Saturday, October 20, 2007

A cultural weekend in Mumbai

I often explain to Sheela that if I'm spending hours in front of the computer that is because I am carefully compiling the story of my life in the form of e-mails and blog posts. I think she has figured out by now that while it is not exactly a lie, it is substantially the opposite of the truth.

Most of my time seems to be spent reading extremely important e-mails from African gentlemen on miraculous bequeaths of millions of dollars which can be all mine if I could only fund the expenses required for their release. And of course, mail from concerned people offering pharmaceutical products of a very personal nature.

Let me therefore assuage my conscience by writing about the weekend just gone by. The Times of India sponsored a Sufi music program at the Bandra Fort in Mumbai. Yes, 'where the hell is that?' is what I thought too, when Shrinath told me to lug my musical ass to the venue. It's at Band Stand, next to the Taj Lands End Hotel. Opposite Sea Rock, for old timers. My mom wanted to come along too. She has recently taken a liking to Sufi Qawwalis after hearing Abida Parveen on World Space Radio.(The said Parveen is built on the lines of a battleship but sings most mellifluously and hypnotically. She was not performing, though). Sheela and the kids decided they would have more fun at Akhil's house.

As usual, I landed up late, thanks to the beautiful evening traffic which was moving at a speed that made glaciers look fast paced. True to form, everyone was honking, some to express their dissatisfaction and some just because they had a horn. I thought of writing a ballad to the brave honkaneros of Mumbai. ("Oh! Young Popatlal is come out of the west, Through all of Andheri his horn was the loudest" that sort of thing). Thanks to my mom's pacifist views and strong objections to anything in the nature of interpersonal conflict, I was more honked against than honking.

I thus reached the venue in a ruffled state of mind. If I was President of the United States and the generals had asked me for permission to obliterate Moscow, I believe I would have given in right away. Angry, or as they say in scientific terminology, seriously pissed.

Luckily for me, Shrinath had his chauffeur on standby and I was spared the ordeal of hunting for a parking spot. Shrinath of course looked fresh as a daisy owing to living almost next door. The three of us, Shrinath, mom and I entered the concert to find, alas, that all the best seats were taken and there was standing room only in the nose-bleed section, high up on the hill.

By the time we settled down on a rough concrete wall, the singer who was performing had finished and the stage was taken over by two Wadali brothers. These guys are Hindus from Punjab, but are considered doyens of the Sufi tradition. They sang of Allah and Eid being the season of love and things like that, with such feeling and sincerity that all of us were spellbound.
I thought it spoke tremendously for the spirit of Indianness that binds our often silly but entirely lovable people across religious divides. The ordinary people on the street, that is. There are of course the psychos and the bigots and the downright corrupt but by and large, we are a nation of one billion docile (except in bed - look at those population numbers) people.

After the concert, we repaired to Akhil's house for a sumptuous dinner of pasta in some really yummy cream sauce and I ate away as if I was a pig who had just been released from a starvation diet. Which I pretty much am, actually. In a desperate bid to get rid of my pot belly I have given up rice entirely and cut back on food in general. The pot belly is showing signs of going away but so is my mind. Every now and then I lose it completely and indulge in binge eating which gets the pot belly right back in to championship contention.n Alas!

On the morrow was part II of the concert. This time I went alone as mom had some social visiting to do. Sheela and the kids were busy with mid-term exams. I slunk off as soon as possible, lest I be drafted for teacher duty. This happens from time to time when Sheela suffers a nervous breakdown and the baton is handed over to yours truly. As is well known, I command as much authority as a Buddhist monk in Myanmar, resulting in the kids thumbing their noses at me and playing cricket. Sheela returns after her unwinding or whatever and holds her head in despair. Then she throws me out of the room and gets to work. And I'm back on the computer, catching up on the latest from the African gentlemen.

Oops, digressed. As I was saying, part II of the concert was patriotic songs by Shubha Mudgal. This is one fine singer, let me tell you, the finest I've heard in a long time. Her voice is sort of contralto and her singing is extremely vivacious. She had dug out poems from India's independence struggle and set them to music. Very moving.

Shrinath and I were a bit speechless. After all that patriotism, getting sloshed didn't quite seem right. We decided to stroll down to a nearby eatery (being the lazy devils that we are, we did the strolling in Shrinath's car) and decided to tank up on some carbohydrates. This time, I am happy to report, instead of eating like a greedy pig, I ate like a polite and well brought up pig. We parted after a few satisfied burps and decided to get on with the business of life, Shrinath with his banking, I with my African gentlemen.

8 comments:

Maddy said...

watching a sufi concert - not my cup of tea. though some of their music is astounding!! i think this 'ism' is getting a little overexposure these days thanks to the stewardship of our great ARR.

Maddy said...

i forgot to add- mudgal on the other hand is a class act!!

narendra shenoy said...

I agree with you in that whatever religious merit sufi might have, musically it does not hold a candle to Indian classical music, which is the finest, most evolved and most sophisticated music in the world.

The Mudgal is really awesome, isn't she?

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Great, having fun, Mr. Shenoy? It's funny, you find so much time to have fun--go to concerts, things like that. You must be into music. So am I. But, for me, fun;s only in the holiday season--which is highly restricted (it means i get only 3 days off from tution), and well, my tastes don;t really match with my family, so, it's hard to find the ideal vacation. I just finished a round of gruelling mid-terms too...and I've been having fun since, because the results are not out. Wish best luck for your kids! Very nice post, as usual!

Praveen G K said...

Hello Mr. Shenoy,

I am first time onto this blog. Very interesting views. I had been to a concert once, that of ARR in NY; it was an ultimate lifetime experience. As Mr. Maddy put it across, a sufi concert is not my cup of tea either :-)

Thanks to Mysore blog park, it is a pleasure to read many good blogs!!!

narendra shenoy said...

Lakshmi
Thanks for your nice comment.
Praveen
Thanks to you too, for your kind comment. I think where people like us lose it in Sufi music is the language. I'm still not quite sure if guftagu means "a goofy guy" or "a gift of gold". Very possibly neither.

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