2008 was musical, very much so. And it was natural that 2009 had a lot of expectations to meet with. After my first concert of this year, I am still very perplexed as to how I should go about trying to make the whole experience sink in, and to classify whether it was a good or a bad experience, to begin with.

It all started with my friend, calling me up one evening and enquiring whether I would be interested in attending the Dr. L. Subramaniam & Kavita Krishnamurthy concert featuring The Leipzig/Indian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dr. Micheal Koehler.  I cited two reasons for a probable backing out: 1> weekday  2> I had seen them perform before, sans the Orchestra for an earlier Pongal event. But my lovely friend allowed me the liberty to let me opt till the D-day and said would hold up the passes for me. When the moment of reckoning arrived, I found myself enthused to witness the performance all over again with an added philharmonic texture. I made the decision at 6 for the 7:30 concert, to do the rick+train+cab routine from one end of Mumbai to the other… all for my love for music.

I make it there by 7:30 pm sharp, after overestimating the road traffic, and underestimating the Indian Railways, which pretty much evened it up for me. I was halfway through my self-congratulatory jigeddy jig jig, when I was jolted into the reality, which had taken the shape of an unending human chain starting from the gates of Tata Theatre, all the way through the sea facing road, right to the Ticketing counter at the back of NCPA. A line for an NCPA event – never encountered even once, during the past 2.5 years of spending choice evenings here.

Considering it to be just another formality, I < like a good kid >, go and stand right at the end of the line, waiting for my friends, who were yet to arrive. As soon as they showed up, my friend began her complaining that had she known, she would have come earlier rather than indulge in her lazy evening timepass etc. etc. Her cribbing continued as the line moved languidly forth, with anxious eyes, constantly checking how far their feet were from the destination. We gave the event organizers the benefit of doubt, to the security measures in place for the concert, given that the Trident was but a small walk away.

Then the rumors started rearing their heads in slowly.  “The concert has already started”, said the guy in front to another. Hah! Elementary Mr. Watson, it was 8:15pm, they had might as well started it, if at all they were to get on with a show. But then the rumors started getting less funnier! The grapevine started suggesting that :
1>    People are breaking the queue and rushing from the entrance.  :O
2>    There were only 1000 seats and 2000 passes had been issued :O :O
3>    Only 100 more people will be allowed :O  :O  :O
4>    Fights have broken Out :O  :O  :O  :O

In the ensuing few minutes, there was much agitation in the crowd. The queue was deteriorating by the minute, with people rushing to the entrance to verify the hearsay and others who had old people & young kids in their fray, making an exit, shaking their heads and accepting them rumors on face value. Amidst all this, me and my two friends had reached the gate, and saw that the doors had indeed been closed and two frail security guards were being pummeled by a few hundreds of angry music enthusiasts. From where we were at, it looked like a scene straight out of one of that PG rated zombie classics. (No blood and shredded limbs. But screams, shrieks & other guttural sounds aplenty) The TOI/NCPA initiated logistical nightmare was in full bloom now. They had grossly underestimated both Mr. L Subramaniam and the audience alike, when it came to the number of people expected to turn up. The curious, the furious and the delirious were all beginning to take it out on the glass doors that separated the audience from the concert.

Then finally, a representative of TOI shows up. I recognized her from the previous wonderful concert experiences that she had organized for Pongal & Sufi nights. But the day was clearly not hers, as she built up on this folly by making a statement to all, which went, “Agar aap tameez se ik line banayenge toh hum sabko andar jaane denge!” That’s right, post the whole time-wasting, super painful campaign, what the already fuming audience needed was a lesson in public behavior. There was no apology, and she almost made it sound like it was entirely our fault. With 100-200 odd people still hanging on with an hour or so well into the concert, it wasn’t exactly the perfect time to do the ‘pehle aap’ routine. The jostling made some random people get between my friends and I, but still… a line gets made. Thick, breadth wise!

That’s when I suddenly realize, what I was experiencing was one of the strangest phenomenons ever! We were like a moshpit, in a classical Carnatic / Philharmonic / Fusion concert. Whoaa!!! Old grandpas, angry uncles & aunties, resolute youngsters, amused bachcha parties, in one big a state of elevated entropy. It was like a bloody I-Rock/Mood-I Livewire at NCPA! Then … COPS SHOW UP!  \m/

The cops do a swift job of thinning the line, right in the front. A fine demo of liposuction! I could tell some of the aunties were super impressed. Then, just like that, the doors open, and people begin to funnel in.

I make it inside. 🙂

They let two more people after me. They close the doors again. My friends don’t make it inside.

Now, my friends were the ones who were interested in attending this, right from the start, who coaxed me into this, got the passes arranged etc. It was suddenly as if we had swapped places. Nevertheless, I stood on this side waiting for them to restart allowing the people; they were just 3-4 people behind.  My friend calls from the other side and asks me to go on for the concert, and that they will find me in the auditorium. I almost get reprimanded by her, for hanging on. I shake my head in disbelief and I made my way towards the concert.

The audi was packed to the hilt. I sit on the stairs. In a matter of minutes, the Leipzig / Indian Philharmonic ensemble ended their routine. The MC makes an appearance and starts to say something on the lines of ‘brilliant precision and amazing co-ordination’. I felt it was something that the organizers from TOI & NCPA could most definitely take a cue from.

A 10 minute break was announced, and I quickly rush to check on my friends. The line had been cleared. A lone police van stood outside.

I call, I apologize, not knowing what else to say, got reprimanded again.. My friend told me that, after I went in, they didn’t allow anyone else. The crowd got agitated again. This time around the vans came in. They then went onto put one gentleman inside. This made the crowd angrier. They tried to reason, but to no avail. My friends left shortly after.

I had gone back in and found myself an unclaimed seat. I settled down for the concert – Part II

The Concert:
Kavita Krishnamurthy: Amazing voice, some parts she sang were brilliant. The overall performance was marred though slightly by her bad throat.

Seetha Krishnamurthy: About two years since I last saw her perform. Failed to impress, yet again.

Ambi Subramaniam: Clearly growing under his father’s guidance. Played the second fiddle, which was impressive in itself.

The Leipzig / Indian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dr. Koehler: Beautiful.  It made me realize that  not having listened to the first half, was a big miss.  On a different note, the women on the Leipzig Orchestra, they looked as beautiful, as they played!

Dr. L. Subramaniam: The appreciation for him, shone in the eyes of some of the Orchestra Members. You felt the sounds that his violin emanated.

The highlight for me was definitely the last piece – A carnatic classical piece played by a western classical Orchestra. Amazing experience.

Eitherways … TOI/NCPA surely made it a night to remember!

So… it ended on a good note?

I walk out of NCPA … and there is not a single taxi in sight! Apparently, some strike had been called for, in the interim! I groaned … and the ever so gentle sea breeze tousled my hair & tried to console me.