The Sangeet Sammelan

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

      ——————

Sangeet Sammelan – Episode 2

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 “kopareshan””

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 “kopareshan”.”

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…

            ——————

Episode 3:

Mohmad Khan again shaded his eyes to finally estimate the number of people in the auditorium. Aslam had nothing more to do other than twiddling his thumbs.

A charming girl in her teens, all decked up, joined the artistes to strum the taanpura. Like many others in the audience, our Mohanbhai now had something to focus on.

The great evening raga Yaman was about to unfold.

Mohmad khan glided his left hand fingers over the scale in one swift jerk from Sa (The note C in the middle octave) all the way back to Dha (The note A) of the mandra saptak (lower octave) and with a similar flourish back to Sa – a traditional way to begin the alaap. Aslam looked at Mohmad khan in admiration while Mohanbhai’s neighbor let out “Kyaa baat hai” (a exclamatory appreciation) extending his right hand towards the artiste; Mohmad Khan nodded in acknowledgement. 

Mohan bhai, who had his first brush with a classical recital, stared at his neighbor and wondered why the 5 feet something guy was asking the artiste what the matter was. (The literal meaning of the exclamation – what is the matter?) 

“May be they are still tuning their instrument” he concluded and struggled to whip out from his trouser pocket his iphone that had suddenly woken up with a loud alert.

“Ae hello. …. Badhu barabar chhe ahiyaa. ….Shun kidhu?….Na bhai naa, naahak maari chintaa kare chhe….Baabo sui gayo….. zaadaa ulti bandh thai gayaa? … le, … ae haa, pogram maa chhun… naa naa haji to aa loko tuning kare chhe…..”

(Hi, hello, everything is fine here with me…What are you saying?..No no, please stop worrying about me…is our son all right now? No throwing up, no loose motions?… I am in this music event.. no no it hasn’t started yet… the artistes are still tuning their instruments…)

The Marathi maanus tapped Mohanbhai’s shoulders “ Aataa gap bas…” (Now, will you be quiet?) 

The Sarangi Ustad, unmindful of half a dozen mobile phone conversations in the auditorium, concentrated on his task ahead. 

For Aslam Khan it was the usual exercise, trying his best to stay composed and interested, occasionally crossing his arms around his torso, then releasing them, checking the spongy cotton covers on the top of the two tablas and struggling to avoid looking at the assorted activities of the organizers through the side entrance to the stage. Such was the plight of a tabla player, to stay glued to his seat to the right of the main artiste; supposedly to establish a rapport with the exalted audience. 

Presently, Ramesh Rathod, having successfully steered the event so far, sat on a low stool next to the side entrance and sipped strong, sweet tea in a plastic cup. All around him whatsapp messages flew in and out, on impressive mobile phones of all hues, mostly centered around the latest on the latest health bulletin of Hansraj bhai. 

Mohamad Khan had now warmed up to reach the Pancham (the note G) in his alap. His eyes appeared closed to everyone in the auditorium except to his buddy Aslam Khan, who by virtue of his being a junior artiste did his best not to appear anxious. He knew Mohamad Khan had this innate super vision eye to ensure Aslam behaved at all time and kept appreciating the finger work on Sarangi. 

The Chairman was engaged in a furious debate with his team – the nightmare of every organizer – that of ensuring accommodation for the artiste duo in the only three-star hotel in the town and figuring out who all would accompany them to the railway station in the wee hours tomorrow and lastly, who should be given the privilege of ‘expression of thanks to the artistes, patrons of the likes of Hansraj bhai, the sponsors, the tireless organization team members, the agency that provided the music system, the owners of the auditorium and last but not the least the audience without whose support….. etc etc

The innumerable number of cups of tea that the artiste duo had downed before the event was sure to cause some natural discomfort. Thankfully, the main artiste who was busy displaying his skills had no time to think about it but Aslam Khan was in a pitiable situation. He had nothing to do except biding his time. He made a non-verbal plea to Mohmad Khan in vain. The tradition dictated that the tabla accompanist remain glued to his seat, while the main artiste went about his business, but in no case he would leave the stage. 

Mohamad Khan was now on the verge of finishing his course as he vigorously and dexterously manipulated his fingers to slide into the upper octave. The gunijans (connoisseurs) exploded into a wave of applause. Mohan bhai was all at sea, not knowing if he could get up to relieve himself. Jignesh pretended to understand the esoteric alap, occasionally checking his mobile phone for important business messages.

The rowdy elements at the back had a whale of time, moving in and out of the auditorium from the exits at the back, in the dark without compunction. 

At last the alap came to a grand close. Mohamad Khan bowed to the audience several times to acknowledge. Aslam khan kept up a brave face, wondering if an opportunity would come his way to finish his brand of natural alap.

Sure enough!

Ramesh Rathod was not to let this opportunity slip. He strode onto the stage to make an announcement or two. He entered the stage clapping more vigorously than others, wringing his head in mock disbelief at the once-in-a-life time alap. He reached all the way to his favourite instrument – the microphone;

“What a marvelous rendition Khan Saheb! We are all overwhelmed. Permit me to make an important announcement.” Mohmad Khan tried his best to hide his disapproval while Aslam Khan seized the opportunity, got up, exited the stage and bolted towards the comfort room. 

Hear the booming voice of the indomitable Ramesh Rathod on the mike,

“Thank you Khan Saheb. 

Ladiez and Zentalmen, please do not leave your seat. I know you are looking forward to taste the famous kachaudis outside in the auditorium, but they are not ready yet. So please bear with me and stay in your seats till the artistes finish their recital….. Thank you for your koparashun. Thank you, thank you,thank you.

Here we have the great Aslam Khan……(looking for Aslam next to Mohamad Khan) …Oh, he will be back soon to regale you with his performance. Thank you for your koparashun. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Ramesh Rathod crossed Aslam Khan who had just returned from his unavoidable mission, acknowledging the welcome applause that Ramesh Rathod had prompted.

As the artistes sat down the tuning exercise for the tabla started. Mohanbhai looked pensively around but wisely decided not to expose his ignorance of the ‘tradition’ in front of the Gunijan seated next to him.

The voice of the incorrigible Ramesh Rathod was heard loud and clear, “I appeal the audience to keep absolute silence while the artistes are tuning their instruments” 

Mohamad Khan eyed Aslam Khan with a piercing look that said “Betaa  tu aaj dekh lena, jara sambhalke. Naani yaad aa jaayegi aaj” (Dude, just watch out today, I am going to give you the hell)

Aslam Khan finally gave the finishing touch to tune his tabla with a heavy slap on the tablas and offered a sheepish smile to Mohamad Khan. 

Mohamad Khan started his composition. Aslam Khan picked up the beats at the right moment and triumphantly launched into a lengthy series of wizardry tabla moves that went on for a full five avartans (cycles) to the dismay of Mohamad Khan.

The Gunijans gave the customary ovation at the end of the first flourish from Aslam Khan.

The audience too was in a far better receptive mood now that the element of rhythm was introduced. 

There were times during the recital when both the artistes looked like competing to come to standstill beat. The carefully rehearsed silence of beats triggered immediate applause from the Gunijans. Mohan bhai, always in the hamletian dilemma – to leave not to leave – kept praying for the closure of the event. 

Fortunately the animosity between the two artistes had no visible or audible effect on their performance. The focus light on the artistes had a debilitating effect on the artistes, particularly the decked up taanpura (accompanying drone instrument) girl who had to keep wiping her face off perspirations. 

The combined sounds of the sarangi and the tablas were enough to muffle the regular mobile phone ring tones in the auditorium. 

Thankfully, the artistes decided to end their recital with a high pitched crescendo. The audience burst into a thunderous applause as the artistes looked on with folded hands. 

While Jigneshbhai waited for his wife to join him from the back rows, Mohanbhai swiftly made his way through the rows towards the exit door in search of his holy grail. The Gunijan neighbor in the next seat was debating whether the kachaudis were worth sacrificing the front row seat that he occupied. His wife cautiously took out a plastic bag of homemade ‘kande pohe’ ( a savoury dish made of onions and flattened light dry rice flakes)  from her oversized purse, handed a white plastic spoon to her husband  lovingly commanding him “Ghyaa” (have it)

The kachaudi counter was a picture of mayhem in the foyer. Mohanbhai had managed to be the first in the queue but the crowd pushing from behind caused his spicy chutney to spill onto his white kurta. (loose shirt). Right at that moment Rameshbhai materialized from nowhere, “Arey, Mohanbhai, enjoying the ‘pogram’ (program) ?“ and before Mohan could respond he slipped, bringing the contents of Mohan’s plate down. 

“Arey, arey, Ramsehbhai, easy easy. Of course the ‘pogram’ was excellent but I think I will have to rush home – just got an important message from a friend” 

“No problem, Mohanbhai. Thanks for coming. Please attend our ‘phyu…cher pograms’ from now on. You will love them”

Mohanbhai made his way out of the crowd.

The Artistes would now have to be content with one less applause after the intermission.

“Bhaago Mohan Pyaare….bhaago”

      —————-

Sangeet Sammelan  Part 4:

Never mind the stern announcement to limit the break to a miserly 10 minutes slot, the much-awaited interval extended to almost 30 minutes. The indefatigable Ramesh Rathod ended up breaking his own record of 6 calls to get the exalted audience back into the auditorium. 

“Jigenshbhai, you are staying back for the post-interval part of the ‘pogram’, right?” asked Sevantilal, a fifty something businessman with his hair dyed jet black. His wife, Mrunalini devi, following him, with her 10 year-old son in the tow, folded her hands and burst into chaste Hindi “ Bilkul rahenge; hamare pote Partha ko singing competition mein prize jo milaa hai …”. 

She lovingly patted Partha, “Namaste karo betey, Uncle ko”

Partha, busy eyeing the kulfi counter, was jolted into the conversation, “Namaste Uncle, Namaste Auntie”

Jigensh’s wife, barely able to stand upright on her recently operated knees, had to step in at the precise moment to rescue her grinning husband, “kem nahi, ben. Kitnaa pyaaraa bachcha! Bahot aage jaane wala hai ye bachcha. Lekin Bhai saab aur aapko wakt kahaa miltaa hai hamere gareeb khane me ab, Chamber of Commerce ke president jo ban gaye hai” ( “Why not, sister? What a cute little boy Partha is? He is destined to go places! But after Bhai Saab became the President of Chamber of Commerce you guys have never visited us!”)

Hailing from North India – how she ended up marrying the quintessential Gujarati Sevntilal is another story – Mrunalaini was the only soul in the town that the grand old ladies had to speak to in Hindi. “Nahi jee, aisee koi baat nahi hai. Ye itne busy rahte hai… bas poochhiye mat…. (No, it is not like that. He keeps so busy ….)

The voice of Ramesh Rathod was getting louder and louder on the sound system.

Jignesh was not alone to be sucked into the ritual of watching and applauding the prize-winners – unfolding next in the auditorium. Almost all the rest, who were brave enough to enter the auditorium after downing the sumptuous kachaudis, by virtue of their being the parents of the prize-winners, were obliged to witness the drama. 

It was already 9:45 PM. Both the Ustads, waiting in the Green room, for their turn to play some thumri and the mandatory bhairavi had helped themselves to countless plates of kachaudis. 

The organizers were in a huddle to sort out an important issue of deciding on the ‘zentalman’ to take over the position of Chief Guest from the battle scarred Hansrajbhai, coolly savouring the massage to his legs by one of his in-house servants at home.

The stage itself had been rearranged by the enthusiastic volunteers and now showed half-a-dozen chairs with a long table in the front on which some 25 small and big gleaming trophies had been lined up. 

The choice had to fall on Sevantilal. 

The curtain rose to the excited audience that numbered no more than 30 souls in the auditorium. Like Mohanbhai, all the rest of the music lovers had some ‘important guests’ at their homes. 

Ramesh Rathod was back on the mike, “Ladiez and Zentalmen. I have two important announcements. One good and the other…… bad”. No one applauded at this old joke, for a change.

He paused to readjust his spectacles, “ the bad news is that the latest rules require all loud entertainment ‘pograms’ must be over by 10 PM. I am sure we will have more opportunities to listen to the great artistes again, in near ‘phew-char’”

The only connoisseur couple in the auditorium, satiated with Kande pohe, quietly got up and left the scene.

“Now, Zentalmen, for the prize distribution ceremony we requested our well known industrialist and our supporter Shri Sevantilal to preside over the function and distribute.” Turning to Sevantilal, occupying the pride of centrally placed chair on the stage, ”On behalf of the ‘peepal’ ( people) of this sanskari nagari (Cultured city) I wish to put on record my sincerest thanks to Shri Sevantilal for agreeing to do the honour.”

The thirty-something souls cheered uncontrollably.

After all, each one had at least one child who was shortly to be awarded a prize or a consolation prize. 

“The music competition was arranged by the untiring efforts of our local musician Guru Shri Sureshbhai, under the guidance and supervision of our organizing team. It has been decided to award consolation prize to each participant to encourage them to do even better in the coming years” 

Poor Sureshbhai, seated last in the chair, behind the front row of chairs acknowledged the mention of his name with a weak wave of hand that no one noticed. 

“And, now, ladies and Zental men, the much awaited prize distribution that you have been eagerly waiting for” The Chairman seated next to the Chief Guest, bent sideways and cupped his palm to say “Kaain takaleef nathee ne saaheb?” (Hope you are comfortable, Sir). The Chief Guest in turn nodded benevolently and looked on. The audience, particularly the wife of the Chairman, assumed it must be something very important. 

“The first prize goes to….. Nandini” boomed Ramesh.

The tiny figure of a pony tailed girl materialized from somewhere, stepped on to the stage from the wrong end, to the chagrin of the Vice Chairman, bowed to the audience, smiled and stood in front of Suresh Sir. 

The Vice Chairman took her hand and made her stand in front of the ever-smiling Sevantilal. The photographer pulled up a chair hastily from nearby and stood atop to snap a picture of the first prize winner receiving the gleaming trophy.

“Next,…. the first runners up prize goes to … none other than Paaaaaarthaaa, the grandson of our very own Sevnatilal jee.” The entire auditorium resounded with cheers. 

Mrunalini, the proud mother, who had gotten up to snap the momentous event, was all smiles, dressed in the finest Banarasi sari and exquisite jewellery. As the applause took a little longer to die down, she resumed in her seat, acknowledging the personal congratulations from ladies around. 

“Poor Paarth too sang very well that day but he had this throat infection, you know” She explained to no one in particular.

“Of course, after all he has to carry the great music tradition you brought from Banaras.” Mrs. Jignesh was not to be quiet for long.

The ritual of Prize distribution continued for another 45 minutes. It was followed by the mandatory speech by Sevantilal, a vote of thanks by the Vice Chairman, the final hugs with a promise to ‘koparate’ even better in the ‘phewchar’ events. The artistes were led to the only 3-star hotel in the town by the Treasurer where they gorged themselves to whatever vegetarian fare that the hotel restaurant could manage.  

After everyone left, the sweeper couple finished their task humming a song on their lips “Dukh bhare din bitere bhaiyaa ab sukh aayo re”

(The sorrowful day is finally over; happy days are here again) 


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