On Saturdays I mostly laze around watching movies, reading or just sleeping. It’s my off day and like all Saturday’s it zips past, or as Calvin would say, “I could almost hear the whooshing sound it makes when it goes by!”
Earlier, when I was still new in this city, I had stumbled upon an interesting way of spending time and getting to know the city. Walking past the bus stand near my home one day, I saw this nearly empty red bus that had been launched recently. On a whim I got into it. I had nowhere to go, didn’t even know where the bus was going so I bought a ticket to the last stop.
From then on it became a habit. Get on a bus, get off anywhere, walk around a bit and get on a bus again. I would finally get off at CP walk around the inner circle for a while and then get into a restaurant, have dinner, couple of beers then go home. I don’t do that anymore. I mostly know the city now.
This Saturday I did something different. A friend of mine asked me if I would like to go to a book exhibition organised by the Sahitya Akademi and after that to an open-house concert by none other than Pt Ravi Shankar. Apparently, he is performing in the city after eight years.
So off we went to the book exhibition. After years I ended up buying some books in Hindi. My friend picked up an English translation of a collection of Hindi short stories edited by Bhisham Sahani. She asked me if they were any good. I gave her the thumbs up and was myself tempted into buying the book, but I bought the original Hindi version.
I also bought a book on Ghalib and one on Firaq. I had never read Raghupati Sahay Firaq before, one of the leading lights of modern Urdu poetry. Reading couplets in Hindi is a treat for someone who gets to read them only in the roman script. That’s as close as I can get to the real thing since I can’t read the Urdu script.
I was mighty pleased with myself for buying these books in Hindi, a language that we learn in school and then forget about it.
I was also hungry!
So we grabbed some lunch at the Tamil Nadu Bhavan and headed for Nehru Park where the sitar maestro’s concert awaited us.
It was a long queue getting into the open-air arena. There was a sizeable number of foreigners in the crowd indicating Pt Ravi Shankar’s worldwide popularity.
The arena was packed, we could find a place only about 50 metres away from the stage. But there were a couple of giant screens so you got a view where ever you sat. The maestro entered the stage with his daughter Anoushka and the well-known tabla player from Kolkata, Bikram Ghosh.
The concert began with a brief introduction. Thankfully, the host had the good sense not to go on and on about a man who needed no introduction.
And so the musical evening began. Initially, the tempo was slow so I wasn’t really surprised to see some foreigners walk out. After about an hour some more people walked out even though the by then the maestro, his daughter and Ghosh were in full flow. I guess some people came to mark their presence.
The best was of course saved for the last. Even a classical music duffer like me could tell that the trio on the stage was having a ball and so was the audience. It was like the father-daughter duo’s sitar and Ghosh’s tabla were playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can.
You didn’t have to know the ragas to enjoy the music although panditji made an attempt once in a while to explain the piece he was playing.
Like this one time he very generously informed us, who were sitting under the chilly night sky that he was playing the Lanka dahan raag mala to keep us warm!
Like my off days, the three hours went in a jiffy. Coming out someone was saying classical music is not slow when it is fast you can’t stop tapping your feet. I nodded in agreement, my legs were aching because of all the tapping.