The Tamil Isai Sangam is one of my favourite locations when it comes to music. There is the noble intent of beginning such an organization to start with and then there is the sheer grandeur of the building – the Annamalai Manram. Above all there is the long line of great names that were associated with it.

However all that is in the past. It is true that a December music festival is hosted there each year but it is a mere shell of its former self. The topmost stars struggle to fill the place and it can be disconcerting to sing to a near empty hall of that size.

Which is exactly what happened to a Vidwan of the past. It was a time when the second performance would start at 9.00pm. When the curtain went up he found nobody in any of the front rows. There were some odd fellows at the extreme rear and so, enthused to an extent, he began to sing. After an hour those at the rear suddenly got up and left. It transpired that they were all from the transporters company who were there to shift some theatre props. There had been some delay in the arrival of the truck and so they far decided to bide their time in the air conditioning. Now the vehicle had come.

The hall being now completely empty there was now the question of whether to continue with the concert. The manager advised an early closure and so the vAzhiya sentamizh was duly sung. Our Vidwan came out to find no auto rickshaw or any other kind of transport available. He had no option but to walk along the beach all the way to Mylapore holding aloft his tambura rather in the manner of Narada.

Carnatic music can be very tough on its practitioners.

This article is part of an irregular series on happenings during December Music Seasons Past. You can read the earlier episodes here:

The Mridangist has a malaise
A Hairy Tale
The Tambura Artiste Vanishes
The Double Crossing Violinist
How Kannan made it to the Academy
Pattammal trumps a Jeer