Thursday, June 11, 2009

The crash and the song

There was a tiny temple along a busy street. Every year, around the time the palkhi went to Pandharpur, the temple hosted a ten day festival of religious songs, light and classical music and occasionally, dance. All kinds of artists from the contemporary greats to those not so known descended upon the temple to offer their talents in service to the lord. Audience used to throng the inside the madap and those not so lucky had to stand outside and be satisfied with a peek through the windows. Sometimes it rained and the crowd outside would brave the weather if the performer was particularly good. Everyone who performed were guaranteed and crowd, small or large.

Once a famous yesteryears playback singer was specially invited to present her songs on evening. As expected the crowd started gathering an hour before the concert was due to begin. The street was tiny as the temple that stood on it and parking became a struggle. Since common interests prevailed, people co operated with each other like never before. Cars and two wheelers jostled for space till every inch was finally consumed. Someone with foresight had set aside space for the singer's big car already.

Finally she arrived, the maroon Linea gleaming with the beads of freshly fallen rain. It sparkled in the florescent street lamps and when she emerged from the car a cheer went up among the people standing to get a glimpse. She went in a quickly with her troupe to a big applause.

Everyone settled down in about 30 minutes. She began on a great note with an ode to the lord and the audience was enthralled right away. As one gem of a song after another wafted from the silken voice, the numbers outside the temple swelled. The crown was now virtually blocking the street. Whatever little space was left was claimed by passersby on vehicle who had stopped in their tracks after recognizing the voice. Little children perched on shoulders and vehicles, elders leaning on whatever they could find around, were bewitched by each new song whether they could see her or not. Not a soul stirred as the notes settled gently on everyone's heart.

Just then…CRASH!!! Every head turned in the direction of the sound. A car which was attempting to reverse had crashed headlong into another parked car in a perpendicular direction. Everyone with the exception of those inside the temple surged towards the scene of the crash as the driver of the offending car quickly righted it and parked in an even worse position that before. The owner of the car that was badly smashed was nowhere to be seen, so it became the moral responsibility of those on the scene to trace him down and inform him if the damages. Several cell phone were immediately pressed into service. After all the owner might be a friend of a friend's friend who lived on that street. Meanwhile, some others had cornered the driver of the other car and were giving him an earful.

Suddenly the crowd parted to give way to a more authorative figure - the Linea driver. He gave the impression of a man who had seen it all and knew exactly what to do. He walked up purposefully to the terrified driver and …slapped him hard. The crowd gave a collective gasp. He spoke making sure the crowd was hanging on to every word. Till that point, he was just the Linea driver, but now everyone knew he drove THE Linea.

There were two groups now active on the crash site. One group took it upon themselves to scrutinize every inch of the car for damages so that the owner would have a detailed report should he turn up. That he would also know how the car fared on the non damaged side was a bonus, whether he wanted to hear it or not. The fact that the car was parked parallel to a wall where the street light's glow did not reach was overlooked. Another set was making sure the offending driver stayed put and other people who were not lucky enough to have examined the car or witnessed the crash and post crash incidents first hand, knew every thing there was to know. The melodious voice now faced competition from the car in terms to bringing everyone to a standstill. The more interesting happenings and the activities of the self appointed groups pulled many from the audience towards the accident scene. Some were seen battling an internal dilemma. Being true blue Punekars, both prospects were equally interesting. With one ear to the music and other to the discussions, they could not partake the joy of either. Some finally succumbed to the charms of a full blown public street discussion and moved away.

Several curious ladies had by this time joined in as onlookers. Naturally, there was now a need for explaining the whole thing start to finish in a manner that they would understand. The most vocal members from the groups took over this responsibility and also threw in a tour of the affected car.

The owner was still missing and nobody had thought of calling in the Police.

The groups grew larger with time and like the ball of flames attracted every metallic thing towards itself in Spiderman 2 , the groups gained mass by drawing away the listeners.

The author of this episode, the hapless driver, was a mute spectator to everything. He was spoken to, pointed towards, summoned here and there, as the crowd juiced the situation for whatever it was worth.

The singer and her songs faded into the background of the minds of those present on the street that night. The crowd dynamics dominated the show till the last note.

Finally as the closing notes of the pasayadan, the final song, floated away in the air, silence descended upon a tumultuous night.

1 comment:

Musashi said...

Why do you think that the crowd did that? With an apparently excellent musical performance in progress and given the love for music displayed by punekars why did so many of them opt for the other form of entertainment.

Or as a cynic would say, the entertainment and not the form of entertainment matters.