Last week, I attended a classical guitar concert. Why am I blogging about it? You will know soon enough. Or perhaps you won't. I don't.
Staying in Aarhus, which is in its heart and soul a European village, is being bombarded in my head several times about how urban Bangalore is. If R K Narayan lived in Denmark, this would be his Malgudi. I look outside the window every morning at 7 am and ACTUALLY see the sun rise. The world begins in the morning slowly, gradually, like how it is meant to be...not in the frenzied, go-away-morning way I am used to. The newspaper 'comes' at only around 10 am. And there is no scramble for it.
I live with 13 other Danes, my housemates. I notice their little fights, their little jealousies, and also their forgetting all that is petty and coming together to cook elaborate community lunches and dinners. And do you believe it? They actually sit around in the evening, play chinese whispers, trivial pursuit and monopoly. Yes, just like that. With lots of giggles for accompaniment. And invariably there is some un-loud music playing faintly in the background. The television, with its two-and-a-half channels remains switched off.They also bake bread.
Here, being provincial is not a crime, it perhaps might be a virtue. I still don't understand the Danes enough to take a stand on this. And so, in banks, you see people stroll in with bunches of parsley and fat broccoli sprouting out of their eco-friendly shopping bags. Wearing pink slip-ons. Supermarket aisles have toddlers with running noses happily let loose. People cycle to work, to the pub, to a formal reception, to everywhere. I have met several strangers while walking to the college who I keep seeing here and there. And smile at. Everybody it seems really can know everybody. A few hundred yards from the place I live, there are woods just like Frost described famously. They are lovely, dark and deep. And many times, two roads or more too diverge.
But I wanted to write about the guitar concert! How did I find out about it? I was walking back from the supermarket, when a little notice stuck on a pole caught my eye. It did not scream; it just plainly informed that an 'international' guitar festival is on at Aarhus and the Prague Quartet will play. Now I know nothing about the Prague Quartet but something about those words reminded me of 'Equal Music' and such free associations in my mind are times when serendipity is waiting to knock. So I let it inside. The only urbane thing about this whole business was that I bought the ticket online.
So on the evening of the concert, which was to be held in a centuries' old theatre in the old town of Aarhus, I set out. I actually love my propensity to get lost. It has shown me things I would otherwise have never seen. But I digress (like always).
That day I didn't like it all. I had got lost again and it was getting dark and foreboding. (All this lovely European village business ceases to be so lovely when night sets in. Then, it is just a dark, lonely stretch of road lined with trees with no one to turn to, to ask for directions.) I kept on walking gingerly when I spotted two men strolling along. I ran up to them and asked them about the theatre. "Oh! We are going the same way..come with us". So they escorted me to the old theatre. We were guitar buddies you see.
Inside, no one was younger than 50. Or so it seemed to me. And no one had heard of the 21st century. I was in jeans and T-shirt. The rest of the thirty-odd people were in their best evening wear bought in 1760. One was even wearing a top hat and his coat had tails. There were only discreet murmurs to be heard and this was in the lobby where one would imagine, you could speak to your heart's content. (Just to put this in context, imagine standing outside Inox before you are let inside Theatre no. 4)
The concert was to begin at 8 pm and so we were courteously let inside by a fully-dressed usher. It was a theatre that could seat around 200. We were thirty. It was 7.45 pm. The stage was around 6 feet by 6 feet. There were four chairs and four stands to keep the music notes. And absolute silence. At sharp 8 pm, the quartet, four genial looking men from Czech, strided in, bowed elaborately and spoke nothing. Began playing.
I am no western classical expert but their expertise, their joy at playing the instrument and the way they made love to the guitar was transporting. They could squeeze a village bonfire dance out of those strings, they could just as easily turn maudlin and make you think of long lacy curtains and a woman in a bonnet looking out of a window, waiting for her lover to come home. They played so well that thirty clapping hands echoed long enough for them to do two encores.
And how did they do the encores? They bowed and bowed and they sprinted to the green room, sprinted back, bowed and bowed again and sprinted to the green room and sprinted back and then sat and played!!
And when it was over and I was going back in the bus, there was the perfect ending. The bus driver turned round and said, 'so, did you enjoy your concert'? (While going, I had asked a bus driver for directions. Turns out, it is the same bus driver who drops me back home as well.) My face split open with glee. I nodded my head vigorously and looked out at the dark, sprinkly sky, a sky that has reaffirmed my faith that more than 100 stars exist in the galaxy.