The invitation card for the inauguration of the Music Academy’s season said that we had to be there at 4.45pm and so by 4.15pm I was at the Gaudiya Mutt Road corner, preparing to turn left into TTK Road, for entering the Music Academy. I should have realised that it would not be so easy, for even at the five roads intersection near Lloyds (Avvai Shanmugam) Road, I had seen a most unusual object- a policeman trying to regulate the traffic. This is one of the worst junctions in the city and it gets by for most of the year without any traffic light or policeman. The only time it sees these law lords is when JJ goes to her office or when some bigwig arrives at the Academy.
Sure enough, I was not allowed to turn into TTK Road. Metal barriers had been placed and four policemen, were waving their arms about and directing us onwards. So I drove on to Gopalapuram where there were further blocks and by 4.45 managed to reach the Academy junction via Cathedral Road, only to not be allowed to turn in on TTK Road. So I drove on, now on Radhakrishnan Road and finally parked the car and walked back to the Academy. It was 5.05 pm.
At the gates there was a scene extraordinarily like the storming of the Bastille. Around 20 people were trying to convince the security at the gate that they needed to get in. The special police, who had taken over the Academy in view of the Vice President of India coming to inaugurate the season, were not willing to budge. The gates were locked and there was considerable jostling at the gate. In the midst of it all stood poor PS Narayanaswamy (a Sangita Kala Acharya to boot) waving his card. One of the guards saw him and launched into a tirade the sum of which was that he, the guard did not care who he, PSN was and that if he, PSN came late he could not be let in. A few of us tried to convince the officers that PSN had to get in, as it was after all a musical institution and he was a highly respected and awarded musician. The officers could’nt care less.
Just then a huge car drove up and out stepped a foreigner. The officers did not know who he was, but his being a white skin was enough. He showed the same card that all of us had and he was immediately shown in through a side gate. That was enough for us. We now argued that PSN had to be let in, come what may. Finally, after a good ten minutes of further haggling, PSN was allowed in. He was most embarrassed, but we were satisfied.
The officer then glared at me. “Do you also want to come in?” he asked. “No” I said. “Your VP and the Academy can hold their inauguration in peace”. And I walked off.
Kalki, over 50 years ago wrote that when one goes to the Academy, it is with great trepidation about the kind of ‘mariyadai’ that would be given. His statement still holds good. Of course, this time the Academy committee was not at fault. The security completely took over the place. But at least one committee member could have stood at the gate with them and identified people like PSN.
The purpose of inviting some non musical bigwig for these inaugurations simply beats me. What should be a joyous beginning is converted into a high tension event leaving a bitter feeling all around. Why not have a former Sangita Kalanidhi do the honours instead of these grand panjandrums? A couple of years ago, a man came who insisted on referring to Tyagaraja as Tyaga Sastrigal. But then this is a universal trend during the season. Another Sabha had the Governor of Chattisgarh inaugurating its festival!!