Music

The art of going in a sabha

Whenever I attend a concert in the December season, I take all the sabha schedules just in case I need to hop from one venue to another. Then I take money for coffee or idli, as the case may be. I also take a shawl, of course, in case my body parts freeze in the funerary cold of places like Narada Gana Sabha where I’m afraid I might petrify by the time the percussionists arrive at their solos. Last of all, I check my bag for a roll: not a roll of paper or a roll of gum but a roll of toilet tissue, just in case I need to GO.

The art of going in unknown toilets takes practice. Some people seem to go so badly they prevent others from going. Some tie handkerchiefs or dupattas or pallus around their noses, step inside the toilets gingerly and go as cleanly as they can while cursing the latrines, the broken flush tanks, the grimy handles, the plastic toilet shower heads and the callous managers of these sabha-s. Some get so frustrated that they just go home to go.

As Lakshmi Anand of Kamdar Nagar said to me so eloquently the other day, “I am glad that you have brought this up. All toilets, whether for males or females, seem to be tucked away in inconvenient corners that are not clearly labelled — and the stench is intolerable — so much so that I never stay out for more than a few hours since I will not use a toilet outside home.

“Some users of the facilities do not even do the bare basic clean-up required. I know animals mark their territory. Do we really need to as well?”

So here’s what I discovered after checking out a few restrooms at big and small sabha-s.

* Heavy automatic doors at some toilets prevent people from going in. When they can’t even go in, how can they go? Two seniors I know needed a go-between like me to help them go in.

* The Case of the Wet Toilets: most bathrooms are so wet inside and outside the stalls that they are accidents waiting to happen.

* Pray, who cleans these toilets? A piece of clean toilet tissue that I left on top of the toilet tank at one of the big venues was still there when I went in four days later.

* At one venue that charges over Rs. 30,000 a day, the manager shrugged. He told me that most of the people don’t know to use bathrooms.

* At one sabha, I was pointed towards the “Ladies Toilet” (without the apostrophe). This toilet had stalls which looked like urinals. It also had four Indian squat-style toilets. This means senior women must …err…go like men. Which is exactly what one brave 87-year-old mami did while I waited outside, guarding her door because it would not lock.

So now, what must a rasika do when she wants to go so badly that she will miss the Kokilapriya and even go-kill-a-Priya simply in order to be able to go? What must a rasika do when he’s in such a big hurry to go that he cannot stay for the bilahurry on stage?

I’ll sign off with this warning. This music season, look before using the loo. And trust me when I say I never leave home without my American Express or toilet tissue.

(Kalpana Mohan is a freelance writer from Saratoga, California: mohan.kalpana@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 1:14:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-arts/chen-music/the-art-of-going-in-a-sabha/article4218590.ece

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