By V RAMNARAYAN
Chennai’s worst flood in living history has come and gone. Unprecedented devastation wracked the city. Other coastal cities in the state suffered similar damage. Mindless urbanisation characterised by construction by greedy developers on land reclaimed from water bodies and grabbed by thoughtless home buyers and industries has been cited as one of the major causes of the flooding. Poorly timed release of water from reservoirs or catchment areas has been identified as another culprit. Thousands have lost all their belongings, including furniture, equipment, documents and other valuables, cars and scooters, residential dwellings have become unliveable, factories completely destroyed, lives have been lost including those of the old and infirm, and patients in the ICUs of hospitals. Train services and flights were paralysed, power supply (mostly cut off as a precaution against electrocution) and Internet and phone connectivity were completely shut down, with only one silver lining in the cloud – families not badly affected by the rains, spent time together, conversing, playing, reading.
The people of Tamil Nadu rose to the occasion. Several stories of selfless service and heroism came to the fore. Temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches opened their doors to the needy and homeless regardless of their religious persuasion. Young men and women worked round the clock to help victims of the floods by mobilising relief supplies, transporting them from flood afflicted areas to safety. The armed forces as usual swung into action with courage and efficiency. Many NGOS also did exemplary work. Both individual artists, including musicians, dancers and film stars, as well as organisations serving the arts, have extended generous help to the flood victims.
The rain has stopped and life is slowly returning to normalcy, but the healing process will be long and arduous. Though financial aid has come pouring in, much more is needed and rehabilitation cannot occur overnight.
In the midst of all this cruel depredation by the weather gods, the Chennai music season seemed a far cry even in the first few days of December. With the Chennai airport closed for days on end, many NRIs cancelled their annual trips to the city. These included both artists who were to perform during the Season and rasikas scheduled to make their annual pilgrimage to the festival of music and dance. Quite a few artists living in Chennai incurred heavy losses, some losing their musical equipment in large numbers, and some others all their belongings. Some artists so affected, cancelled all their season concerts, while some others not only withdrew personally from the festival but also exhorted other artists too to desist from participation, because they felt it was improper and insensitive to celebrate a festival when so many people were suffering.
Some organisers cancelled or postponed their festivals, while at least nine leading sabhas including the Music Academy decided to go ahead with their programmes, albeit in a spirit of devotion and prayerfulness, and resolved to donate to the cause of flood relief and rehabilitation. We at Sruti endorsed this decision, especially as music and dance can probably provide relief in the midst of stress and sorrow, especially as movies, TV serials and sporting activity have gone on unhindered during this period, and so many livelihoods depend on the Season.
After a slow start, the crowds have started coming in to the music and dance halls. However, the concerts themselves seem to be slow to warm up, with many artists yet to strike mid-season form. Unfortunately, some of our brighter talents are already showing signs of plateauing, even a decline in their standards. Is the problem related to the recent natural disaster or something entirely unrelated? Like complacency, overexposure or lack of dedication?