In my last column, “The Beautiful Prison Concert” I had mentioned about a popular saying, “Man proposes, God disposes”. Quite often the events take such turns that the result is diametrically opposite to what the planners had intended to achieve from it! This is exactly what has happened during the much hyped Zubin Mehta concert. He had declared that he has come to take the feelings of Kashmir (Ehsaas-e-Kashmir) to the world and it would be a concert for Peace. Whatever may have been his genuine and true intentions, he has succeeded in taking the reality of Kashmir (Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir) to the entire world through the freely flowing blood of Kashmiris. Interestingly, Michael Steiner, the German Ambassador, already known for creating many controversies in the past, has landed himself in yet another controversy! In fact, as reported by New York Times, Nikolaus Bachler, the General Manager of the Bavarian State Opera, whose Orchestra performed in Shalimar, in a written statement said, “We were expecting to play for the people of Kashmir in the spirit of brotherhood and humanity, but the Organisers turned this concert into an exclusive, elitist event for a selected, invited crowd and this understandably became a political issue, which is a pity and against the aim of art.”
The concert itself instead of being lively and warm had a tinge of melancholy over it. Zubin appeared quite tense and not in his real jovial and warm self. Perhaps the tension all round was weighing on his mind? Most of the guests seemed distraught and solemn faced as if instead of a concert, they were sitting in a funeral! The other reason probably was total lack of knowledge and experience about the western classical music among the major portion of the invitees. The grimmest looking were the ministers and bureaucrats sitting in the VIP area. Some of them were restless and some were dozing. A few were rocking in their chairs. A few with Karakul caps and beards were looking quite funny sitting in a western classical music concert. The music appeared total Greek to them even though they may have enjoyed the strains from time to time. They may have never heard the names of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Hayden! Even the Chief Minister and the Governor appeared quite subdued as they may have been getting reports of the shutdown and the brewing trouble in different parts of the valley.
The start and finish of the concert with the combination of a Kashmiri and a Bavarian Orchestra did not gel. Probably they did not have enough practice in combining the two different strains? It would have been better if the Kashmiris had been allowed to play independently short pieces at the start and the finish to welcome and say good-bye to the Bavarian guests. The music in the romantic garden of Kashmir is an ultimate thing in what the Chief Minister quoting a famous poet, called the Paradise on Earth. The most important ingredient for the show had been the Peace which in the real sense has been missing from the valley notwithstanding the superficial calm. Unfortunately, the show was being held in an imprisoned valley. Apart from the shutdown called by various parties, the government itself had blocked most of the routes not only as a precautionary security measure but to thwart the attendance of youth and civil society members to the parallel show, the reality of Kashmir (Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir) being held at the same time in the municipal park. According to eye witnesses the parallel show was well attended in spite of barricades and hurdles put up by the state authorities and was quite a success. Many were in tears while watching various performances by the youth about the reality of oppression and cruelty being inflicted on Kashmiris for past few decades.
Interestingly, Zubin closed his concert with what he termed as “Thunder and Lightning”. Probably he had some intuition about the guns booming in Badshah Chowk and Shupian? Immediately, after the conclusion, the live telecast continued and one could hear the Azan (the call to prayer) from a local mosque! The Kashmiris need to be thankful to Zubin and Steiner for giving a boost to their movement. Incidentally, the movement in Kashmir has earlier too received a boost by people who never intended to do so. Jagmohan in nineties by ordering massacres including firing on a funeral procession; Sinha by converting the holy pilgrimage into a “Battle for Amarnath” and now Zubin, instead of bringing peace by breaking it!