Late 18th century (probably originally Stock Exchange slang). Origin from Latin of the word bonus, masculine version of ‘good’, and used in place of bonum which is the neutral version of ‘good, good thing’.

Boon: Middle English (originally in the sense ‘request for a favour’) with origins from Old Norse - "bón".

Bounteous: From Late Middle English: from Old French bontif, -ive ‘benevolent’ (from bonte ‘bounty’)

Bountiful: Early 16th century meaning large in quantity and abundant.

Bounty: Middle English (denoting goodness or generosity): from Old French bonte ‘goodness’ , with the sense of a ‘monetary reward’ being attached to its meaning dating back to the early 18th century.

Debonair: de bon aire which means ‘of good disposition’ from Old French debonaire.

Pro Bono: From Latin pro bono publico ‘for the public good’.

Summum Bonum: Latin expression meaning "the highest good", introduced by the Roman philosopher Cicero, to correspond to the Idea of the Good in ancient Greek philosophy. Origin: Latin

Superabound: To abound abnormally; be in surplus Late Middle English origins and a combination of super - above and beyond and abundāre - to abound. First known use of superabound during the 14th century.

Late Middle English: from the Latin word, bene facere which means “do good (to)”.

Beneath Extending or directly underneath, at a lower level or lower than.

Old English - binithan, bineothan, and bi + nithan and neothan meaning “below” of Germanic origin, related to nether.

These are just a few. I am sure there are many more. But coming back to the original joke, “Are U2 tickets Pro Bono?” If there are any going, and there is still “good” in the world, please be sure to send me a word. Free food and free passes for music concerts are always welcome. You are never too “Chindi” for a bono Parsi Bhonu. Interesting, we people have this practice called “Bhoni” in the Indian subcontinent. This cash-only transaction, supposed to bring in “good business”, however, has no connection in the etymological sense to “bon”. It originates from a practice in the 18th century where the first transaction in shops would normally be made to a dwarf (buana) as it was considered a “good omen”. But more of that for another day because I still haven’t found what I am looking for.

For now, it’s only a plea for pro bono passes, and of course U2 can join. See y’all at the “mosh pit”. I will be there, with or without you!

(The author works as the Chief Product Officer at Network 18 Digital. Views are personal.)

first published:September 21, 2019, 17:30 IST