I can smell it in the air. As I trot away on my hind legs and lift my nostrils and sniff this way and that, I can hear music, sense perfume, feel silks and smell some wonderful canteen food. To paraphrase and misquote, it is wonderful to be alive, but to be in Chennai in December is to be in heaven itself.
I know the Sruti magazine will decry the Season once again as Mad, Mad and more Mad, but I am happy to be a part of this madness. I like my whole routine of year in and year out being turned topsy-turvy in December.
The season for me begins with the Music Academy and Narada Gana Sabha. I peg my concert attendance to these two places and my eating is always as Gnanambika Catering at the NGS. My regular workday schedule rarely permits me to attend concerts during the year and it is the December season which gives me that window. My office, knowing my strange and rather unfathomable craze for classical music turns a benevolent eye for the period of 15 days when the Season lasts.
I usually attend the lec dem sessions at the Music Academy and also try and fit in a couple of good ones at the Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha. After the lec dem and cup of coffee at the canteen I push off to office and then in the evening it is time for a concert. I restrict my attendance to one concert a day. This year I intend following a few young artistes and listen to their performances. This list includes Amritha Murali, Amrutha Venkatesh, Prasanna Venkataraman, Sandeep Narayan and Swarna Rethas. This will be in addition to my trying to fit in as many of Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s concerts. I will definitely attend performances by Vijay Siva and S Sowmya.
To me, a very special aspect of the season is meeting up with my friend Mohan Krishnamoorthy from Australia who comes down each year. Mohan fits in on average at least three concerts a day. Chin wagging with him on various aspects of music and exchanging anecdotes and notes is great fun.
Charubala, Suresh Gopalan and I usually have lunch together at least on one day of the season at Gnanambika. Getting the duo behind Charsur during the season is tough as they have stalls at least four Sabhas during December which means they will be continuously on the move. But the lunch has become part of season tradition nevertheless.
I usually throw in a couple of heritage walks during the Season. So far I have done six – Mylapore, Triplicane, George Town, Santhome, Homes of the Music Academy and the Devadasi Trail. I am thinking of a couple of new routes this time. Of course nothing will ever equal the charm of the Mylapore Walk. That area was made for heritage tours.
The Season also means preparing for my two end of the year talks at Tag Centre. As always I get butterflies in my stomach each time I think about the subjects. This year I plan to finish all the groundwork before 1st December. But I planned the same way each year since 2003! And everytime I have finished the work only the evening before the talk.