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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 18, january 1-15, 2010
Short 'N' Snappy

Musical musings in the sabha-s

Each December, The Man from Madras Musings becomes a man who muses musically and hops from sabha to sabha. This year, several ailments, including a bad back, curtailed MMM actions quite a lot. Nevertheless, he got around or, should we say, hobbled around quite a bit. And what struck him most was that audience behaviour continues to be as bad as ever. The use of cell-phones has now become an epidemic. Even the office-bearers of the various sabha-s thought nothing of speaking into the phone while concerts were in progress. Some hissed, some whispered (or so they thought), others simply roared.

Even worse was the habit of several regulars who brought newspapers and read them while the concert was in progress. If the rustling of the sheets was not bad enough, the holding up of a paper while an artiste was singing was definitely a gross insult to a performer. Even worse, those in the neighbouring seats also began reading that newspaper at the same time, making it a kind of co-operative movement. On one occasion, what with the sheets being held by several pairs of hands, the paper came apart with a loud ripping noise, yet everyone carried on regardless.

MMM had other new experiences as well as the Season progressed. On one occasion he was seated next to a pillar-of-society who was poring over a magazine. After a while, the aging rasika upped and left, leaving the magazine behind. MMM picked it up and found that it had a couple of nudes on the cover!

Not of the same order was the occasion when MMM was accosted en route to the Music Academy toilet by an eager rasika. The man, rather like the Ancient Mariner, held MMM spellbound about concerts that he had heard in the past and how music of the present day paled into insignificance. MMM’s position was rather like the Wedding Guest who beat his breast, only here MMM, apart from missing the concert in progress, had also to use the toilet urgently. The situation was saved by the floor-cleaner who came and told us rather brusquely that we could save the Academy from falling by shoring up some other wall and not the one leading to the toilet. “Are you going to the toilet?” asked the Ancient Mariner and then said he too would come along. MMM by then had visions of the man sharing the same urinal but fortunately he took the adjacent one and, even while there, continuously spoke of ragas and talas and how to treat them in sickness and in health. Fortunately, MMM was faster off the mark and could therefore run away, leaving the man to latch on to his next victim.

By way of infrastructure, the Music Academy still rules the roost, with valet parking service, refurbished toilets, an overhauled stage, comfortable seats and an excellent listening ambience. Record crowds were witnessed on most days, a little bird whispers to MMM. Traffic snarls outside most venues have become par for the course and MMM wonders how much longer the strain can be withstood. What is urgently needed is a public transport system for the Music Season, with (hopefully, battery operated) buses running point-to-point services. There is already one in service, but the Season could do with more – and with greater frequency.

Much ado

The latest Indian-origin Nobel Laureate came a-calling during the Music Season. And he was spotted at a couple of venues. The Man from Madras Musings was at a concert when an SMS was received on his (silent) cell phone. “Is he thr” was the cryptic msg, sorry message. MMM did not know who was being referred to and sent an ‘?’ in return. This got an even more terse reply – “him” – and then perhaps correctly divining that MMM’s brightest days are behind him, the sender clarified by sending yet another message – “nbl lrt”. This time MMM understood but from where he sat squashed among the lesser nobility, he could not make out who was seated upfront. Later, when the first concert for the evening had ended and the second was yet to begin, MMM went out to stretch his legs and the battery of press photographers told its own story. MMM was able to reply in the affirmative to his friend. MMM sent a “yes”, though the correct SMS convention is “S”. Presumably the scribe who wanted this information managed to reach the venue on time and meet the nbl lrt.

The man who was the centre of all this attention must have been quite bemused, for, the next day, according to yet another little bird (at this rate MMM would soon qualify to being a favoured ornithologist), the nbl lrt came back, this time with no media attention, stood in a queue at a sabha canteen, bought his own coffee and then spent an hour or two listening to a concert in a seat at the rear and then went his way. If this is true, such behaviour must have been unfathomable to some of our sabha regulars who push and shove their way through on all occasions. Also many, in MMM’s view, were somewhat upset at being denied a photo opportunity with the celeb. “I am related to him, you know,” said a fossil to MMM and even offered to draw a family tree. But MMM was not interested. Two days later, attention had shifted. “Is she thr” was the SMS. MMM was better qualified this time. For it meant the head of a cola giant. He replied in the affirmative. And so it went on. What of the music, do you ask? Frankly, who cared?

What beats MMM is how our publicity-hungry politicians could miss an opportunity to be clicked with the Nobel. They must have been apprehensive at not being able to understand most of what he said. Imagine having a conversation on ribosomes when the closest the politician can think of is probably rip-off some.

Eating season

The Music Season is also the time when canteens sprout all over sabha-s and there are several people who extinguish their kitchen fires for the entire fortnight and eat out, morning, afternoon and night. Many of these people, The Man from Madras Musings notices, are North Indians and it is a quaint sight to see so many people chatting in Hindi while programmes that are South Indian are in progress inside the sabha-s. What is sad is that none of these eaters-out thinks of popping in and listening to some music. There is, however, a Sikh gentleman who makes it a point to come each year and attend as many concerts as possible. But, then, he is the exception that proves the rule.

Save vs. demolish

Till the last month, The Man from Madras Musings used to receive publicity messages asking if he wanted buildings demolished (complete satisfaction guaranteed) in 48 hours. Nowadays, MMM notices a difference. The latest messages read like this: “Without Demolish with correction of Vasthu for House, Flat, Office, Shop all purpose. 20 yrs experience”.

Is it that the Chief’s message is finally being hammered home? Is everyone waking up to conservation as opposed to demolition? On that happy and hopeful note, let us ring in 2010.



In this issue

Yet another Committee?
What’s with Madras and heritage conservation?
May 2010 see their conservation
Calming traffic in shopping areas, like Pondy Bazaar
Historic Residences of Chennai - 33
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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