This year it was dominated by mood swings from hair splitting annoyance to warm inclusion interspersed with a few moments of good music.
To begin with we were late. We found ourselves having to trudge our car along the many roads where the slothful construction of Metro lay heavily pondering, a lot like a nuisance. We reached Fireflies, 30kms away after close to 2 hours. We were a good 20 minutes late. And I now think that that made all the difference.
Our first misgiving – The parking rates possibly revised and exaggerated was 100/- per car. The 50/- on the ticket had been struck out with a pen. Could dusk covering up a remote spot like this have inspired that I wonder? Later, when we decided to scoot at around 2AM, I found myself thanking and forgiving the 100/- charge for the organized way the cars had been parked in that open land. We got out of it with no hassles whatsoever. However, a few meters away we ran into a BMTC bus parked or abandoned bang in the middle of that narrow road! Thankfully a few helpful people guided us out through an alternate exit. At 2AM there were groups and more groups of people (city folks) strolling outside the venue, seemingly aimless. We wondered what they wanted out of the music festival? Or the multitude of people who were squatting in circles – ‘littering circles’ would be more apt, just outside the amphitheatre proper where the stage was nowhere in view? Ajay and later Malavika too told me that a lot of them had passed out and a few were even puking. Thankfully I didn’t see any of that.
We walked in to find the place already packed. Eventually we spotted a space on the far left with a passable view of the stage. Ghulam Ali’s Ghazals were being sung by one Faiyaz Khan and troupe. They sounded so very soulful and more so on the last one, a rendition of Jagjit Singh’s ‘hosh waalon…’
We sat there, cozy, for a few hours, a few stars shining above and a few fleeting moments of oneness with everything else too, including the beautiful Banyan tree. There were more lights than usual and the Banyan tree glowed crimson, blushed pink and glowed golden too by turns. Occasionally little blue lights flitted like fireflies on a smaller tree nearer to us.
While the next band was setting up two announcers came on stage to request the audience to please refrain from littering and to use the many strategically placed bins, above, near the stalls.
Do they really know their many audience?
Little boys walked around at regular intervals selling packaged drinking water and Pepsi. At a place that talks of oneness with the Earth should they be selling out to pamper people like this?
Some beautiful music followed, first from a Chennai band that rendered Sanskrit shlokas in the Blues rhythm, then by Moon Arra and later a Bangalore alternative rock band called ‘The Bicycle Days’. The next one was Spinifex with Dr. Mysore Manjunath – An unlikely combination of a Jazz troupe from Netherlands and Carnatic music maestros from Mysore. Their performance had the audience completely stirred up and screaming for an encore.
Then everything else got to us.
More people started trickling in and seating themselves at impossible locations. A few guys squatted right in front of us atop the step below instead of within thus virtually blocking our view of the stage. Two girls squatted right behind our heads and tried putting their legs into the space where we were resting our back. We and the folks behind us managed to shoo them away. Two other girls then came and squatted right in front of us and were surprised to know the obvious, that they were blocking our view!
It all began with a couple with expressionless faces who jammed into the space next to us, which we were guarding for our neighbor. The girl looked like we hadn’t said a thing and sat down and the guy said ‘just till he gets back’. Okay! Our neighbor comes back and these guys don’t budge and when I remind the guy he just looks at me with a blank look. They go on to ask our neighbor to find another place!
We decided to get out, me reluctant at first but finally giving in. I took the longer less imposing route out. The steps were still high and I was finding it difficult to haul myself up with my bags. I found myself being asked do you need help and an outstretched hand would greet me. I didn’t catch a glimpse of any of these guys but for me it was one of the most beautiful, redeeming features of the evening. The last hand had to haul me out off the amphitheatre and then he held on till I found my steps on the rather steep slope down with large stones and reached a stable spot. I thank ‘thanks’ still not catching the face clearly and amble out, touched, wondering if we were being too hasty in deciding to give up and get out.