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Vol. XXIX No. 16, December 1-15, 2019



Back with the Music Season

By the grace of Guru and God, and with the blessings of all the elders, friends, rasikas, scholars, canteen managers, light boys, press photographers, reporters, publicity agents, critics, taxi drivers, microphone and sound system experts (if such a category exists), yet another Music Season is just around the corner. The Man from Madras Musings rejoices. And in case you are wondering as to why MMM put in that bit about ‘By the grace of Guru and God’ and all the rest of it, it is because that is the standard preamble these days to announcements by any and everyone connected in some way with Carnatic music – awards, concert schedules, marriages, births, travels abroad – all of these are announced this way. It does in some ways indicate a wonderfully respectful attitude to the elders but then MMM has been privy to so many of these artistes grumbling and griping about the very same Gurus and others that he thinks most of such posts are absolute shams.

In any case, even if these messages suddenly don’t begin cropping up on your social media account or arrive in your email inbox with alarming regularity, you would still know it is December given the number of inane articles on the subject that will begin appearing in the daily press. How did the season begin, is a question that gets asked of MMM each year without fail. It feels a bit like grandchildren clustering around a grandparent and asking for the same story repeatedly. MMM quite enjoyed recounting it for quite a while, but he does find doling out the same stuff quite boring year after year. And so he has taken to informing all journalists as soon as they call asking for a few bytes on the December Season that he is quite prepared to answer provided the questions do not pertain to the following:

1. How did the Season begin?

2. Why is it in December?

3. What is MMM’s view on the fact that some musicians have not been recognized with some awards?

4. Which is MMM’s favourite Sabha canteen?

5. Is it true that this is the largest private festival for music anywhere in the world?

6. What in MMM’s view is the role of the NRI in making the season a success?

7. With so many musicians now coming from abroad, would MMM agree that the centre for music is the United States?

The end result of MMM reading out the above questions is that the journalist disconnects the phone and leaves MMM to his devices. It is just that with the Season having been around for 93 years, the questions too have become ossified – the same stuff is churned out on a routine basis.

The question is, why do newspapers and magazines feel it is mandatory to write on the December Music Season? Do they really imagine that the art which the festival espouses is really attracting such large numbers? In MMM’s view, the sum total of the audience for the entire month, and including all the venues and the fringe events, is not more than 20,000 people. Media people ought to ponder over whether all the words that go into the Season are at all necessary. If they were doing a serious study on what goes into the art and writing on it, the effort may be worthwhile. But if the extent of interest in the subject is only up to what so and so is planning to wear during the Season and what someone else does to balance home and family, it does nothing beyond providing an opportunity for a few standard regulation artistes to appear in the Press.

Shakespeare’s wife and her broadband company

To the Man from Madras Musings, it has always been a matter of wonder that while we know nothing about the Bard of Avon, we do know his wife’s name. In recent years, there has been an actress with the same name, a multi-million dollar investment firm run by an old man whose surname is synonymous with help-yourself-to-all-you-can meals at restaurants and weddings, and also with the dropping of an alphabet, you get an Indian company that specializes in broadband connectivity. It is the last named that MMM is now taking up finger to type about.

But before that, let MMM type in a few pre-read safeguards. Firstly, MMM is of a privileged background and so it is not with any intention to denigrate anyone of any gender, caste, community or sex that he writes this. Secondly, he is aware that back offices in the country provide a great opportunity to the less privileged, which is a noble activity. Lastly, he is also aware that not everyone can be flawless in English. Even the husband of Shakespeare’s wife was not perfect as you know, or his plays cannot be full of strange words such as abroach, gaby and guffin. As the Perhaps Greatest Writer once wrote, half the time Shakespeare just put in whatever came into his mind.

But to get back, the broadband company has a back office and it is populated with people who have been clearly instructed with learning the Queen’s language on the sly or fly. As a consequence, most end up speaking in a strange mix of Americo-Tamil accent, with words thrown in as is felt applicable, with, of course, Tamil grammar copied and pasted into English. In the past few days, MMM has been subject to several calls from this company and he has come away from each conversation wiser in one way or the other about the English language.

The first of these began with an apology as to how the company ‘cannot able to’ deliver its modem on time. After a few days the modem did make its appearance and was duly connected. MMM was advised that he would soon get a call from the back office on how to activate it and so MMM waited.

The call came and it went like this –

Very good morning sir, are you activate modem?

MMM said he would try. He was asked if he was able to put on the switch.

MMM was most tempted to state that he cannot able to but he demurred and did do the needful.

Whereupon the voice at the other end asked MMM if he found a blue light flickering.

MMM said no and to this the voice expressed relief. MMM made bold to ask as to what could be the repercussion if the blue light flickered. He was informed that this would have meant there was a blunder mistake in the connection.

MMM wonders as to what Shakespeare would have made out of that.

There was a lot more and, in the process, MMM wondered if it would not be better to switch to Tamil. But the voice at the other end stuck to English or whatever it thought it was speaking. Clearly it had been told to stick to the langue anglaise and practice it whenever possible. And so the blunder mistakes continue.

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