Waving the newspaper vigorously, my wife wafted in, all aflutter and effervescent. She gesticulated to an advertisement for a forthcoming Shreya Ghosal (SG) concert at a popular mall in Bangalore and I immediately had the foreboding of doom. She archly said `You like her songs'. Of course, who doesn't? The next installment of her statement turned out more malignant - `I want to treat you for your birthday; let us go to the concert'. She has been desperately trying to shepherd me to a concert for years but I had been managing to ward off all such nefarious designs. See, I am of the firm belief that there comes a time in your life when you can watch a cricket match more comfortably on TV than in a ground and listen to your favourite singers on your own music system within the cool confines of the home. In my case, that time had clocked in at least a decade back and I had furiously thwarted most attempts to drag me, screaming and kicking, to some match or concert. My dear wife was well aware of my predilection and yet was putting on this orchestrated show - why? Because SHE wanted to go to the concert and so, that conveniently became a birthday gift for me!! I urged, then begged her to go with her band of friends, who would very gleefully join the hustle, bustle, chaos and noise usually associated with this kind of concerts. But she was adamant, she went with me or didn't go at all! That Brahmaastra settled it and I trundled along, like a lamb to slaughter.
When we reached the venue, there were at least three long lines snaking along endlessly and we chose to take our position at the end of one, after some serious scrutiny for the most desirable line. Just to find after fifteen minutes that it was for those who already exchanged their on-line booking confirmation for ticket cards. Nobody could tell us where the line for the exchange was. I cursed SG and the organizers in that order and led a combing operation; after a strenuous workout for fifteen minutes, we discovered three more lines twisting from ticket boxes some distance away. The way people were jostling here made one wonder if there was free admission for everyone. Another twenty minutes had passed and we were nowhere near the ticket box, but the wife breezily dismissed my concerns about not finding our seats before the concert starts. When we got the tickets, it was already half an hour beyond the scheduled start time, but due to a carefully concealed conspiracy, except me everyone seemed to know the concert would start late - very late. After getting squashed heavily by the crowd and feeling like some kind of pulp, we reached the seating area and found, to our chagrin, that it was free for all, meaning `open seating'. We got pushed a few more rows back by the wave of people and finally found two seats, from where the stage itself was a tiny speck and the occupants of the stage were even tinier specks.
It is probably an open secret that all such concerts are a few hours late, that by design. One should not blame the star artists, but the callous organizers who collect all the money and still want to exploit the captive audience mercilessly. As it turned out, for the next ninety minutes, a couple of raving and ranting lunatics who seemed to have swallowed high-decibel mics recently, were belting out some marketing stuff for an Academy of Music in a raucous way. Didn't augur well for the academy, but no one seemed to mind or care. These monstrosities parading as comperes, wielded the mics as instruments of mass irritation and bellowed out incoherent babble, punctuated by some strange music originating from Jupiter or some similar far-away planet. Their intent seemed solely to bludgeon the hapless audience, who had already withered after going through the gruelling entry experience, with words and noise of no consequence. My wife looked at me pleasantly and asked `Bored, eh'? Very considerate of her but I was beyond the pale of questions, answers and niceties at this stage.
Then it became worse. Music blared out even more aloud and one lunatic announced that there would be a fashion show by one of the sponsors!! Fashion Show?? When even the stage was almost invisible from where we were?? The sadistic organizers were proving themselves to be more mindless than we first concluded. We wondered whether those in the fashion show were wearing anything at all because it was all a haze. There was indeed a TV screen half a mile away, but even that couldn't digest the proceedings and promptly went kaput. Appreciating the sensitivity of the TV screen and encouraged, I also tried to switch myself off, but the bloody-minded comperes would have none of that. They started urging the audience to clap, howl, whistle, sing and screech with them and some of their brethren on the stage, increasing the overall noise levels multi-fold. Parts of the crowd had gotten restless and directed most of its angry howling and screeching at the organizers, but those poor sods could not distinguish anything and were giddy with pleasure at the interactive participation.
As we were being put through the above wringers, there was some additional personal irritants for me, seated on an aisle seat. Since the concert had not started, the aisle was akin to a peak time thoroughfare, with milling traffic making its way to the facilities outside and back. In their anxiety to squeeze the last seat into the available space, the organizers had ensured that every passing bum, male or female, brushed my body generously and one was thankful that it was always the bum, providentially. Could have been worse, my wife pointed out when I complained to her. On top of that there were small children and inept adults passing through, juggling and scarcely balancing some seriously dangerous foodstuff on paper plates, perilously hanging down to one side due to overloading. While I just got blessed with bhel puri, pop corn and some cola, again providentially escaped from being anointed with pizza sauce, mint/tamarind chutney and the like.
Finally some two hours and ten minutes behind schedule, SG appeared on the stage (we did think it was she and not an impersonator, but could n't be certain until she sang) but never appeared clearer, throughout the entire concert, than a silhouette in the maniacally bright stage lights. And that kicked up the frenzy among the audience to take videos of the stage proceedings. Oblivious of others, many people stood up on their chairs and each other and captured something on the video for ten minutes. I would love to find out what they got on the video - something vaguely red moving like an apparition on the stage?? While SG sang all her favourite numbers during the next two hours and we enjoyed ourselves, she decided from time to time to give some relief to her vocal chords by asking the tuneless but enthusiastic audience to sing along!! Par for the course, I guess.
At the end, I just validated my take that it is best to listen to such music from the safety and security of homes, on a good music system; use Youtube if you want videos. Why pay and suffer all the above indignities?? People immediately jump up and hold a flag for `ambience'. Well, that is there but the value of that seems grossly exaggerated, compared to the pain one has to go through. And one nagging suspicion rankles me - what if the organizers put up an impersonator to lip-sync and we never knew?? My dear wife, as usual, had the answer to that too - `Those closest to the stage would have noticed, right'? Touche!
I prefer the home ambience, for sure.