Sriram Ayer Of Nalanda Way speaking on August 24, 2018

Aug 24- The previous day having seen considerable unruly behaviour among the freeloaders (RV Rajan has even written an article on them in Adyar Times), Sarada who was much distressed came up with a winner of an idea – we get the hotels to pre-serve the snacks and just hand over the plates to the people who come. That way everyone gets something to eat and there is no fracas rather like the sack of Vijayanagar at the buffet table. I broached the idea to Mathangi of Chamiers who agreed at once. The evening saw what can only be called angelic behaviour at the food counter. Of course, a couple of freeloaders thought they could be smart and queue up for a second time. But I found them out and asked them to take their seats, in one instance even gently prizing out the plate from the offender’s hands. The freeloaders are baffled, but only for the nonce I think. They will soon come up with some novel way to get at the food.

The Nalanda Way children

The programme that evening saw Sriram Ayer of the Nalanda Way Foundation speaking on how this NGO took a group of disadvantaged children to Washington DC to participate in a choral music festival. Some of the kids were present and they sang for us. I was reminded of Lorenzo from the Merchant of Venice –

Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

Many of us had tears in our eyes. There was a standing ovation at the end from the packed house. To me, this was the highpoint of Madras Week 2018.

At the Fort St George tour, August 25, 2018

Aug 25 – The bookings for the Fort walk were closed by the 23rd what with us having received over 150 reservations. It drizzled throughout the night and so naturally there were some cancellations, the average Chennaite fears the rain. But we still had 110 people assembled at the car park opposite the Fort at 6.45 am. The security at the gate was all courtesy and actually smiled in welcome. I was asked if I was the guide and on replying in the affirmative, had to enter my name and address in the book and then we were all let in. We had the Fort pretty much to ourselves thereafter for the next two-and-a-half hours. One of my best walks, even if I say so myself. Had to rush to office and so missed Mr KRA Narasiah’s lecture at the Madras Literary Society.

Dr Chithra Madhavan speaks on Masterpieces of the Madras Museum, August 25, 2018

In the evening we had my dear friend Chithra Madhavan speaking at Hanu Reddy Residences, run by another dear friend, Nirupama Reddy. The snacks were again pre-served and the freeloaders were baffled once more. Chithra drew a packed house (need I even say that?) and gave a wonderful presentation on the masterpieces of the Madras Museum. Tomorrow will be the last day of Madras Week 2018, thank goodness. All this running around has made it a second Music Season, well almost. Late at night read a couple of poisonous tracts on how this Madras Week is all colonial. Another speculated on how this flash in the pan will soon fade away. Sad, this cynical attitude towards a celebration with no hidden intent.

The yacht Shandavina photographed by Capt Vivek Shanbaug from a neighbouring vessel

Aug 26 – In the morning off to the Royal Madras Yacht Club for the tour of Madras from the Sea. A record 90 people had registered. 93 turned up. We had a fun time. The sail was smooth and the weather just what the doctor had recommended. From there rushed off home for Avani Avittam, which always has a habit of falling in the middle of Madras Week. Then ho to the Music Academy where the Sangita Kalanidhi elect was formally welcomed by the Executive and Experts Committee. Lunch at the Academy. Back home for a quick snooze.

The audience at Janaki Lenin’s talk, Aug 26, 2018

Then in the evening went to Residency Towers for the last of the Madras Week talks this year. This was by Janaki Lenin on how she and Romulus Whitaker transformed a farm into a forest. It was an overfull house. The snacks, pre-served once more, actually ran out. I had budgeted for 60 people and we had 90. Most people were most understanding about it. Not so were two freeloaders – one actually managed to pack some food in a plastic bag and took it home, the other came up to me, grumbled about the faulty service and said that if this was going to be the trend he may have to think twice about coming to future Madras Week events.

Sarada and I with Janaki Lenin and Romulus Whittaker

On that happy note, see you all in Madras Week 2019.