Desi Misbehavior Redux! Artists too are Now mad — A Contrasting Scene in Tamil Literature!

Kollengode. S. Venkataraman

Many readers agreed with the central message of the “The Multitasking Misbehavior of Desis” in the last issue that dealt with audience misbehavior at desi events.

Adults’ behavior cannot be changed by pleading for their good behavior alone because, as any addict would attest, unlearning bad habits is not easy. For desis, even shame does not work for changing behavior, because for one to be embarrassed, one must be sensitive. Consider these:

At a memorial service at the H-J Temple several weeks ago for someone who had died recently, the atmosphere was solemn.  And two people in the audience seated in the back kept talking, talking, and talking. A long-time resident among us known for speaking his mind took upon himself to tell the yakkers (much to the chagrin of his wife) to keep quiet. And they did.

Normally, visiting artists from India, being under the mercy of their sponsors, put up with lot of inconvenience in their concert tours. Lately, even visiting artists are frustrated by the audience misbehavior. Half way through their recital, they tell their audience to show some basic decorum. This happened recently, at the S.V. Temple in two concerts back-to-back.

T. M. Krishna, anaccomplished vocalist, half way thorough his concert on April 12, stopped singing and asked people in the audience not to walk in and out whenever they wanted.  He said something along this: “If you need to go out, please go out only at the end of a piece, and return to your seats only at the end of the piece being rendered when you re-enter.” And he elaborated: “A piece would include the alapana, krti with the sahityam, niraval, swaraprastaram, and the tani (the percussion solo).”

Most of his target audience might not have seen the dripping sarcasm in his words. One needs to be sensitive to understand sarcasm, irony, and paradox. Two weeks later, a similar announcement by another artiste in another recital, this time from Sashank, in his flute concert.

These kinds of misbehavior is damaging for another reason. Artistes are naturally garrulous. Just tap them gently when you host them in your homes, you will get the juiciest and spiciest bits of gossip. And the accompanying artists, specially the good ones, accompany other artistes all the time, and they exchange bits of gossip. And very soon, every artist knows about the audience (mis)behavior in every venue.

In contrast, I recall a lovely Tamil verse by Periyazhwar, an 8th century poet, in which he lets his imagination fly: “With his tender fingers gently caressing the bamboo flute, … his cheeks bellowing as he blows air, and his arched eyebrows converging, when Krishna plays his melodies, birds leave their nests, and spread around sitting still on the ground; and milking cows gather around … … and stand motionless without even twitching their ears, absorbed in his music.”

Here is the original verse:

Even for contrasting Periyazhvar’s birds and cows with Pittsburgh Desis’ misbehavior in concert halls, the 8th century poet will take offense. (In July 2008 issue) END  

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