A Cracker of a Ballet

In A Fine Balance – Rohington Mistry’s gentle masterpiece of modern Indian literature – one of the main characters attends western classical concerts during her younger days. She goes to these concerts alone, and initially, she is not at ease in that atmosphere:

She lingered at the periphery of the crowd in the foyer, feeling like an imposter. Everyone else seemed to know so much about music, about the evening’s performers, judging from the sophisticated way they held their programmes and pointed to items inside. She longed for the doors to open, for the dim lights within to disguise her shortcomings.

Our situation was somewhat similar when we – my wife and I – reached the concert hall a couple of weeks back to watch The Nutcracker ballet. At the entrance, I gave my coat to the lady at the counter and received a token in return, only to realize that our tickets were inside the coat’s inner pocket. A glare from my wife was followed by an explanation to the lady, who, in an attempt to save the effort of lugging the coat to me and back spent a minute rummaging through all my pockets. I winced, and tried to think of all the things I had stored in those pockets, things that were now being stroked by the fingers of the lady trying to conjure up images from the outlines she was feeling. After an unsuccessful minute she brought the coat to me; I fished out the tickets and thanked her profusely.

Inside, in the lobby, there were few people around. We were early, and my wife suggested we go into the theatre and take our seats instead of simply hanging around. I consented; didn’t have much of a choice anyway. We looked into the seat plan, identified the door nearest to our seats, and walked up to it confidently. When I tried to push the door open, it did not budge. Pull – no movement either. Another time, a little harder – no difference. I looked around and noticed the only two people in that part of the lobby – a middle aged lady and her young daughter – observing us with amusement. When we turned and walked past them I gave them an affected smile that was almost a blush, muttered something like “Too early!”, and wondered if they thought we were first timers. We took our seats near them, and as more people came in, we watched with amusement as some of them tried to open the door in a similar fashion and reacted in different ways: exasperation, disbelief, indifference and embarrassment. People-watching can be an entertaining pastime.

A few minutes before eight the doors were opened and we went inside. Soon everyone settled down, the lights were dimmed, and the show was about to begin when my mind wandered back to the days of my initial encounters with western classical music.

It was during my college holidays – when I came home to my parents – that I picked up my first collection of western classical cassettes from a local music store. A series compiled by HMV, it featured an assorted mix of famous and not-so-famous pieces. Something in those strings struck a chord within, and I was hooked.

It was a solitary pastime; no one I knew listened to this kind of music. So during post graduation when I met this petite girl who spoke of Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Chopin as if they were household names, I was smitten. To cut a long story short, we fell in love and married a few years later. These days we attend concerts together.

The Nutcracker began at the announced time, and almost instantly we were drawn into a different world: the merry atmosphere of the Christmas party at the Stahlbaum house. The entire performance, lasting two hours, was exquisite in every way. There was also a trumpeter in the audience, who blew his nose precisely during the pause between the movements of the waltz, which was followed by dark outlines of several heads in front turning towards him – all this creating between the audience and performers a synergy even the great Tchaikovsky could not have conceived. A pity he did not live to see this momentous performance.

5 Replies to “A Cracker of a Ballet”

  1. Ahem…Classical music eh? I am glad you met your match. Sounds like you guys had fun. Fine Balance is indeed an awesome book. Devoured it, but the only complaint was that it was sad. Every page, every event was sad. Nothing good happens to anyone. Do u write one post a month or something like that?

  2. I thought I had met my match
    And then I found you
    A Greek symbol, a prized catch
    Love never felt so true.

    Have you noticed that most of great literature is sad? It appears that things worth classifying as material fit for “art” are mostly those facets of life that portray the sadness inherent in the human condition. I haven’t found a convincing answer to why this is so, but what I do know is that what stirs, what creates a deep impression, what teaches, what excites and saddens me the most are works infused with pathos. However, art or no art, there are works that purely entertain, and those I read for precisely that reason.

    The message I took home from this sad novel was gratitude: by portraying the lives of people in misery, it made me aware of how fortunate I was.

    About the frequency of my writing: I write when I have something to write, feel like writing it and have the time – these do not coincide often. I need a lot of time to write even a small piece since I edit endlessly, never satisfied with anything I’ve written down. But the more I write, the faster I will get at arriving at a form adequate for posting; so I expect the frequency to improve with time. And readers like you help, surely!

  3. Trying hard to get her jealous?
    I hope it works for you
    Inspite of all this flurry of fuss
    She’s bound to see through.

    Man, I dont dont why I feel the need to answer all ur poems with one..I truly suck at it. Maybe its all about impressions.

    You are right about the message of these tragic novels.

    Regd time to post, err..if you have time for such long answers and 1/alpha, you ought to be swimming in time.

  4. Do not confuse Verse with Poetry
    To rhyme one needs no reason
    Why indulge in impressions or flattery?
    Our love is beyond that season.

    As regards to time, for you I’ll always have the time – I thought that was obvious??

  5. See, I didnt even know the difference. Oh well, I am learning. Now I move around in great circles. Our love is beyond season??? So I cant cuddle up with you in winter and lay in the beaches in summer?

    I learn not to take anyone’s time for granted. I take what I get. From you, I get more than I deserve. (here! use my already wet hanky to wipe those tears)

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