For once, I reached the venue early. I was at Chembur at 5.30 pm. And the 2 tickets found themselves in my clenched fist by 5.35 pm.
At 6.00 pm we were allowed inside the auditorium.
If you had read about the 5 Hour Torture prior to the TVS concert; you will know. If you have not, let me emphasize – I was indeed eager and I did expect and looked forward to a great experience at the concert.
But what I had not anticipated even faintly was an intense head-on, frontal, cultural assault.
For, at 6.05pm I had unwittingly entered a stronghold of Tambrams from Chembur, Matunga, Wadala, Thane, Dombivilli, Kalyan and other places . The average age was easily about 55. The average saree was silk. The average flower was jasmine. And the average male footwear was named after an island located on an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. As mentioned here.
Much as I had come with a single minded pursuit of a great TVSy experience, the ‘stronghold’ nevertheless took over my fancy at some level. It simply was too loud, too overpowering, too in-your-face to overlook or even ignore. The hall had a capacity of 1300 and that was the size of the stronghold and that became the base of my armchair-research.
It seemed most of them knew most of the rest of them. Some of them had recently met some of the other at the Tambram wedding last week at Matunga. And everyone had a son in Los Angeles.
“Oh! Soukkyam! Paiyan California lendu vanduttana?” Oh fineum! Son came from Californiava?
“Adutha masam varan. Nangadan poittu vandom” Next month coming he is. We only went and came.
Concerts outside Chennai are a little different from those in Chennai. The underlying currents are different. The motives are different and the social compulsions are different. As the concert progressed, three distinct categories emerged from the audience –
I Levvvv Carnaticya (ILC)
These are die-hard connoisseurs of Carnatic music. While they love it from any artiste, they have their own sense of ‘evolved carnatic’ and artists who match their expectations.
Example: I spotted at least one Madurai Mani Iyer fan. You know a MM fan when you see one. When TVS was introduced as disciple of MM, few hands went up overhead in the air to clap! These are the first level fans of MM. The second level was eruption of delight when they hear the abrupt beginning of “ga mama rigapa riga sa…” What was the really conclusive evidence of the third level fan to me was displaying delirious frenzy at certain parts of “Sarasa Sama Dhana…” (eg: at the vaaa of Parama Saambavaaa…) and “Eppo Varuvaro…” (eg: va aa aaa aaaaa roo of varuvaaa aaa ro”).
Retired Maamas and Maamis who take season tickets and go for any concert at Shanmukananda, Fine Arts etc. If that uncle in the third row is leaning back over to the maami two rows behind and exchanging details of the visit of ‘Ramesh’ last week, he is your alpha FFS. At any given point in time, he is aware of the concert only at the outer periphery of his mind, never paying his total attention; keeps darting to the exit/entrance, gets alert when someone enters, or walks out. Typically the Maamis are prone to be more alpha FFS. Suddenly midway during the concert, you might notice a sort of an exodus towards the exit. If you are sure it is not because of the overactive air conditioning, then thats the FFS folk. The FFS just knows when the HOT SAMOSAAs are served in the canteen.
The ‘Feelgood’ Quester (FQ)
A variant of the FFS. These are your friendly, relatively new migrants to the city who aren’t quite networked well into the community here, but feel good just being under the same roof as so many others from the same community. A feeling of belonging and all that. This type is more connected with the actual concert and smiles warmly at anyone that makes eye contact. The FQs graduate into FFS after a few years – the cross-over process starts gathering momentum when their children cross adolescence and reach marriageable age.
This is not a very common variety, but The Snob is a combination of a Reverse FFS and wannabe ILC. TS throws heavy attitude and is very nose-in-the-air, doesn’t really go out of the way to connect with the rest of ‘them’. He is a sort of a ripened cynical FFS. He never says hello – unless hello’d at. Listens or pretends to pay complete attention to the concert. If the TS is a Maami, then she almost always whispers the raaga to the husband or whoever is sitting in the next chair. It may be totally off mark – the probability of getting the raaga right may be about 1 in 15. But she exudes authority and confidence, so the poor Maami next chair – perhaps an FFS would think ‘oh, is that Hamsanandi? I could have sworn it was Todi!‘ or just let it pass.
As for the concert, some tidbits if you are a fan too –
T.V.Sankaranarayanan was at his best and his son – Shankara Mahadevan did sing well too. I think he had a nice voice – a little more treble in it that helped make his Alaapanas sound sharper. He sang the raag Hindolam rather well. TVS rendition of Sarasa Sama Dhana – raag Kaapi Narayaniwas excellent and very MMesque. Just that, Eppo Varuvaaro and of course, the Notes more than made my day!