Monday, January 02, 2006

Indianness XI - The December Season...

From the Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya archives, posted on December 18, 2005

Madras, the metropolitan city of India metamorphoses into a musical and spiritual seat of intense intellectual activity during this December season. A city known to have only three types of climate - hot, hotter and hottest truly comes alive with its now unbeatable and unparalleled musical climate. It is not wrong to say that December sees Madras becoming a Carnatic music stronghold at its best.

Living legends, established contemporaries, budding talent; basically musicians of all kinds - perform, enthrall and inspire an audience on a purely intellectual and musical basis. The rapport that the musicians share with the rasikas is inexplicable. It needs to be that way. The rasika needs to be musically tuned and technically sound to appreciate the concerts better. This might very well drive away the ignorant many from such concerts.

The author finds this beautiful city and musical heritage grappling to come in terms with the harsh reality. It should not lose out on this tradition because of lack of patronage from the rasikas. It is an altogether different issue that the Carnatic form with its strong foothold on the devotional and spiritual aspects of Hinduism, is in a better state; than its counterpart from the north - the Hindustani form.

This question also brings a smile to the author's face. How would this Carnatic fortress respond to Hindustani concerts during its prime season? As usual, I have digressed from the topic of discussion. So, what is the reality?

  • Most concerts have limited audience. A rasika is becoming more of a rarity. Such atmospheres are depressing for the musician, the sabha as well as the rasika.
  • An increasing divide between the musician and the appreciative audience. Classical music is becoming more and more esoteric day by day. It is indeed ironical that a light music function or a rock/pop concert by a world-famous band draws a huge audience willing to pay as well as "appreciate" them.
  • The Americanization - has its own share of merits and demerits. What can the musicians do if their music finds a greater and much more appreciative audience in the US? The honorariums will be higher (thanks to the supremacy of the USD) and their preference is perfectly justified for music is also their prime vocation.

But then imagine this purely fictional anecdote. A typical scene in a contemporary(?) South Indian household during the December season.

The fledglings have grown wings and flown. The elderly couple continue to live in Madras for sentimental reasons. This is the much awaited Marghazhi season. The couple is highly enthusiastic and is brimming with eager expectations. Let me call them Shri and Shrimathi.

Shri and Shrimathi wake up early every day (say, 4:30 AM). Marghazhi tunes(Tiruppavai's) are playing in the background. The servant maid comes at 5:00 AM and has made the kolam for the day. The milk-man has come and has delivered the day's quota of two aavin milk packets. After having the required dose of pure filter coffee, the couple go out for their daily walk (as recommended by the doctor and their children; few know that the walk is the most anticipated activity of the day for the couple).

The HINDU has arrived by the time they are back. Shri goes through the concerts for the day. Shri jots down a few concerts he is interested in. Shrimathi is not happy that her opinion was not considered. They have a friendly quarrel arguing as to which concert for that day will be the best and worth attending. After having chosen the concert, sabha and the musician who will grace their evening, they spend the rest of the day with coffee, prayers, lunch, siesta, coffee, etc. The unavoidable discussion on the current dismal state of musical affairs comes up.

5:00 PM. Shrimathi dressed in a Kancheevaram pattu saree with appropriate jewellery and a string of jasmine flowers on her hair is ready for the evening. Shri, has one look at her, and blushes and feels all young once again. Both are fortunate to have one another, especially more so when the fledglings are in the US! The couple go on a romantic date to the kacheri. 3-4 hours of bliss. The musician enthralls them with a virtuous display of Ragas, Krithis, Ragam Tanam Pallavi's, thillanas, etc. and the couple is so happy to be musically alive.

A day well spent. Who really cares as to what the world thinks? Retired life, a prime time of their lives, to make up for all those years of hurried life - corporate success, children, financial worries, etc.

..... Such simple pleasures in life make life all the more beautiful, wonderful and worth living for.


Karthik Rao Cavale said...

I know how it is in the december season. All the discussions between mamis and even we students about who sang what.

Unfortunately, I didn't attend a single kutcheri thi season. Holidays were in December.

Rangakrishnan Srinivasan said...

Karthik: Welcome to this blog. Such discussions amongst students is a very healthy sign.

You need not feel that guilty about not being able to attend a single kutcheri. Little did I realise as to what I was missing, when I was out there in Madras for nearly 13 seasons.