December is just around the corner and as it approaches, my defences automatically go up. I brace myself for phone calls from magazines that go “Sir, we want you to do a simple feature on the music season, you know… its history, how it all began, Music Academy, MS Subbulakshmi and all that…” I grit my teeth and wait for what will follow:
“And then sir, something about how this is the biggest festival in the world – 60 organisations and 2000 programmes…” (I wonder who first gave out these figures and has anyone ever verified them) and also “something about how it has survived due to corporate sponsors and all that”.
“Maybe I could add something about the canteens and the dresses and the NRIs and the Kalanidhi controversies and all that?” I ask innocently.
“Ooooh all that was just what we had on our wish list,” flutters the bright young thing at the other end, sometimes adding an “Uncle” to good effect.
I draw a deep breath.
“Well my dear (and if I am called uncle, why should I not be avuncular?), it is just that I have been writing the same thing for over 20 seasons now and I am just a wee bit tired…”
“But uncle, just this once for us. And you will make it sound so different and all that anyway,” (couple of giggles now)
“I tell you what, ” I say. “Why dont you just cull the whole thing from my blog and or better still buy a copy of Four Score and More from the Music Academy?” (I dont mention that the hoary institution is sitting on tonnes of unsold copies of the book and every time I see the pile I get an allergic reaction)
“But uncle, we have no time! My editor says that it must go into press tonight and I thought you could write it in a jiffy and also give us maybe around half-a-dozen photos to go with it and all that.”
“Which is why I want you to get a copy of Four Score… It has plenty of photos in it.”
“But uncle, it will cost money (How silly of me, I overlooked that. And anyway, that ends my feeble attempt at palming off one more copy of the book. I was never good at sales. Someone told me it had something to do with the dignity of my demeanour, whatever that means). And our magazine runs on a tight budget (now where had I heard this before?) and our editor said that if we put in your photo and give you a brief write-up it would do you so much good. Our magazine is read by all the important people in Chennai you know (now why does this sound familiar?).”
I should have hung up a long while ago I tell myself.
“Look here, I am so sorry I cannot help but I am very busy. I really can’t do this write-up because I am bored to death with the history of the music season. I am however not bored with the season…”
“Then uncle what about a piece on how you enjoy the season? A personal account …”
“No. Not that either. I am really sorry…”
“Oh uncle, I was so hoping you would agree. But then can you give us some ideas on what we could do?”
“I tell you what, why dont you interview musicians on what they will be doing this season?”
“Oh uncle, what a good idea. We will call them and ask about how they are coping with season pressures, what they will be wearing, how they will travel from place to place, who they will listen to and all that…”
“Yes, and maybe something about what they will be singing?”
“Oh, no Uncle, all that will get too technical and most of our readers wont understand.”
“Then may be you must do an interview with canteen managers and canteen regulars.”
“Lovely idea uncle. I dont know how to thank you. I’d bet all this will be a fresh and completely unknown perspective. Anything else?”
“Maybe interview an few senior citizens on seasons of the past?”
“Great uncle. Now can you help me with phone numbers of musicians, canteen managers, canteen users and senior citizens who have enjoyed seasons of the past?”
I pretend not to have heard that. If I did, my BP would reach stratospheric levels.
“If I can think of something new, I will let you know. Bye.”