Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos


Successes galore!!!

Durga Puja got over and with it the set of four shows which we “Backbenchers” were due to perform in four different pujas in the city of Bangalore, soon to be christened Bengaluru. I shall try to make this attempted factual account as interesting is possible, but in case you are not, please do not stop reading and please read till the end, since these are the first few shows ever since I left college, and it feels good to be back on the musical path.

The first show was in the Puja at Brookefields, close to the ITPL, which incidentally is full of software professionals, some of them carrying laptops. This puja started a few years back so we never really expected a packed house in this pandal. We reached around six in the evening and at that time, the hall was packed with people who were waiting to see some kids dance and some older kids make a mess of the stage with a flurry of unsynchronized movement. Some voice at the back of my mind seemed to say – Don’t count your chickens, these people don’t look very expectant at all. Needless to say, it was tough keeping those voices to myself and not affecting the team morale. Ultimately we did get on stage, but it was getting late and people were getting restless. To top it all, we had some minor issues with sound in the beginning because of which the start to the show wasn’t as impressive as we would have expected it to be. The sound systems did get rectified but I guess the people’s patience had run out and most of the IT guys could see their managers’ faces at the back of their minds. The crowds started thinning out till only a few scattered groups were left listening to our songs. It was a dampener for sure, but we did play our selected set of songs, and were well-appreciated by the select few who had braved the late hours. After the show, there was a sense of disappointment, which to some extent was quelled after a terribly prepared Chicken roll from one of the food stalls. I had no break between songs and I finally realized that the next three days with continuous shows was going to be a tiring affair indeed.

The next show was at Mahalaxmi Layout, way north in Bangalore, close to the ISCKON temple, which is a major landmark for that part of the city. I had office in the morning, and the entire afternoon along with the evening was spent in completing some long-pending assignments, and attending to mundane calls on inane, soon-to-be-worthwhile topics. I had an easy enough time finding out the place, and this place had small surprises in store for us. Although the Puja was really small, and quite unimposing, there was a good crowd, and somehow I had the feeling the fashion sense in this crowd was a little different, a little more sophisticated, a little extra desire to be more ethnic. However, it’s quite possible that this was just a perception. This show was scheduled to start at eight-thirty, but after the few shows performed by even smaller children, we realized that some people wanted to sing. We didn’t know how well they would sing, but we had to be the good band and allow them to go on stage before us. If we had known that they would sing close to twenty tuneless, soulless, and mirthless songs, we might have given more thought to our decision. Anyway, as luck would have it, most of the people got bored, some got annoyed and some stayed back out of sheer politeness, or lazyness. Obviously, the band got quite bored as well… there were no enlightening substances either… We finally did get the stage at around nine-fifteen; and it was in a flurry of activity that we proceeded to get the entire gamut of instruments replete with keyboard, guitars and the bass set up in the minimum possible time. People had started leaving; but very thankfully I saw a few young groups enter the auditorium when they saw us setting our instruments up. Even more thankfully, a set of older people came in and took the seats right next to the stage. I had a feeling that it was not too bad after all, if only all the people who were having cigarettes and cupfuls of tea outside came inside, the audience would not be that bad after all… And quite amazingly, I felt my hopes coming true. This show was a grand success, on the lines which we had not really expected. We were forced, rather goaded on to sing “Shadher Lau” twice, and after that, we played a shockingly fast version of one of our originals “Shurjo”, which the crowd lapped up. It was truly a most satisfying experience to actually watch people listen to and appreciate something that you have composed after years of toil. It was satisfying; if only we did not have to drive close to forty kilometers on the way back, it would have been the perfect end to a lousy day…

The third show was the biggest, and at Ulsoor, the puja organized by the Bengalee Association of Bangalore. It was no doubt lavish, but the rains had played a bit of a dampener before the show; the grounds got muddy, parking became a nightmare and to top it all, I got drenched and had to go back home to change into a drier pair of trousers. This show also was delayed in the grand old Bengali tradition of stretchable time, and we finally got on stage around half-past-nine. It was quite obvious that we would not be able to sing all the songs which we had planned, so we decided to do just the best of the fourteen. The crowd seemed a mix of young, old and native (which was a little worrying, since I didn’t want them to go back disappointed); but quite clearly, a lot of them appreciated music, some of them had a hard time understanding the songs, and a healthy mix of young men and few girls came to the front and danced. The sound wasn’t that great on stage, and it was only after the show that I realized that one of the monitors wasn’t even working throughout the show. It was quite disappointing from a performer’s perspective because we did not get the sound which we had wanted, and the sound guy had a tough time understanding the fact that he was a brainless nincompoop and would not be able to do justice by arranging the sound, with the net result that our sound engineer wasn’t allowed to touch the controls and ended up with a somewhat black mood…

Then came the show at Koramangala, which incidentally we were performing free of charge. It was on the occasion of Navami, which is the ninth day of the Puja. The crowd was boisterous in Koramangala and though we managed to get on stage only around ten, we realized that this was a crowd which loved its music and we were on the road to success. The makeshift auditorium was packed to capacity; there were even people standing outside craning their heads to see a bit of the action. We had initially decided on singing just ten-eleven songs and get it over with. But once we started after a rather perfunctory sound check, we realized that this was gonna be the show of our lives. The people were mesmerized, each of the band members played like a professional, it was an exemplary, mind-blowingly amazing performance. Something which neither we nor the audience had expected. People sang along, they danced, they jived along like never before… and for the first time in my life I got a chance to do an encore… and it wasn’t just one encore, it was two, then three, and finally we ended up playing till eleven thirty; and the crowd was just wanting more… it was an amazing sight, watching hundreds of heads banging, pretty girls sitting in the front row, mesmerized and happily awestruck; it was a lovely, enjoyable and educative experience. And I realized how much I had been missing the stage, the lights and the captive audience. It was homecoming for me, and I simply enjoyed every moment of it…

So that was an account of what I did this Pujas. Boring, right?! I had thought so…

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