Portia (unless The Man from Madras Musings is thinking of someone else) said something about music being in the heavens, which clearly indicates that she never came to this, our city, in December. For, as we all know, come December, there is music on earth and quite a bit of it. It affects different people differently. MMM, given to singing freely (and allowed to do so by his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) in his bath, becomes a sabha fiend, hopping from venue to venue, here savouring the music, there devouring a snack in the canteen and still further away trading some juicy gossip. In short, MMM becomes the Musical Mylapore Maama. The Chief, who usually reacts to music as Aurangzeb did, allows MMM quite a bit of leeway and looks on the proceedings with a benevolent eye. In this he is one with She Who Must Be Obeyed.
But the Music Season is not all joy and jollility (is there such a word?). MMM puts in quite a bit of hard work as well. For, he is then CCC – the Carnatic Citation Chap. Rightly or wrongly, and more likely the latter, there are certain quarters that believe that MMM can spin out a nifty citation and command him to do it each year. The weary work begins sometime in October and continues till early December, almost till the morning of the awards night. Now what is so difficult in writing out a citation of 250 words, you may wonder. After all, is not Solomon Grundy’s life story a good example to follow, you may ask. Ah, but that is where you make your bloomin’ error.
The problems begin with getting the facts correctly from the musicians before writing the citations. Artistes usually respond by sending in dossiers about themselves, most of which run into several pages. These are usually filled with purple prose – the divine deity that has descended only to dance, or the celestial sage that sings, etc. These will be followed with quotes from what seniors in the field have said about the artiste in question – “If you don’t believe in God, come and hear this one’s music” attributed to a much decorated North Indian instrumentalist being a common one that is freely used across the board. Then follow a list of outlandish awards and titles – recognised as the Treasure Chest of Music and the Modern Day Muse from the Carnatic Music Lovers’ Association of Outer Mongolia (regd.), etc. Many claim that the profiled artiste has only one aim in life – to seek God through music. But as the saying goes, God is in the details; it is in the facts that such CVs are usually most lacking.
And, boy, are they vague about their own life details! This is where they differ from Solomon Grundy whose life, if you recollect, was an open book. The women do not like to reveal their year of birth. That is somewhat understandable. But what is unforgiveable is the way most profiles sent in by artistes overlook their mothers’ names. Most often the biodata will carry just the father’s name as though he did it all by himself. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say that all music is divine. Pressed for the mother’s name, most artistes will say that she was/is a ‘simple’ housewife and so could we please leave her out. Whereupon MMM usually sees red and then, having counted till ten, explains that it is most essential that a good citation carries the names of both parents, place of birth and date of birth. This is received with some shock and surprise. Then, after days of cajoling and wheedling , and following it up with a threat that the deadline for the citation is long over, the information is coughed up with reluctance. All this takes a toll on MMM who by December 1st becomes wan and has circles under the eyes. Only canteen coffee can revive him.