Never the Twain shall meet
The Man from Madras Musings, like Portia, thinks that there is music in the heavens. After all December is just around the corner and the Sabhas must be limbering their muscles even as the musicians clear their throats. It was rather appropriate then that a foreign country that is celebrating a certain number of years of association with ours (MMM forgets the exact number) chose to have an orchestra from back home to perform a few Western classical pieces. Now, that is a form of music that MMM loves, though rather regretfully he understands very little of it.
The programme outdid MMM’s expectations but as the event progressed, what impressed MMM even more was the audience behaviour. Exemplary would have been an understatement. Not a single cell-phone rang, not a throat was cleared repeatedly, no rustle of newspapers, no steady chomp-chomp of food being surreptitiously eaten, no crackle of plastic covers and above all no steady drone of conversation. It was amazing. The programme was only for an hour and a half and yet nobody got up in between to shuffle off to the toilets. And when the clock struck eight, the general exodus, in answer to the call of the TV serial was also absent. What exactly had contributed to this sudden adoption of best-behavioural practices?
But that this was no permanent change was made amply clear the very next time that MMM attended an Indian music concert at the same venue, just a few days later. The same faces were in attendance, for after all, the art-loving population of the city is a small one and to quote from the newspapers, “all the usual suspects were present.” And as though to make up for what had been missed in the earlier event, the nuisance value was at its highest. The mikes, which had behaved themselves in the previous instance, chose to let out sudden shrieks. The sound-man, who was servile in the extreme to the performers from abroad was truculent in his response. And the audience resorted to all its usual misdemeanours. And yet, the artiste performed with a serene smile right through, even when half the hall upped and left rather like Cinderella, when the clock struck the happy hour. Had he been in the artiste’s place, MMM would have at least considered hurling a slipper or two at their retreating backs.
What exactly contributes to this behavioural swing? According to a senior industrialist with whom MMM discussed the matter, this is not much different from our kinsmen refraining from spitting or littering when they go abroad, only to come back and resume their usual (mal)practices.
Before you assume that that heading refers to something from the film world, the Man from Madras Musings would like to inform you that he rarely watches films. This has to do with an audio CD release, which was accompanied with as much fanfare as a film premiere. Star-studded is the only word. A few years ago, a CD release was a simple matter. You saw an advertisement in the paper and went and bought the recorded music from the nearest outlet. But now you need special events for each of these launches, even though this silicon disc is fast fading away, being replaced by other and better media options.
But to get back to the audio release. Taking a leaf from the cricket events where the prize cheque is blown up several times and gifted to the winner in a size more akin to a vast outdoor hoarding, the event managers evidently decided that something akin to this must be done in the present case too. And so, when the time came for the release of the CD, what should MMM see but that a huge container, at least five feet by four feet was brought on to stage by a couple of burly individuals and handed over to the Chief Guest, who being of venerable age, staggered under the load. The other guests on stage, along with the artiste whose work was being launched had to rally round to support him and the container, which threatened to topple over and flatten all of them in one shot.
Once everyone had attained some semblance of balance, the Chief Guest made ready to open the container, which was fitted with two doors rather like a cupboard. He managed to open one, and then it was held on by one of the other guests and then he went across to open the other door which was then held open by another dignitary on the “dias” (as is often pronounced in our city). By then the audience was tittering gently, for such being the size of the doors, everyone barring the Chief Guest had gone completely behind the container. The photographers were clamouring for them to come out but who could leave this huge container to stand on its own?
The Chief Guest then decided to go “back stage” so to speak, by which MMM means the container. He had no doubt wanted to lend a helping hand but the net result was that everyone had vanished behind the CD rack and all that you could detect of any human presence on the stage were a few finger tips, desperately clutching the container and hoping it would not topple over. It was almost as though a CD had decided to launch itself and was in the process of doing so, sans any human assistance. Being rather close to the stage, MMM could head embarrassed whispers among those covered by the monstrous CD case and evidently a heated debate was in progress as to who should be the first to emerge from behind. Everyone wanted to leave simultaneously but the container lurched alarmingly to one side making all the guests having to support it once more.
Matters appeared to have reached an impasse when the burly individuals who had brought the rack on to the stage decided to help and took over. Order was restored and the sheepish dignitaries emerged into the spotlight once more. The photographers became busy, those on stage beamed (no doubt with relief) and the audience duly clapped. Thunderous applause would be a better term and no doubt they were expressing their appreciation for having been provided extra entertainment.
Evidently what is right for cricket is not appropriate for Carnatic Music.