Sometimes in this space, I ponder aloud on topics that unfortunately some people think are either unwarranted or, inexplicably, unseemly. As we near the end of 12 days of amazing cultural treats put together by the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam, I find myself doing just that.
But before I plunge into controversy, let me tell you a peculiarly related story. When I was staying at a luxury Sri Lankan hotel once, set amidst emerald plantations, I found an exotic, eight-legged bug in my suite. When I called Housekeeping to get rid of it, they sent a cheery young man with a small broom and dustpan.
“Aren’t you going to use insect spray?” I asked.
“Oh no, they too are creatures of God and need to live,” said the man, carefully scooping up the insect and depositing it (rather pointlessly, I thought) on the lawn outside my room.
Now, far be it from me to suggest that we should devise some sort of kid-repellent formula for public spaces – but exactly how do parents at concerts and public events justify letting their children run riot when a performance is going on?
There is a strong feeling in Asian circles that children should not be kept away from cultural events and that they absorb by just subconsciously listening while they run screaming after each other or watching in flashes. But is it fair to the rest of the audience?
Organisations put in huge effort to pull off even one concert and this festival had 12 days of top performers. When we attend them, we must pay respect to this effort and to the artistry of the performer.
What we witness is never an hour or two of music or dance – it is years of discipline, practice and honing of creativity distilled into a specific time and space framework. By all means, if the event is open to kids, bring yours along. But never forget you are responsible for their behaviour and for ensuring that they don’t disturb the enjoyment of others.
And here’s another peeve – this time about the adults. Many of them come to events only to spend the whole concert period texting their opinions – or worse, holding random unrelated messaging marathons without even looking up to see what the performance is like.
And this one: even if the organisers and artists expressly request that the performance should not be recorded and shared, you will see a flood of clips online within 10 minutes of a show’s start.
While we are at it, can we also talk about the organisers’ interminable welcome and thank you speeches that bracket a performance? It is a peculiarly Indian habit, I’m afraid and you have to factor in at least 20 minutes of ‘talk time’ before ‘show time’.
So a diligent and polite member of the audience is always left agonising on whether to come early (on time), get good seats and bear the pain of a half-dozen banal speeches or come late and look disrespectful about the performers’ effort.
The efforts of private cultural organisations are the lifeblood of our social scene and help us stay in touch with world cultural trends.
But they can take a leaf from the commercial players who deliver the programme as promised without drowning it in well-meaning and long-drawn welcomes and who insist on giving you the choice of no-kids or quiet kids. It makes for all-round enjoyment.