Sunday, 5 February 2012

The tale of two events

Two completely unconnected , and perhaps insignificant, events in Bangalore provide the fodder for this Sunday's post. Both were unadvertised, and both were free in the sense there were no tickets. But the contrast could not be bigger

Today I went to a short Carnatic recital by Ranjani and Gayatri who are renowned singers in this genre. Carnatic music is enjoying a revival after it had gone comatose some 15 years ago. The recital was in Chowdiah Hall , Bangalore's only decent theatre hall. To my amazement, the hall was full; some 1000 people came to hear the duo sing. Granted the audience  mostly had white hair (or no hair) , but still ......  . Ranjani and Gayatri sing very well , they tandem together beautifully. Even if you don't have a taste for this genre, try listening to this piece from them. Lovely music. But even then, the packed hall stunned me.

A week ago, the National Badminton Championships were held at Bangalore. India is near world class in badminton. China, Indonesia etc are a class apart, but India nowadays features in the first division. Saina Nehwal was not taking part, but there was enough class on display. This year saw the emergence of the highly promising talent in 16 year old PV Sindhu who won the women's title. She is already near 6 feet and has a lovely game which will improve with age. In two years time, the prospect of Saina and Sindhu representing India in the Uber Cup makes you want to drool in anticipation. But back to the Nationals. Total audience - 50 ; of whom 49 were parents or friends of the players. Yours truly was probably the only unconnected  fan.

Getting a crowd in India should be no big deal - after all there are a lot of people in India. Chowdiah Hall fills up for any type of concert; any genre of music. Rock or Hindi film concerts have to be held open air in Palace Grounds to accommodate maybe 10,000 people. And there were 50 people to watch the badminton Nationals.

Now you know why India produces soulful music - Hindustani, Carnatic or Film. Now you also know why India wins nothing in sport.


  1. True! We were never a sporting nation I guess. The music and art was built in our history but I don't remember anything like an Olympic or something in our history. Even parents rather have the kid do something formal in music/ arts than sports. Quite bizarre. I wonder if it is the Indian inertia. We like to do things that don't involve a lot of trouble to the bum. Thats one thing that I see as a huge difference between this country and India. Out here the school/universities sports are taken so seriously. People go for those games long after they are out of schools. And of course all parents go for their kid's games. I am not even getting into the discussion about the sponsorships and TV coverage.

  2. Darn, Now we know, why movies don't get enough of your mind share!!
    Please tag along with us, we will introduce you to new genre of music. If requested links will come in mail.but you have to promise me, you will still talk to me after listening to those songs ;)

    Hope your words do come true and Sindhu too will bring us laurels as Saina does.

  3. @Deepa - Yes, the size of the posterior has got something to do with this attitude. Even more than the US - look at Australia. If ever there was a sports mad nation, it is it. I think its all a product of cultural emphasis.

    @Zeno - Me listen to lots of songs - unlike watching movies. I have mourned earlier the death of Tamil film music. Unlike Hindi film music which is thriving , current Tamil film music is simply awful.

  4. So true! Yes, Indians would rather sit in a comfortable auditorium and nod and enjoy music rather than get to the ground and do something!

    Nodi swami naavu irothu heege...

    Kudos to you for watching the badminton match!

  5. What a beautiful rendition of the Purandaradasa kriti. I love Chennai during the December music season when all the sabhas are packed (not just one Chowdiah Hall) and the excitement is palpable.
    We assume that Indian players are second class and we only want to follow the best in any field, music, sport or otherwise. But it is a vicious cycle because it is hard to produce good players without the support of fans but that will come only when there are good players. Looking forward to Indian women dominating the badminton scene....

  6. Hats off sire, for your love of the game. Your post does deserve a wider audience. The BFI should have you cover their games in the media. :-)

    Classical Music has its die-hard followers, come what may, but then the tribe is dwindling too. What a hairy comment!

    And for all that crowd pulling, cricket stands out, but we are like a sinusoid with regular ups and downs, which is impossible to analyze. And the past is always forgotten. :-)

    Coincidence that I was playing a draining game of badminton with El Nino, day before. I am taken to task for not playing tennis, squash or badminton these days. The mind wants, but the body doesn't :-)

  7. @Hema - Ha Ha. The musical ear that Indians have is very praiseworthy. I don't want to denigrate it. Maybe I should have been born as an Australian !

    @J - Nice isn't it. The season in Chennai is these days packed indeed. Lots of youngsters are taking up classical music.

    @RamMmm - Sirrrrr - Badminton is nice, but blogging is nicer. Come back to the blogging world please - we are forgetting our Spanish :)

  8. Nice time you seem to have had at chowdiah memorial. Right place to listen to music, has good acoustics.

    PV sindhu is indeed a promising talent to watch out for. She has the right mentor and she will draw crowds as she rises up.

  9. oh..u can feel the same when u goto a movie theater for a mindless masala of a rajini film or on a meaningful script's near empty shows :)) surprising part ennnaa almost all the schools and colleges have shuttle court in india..very few have enough space for cricket grounds..aanalum..hmmm..u knw the story

  10. What a contrast! Incredibly well put. Was watching NDTV's new campaign (Marks for sports) on Sunday and could relate to exactly what you mentioned. Somewhere, we in India have developed a habit of not troubling the body for fitness and can't see that changing from generation to generation. All that people are concerned about is bat and ball until 70% of them are enforced to quit at some stage due to some or the other reason. Even people who play cricket really want to play for fun and not for fitness. Guess this is a cultural stuff! Alas, badminton is far from being famous!

  11. Agree with Deepa - here, kids start tennis at age 3 (itching to see my daughter play) and soccer at age 5. Then there's basketball, swimming (the daughter can float and blow bubbles and kick already in the pool coz we've been going since she was 6 months old), and so many other options. One strong reason for me to continue living here, if the kids are doing well in any kind of sport.

    The thing is - kids here excel at studies too - most of my older friends whose kids are just starting college and my nieces...they are all going to Ivy League schools - Harvard, Yale, Duke, Berkeley, UCLA, etc....AND they excel at some form of music (eg Piano) or dance too.

    I qualified to play at the state level in Badminton when I was in school - participated in several regional championships; but then to do so, I had to go for camps for several days and parents could not afford it, as well as felt insecure (and rightly so during those days) to send me all by myself. I gave up playing and focused on studies. I make up for it somewhat here, but its different now.

    Too bad there were hardly any spectators for the National Badminton Championships - we really really need to do something about this sports averse culture in our country!

  12. @Asha - Yes Chowdisah is blessed with nice acoustics. And No Sindhu will never draw crowds in India irrespective of what she achieves - she's more likely to draw big crowds in China or Indonesia.

    @Gilsu - Mmmmm. Analogy with movies would be a bit stretching, but still ....

    @Vishal - Its just cultural; so that's the way it will be.

    @Shachi - Gobsmacked, milady. I suspected you were a sportsperson yourself given your love of the NFL, but hadn't realised you are an eminent one at that. Even though you left sports, a big tribute to you - Indians who rise despite the culture being not conducive deserve a hige round of applause.

    By the way facilities in India have improved. Somebody who wants to play regularly , any sport, as a hobby and not as a profession can easily do so. There aren't many takers however.

  13. The Indian Sports situation is very paradoxical.

    Sports has a very high bonding and relaxing value. many of the school and college friendships bonds with sports. as we move on, we still bond with friends over a tennis or badminton game or we play for ourselves to relax. i cannot call out an individual that i know who hasnt played or loved a sport.

    but then, we can also see the condition of sports. During the wash out tour of england, i understand that not even a single ticket was available in the UK for a test match. we have one days going empty. if this is the state of the sports that is called the religion in India, then we can imagine the fate of others.

    maybe we want to get too much out of life. and so never passionate about one great thing.

    and maybe that is why we get too little out of it.

    Another Bakwas rambling on your post.

  14. @Sandhya - Hardly bakwas. Measured comment as always. Its just that as a nation culturally we are not tuned to sports at all

  15. Maybe if they got Dhoni to inaugurate the game there wd have be like 1 lakh people out there creating a traffic jam & a riot. Seriously people are more obsessed with names....BIG names....or maybe there is another reason, the organisers didnt advertise well. The college crowd are usually looking for someplace....anyplace to hang out;-P

  16. @Reflections - True; star power draws crowds, but here were two situations with no stars. See the difference in turnout.

  17. Hmm, I really don't know.. I went to a movie last weekend (The Vow) where there were barely 25 ppl including me n the hubby but the box office collections show more than $40 mil in the same maybe the number of ppl in theatre is not something to base our assumption on...but I do agree that India's lagging behind in sports and there isn't enough encouragement...if I said I wanted to be a badminton player when I was in school, my Dad would probably have cut the payments to my class and sent to a Math tuition instead...

  18. @Rads - Yeah I know - even now parents actively discourage their children from sports. Real pity. I learnt most of my lessons on life in the sports field; not in the classroom.

  19. haha mere reflection of our lives ;)


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