It was one of those days you wanted to cry out with joy but before that you had to cry for the choices you had to make for that joy. February 12th was one of those days.
A culmination of a 3 year dream was upon me. I was to watch Remember Shakti perform live for the first time ever and perhaps the last time ever.
However, it was also the day of the biggest game of the season for Man United. The game against the old enemy – ‘em Scousers. The Suarez angle only made it even more intriguing.
So I made a choice. I went to Music academy well in time. The gates were to open at 6 45. I waited. They opened at 7. I went and sat inside.
Text message from Arun. ‘First half. High drama. Suarez refuses to shake Evra’s hand. De Gea refuses to let go of Suarez’s hand and Rio refuses to shake Suarez’s hand.’
He went on to describe a few more events of the first half and then it was almost 7 15. The show was about to start. Text. ‘The scouser scores.’
‘God damn it’, I reply.
‘The scouser born in Everton scores. :D’ Arun, you ass!!! Well played!
In one second, despair to joy. Rooney had scored. United were in the lead. And before long, United had made it two. Rooney had made it two.
Relief. Joy. Etc.
The phone was to go into flight mode now.
The curtain rose. It was 7 30.
Before the concert, I had pictured this scene many times. I secretly wished that the curtain would rise and that there would be a ghatam on stage and Vikku would be sitting on stage as a special guest only for the Chennai show. There was a ghatam. Vikku was indeed sitting. Only, they were at different places. The ghatam was on stage. Vikku was in the first row of the audience. Oh well!
…and so it began. 5 in the morning. 6 in the afternoon. Quite a brilliant start to the evening.
The next piece was Anna. Selvaganesh exchanged the kanjeera for a ghatam and just before the piece started, he looked at his father in the first row and bent his head to get his blessings. Apparently, he did get the blessings for he was smiling after that. I don’t know how many in the audience actually saw that. What a sight.
The stage was slightly empty until now. There was a gap in between John and Shrinivas. This was, of course, to be filled by ‘the voice of Shakti’, as Zakir called him. Shankar Mahadevan came on stage. Giriraja Sudha followed. Need I say more? I think not.
After this, came Ma No Pa. Only, this time, there were lyrics. Shankar experimented with some lyrics at the beginning after which they played something that resembled the original. Brilliance.
After this came a new piece. A fast paced number with prominent vocals, mandolin, guitar and the tabla with subtle mridangam undertones. Zakir said that it was a work in progress and that it was tentatively called seven. It did appear a bit rough ’round the edges at places and I’d love to hear the final version of it.
‘And now, for a golden oldie-doldie’, Zakir said. ‘And for this golden oldie-doldie, we would like to have a golden oldie-doldie on stage. Vikku-ji please come on stage. We are in Chennai and we could not pass up the opportunity to play with Vikku-ji especially now that he is here.’
Hope is a good thing. Sometimes the best of things – Shawshank Redemption.
And so Vikku proceeded onto the stage, took the mic and said, ‘ this was composed when I was a member of Shakti. I am old now. I don’t know if I can play well. I will try. This is a test for me. I did not know that they were going to call me on stage. Let’s see how it goes.’ Vikku said this in Tamil. The crowd applauded. The applause died down. ‘Now, can you repeat that in Urdu please?’ Zakir. Ever the witty showman. The crowd was in splits.
Bridge of Sighs followed. If you’ve heard the original, you will know that most of the sigh-ing effects were because of Shankar’s violin pieces. With no violin here and with Vikku, it was only sigh in name. It was quite joyous, in reality. Sometimes, wishes do come true. Vikku went on a mini solo too. Eat that other venues. Madras got to see Vikku play. Ha!
The next piece was Sakhi with Shankar in his element. Mesmeric it was.
Zakir then looked at the time and mouthed, ‘it’s getting late, isn’t it?’
I had an inking of what was coming. I was right.
Lotus feet. With just a hint of Shankar’s vocals. Bliss. That is all I can say. Bliss.
I thought it was over but the epicness of the evening had just begun. The last piece was, well, no recognizable piece. It started off in the normal fashion but soon everyone just let go of their instruments, a la laying down their arms. Everyone, that is, except a certain Zakir Hussain. They all turned to him. The crowd turned to him. What he did over the next 15 minutes or so, I don’t think I can describe. I don’t think anyone can. All I can say is that he was just being Zakir Hussain.
Then came Selvaganesh’s solo on the kanjeera and when I looked at the audience, I saw that same expression on people’s faces that I saw during that concert in Pune when he finished his solo. They were quite simply astounded as to how such a small instrument could produce such a wide array of sounds. Breathtaking.
As they say, all good things must come to an end, and so did this show. Unfortunate, yes but such is life. United won 2-1.
Before the show, countless others and I cribbed about the ticket prices in Chennai. While tickets started from Rs. 200 in Mumbai and from 500 in places like Hyderabad, the tickets in Chennai only started from Rs. 2000. I paid 3000 for mine and did my fair share of whining about it. In fact, there were quite a few people cribbing about the prices right before the show began at the Music Academy even.
In the end, though, don’t remember any of that cribbing. Don’t remember any of that whining. Don’t remember anything else. Only Remember Shakti.