The small towns have their own set of unique issues.
No sooner Ramesh Rathod started to speak than the power failed. The public had a whale of time, whistling, getting up to make inaudible comments.
Hansraj bhai and other exalted guests on the dais were bewildered. The organizers were more worried about how to ferry the Chief Guest safely out of the stage.
The Vice Chairman, Vivek Bhagat, shouted “Arey please ask the auditorium manager to turn the emergency generator on.”
The entire auditorium echoed with cacophony and whistles. There was a sound of a thud on the stage but no one had a clue. Someone rushed onto the stage with a bright emergency flashlight. The venerable Chief Guest had fallen off the tiny chair he was seated on.
The power resumed after a few minutes and people saw the figure of the Chief Guest being guided out of the stage.
Ramesh Rathod resumed his favourite role at the mike.
“Ladiiez and Zentalmen, I humbly appeal everyone to remain calm and seated. The electricity board office has assured us that there would be no problem now. There is only one problem” ….he paused, “ The AC will have to be off. But the ‘phans’ are there. Thank you for your cooperation”
The artistes held their respective instruments close to their bodies lest someone should trample over them.
“ I am sure you will join me in praying for the well being of our beloved Hansraj bhai” Ramesh rattled on;
“Good riddance” said someone close to the front row”
“Usually the outage of power doesn’t occur on Saturdays here,” Jignesh told Mohanbhai who showed no interest in going over the timetable of power outages in the small town.
Ramesh was back, adjusting his reading glasses;
“With the blessings of Maa Saraswati we have today one of the greatest exponents of Sarangi to perform here. He is the disciple of the Ustad Ahmedkhan of the Bihar gharana….”
“_______________” Mohmad khan signaled to interrupt and corrected him. His words were inaudible to the audience.
“Oh I am sorry it is Maihar gharana. Ustad Mohmad khan gave his first solo concert at the tender age of ten. He has regaled audiences all over India and abroad.
I am delighted to announce that on the tabla we have the incomparable Aslam Khan. You will be surprised to know that he said he met with a little accident on his way to the venue but he has bravely agreed to play despite the injury to his left elbow.!”
Mohmad khan looked at Aslam Khan who feigned ignorance. Ramesh Rathod had taken these details from Aslam Khan just minutes after their arrival at the venue, while the fake bandage was still visible.
The audience applauded. Aslam Khan on his part tried to appear absolutely calm and waved his left hand to the public.
“True to the great tradition of the classical music the Khan Saheb will present an evening raga called Yaman”
Some knowledgeable souls in the audience let out a soft ‘aah’.
“Kaunsaa ganaa hai ye raga mein?” Jignesh asked the man to his left who appeared to understand everything about classical music.
“Kaay re bhau. Evdha pan maahit naahi kaa?” the curt rejoinder from the rasika Marathi maanus unnerved Jignesh. He dared not ask him again.
Mohan bhai to his right had already started enjoying the aroma of kachaudis being fried just outside the foyer.
The artistes thereupon sat down to tune their instruments on the stage. The loud whir of the huge ceiling fans fitted across the auditorium in slanting positions added to their misery.
“Why don’t they tune their instruments before coming to the concert, Jigenshbhai?” Mohan asked innocently.
“Great tradition, Mohanbhai. Just keep watching”
“Shhhhhh… “ the Marathi gentleman reprimanded them.
“Hamaraa aaj kuchh hone wala nahi hai, Mohmad bhai” Aslam suggested.
“Tu apana theka pakadke baith; tereko bola naa?” Mohmad khan who, being the main artiste had the license to put down the accompanying artiste at will.
“Lekin…. Meri hathaudi nahi mil rahi hai”
“To apane sar patak. Ek to show off karne ke liye haath pe patti baandh kar aa gaya, likhvaa bhi diya aura ab ye tamashaa” Mohmad khan kept a fixed smile on his face as he spoke to Aslam khan lest the audience not get a clue to their verbal duel.
Aslam gave a sheepish smile and felt under his all-purpose bag to find the hathaudi.
“Mil gayee jee” he exclaimed
“Chalu karo ab” someone at the back shouted.
Ramesh Rathod, who had strategically positioned himself at the back rows, precisely to keep a check on the rowdy elements, walked up to that guy and threatened him.
“Look at this Ramesh guy, he struts around as if he is an expert on classical music…” the guy sat down in a huff and murmured to his wife sitting next to him.
“Why do you want to rub such guys the wrong way? His wife, Usha has been learning classical from our local musician guru Suresh bhai for the last 5 years and is still no match to my rendering a garba at the Navaratri function” She looked side ways and made a face.
The tuning went on for the next ten minutes, Mohmad bhai occasionally glanced at the ceiling fan above.
Ramesh Rathod, never to miss an opportunity, reappeared on the stage, smiled at the artistes and assumed he had the permission to use the mike to pass on some important messages,
“Hello, while our artistes are going through the routine of tuning, I have two announcements to make, of course with the permission of the Ustads,
“First, our beloved Hansraj bhai is well, The doctor has given him some sedative. Thank you for your cooperation” The well-wishers of the Chief Guest cheered
‘Second, we have a special counter set up in the foyer to accept annual memberships fees. So I earnestly request those members who have still not paid their dues to please do so. Your cooperation is sincerely solicited. Thank you,….; thank you all for your cooperation”
As he was moving away from the microphone a volunteer rushed towards him and handed him a tiny chit.
Ramesh Rathod took out his reading glasses with the gold chain from the leather case, put them on, cleared his throat to announce, “Car number MH02 AJ 4567 .. is blocking the car of our beloved Hansraj bhai. So whoever is the owner, may I please request him to remove his car as soon as possible? Thanks for your cooperation.”
Ramesh Rathod, having performed his duty as the main coordinator of the function, walked off the stage, casting an embarrassed smile at the artistes.
The artistes were finally ready. They waited till the owner of the car somehow managed to slip out of the middle rows and exited from the auditorium.
“Kauaa chalaa hans ki chaal…”
The show must go on…