Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 17, December 16-31, 2019
By the time you get this issue in your hands, the December Music Season with its vast following of 20,000 people and its fake statistics of 60 organisations putting up 2,000 music and dance performances will be in full swing. The Man from Madras Musings has long doubted the figures that are bandied about but then when everything from the GDP to the Consumer Spending Index are matters of doubt these days, what is a mere December Music Season?
One of the most annoying features of the Season is the tendency of artistes to flood your email, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger and SMS with posters announcing their programmes. All of these will have certain standard features – the artiste holding a tanpura and beaming at the camera and if it is an action shot, a face contorted in what seems to be agony (or ecstasy). There follows a long/short (as the case may be) list of the various venues where the artiste is performing, just the time schedules of which can be most confusing. MMM of course quite understands the need for publicity and the necessity to gather crowds but what he does not like is in-your-face marketing. All his life thus far, MMM has been very wary of sales pitches of any kind – he prefers scenarios where the product does the talking and shows the hard work that has gone into its making.
But Carnatic musicians evidently think otherwise. What happens thereafter are ‘gentle reminders’ sent via the same media – Whatsapp, email, FB messenger and SMS. Closer to the date come phone calls. And finally, if you do happen to drop in at a concert or two, you are bound to get thank you notes, with details of further concert schedules. The story has a sequel. If you don’t go, then you get plaintive messages – how come you never attend any of my concerts? If that does not work, you get jealous missives – I know you only attend so-and-so’s programmes but you know I am not so bad either. Do give me a try. Carnatic music must be a very desperate profession indeed. Or is it that the current crop has given it such an image?
And then there are the fringe elements – the ones that have not had any success in the field. These usually get together and begin lamenting about how the art has gone to the dogs. MMM believes that they even hold symposiums over this with the audience usually in single digits. At the end of the jeremiads the chief lamenters cite the poor turnout as a further instance of good taste having died out. It is MMM’s guess that they would be most disappointed if they did have a full house.
In all of this, the one place that draws a steady crowd, no matter who is singing, is the Sabha canteen. And this is true of all Sabhas. Those that run the canteen never seem to advertise. They certainly don’t send out messages to all and sundry asking them to come and try their wares. And if you don’t go, they don’t keep track of your movements and accuse you of going to someone else’s kitchen. The reason for their success according to MMM, is that they focus on what they are good at – the preparation of food. The rest is left to word of mouth. Perhaps Carnatic musicians could take a leaf out of the canteen managers’ books and see their way to success.
Otherwise we can always reposition the December Season as a food festival with some music thrown in.
They come in all shapes and sizes. The Man from Madras Musings alludes to airports. Chennai’s is terrible and medium-sized. That of a mofussil town in our State, which MMM happened to visit, was bad too, but much smaller. And of course, the rules that govern security are all dependent on the whims of the local officer. Thus while in Chennai you needed to take off your belt and empty your bag of pretty much all its contents, the security check at the mofussil town was more relaxed – the emphasis was more on getting passengers through the process as soon as possible.
MMM had had a day of fairly hectic sightseeing and he, along with a large group arrived at the airport well in time for completing the formalities. MMM and friends were of the view that a cup of coffee was what was needed to rid everyone of their fatigue. Word went around that the airport coffee was terrible. Someone knew someone at a local upmarket hotel and so a call was made. Coffee was arranged.
Knowing full well that no liquids are allowed beyond the security barrier, MMM advised all members of his group to complete check-in but not proceed to the security check area. The coffee duly arrived but there was now a hitch. The guard at the entrance of the airport refused to let the coffee in.
It was, he said, against the rules. MMM offered to get his guests to go out of the airport to drink the coffee (after all they were yet to clear security) but the security guard would not hear of that – it was against the rules too. MMM was at his wits’ end. His usual go-to person in moments of crisis is his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed but in this instance she was occupied in getting her ticket sorted out, there being some last minute confusion. MMM knew better than to disturb her in moments like these.
Matters would have remained this way, the coffee steaming at the airport doorway, had not a lady member of the group taken the matter into her hands. It is MMM’s considered view that women are much better than men in such situations. So this lady goes up to the security man and the conversation proceeded as follows:
“Sir, we need that coffee.”
“Yes madam, but as per rules I cannot allow you to go out.”
“Sir can the hotel’s delivery person then bring it in?”
“No madam as per rules he cannot.”
“So sir, why don’t you bring it in? That way we would not have to step out and the hotel man need not come in. ”
MMM shut his eyes awaiting an explosion from the official. It was the smell of coffee that made him open them. Apparently the officer had no objection to his going and getting the coffee and silently obeyed. Evidently there was nothing on this in the rule book. There was much happiness and congratulations all around. The officer, to give him credit, did not ask for a cup but went off to marshal some other passengers in.
The Man from Madras Musings clicked this autorickshaw the other day. It appears to list most the funny street names in the city. On that happy note, here is wishing you all a Happy New Year.