How does a moment last forever? For one with an artistic bent of mind, it’s all about a succession of events, moments in time that are definitive of the particular space one is in where art propounds its unassailable character. But all manner of art rests in the present while evoking its permutations through time and space. That’s why the pursuit of art is a habitual pattern for someone like me; something that has to be nurtured and felt, experienced on every occasion discerned.

On a Sunday, the annual ritual of attending Mahindra Sanatkada Cultural Festival at the historic Safed Baradari in Lucknow provided me with just the kind of euphony I had missed for the last two and a half years. For the whole city, the location of Safed Baradari, a beautiful structure in white decked with domes and a central hall, and Sanatkada have become synonyms for engaging in the aesthetics that define Lucknow as a collective whole. This year’s theme was on the city being a bastion of music and dance- RAQS-O-MAUSIQI as it’s elegantly titled- and as an aficionado of the classical form, this was a chance to experience masters of their respective craft take to the stage to mesmerise a public comprising members of multiple generations.

I had earmarked my itinerary in advance for the sarod recital by Pandit Abhijit Roy Choudhury and company and I was in for a treat indeed. The day, pleasant as it was, was greeted by cool winds that further enhanced the experience for all attendees. At around 4.15 pm, Mr. Roy Choudhury and his fellow musicians, varying from a fourteen year old protege to an elderly tabla player, let the instrument’s soothing notes and rhythmic alchemy perfume the environment.

As it was the first proper live performance of classical music that I had attended as an adult, I wanted to test myself. I am a man of unusual concentration even amid clatter and patter of people. My fear was regarding the crowd not being respectful enough towards the conscientious masters who had taken so many rostrums before and exercised unusual restraint and humility.

The recital was held in the open-air courtyard flanking the main hall where the bazaar catering to handlooms, crafts, fabrics and knick-knacks, all of the most authentic variety from various parts, was being conducted. One expects to be distracted by the milling crowds in such a scenario as others come out into the open. But music is an entity that can freeze one in a state of surrender and transcendence. Ten minutes into the hour long, uninterrupted performance, I was in a space where nobody else mattered and the cycle of revellers coming and going from the other flanks of the location hardly stirred me. As the rest of the crowd was just as respectful and attentive, the recital thrived in such a calming atmosphere. There was no dipping point that could blot these minutes. The biggest saving grace was that it was a performance in the true sense for viewers. There was no mad scrambling for photography or videos of this particular recital. The professionals for those tasks were in their individual spaces, capturing the euphony in motion.


The sarod, to me, is an instant messenger of serenity. I experienced that first-hand where it felt as if I was a singular presence within that crowd. That sense of surrender to the artists and their creations made me euphoric, the kind that invites grace and gratitude for the practitioners as also the participants. After all, finding a good audience is rare these days. I guess it was a lucky day where everything aligned perfectly to make this cultural exchange a success.

The performance sustained itself in my mind and heart and next was the underground treasure trove- the TEHKHANA- which was open for the public for the first time in years. The tehkhana was the site of the exhibition where Lucknow’s rich, generational history in the field of music and dance found representation in the use of the sombre space and restraint in lighting.

The written print material was beautifully lucid and witty, tracing the impact of such luminaries as Begum Akhtar, Pandit Birju Maharaj among others and extending this haloed trajectory to current times where teachers and students of the various forms uphold a collective tapestry of artistry. The room with a slender mirror and colourful kites, so identifiable to residents of Lucknow, was also wonderful. In all, the cavernous space, the air of enigma seemed to hold these reminisces and anecdotes; we whispering them to ourselves by reading the print materials on display and feeling closer to a past that has to be cherished. The simplicity in the room mattered to me.

Hence, this was an unique experience that I don’t feel I will ever forget.


From the underground treasure trove to the merry folks and bright lights in the central hall, it was all just as I wanted my day of sabbath to be. I had been rendered anew as such cultural occassions always have an indelible impact on me. I took the rest of the evening, now merging with incoming night-time, to rediscover an iconic park I had loved since childhood, a gateway and those elegant homes in the Kaiserbagh area which stand as living testaments of the city’s classical epicenter. Taking a walk towards the heart of the city- Hazratganj- affixed with all the beautiful sights I know by heart but find rendered afresh was how the day culminated.


A happy mind is the most productive. An artistic one always finds the impetus to create or be around environs where a cradle of culture comes alive. Courtesy Sanatkada, my love for the city and its aesthetics grew by further leaps and bounds.


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