The auditorium situated in the posh locality of the city was gradually getting filled.
“Hey, Mohanbhai, what a pleasant surprise? You? Attending the classical program today?”
“Actually, I was visiting my brother-in-law, Ramesh Rathod, here and he insisted that I come along. He is very much into music, you know” Mohanbhai smiled.
“Oh, how nice? Everyone knows Ramesh Rathod. Good, good. You are in for a big treat. The great sarangi player Mohamed Khan is going to perform. And you know what? The equally great Aslam Hussain is on the tabla!”
“That is all very good. I haven’t heard of either of them but I hope I can catch up with some of my friends here” Mohanbhai looked around for his friends
Back in the green room:
Mohamed Khan was in a foul mood. His dozen strings just wouldn’t tune properly.
“Arey, dekho” he called out the guy carrying the teapot “ Get this damn AC turned off”
“I will call the electrician” the guy ran off.
“Arey wo to chaiwala hai. Chalo Rameshbhai ko ‘kaal’ karta hoon”, Aslam Hussain, fidgeting with his pair of tablas called up Rameshbhai.
In the din created by the cultured audience Rameshbhai didn’t hear the ring.
“Let it be, Aslambhai”, these people deserve nothing better. They only know how to fleece great artistes like me. I have decided to play for only 90 minutes”
“Theek hai, Bhai. Whatever you do is fine”
“Look, Aslam bhai, do not try to impress the audience with your skills. I know how good they are. Just behave and play. I will give you a signal when I think it is right for you to show off, Ok?”
“Ok, Bhai. Whatever you say”
“And why is your left hand bandaged a bit?”
“Oh, that? “ Aslam winked “ Nothing,
“You want the audience to feel that you have had an injury and still you can play the tabla well”
“Well, sort of. I do that many times and the audience loves it”
“You stupid guy. Get the bandage out. I do not want a drama here”
Together they practiced for a while, downing innumerable cups of tea and waited for the call by the organizers.
The auditorium was now full. The Chief guest was about to arrive.
Suddenly, Mohanbhai, seated in the front row sighted someone in the middle row.
“Jigneshbhai, Jigneshbhai. Right here”, Mohan waved at Jignesh, dressed in perfectly pressed kurta – pyjamas with a matching shawl slung over his shoulder. To the uninitiated he could very well be the artiste himself.
“That is Mohan” Jignesh tapped his wife’s shoulder, seated next to him, busy in animated conversation with a gorgeous looking plump lady.
“Wow, why don’t you go and meet him?”
The overexcited Jignesh weaved out of the row with great difficulty, trampling on the feet of others in the row, and rushed towards Mohan.
“Jai Srikishna. I am so glad to see you here”
“Arey, Jignesh, you are all decked up. Are you also going to give an item or two here?” Mohan asked genuinely. For him, music was all the same. He had once heard Jignesh belt out some ‘items’ at a local function.
“You are now pulling my leg, Mohan” Jignesh managed an embarrassed smile.
The curtain was slowly raised to show a number of chairs arranged across the stage for the guests and donors.
“Let us catch up during the interval, Mohanbhai. The kachoris served by the local stall in the foyer are very famous. You must taste them. You will forget your ‘khada ni’ kachoris, Ha Ha Ha”
The artistes sat on the carpet covering the floor. Mohamed Khan was ready with his Sarangi and Aslam Hussain, with his tabla. They knew this hilarious drama of welcoming the important guests would last long enough to catch a wink or two. Mohamed Khan shaded his eyes with his palm and gazed at the audience to get a sense of the number of attendees, and shook his head.
Ramesh Rathod got up and took the mike in his hand.
“I would like each and everyone here to take their seat quickly please. The program is about to begin. We are just waiting for our beloved Hansraj bhai…”
A volunteer walked on to the stage from the side and said something in Ramesh’s ear.
Ramesh’s face lit up.
“Oh, good news! Hansrajbhai has just arrived at the entrance of the complex and he will be with us in the next few minutes…” The audience cheered.
Ramesh ran towards the side entrance to the stage and welcomed Hansrajbhai, clad in an immaculate white Kurta Pyjama. He turned towards the audience and folded his hands. At the prompting of Rameshbhai, the audience cheered one more time.
The burly figure of Hansrajbhai could barely fit in the chair meant for him.
One by one, the Chairman, the Vice chairman, the Secretary, the treasurer and the publicity manager appeared in front of the Chief Guest, bowed reverentially and sought his blessings, making sure that the perspiring photographer had clicked a picture.
For the poor artistes this was déjà vu.
Then followed the routine of welcoming the other important guests on the dais with flowers. It was the turn of the respective wives of the office bearers to do the honors.
Hansrajbhai sat through the routine with a fixed smile on his face, occasionally waving at some known face in the audience.
It was now time to felicitate the artistes. The cute little girls of the Chairman and the Vice Chairman walked in from the side entrance, laden with huge bouquets of flowers.
Mohamed Khan got up carefully and accepted the bouquets gracefully. Aslam followed suit.
Ramesh Rathod then took control of the microphone for the customary introduction of the artistes ‘who needed no introduction’
The Introduction, followed by speeches by the office bearers —- in the next post – stay tuned