It is time discipline is self-imposed in concert halls.
The ringtone from a mobile pre-empts the varnam. The artist raises his eyebrows - a frown that is only a formality these days. With a semblance of guilt on his face the owner of the instrument ducks and quickly disposes of the caller – “I will call you later.” And then avoids your eyes. The concert goes on, nevertheless.
Have we come to a point where we need to think in terms of evolving self-imposed cell-morality of some sort before entering a concert hall?
What irks is the fact that most mobile-users, innocent housewives and celebrities, seem to be unaware of the silent mode and of its immense utility. “Or is it indifference,” queried a rasika the other day. Another amplified that statement. “I am sorry to mention this. The culprits are often maamis, great enthusiasts, who tuck the instruments into their handbags and are blissfully unaware of the sound that is being produced and only cast their eyes around in exasperation (I-will-fix-you-if-I-find-you). Are we to forgive them for they know not what they do?”
A leading performing vidwan offered another dimension. There was sadness in his voice as he said, “Some listeners show no discipline. But what about the vidwans on stage who receive and respond to messages (read sms) while the concert is on? How can one tolerate this? We go on stage to provide the listeners a few hours of peace and of course we too transport ourselves to a different world. After all, we have lived without this kind of intrusion for centuries.”
And he has more to say. “Now how do you think we would react if we find not one but several among the audience sending messages with deep concentration. They are so skilled that the fingers fly over the miniature keyboard, even in darkness. Can't things wait? Could the person have enjoyed the recital and appreciated the sangatis? Who are we performing for?”
So what is the solution? The volunteers should remind all seasoned and un-seasoned rasikas to rest their phones as they make their way into the hall. A sticker on the entrance door may cause some of our esteemed busy bodies to take “silent-action.”
Tickets can carry this request, yes, in bold letters. At least, one sabha is already doing it. We don't need a sponsor for that, do we? Even a countdown before the commencement of a concert, as politely as it could be uttered, would not be out of place. This countdown experiment recently did work in a sabha recently.
Other issues remain - walking out precisely when the thani avartanam begins, or when a raga's opening phrase is sung (‘I just can't stand Sankarabharanam and definitely not ‘Endhuku Peddalavale'), walking in after the lights are out or after the programme has commenced, working on crossword, Sudoku and so on – but the mobile culture is rather nascent and let's nip it in the bud.
Let the music begin, and the cells come down. Have, and allow others to have, the tryst with divinity, without distractions!