(Dr. Mohammed Amin Sofi, 59, was born in Handwara. He received his early education from the Higher Secondary School in Handwara, and his B.Sc. from the Government Degree College in Baramulla. He subsequently received a Master's degree in Mathematics from the Aligarh Muslim University, and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur. Prof. Sofi teaches and conducts research in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Kashmir. In his leisure time, he enjoys reading books, listening to classical western music, Urdu ghazals and Bollywood music (pre-1980's), and reading newspapers and journals.)
CONCERT OF CACOPHONIES
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears when I learnt, for the first time, that a grand musical extravaganza was being organized at the historic Shalimar garden in the outskirts of Srinagar where the great musical maestro Mr Zubin Mehta would conduct the timeless symphonies of Beethoven, Bach, Hayden and Tchaikovsky. It was indeed a longcherished dream come true as it would provide a life-time opportunity to witness an event that I had attended a number of times, but always away from my homeland in the elegant and sophisticated ambience of a Berliner Philharmonie Orchestra in Berlin and elsewhere in Europe. It is one thing to listen to the soulful symphonies of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert at home but being treated to a live show that would feature the great maestro Zubin Mehta and that too in my own backyard was going to be very special. In my keenness to grab the first opportunity to attend this event, I immediately reached out for my friends and sources in the state administration-especially those directly concerned with this event- to enquire about the logistics involving Govt-issued passes or tickets being made available to those wishing to be part of this occasion.
Up to this point, I was completely unfazed by the shrill cacophonies of support and protest for and against this event by both sections of the political divide and of the civil society on grounds which to me sounded banal and lacking in content. This despite Idreesa Pandit’s exasperation “Will the audience know when to clap” voiced in her writeup “Symphonies of Oppression” that had appeared in today’s issue of Greater Kashmir. I am also unimpressed by the brand of logic proffered by a section of the press that the concert had to be boycotted on the grounds of Zubin Mehta’s political predilections and his hardcore Zionist ideology which has earned him a lifelong stint as director at the Israeli philharmonic orchestra in Tel Aviv. In fact, by the same logic, we shall have to close our eyes to the fascinating world of science and mathematics where the sheer bulk of the many spectacular achievements have been occasioned by scientists and mathematicians of Jewish origin- Einstein’s revolutionary theory of General Relativity and Andre Weil’s deep breakthroughs in Algebraic Geometry are amongst the chief examples. The fact is that whether it is science or art in the form of music, these are essentially secular in nature and it doesn’t behoove reading too much into a piece of art or science as being a lesser piece of creative work, just because it has been conceived by someone who holds a contrary worldview.
This euphoria of expecting to be part of this event, however, soon evaporated until, to my utter dismay and astonishment, I was told that there were no passes or permits or even tickets being made available for the purpose and that the entry was restricted to the crème de la crème of the Kashmir society, comprising mainly the ministers and bureaucrats of the state administration and those flown in from Delhi and other parts of the country, while keeping at bay those who should have been granted a glimpse of this fascinating spectacle even if they were required to shell out exorbitant amounts of money to buy a ticket for the concert! Let me hasten to add that it’s still possible to use personal contacts to arrange a ticket or a pass for myself to attend this event, but that is of no consequence and no reason to plead that ‘all is well’ as long as the local population is sought to be kept away from what could actually be a once in a lifetime event. This together with the fact that in the run up to the event, all the roads leading to and from the venue have either been closed or declared out of bounds for the general public amounts to enacting a farce on the people of Kashmir in the form of a concert which is supposed to be too sublime to be dragged into such unseemly controversies.
Notwithstanding his lofty intentions of presenting Kashmir and its culture to the rest of the world which had informed his conception of the idea to organize this show in Srinagar, it seems that Mr Michael Steiner is oblivious to the ways in which this event has been allowed to be hijacked and exploited by certain quarters to advance their designs in presenting a picture that is not there. As such, Mr. Steiner’s refrain that this concert is for the people of Kashmir and for their rich cultural heritage sounds a trifle hollow. How on earth can that be if those for whom this event has been conceptualized in the first place, have been kept out of bounds of this event as bulls in a china shop! That certainly betrays a devious streak in the thinking of those who have provided the necessary wherewithal for the ‘successful’ organization and culmination of this event, never mind the mindless vandalization of the area surrounding the venue which has been declared a heritage site. To those who scoff at the idea of connoisseurs of classical western music grabbing their first opportunity to attend a concert in Berlin or in Vienna while boycotting the one being held in Srinagar as being hypocritical-as a TV anchor had decreed in a recent news show- let it be told to him that such shows conducted elsewhere are purely for reasons of entertainment and are by no means sullied by the prospect of political games being played in the name of entertainment.