The Real World with the Unreal Story
Kasturika Mishra
LOOKING FOR MISS SARGAM: STORIES OF MUSIC AND MISADVENTURE by Shubha Mudgal Speaking Tiger, New Delhi, 2019, 208 pp., Rs.499
February 2020, volume 44, No 2-3

The late Sheila Dhar was an art aficionado who was known for her witty portrayal of musicians and music lovers! After many years, Shubha Mudgal’s stories on real-time musicians shows the same flavour. The anecdotal bizarre situational complexities brought forth the maximum pleasure in reading and reviewing the musical times of India these days! While there is a parallel culture of disdain for classical music and its extensive riyaz to improve the performances the advent of the nouveau-rich patrons has spoilt the richness of all traditions.

Mudgal’s deep understanding of the Indian music field is used in generalizing the plight of a harmonium player who is dying to get into the good books of musical veterans. The drive to win a Padmashri at any cost makes him a slave to the antics of the conning ustad of a known gharana. He gives up some rare compositions of his gharanas to the ustad, records them and leaves empty handed. The cheating and desperation for winning the coveted Padma award lands him in his graveyard.

The gracious and guarded world of Mr. Saxena the musical virtuoso is trampled with glory in the name of an all India contest by a Panjabi venture capitalist. Saxena lends his might to back a project, crores are invested and even more promised to co-participants without any contractual document. This kind of duping is common in high circles of music promotion and rarely highlighted. Many established writers fall prey to such traps. All these are true stories and one can identify how treacherous life can be for musicians who are upholding age-old traditions for sale for our posterity but get peanuts as return gifts.

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