Yaar ek baat bataao. Hamaari country ki problem exactly hai kya? Oho, aap toh serious ho gaye. I didn’t mean to start a discussion on corruption or election, safety or poverty etc. Of course these are the real, serious issues to debate on, but then at least look at who is asking you the question.I don’t even remember the year when I last got serious about something. When I refer to problems, it is generally about day-to-day irritants and, more importantly, irritating people. And in my observation, the population of impolite, irritating and ill-mannered people in our cities has grown in direct proportion with the growth of wealth in our economy. It sadly doesn’t reduce when the economy goes into recession.
Today, I’m going to talk about an irony that’s peculiar to our behaviour. The irony of the contrast between our claims to be a culturally rich, music-loving nation, and the way we behave during any kind of live music performance.
When I say any, I really mean any – right from an acclaimed classical singer in a concert to the local DJ at a shaadi in your mohalla, from a ghazal singer at a fine-dining restaurant, to a sufi band performing at a ‘couples’ kitty party’ in a posh farmhouse.
We specialise in spoiling everything, without any discrimination of class or caste. Nowhere in the world will you see people objectifying or disrespecting a live musician’s talent as you see here, despite, I must admit, there being a lot of serious music aficionados around us. Let me tell you some particular things or situations that bug the hell out of me.
1Chatter boxes: We are a nation that loves to talk. Nothing wrong with it, except that we don’t know when to stop. Whether in the middle of a concert in an auditorium, or in a group of friends at a party when someone is singing... koi na koi shuru ho jaata hai. I was once at a live concert by the legend, late Jagjit Singh, when the gentleman sitting next to me started talking to his foreigner friend, right in the middle of the ghazal!! ‘Sshh’, I gestured, and he explained, rather loudly, ‘Just translating the lyrics for her so that she gets the essence’. ‘Get sense before the essence’, I wanted to tell him, but there’s hardly any use. Sometimes we go for weddings or private functions where lakhs have been spent on inviting popular singers to sing. But we don’t think twice before munching endlessly on our food and chatting audibly with friends right next to where the singer is left singing like a mere prop. If music ‘sets the atmosphere’ as claimed, I’m sure the desired effect could have been obtained by playing the songs on a high-end music system. Par humein show-off bhi toh karna hai.
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Actually, professional singers toh chhodo, we don’t even know how to deal with a live singing act in a small gathering even when at home or college or office. It intrigues me no end. First we insist that someone sings, praising how good they are. Then when the singing starts, a weird awkwardness descends on everyone. Some of us start staring at the ground or the ceiling, some straight at the singer. Some start smiling weirdly on making eye contact with someone else...and just then, someone decides to say, ‘khana lagaana start kar doon?’ – right there in the middle of the song! I’m sure it is a genetic disorder that we can’t stay silent during the entire duration of a performance. Any scientists up for discovering the gene?
2Phonobsession: By now you all know my disdain for that gadget called smartphone that has made us dumb. But my personal opinion apart, tell me, do you also not get irritated when people just refuse to silence their phones when a live music act is on? You do, right? Or are you one of those who is either in love with the phone’s ringtone or thinks the world will come to an end if you will miss a call? Look here, let me tell you clearly. You are NOT as important as you think. And human beings existed even when there were no cellphones. And there is a ‘silent’ button on all mobile phones. And it is impolite and disrespectful to a singer’s talent if you make him compete with your chikni chameli ringtone. And you are an idiot if you still don’t get it.
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3DJs in distress: DJs ko toh bhaisaab hamne khareed hi liya hai is country mein. Someday, I want to organise a party for all the DJs in distress. Itna tang karte hain hum DJs ko, that thanks to my exaggerated melodramatic gene, I can sometimes visualise a DJ going back home after a typical Punjabi party and crying phoot phoot ke, in his mom’s lap. When the poor DJ starts to play music at a decent hour, we play hard to get and don’t come on the dance floor. Four drinks down and two hours later, we refuse to get down from it and are ready to declare war if the DJ dare stop music. This ‘party yun hi chaalegi’ and ‘party abhi baaki hai’ syndrome has gripped us rather literally. Actually, if I can be honest with you, I’m quite a culprit myself. I hate it when all the dancing and fun gets over and people are still high enough to dance away. But us bechaare DJ ka bhi socho. He may not even have had dinner because drunk dancers were throwing song requests at him @20 per minute. But no matter how long a DJ continues to play, we in India still get upset when he stops the music. We are a nation of music lovers, you see. And then comes gaaliyan, shouting and threats of no-payment. If the DJ says rules don’t allow him to play beyond a certain hour, Monty flashes out a ‘smart’ phone and says ‘Oye mujhe bata kis se permission leni hai. Police mein apni setting hai. Tu bas baja!’ I love our confidence. I love our spirit. Because we love our ‘spirits’!!
Sonal Kalra wants to attend a class on etiquette while someone’s performing. She’s sure someone’s phone will ring even in that class. Mail her at email@example.com or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter@sonalkalra