The annual December Music Festival has been in progress in various pockets of the city during the next couple of weeks showcasing concerts of both classical music and dance. It is a niche event given the miniscule numbers that follow these arts, yet it has an inordinately high profile. The Season as we know it has been going on for over 92 years now. It is also one of the reasons as to why Chennai was given the creative city tag by UNESCO last year. A couple of years ago, The New York Times listed Chennai among 52 must-see cities of the world and cited the annual music and dance festival as one of the principal reasons for its inclusion. Yet, the Government remains completely indifferent to The Season, as it is referred to.
Cut to August when we have Madras Week celebrations. It is much smaller as compared to the arts season and is at present even more niche. But it has greater potential for it has in it the seed of a citywide festival. All it takes is awareness that the city is celebration-worthy. This has been going on for over a decade now. It has over a 100 independent events each year. The unique aspect is that unlike the music/dance festival, this has no barrier to entry by way of knowledge of arts, finances, etc. Anything and everything that focuses on the city can be interpreted as a celebration. While it has a lesser profile as compared to the December celebrations, there is no doubt that it is here to stay. An allied event, of greater vintage is the Mylapore Festival that too has become an annual feature in the city’s cultural calendar. This too has not merited any Government attention.
There is perhaps no other city of India that has two such festivals. Yet it is a mystery as to why there is such indifference to them in Government circles. Madras Week has been dubbed elitist. The cultural season is perhaps not consideration-worthy as it is increasingly associated with a certain community that is not a vote bank. We can, of course, keep building excuses for anything and everything that is a private initiative. But the point is that both these events are continuing to be held.
It is also necessary to point out here that neither the December Music Season nor Madras Week is really dependent on Government patronage. On the other hand, Government involvement can bring about a greater awareness among international audiences, infrastructural improvements, and the possibility of spreading the event to pockets where they do not happen. All of these can only bring benefits to the city. Imagine if a Global Investors Meet was held in conjunction with the December Festival or Madras Week! What a picture it will present to potential investors!
Tourism income can also go up, thereby building up another industry in our city. At present there is a lot of complacency as regards this industry in Government circles – Tamil Nadu has been topping the tourist footfall numbers in the entire country for several years now, beating even the charmed golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. What is conveniently overlooked is that this is entirely due to medical tourism being included in the statistics. That this too is despite Government’s lack of involvement is another matter altogether.
But if only we did take steps to present in international forums what we do on the cultural front, the numbers can go up even more. Sadly, nobody appears to be thinking in that direction. It is high time they did.