In my ancient past, I had once written a piece that classified concert hall audiences. Back then, I was yet to be introduced to the sixth category - the real star of the evening who never became Shivkumar Sharma or Girija Devi but makes sure his/ her voice reaches everyone who might want to listen to Shivkumar Sharma or Girija Devi. While the bathroom singers of the world unite and torment inanimate buckets and other echo-inducing objects that are unfortunate enough to be of use in bathrooms, they know the limits of their tyranny. The real things, however, aim for the big league. The concert hall is their bucket and the poor musician on stage is that fleeting choking sound which sends fallen hair and phlegm down the drain.
What induces this painfully sarcastic missive is my experience at the NCPA yesterday. As Shivkumar Sharma warmed up to his opening piece, I heard screechy noises emerging from somewhere very very close. I first suspected that the perfectly sane-looking woman seated beside me was prone to forms of alternative, erm, expulsion, given her prodigous appetite for roasted gram during the performance. Then I realised that the direction the sound came from was not so alternative. Then I realised; hey presto she was singing!
She took it upon herself to hum in ways that would shame a bee and have it excommunicated too. While Shivkumar Sharma explored one raga on stage, she was on her own trip, humming out of tune and out of tala like a bad harmonium player till I wanted to do a Captain Planet and hurl her into the orchestra pit (alas! there was none).
During the interval, there was more than one person cursing their spatial proximity to our audience-vote star. I didn't make rude faces at her because I thought she would desist from humouring me with her virtuosity during the ensuing Kathak performance. Well, she wasn't one to give up easily. She went on determinedly, like a Walkman on low battery which goes tannnnnnnnnnn-screech-taannnnnnn till some aggrieved soul next to her asked her to shut up because they were getting disturbed. In nicer terms.
At which point she looked at them, perfectly bewildered, and exclaimed, "But the music is so beautiful!"