Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Freedom Concert Discordant Notes

Bibhu P. Acharya


Bibhu P. Acharya, I.A.S

For days on end the media hype and the paparazzi that preceded the Yanni show at the Taj, kept everyone guessing about the shape of things to come. As the now-familiar lion-like mane of Yanni swirled to the accompaniment of multiple crescendoes, the omnipresent Pepsi logo appeared on the screen and the shibboleth of “freedom to be” reminded us about the 50th year of our independence.

What a grand way to celebrate 50 years of our independence! Indeed, India, Yanni Bharat, needs to be reminded by Pepsi that fifty years have gone by after that fateful midnight hour on the 14th/15th August, 1947. Fifty years of triumphs and tragedies, of agony and ecstasy. Fifty years of trying to be ....

Isn’t it a bit ironic that fifty years after our independence, we need to be told by a multi-national soft-drink giant about the virtues of “freedom to be”. Freedom to be what? To lap up products of soft-drink companies whose ultimate aim was, avowedly, “to make Indians stop drinking water!”. In any case, there is no drinking water still in thousands of remote villages of India and womenfolk have to trudge miles after painful miles to get potfuls of potable water.

But for the Pepsi/Coke-swigging 300 million-strong Indian middle class this is just a momentary disconcerting thought, may be an occasional irritant to be reminded of such chilling realities of India, Yanni Bharat. And for the market-driven, MNC-dominated world of unbridled consumerism, this is just a captive market waiting for hard-sell.

And for the marketing strategy for hard­sell any occasion is good enough to be used, even if it is the golden jubilee of a country’s independence! So what is wrong in inviting Yanni, the much-vaunted Greco-American composer, to come and perform before the Taj and tell us that, “the nightingale is actually a human bird!”. So what, if a couple of spoil-sports shed crocodile tears over the perceived threat to the Taj, by the glaring lights and blaring loudspeakers? So what, if a few disgruntled farmers, whose lands were ravaged for putting up the stage threaten to immolate themselves? So what, if the implacable babus of ASI raise a few quizzical eyebrows, just to be smothered into stoic silence at the right time by the powerful organisers? For the show must go on ..... After all, it is “the Freedom Concert”!

And who would miss this “once-in-a-life­time” show? So all roads were leading to Agra, as “the rich and the famous”, the “bold and the beautiful” set out in their air-conditioned Cielos and Opel Astras. They even braved it out by spending adventurous night in the Maharaja’s Shikar tent (for all the 5-star hotels were chock-a-block) by spending Rs.5,000 a night, to be there. For, to be there, was the in thing. Isn’t, this, indeed, the freedom to be!

But the resplendent Taj, looking majestic as ever, took all this in its stride, with a quiet dignity. Or was it, regal insouciance? As the effluent-filled waters of Yamuna flowed by slowly, and the razzmatazz went on right under its nose, the Taj appeared to whisper to Emperor Shahjahan, “Jahanpannah, forgive them! They know not what they are doing. They are just celebrating their freedom to be .....”

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