It is believed that audiences for Indian classical music are shrinking rapidly, making it an uphill task for presenters and event organizers to continue supporting events dedicated solely to traditional music. Yet, try and buy season passes for any of the sabhas in the Chennai December Season, and you come across a dramatically different scenario. If you thought getting tickets for a cricket match or the Formula One races was tough, try getting season tickets for the Chennai December Season.
A few weeks ago, I received an anxious call from an aunt who lives in the US, saying she and her spouse had decided to experience the music season in Chennai this year, and had happily booked their flights to India, only to find that tickets for the Chennai sabhas seemed impossible to book or buy for love or money. Could I help? I valiantly agreed to check with friends, but warned the said aunt that she had been too tardy and therefore would have to take whatever tickets were available. No front row seats or sofas, okay?
Full house: A concert in progress at the Chennai December Season in 2010. (Courtesy Lakshmansruthi Musicals)
Next, applying myself to the fairly unfamiliar task of being a helpful niece, I tried contacting friends and colleagues in Chennai for tips. The stony silence that met my emails and text messages suggested I had spoken sooner than I should have, and that it would not take much doing to retain my dubious reputation with the family, of being missing-in-concert/not-too-reliable/never-available-to-help. The few colleagues and music lovers who did respond, did so with that unmistakably contemptuous tone of voice that suggested I was either an imbecile or fast approaching senility. A few helpful ones suggested I get in touch with either the chief minister, election commissioner, editor of a prestigious publication and sundry other persons of equal eminence and importance! Now I’m willing to accept that I was foolhardy in thinking I could get season tickets to the Chennai season at this late stage. I’m even willing to accept that I am the eternal optimist in believing that a ticket-granting boon would miraculously redeem my tarnished reputation with despairing family members. But I’d rather try and stuff both my feet into my mouth and eat humble pie than contact the chief minister, election commissioner and others for the elusive season tickets.
If there is such a rush for tickets, I found myself wondering why tickets were not available online. I thought a call to the hallowed sanctorum of the Music Academy would be the logical line of action to follow. Getting through wasn’t a problem, but the curt, clipped and unwelcoming baritone that answered my call gave a clear indication of the challenges I faced. “Absolutely not”, was the brief and definite response to my query on whether season tickets were available online. At imminent risk of getting my head bitten off, I asked: So could one get a ticket now or was it all over? A limited number of tickets would be on sale for a short time at the Academy on 2 December. “You can try there,” the dour-voiced gent on the line said. I didn’t suppose he would want to know that I was in Delhi, my aunt was in the US, and that making a quick dash to Chennai for the tickets would be well nigh impossible.
I’m really glad that people are flocking to the sabhas, and that tickets are sold out way in advance. But before we complain of dwindling audiences, would it not be a good idea to make tickets available online in this day and age?
(PS: I retain my tarnished reputation with the family, because anxious aunt successfully got someone in Chennai to queue up for the season tickets.)
Write to Shuba at firstname.lastname@example.org