One event merged with the other only to conclude. Three exhilarating days, three days that swept me off my feet and landed me in another galaxy. The galaxy had brilliant stars that secretly told anyone who would listen, their story. If you listened carefully enough, you’d find something truly precious.
Yes! SDM Utsav lasted three days. The name of the event was enough for anyone’s head in Hubli- Dharwad to go tizzy. The three days with its manifold attractions. The entrance, mukha mantapa, food court, the stage, oh- yes the stage ten feet high and huge, and the people on the stage! All this amidst the sprawling 40-acre land of our S.D.M (Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara) College of Medical sciences and Hospital, decorated like a palace for a modernist Rajah.
I do not know how they must have planned all this. The management has spent every penny so meticulously that you can actually see each penny reaping its full value. This is only because they have let the money flow, the people’s entertainment being their topmost priority, at the same time not compromising on their own values. Never could you see in the entire three days, people unnecessarily throwing things on the grounds or anywhere in the campus. This is actually quite a feat for the hubli- dharwad region, famous for its untidy and dirty ways. This is just one small thing. At large, it seemed as though; anyone who attended the utsav was infused with the S.D.M spirit.
After many days of waiting for april 2nd, (the wait was long, exciting. I wanted to help with the smallest of jobs, my friends and I even contemplated helping with the constructions, laying brick by brick) anyway, the day finally arrived. Priya and I along with ten other classmates and juniors were entrance and mukha- mantapa volunteers. We were hyper excited and took up the challenge of welcoming thirty- thousand people (priya and I must have welcomed ten thousand, that being our duration at the entrance). The mukha mantapa was also the place of the performance of various regional dancers. We saw dollu kunita, kavadiattam, theyyam at the entrance.
Our own performance was on this first day of the utsav. So we were student artistes for the day and were naturally allowed backstage. Artistes for the day were Praveen Godkhindi (flute) and hariharan. It all began with the object of the whole utsav, the Samarpana Samarambha. It was something dreamlike. Dr. Veerendra Heggade with his wife Hemavathi Heggade came up on stage with Shrinidhi Bhat bearing a royal umbrella. Words cannot describe the majesty of the elaborate ritual that followed. There were yellow- dhoti clad boys chanting mantras in the background. There was a massive photo frame of Sri Manjunatheshwara, to which the Heggade couple paid obeisance. Rev. Heggade then addressed the audience. The cultural programmes began.
Praveen Godkhindi came up on stage. The wind was blowing in his long curls; he was extremely handsome. He told us he passed out from S.D.M engineering college only some years back. He said he was honoured to play in front of the 25,000- odd audience and on the same day as Padmashri Hariharanji. All this time, I was about fifteen feet away from the stage watching and waiting for him to start. I am now talking about the time before his performance and realize yet again that it was one of the most significant things that has happened in my life and there is a pre- godkhindi period of appreciation of music and post- godkhindi period of the same.
Well, he started with the raag marwa and everything stopped still for me. I was enthralled and stood rooted to the spot. There was nothing other than him and his flute. I was not aware of my body; the music was playing inside my heart. He then started playing “Krishna”. He asked the audience to say ‘Krishna” at the end of his taan. The collective cry of “krishna’ rent the air. It was too much. His drummer played a solo extraordinarily. Godkhindi then concluded with a slightly westernized recital. There were tears in my eyes at this point. After this, my friends and I were backstage for our performance and lo and behold, Godkindi was coming out of the stage at the time. He was probably a foot or two away and I wished to open my mouth, jump out and touch his feet, cry or scream.. But I realized I was paralyzed. I was badly disappointed at my lack of expression. Our vande mataram performance was next and we got an amazing response. Neha as bharat mata was superb.
We went backstage. There godkhindi was standing, people were making a pathway for hariharan to occupy the stage now and he after meeting him in his green room had come out and was standing at the sides too. I asked Dr. alur if I could speak to him. He said ‘of course!’ I could have a picture too. I ran at it head- on, I literally ran to Godkhindi and the conversation was thus:
Me: that concert was beyond words sir, I am learning music and I can’t tell you in words how much I loved it.
PG (smiling graciously): thank you very much.
Me: It was simply amazing sir, can I, please, touch your feet?
PG (with an expression of ‘what can I say?’)
Me (not waiting for his answer actually, bends down and touches his feet)
PG: god bless you (and hugs me)
Dr. Alur shouts for me to turn to the camera and the moment is recorded.
That extremely brief conversation was enough.
I went out after this, and was at the side of the stage again. Dr. S.K. Joshi our vice dean, hospital side, called me aside and asked me my name and year. I told him. He said he was watching my dance. I, thinking, he was referring to vande mataram just smiled and said thank you. He told me that he thought I seem to really love music a lot. He told me he saw me dancing to godkhindi’s flute and he saw me lose myself. I thanked Sarawati devi for giving me the mind to appreciate his music whatever little I might have appreciated.
Next was Hariharan’s performance. He was like god for his fans. Sang song after song with ease, grace and aplomb. His rich voice, immersed in classical music was showing through his variations of each line of his songs. He sang with remarkable ease. I had attended Shankar mahadevan’s concert very recently and found myself comparing the two. Both are equally talented. But Shankar is better as a performer and is more unassuming and grounded. Hariharan is a slightly arrogant performer but ofcourse it is a very “artist trait”. He involved the audience in many places. Here too, about ten of us were at the side of the stage and he directed his attention towards us a lot of times and even sang the songs we asked him to sing. Soul- India was his theme and he wore saffron, white and green coats.
Among the best were well, everything. But I loved his variations of the song ‘tu hi re’ from Bombay. Ay Hairathe was extraordinary. So were Krishna nee begane baro, nahi saamne and chappa chappa. At one point, he lost his temper at the audience because they asked him to sing another song when he had started something else. He sang ‘kaalavannu tadeyoru’ and ‘gallada chukki’ to meet with generalized crowd madness. My classmate sreen kannan (a very good singer himself) went mad at his idol’s charisma. He touched his idol’s feet, kissed his idol’s hand, kept his idol’s luggage in his car and finally had to be restrained by force from doing anything else. Sreen kannan reportedly could not sleep in the night. He woke up everyone to tell what all he did to Hariharan.
Then was the Chouu dance by a team headed by Sitalpur Ganesh from west Bengal. It was 11 in the night and most of the crowd had gone home. The team depicted Mahishasura Mardhini’s killing of Mahisha. It was beautiful. Skill, talent and passion culminated into one electrifying performance lasting twenty minutes. Their somersaults and a common movement of squatting, getting up, taking a leap and turning in the air were mind blowing. Two people in the garb of a lion and two more in the garb of a buffalo and a peacock were amazing to say the least. The lion roared, sat on its hind legs, pranced about, walked majestically and scratched its face and underbelly. The buffalo and the lion warred with each other, which was another sight. I was happiest because I saw the chouu dance and the college introduced us to a rich slice of bengal culture. I can go and on about the chouu dance. Many people were not there to see it and that was the lamentable part of it. Anyway, they demanded for an earlier slot the next day and everybody did get to see it all over again. It was brilliant.
Next was a Punjabi dance by us student artistes of medical college. We danced very well. Everyone loved it. Not many saw it but it is recorded to posterity on tape so it’s ok. (Smiles)
**End of day one**