Thursday, January 17, 2008

Act VII: The end...

Thus ended a musical journey. A journey of trouble. Trouble everywhere, every minute, for twenty long hours! Crimson Chords packed up, with Bearded Schumi back at the wheels to take us back to Cct. The band was tired; the cash meant nothing to us, for it was after fights of sorts that we got it.
An “n-star hotel”; a term of luxury it normally is. Greater the value of "n", greater the luxury. Or so goes the normal perception. Inside, though, it’s empty. Get ready for a bout of special treatment, if you visit an n-star as a performing band. The following, in part or in whole, is what you will face:
1) Cash flows, but never reaches you.
2) Quality suffers, and no effort from your part to better it is welcome.
3) Event managers rob. Some rob even more.
4) Hotel managers criticize. But, they never know you. They never called you to perform. The Event Manager is the bridge, and a loose one at that.
5) As for idlis, they are but left-overs!

Act VI: Music, musicians and money

It’s more than a couple of years since we played at Kkm, and it’s really bad on my part to keep this story going unfinished for beyond two years. This drama, for the information of its readers (if any!), is declared completed as on 19th January, 2008.
We arranged for an urgent meeting with the katcheri group, wherein we were instructed to support the flow of the song, rather than try our own adventure. They roped in our drummer (that’s me!) and our keyboardist (let’s call him TJ). We set our instruments on the stage.
The stage was made of planks, and was set above a lake. It shook all the while, and the last thing I wanted was to drown while drumming! The sound was as bad as it could get. This was when I concluded: money is what makes an n-star worth its “n”! Money flowed all around us, be it beneath the plank, or above it. Quality never did. They never allowed it to flow, but rather kicked it out through the back-door.
Crimson Chords finally began its performance, forgetting all bygones, putting up with all torture they were subjected to. We began with a couple of western songs as the katcheri group wasn’t ready by then, and time wasn’t to be wasted. Crimson chords did err, in that it chose the wrong genre of songs to be played. But, no one ever told us. The only sensible guy was the hotel manager who came running to us, and reminded us that our songs were a tad too heavy to welcome a new-year. We agreed, but this was like telling a person halfway through his journey that he had boarded the wrong ship. What would he do with water all around?! We agreed to play the ‘lighter’ songs and then wind it up. By then, the manager had over-ridden the play list we had so skillfully re-scheduled. He wanted a dance program in between. Dance with acrobatics, which meant a great danger to our instruments. We pushed the instruments on to one side of the plank. The people in charge of sounds removed all the microphones we had so laboriously placed. Now, that called for a re-sound-check! I was getting tired of this and for a moment, I even hated performing.
When you undertake a task, your mind always tells you where it’s heading to. My mind always warned me of something fishy, though I tried to push it off as part of empty fear. Every fear of mine materialized. We played with the katcheri group, and that went on well. We gave room for a couple of other performances, and then played again. The audience was worth a mention, though. Never an applause, never a reaction. They just stared at us, as if in a trance. It was a pathetic crowd we were playing to. There weren’t many Indians in there, and the very few that were there had come for non-musical trivialities.
We covered three-fourths of our play list, before it began drizzling, and we made up our minds to call it quits. So disorganized the entire event was, that I longed to get back to Cct, without having any more devils crossing our path. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any dearth of devils, as everyone we came across was one. The instruments took shelter. Soon, it was 12, and Kkm welcomed 2006 with an assortment of fire-crackers costing beyond a lakh. We gazed at the spectacle and wished everyone including EM, a very happy new year.
Superstition so says, that what you do at the dawn of a new year will be what you would be hooked up on, for most of that year. To make it crisp, let us say that I spent all of 2006 arguing!! The “first hour-new year theory”!
The simmering fear I always had surfaced. I could see it coming, and it came at the very nasty moment it had to. On a very nasty topic called money. Oh! The country does but little justice to the poor Mahatma’s face printed on our currency! He is placed as a still, silent, sorrowful witness to the umpteen scams and scandals that happen in his name. Crimson Chords was not spared too, to say the least.
EM, inebriated to celebrate, came across to settle our cash. Clauses were changed, words were swallowed, and our WAGE read “Rs. 8000 including transport” instead of “Rs. 8000 plus transport”! The seemingly innocent replacement of a word meant a difference of Rs. 6000, to a group of poor church-mice like us! EM refused to budge, alcohol reinforcing his obstinacy, and kleptomania cementing it. The crackers in the background symbolically seemed to fizzle out. So did the spirit of the New Year. The time was 00:05, and Crimson Chords was all thumbs down.
The whole team was about to accept the muffled alcoholic verdict given by EM. I almost did the same, before I saw light at the end of the tunnel. The light of truth. Crimson Chords had committed the initial blunder of performing at such a low rate. But the option was a “take it or leave it” one. We thought that Rs. 8000 is better than no bread at all. The time was right to intrude, flare up, and do anything just and true, to get the money we deserved. Gathering all my courage, and borrowing more of it (I am not used to getting angry, and I had to ACT as if I was flaring up!!), I marched up to EM.
People reading the next couple of sentences would do well to accuse me of plagiarism! This wasn’t inspired, but blindly lifted from any regional action-film made to-date, to save the situation, to get the precious cash we deserved! “You have seen just one face of ours, the happy and smiling one, the one without any vengeance and vice towards anyone. The other, the more dangerous one, is one you wouldn’t want to see, for you would never tolerate it. It would do you better to give us the cash we deserve. Not a penny less, not a penny more. Learn to be true to your words. Else, it is the rage of a band of fifteen that you will face.”
I then turned back, only to hide my laughter! That should work, I thought, and it did. EM stood still for a minute, talked to his companion, shook his head again, muttered philosophy of sorts but this time, he paid up. “Rs. 8000 plus transport” is what we got, finally. Truth was, after all, with us.