I have now become such a familiar sight at Gnanambika canteen that some of the waiters even pat me on the shoulder (I am also a lavish tipper). I am sure we will pretty soon know each other on first name terms. And so day began with several of us friends meeting up for breakfast. The usual stuff, all very good. For a change I tried podi dosai and found it to be excellent. Have been missing Academy lecdems for three days in a row and will probably miss the 25th as well but it cannot be helped. This Season is socially demanding too. I have been up everyday at 4.30 am.

Went off to photograph the road sign Bhashyam Basheer Ahmed (for once it is correct but more on that later) and then off to office. The usual hiccups and such, coupled with working on the Mali talk for the 30th. I have just realised that I will be away for two days this week and that means I need to finish the Mali talk preparation by the 25th.

In the afternoon went to the Academy as I had duty for Sandeep Narayan’s concert. A full house on the ground floor. Just had time to wave artistes in and collect a VIP and take him to his seat in first row. Sat in the second row and shut eyes to collect my thoughts when a gentle tap revealed VIP standing next to me. The boy scout or girl guide had summarily said that VIP could not sit in front row. VIP most gracious and what with kalyANi varnam already in progress I could only offer VIP seat alongside. Later saw several strange people drifting in and sitting boldly in first row with boy scout/girl guide looking benignly on. Fortunately VIP had eyes shut and later found the music so good that did not bother. I like this VIP.

Halfway through the kAmbOji AlApana, the mike let out a wail. I sat up with a jerk. My pet nightmare was unfolding. A sound system crisis when I am in charge. A few minutes later more wails. And then some more. Got up from seat and charged to the rear to see man at console fiddling rather cluelessly with several knobs. More wails. Now audience looking to the rear as well. You may as well have reversed all their seats. Artiste was somewhat put off but the violinist gamely continued and that changed the mood. Everyone once again focused on the music, wails notwithstanding.

I had by then begun saying all the shlokas I knew. The man kept fiddling (the man at the console and not the violinist). Sandeep sang as one inspired. More wails. Then, just as I had begun to invoke my Lord Parthasarathy and ask for Him to come in person, an angel arrived. Suresh Gopalan of Charsur. He simply waved his fingers at the console, patted some knobs on the head, spoke endearingly to a couple others and that was that. The console rolled over, licked his feet and wagged its tail. He tickled its stomach. Console up and about. Mikes behaved themselves. God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. I was later asked if Balaji was not there. The only Balaji present as far as I was concerned was the one on the seven hills. The Balaji in charge of the sound was not present.

Came back to seat and enjoyed maragatavalli and then the shubhapantuvarALi RTP. At the end of concert VIP wanted to meet Sandeep and so took VIP backstage. Apologised to artistes for the sound misbehaving. Restored shattered nerves at canteen. Other committee members felt that this being Vaikuntha Ekadasi, only Kancheepuram idlies would do. Did not like it all that much. The masal vadai was good. Coffee mediocre.

Chatted for an hour in canteen even as Sudha Raghunathan sang inside. Heard shrI rAjagOpAla, shrI rangapuravihAra and O rangasAyi. Ate at Little Italy. A group of friends. Italian makes for a nice change after days of Sabha canteen food.

On the 25th, stayed home and worked on Mali. A straight 8 hr effort. Listened to some wonderful recordings of his. Friends such as Sujatha Shankar, SL Narasimhan and S Kulkarni most helpful with photos and recordings. Went to bed at 10.00 pm.