Outside a music hall
With the Music Festival round the corner, the sabhas in Chennai are abuzz with activity, SVK writes, with a touch of humour, on what goes on behind the scenes.
``HELLO Bhagavathar Sir,'' he greeted a musician with all the trappings of an NRI in dress, sophisticated sound equipment packed in a bulging travel bag, a video camera in one hand and the other encircling the bare shoulders of a young lady in dark glasses and sporting a boy-cut. The Bhagavathar was conversing with a sabha secretary, his gestures all humility, like a camp follower of the head of a religious mutt listening to instructions with half his body bent forward and the fingers of his right hand placed on his lips. Perhaps the Bhagavathar was pleading to the sabha secretary for a chance in the December season.
On hearing the NRI call he turned his face towards him, left the sabha secretary abruptly and joyously ran to respond to the voice from abroad, making it clear who, in the opinion of the Bhagavathar, needs to be cultivated and relied upon the one who can, if he wishes, provide a chance in a reputed music hall in Madras or the one who can arrange a trip to Montreal!
It is said that the weather is unpredictable. Much more so, a musician who with ease can shift loyalties from the chief of a local organisation to the one from whose pocket the dollar flows. Who does not intensely feel the ego hurt? The sabha secretary squirmed on seeing local music lovers around him watching the air he posed before the Bhagavathar was hailed by the NRI and now left high and dry cutting a sorry figure.
``What Sir! Was the Bhagavathar angling for a chance in the music season'', the one standing next to the Sabha Secretary mischievously directed his question, as if to deflate the tall stature of a sabha secretary on the eve of December season when an influential NRI from Montreal is near at hand to a musician.
``H'mm'' was all the reply, the mind of the sabha secretary recalling the day not long ago in his house when senior, junior and sub-junior members of the music fraternity were frantically lobbying for an award during the annual festival.
* * *
"WHAT Sir, what can I say of the hospitality you extended when I was in Montreal for the Sir Thyagaraja aradhana some years back," the Bhagavathar made the opening move before the NRI.
``You came when, I forget'' the NRI said with studied indifference, his attention by then drawn by another liaison from the U.S. greeting him not with a blonde, but with his aged mother whose diamond stud seemed to twinkle brighter in the company of her U.S. based son.
The Bhagavathar waited till the Montreal NRI finished his exchanges with his counterpart regarding the arrangements for joint celebration of Sri Thyagaraja aradhana in Montreal and U.S. and discussing which musicians to invite.
The Bhagavathar was nervously wriggling before the two as the names of some prospective invited musicians were mentioned and sharpened his ears to hear if by any chance his name found a place in their conversation. "Meet Bhagavathar,'' the Montreal NRI introduced him to the U.S. music benefactor and a flicker of hope flitted across the Bhagavathar's face. Finding the moment opportune, he told the Montreal NRI ``It is more than three years since you remembered me, Sir.'' As if to strengthen his case he resorted to the negative approach guffawing, ``Sir, whether you invite me this time or not, I can never forget you and your wife's hospitality. Even today my palate remembers the venpongal and coconut chutney you served, whether you remember me or not.''
The Montreal NRI, lifting his fingers by way of "bye-bye", left making the Bhagavathar think of how to approach the U.S. visitor. When he was about to open the gambit, the aged mother tapped the shoulders of her son and said ``Akash. See Pattu mama and Kosala aunty''. The Bhagavathar was in the same predicament as the sabha secretary when the former left hoping to graze in the green pastures of Montreal.
* * *
THE secretary, deep in thought, was joined by another from a different sabha who jocularly asked ``What! Have you promised a chance to the Bhagavathar or an award! He bullied me last week.''
``Yes, the NRI lured him from me,'' the secretary said in jest.
The music lover who earlier pricked the pride of the secretary said, ``Sir, do you know how the musicians going abroad are received and feted. Kutcheries are held in some basements,'' he said supporting his comments with what his brother-in-law who has been staying in the U.S. for over ten years had said as a first-hand account, making it appear that what we feel in India about the prosperity conferred on musicians going to U.S. is not after all as rosy as we imagine. ``Why bother about all these. The musicians going abroad get what he cannot expected here in a year'', another music lover countered the pessimistic picture painted by the former.
The two sabha secretaries quizzically looked at the arguing music covers. The Bhagavathar, on the NRIs from Montreal and U.S. brushing him aside, directed his steps back to the two secretaries. ``Come on, let us go. The Bhagavathar is coming towards us'' and left. A friend of the Bhagavathar, watching him in the midst of the NRIs, came towards him. Before any embarrassing question was asked as to which sabhas have arranged his programmes during the season, the Bhagavathar checkmated him saying, ``The two I was talking to are from Montreal and the U.S. They were asking, me whether I am free in February to attend a joint Thyagaraja aradhana being organised by them.''
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