The Zubin Mehta concert at the Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar has drawn effusive praise from all quarters. One of the thousands of CRPF jawans guarding the venue said he was enthralled by Beethoven, even though “his compositions are difficult to whistle.”
“It reminded me of the band at my wedding in Begusarai six months ago,” said another jawan, his eyes brimming with tears. “Congreve said music has charms to soothe the savage breast,” said a literary havildar, looking up from his job of frisking the locals. Ignoring a local who wondered aloud whether Congreve belonged to the Bajrang Dal, the havildar said his only regret was the musicians took such a long while tuning their instruments that they never really managed to strike up a decent tune.
An army colonel said he never suspected that western classical music could be so effective. He said he had already given instructions to broadcast symphonies night and day to Pakistani troops on the Line of Control (LoC). “It will help ensure peace and tranquillity on the LoC,” he said. But he stoutly denied the rumour that, after 24 hours of being bombarded with classical western music by strategically placed loudspeakers, the Pakistani commander had capitulated, offering Baluchistan if we stopped the racket.
Meanwhile, the concert has also had a tremendous effect on Kashmiri separatists. The Hizbul-Mujahideen leadership, for instance, has been so impressed that they have decided to rename their organisation the Hizb-ul-Tchaikovsky.
“I love to crack nuts while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite”, boasted a Hizb leader. We understand the Haydn supporters in the group defected to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has since been renamed the Lashkar-e-Haydn. Intelligence sources tell us that one unintended consequence has been an exodus of fighters who cannot pronounce the new names of their organisations.
The success of the concert has led to demands coming in from other troubled areas. Unreliable sources say the Bavarian State Orchestra has been requested to play in Muzaffarnagar and in households torn by saas-bahu tensions.
Syria too has put in an application. Reports say the Indian government has been so excited by the concert that it is mulling the enactment of a Right to Western Classical Music, to supplement the Right to Food. Maoists have, in a pre-emptive move, started to play Chinese revolutionary music in the forests of Chhattisgarh to forestall any attempt to introduce Beethoven there.
Bollywood has lost no time in cashing in on the new trend. “We’re planning a blockbuster musical, something on the lines of Chennai Express collides with Mozart, Shahrukh meets Shostakovich, Priyanka greets Prokofiev,” said a Bollywood director.
Not everybody is enamoured of western classical music, though. A music expert proposed subjecting the Kashmiris to Mongolian throat singers, Chinese opera and Bougarabou bands from Senegal, to start with.
But in perhaps what is Zubin’s greatest triumph, the BJP endorsed his view on the calming effects of music. A shady chap claiming to be the party’s music secretary said they sang classical Carnatic ragas at every meeting held to discuss the prime ministerial candidate. “And after being anointed as PM-in-waiting, when Modiji went to Advaniji’s house,” he said, “all he did was sing bhajans.”
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal