I have always had a regret. Being a non-driver, I have sorely missed experiencing that adrenaline rush of road-rage. I have always had to sit in gape-mouthed admiration, when people yell at the chap before them for being immovable while simultaneously screaming at the honking idiot behind for his stupidity in not realizing that vehicles could not move till the traffic lights turned green. The absolute pitch of impartial rage that gets wild at the chap overtaking from the left, and sees red at the chap who wants to overtake from the right, is something that I have always wanted to experience for myself. Such a transforming experience it must be, since I have seen a chap who would not say 'Boo' to the proverbial goose really gets fancy with his swear-words when he is behind a wheel.
I still have not reached the exalted heights of road-rage, maybe, but I think I have acquired a nodding acquaintance with the first cousin. To my knowledge, I seem to be among the very few people who have met this strange species - Sabha rage.
This meeting, as you could have guessed readily, happened in my visits to the Carnatic music concerts in Chennai in December. Imagine sitting in a sabha (if I must translate, a sabha is a sort of culture club which organizes concerts but the word also stands for the auditorium in which the concerts take place), getting ready to be carried away by the melodious rendering of an alapana (the preliminary exposition of a raga - 'alap' for the Hindustani aficionados) and managing only to hear this group of people sitting behind you indulging loudly in guessing games about what the raga could be. I am not normally of a murderous temperament but, if I had been possessed of a gun like almost every American teenager seems to be these days, I would certainly not have been answerable for the consequences. "Enraged man mows down music disrupters" would probably have been the screaming headlines of the day and Arnab Goswami would have had a field day trying to find out, on behalf of India, why people were being allowed to conduct Carnatic concerts considering the inherent danger of the procedure.
And then there are the children. God knows I never have understood why people HAVE children in the first place but this one truly beats me. WHY bring them to a music concert at an age when they can hardly stay still for an instant even while watching a Rajnikant movie? AND the little devils will start fidgeting and loudly complaining exactly when the music is really getting to you. Sabha rage against this happening is equally divided between the parents who unleash these nuisances on the rest and the children for their exquisite timing in disrupting proceedings. I never ever thought of myself as capable of killing a child but...at times...
Did I forget the chap who seemed to have come to the concert for the specific purpose of coughing in my ear? Twenty coughs a minute the whole three hours of the concert! Not that he was unaware that, in a concert, you needed a medley of notes - so, he filled the interval between the coughs with throat-clearing and nose-blowing (Before you put your oar in with 'you got your concert anyway', let me tell you that it was not HIS concert I had come to enjoy). The thing, though, is that I am unable to decide whether I ought to assassinate this guy or that other one. The one to whom I complained of this guy and who said, "What is the poor guy to do? If he had a cold, he probably could not control himself." Anyone with the brains of a slug would understand that one is not complaining about the chap's inability to stifle his cough, but his intransigence in not taking himself AND his cough out of the concert hall. After the first half-an-hour, it should have been clear to him that he would be unable to enjoy the concert - unless his idea of enjoyment was to spoil it for everyone around him.
The irony of the whole affair is that I am in the concert, listening to music (or trying to) that is supposed to elevate you can calm your emotions and I end up with a species of inchoate and violent rage that I never have experienced elsewhere. Understandable I suppose. It is like you are extremely thirsty; someone hands you a glass of water and, just as you are about to drink, someone else jogs your elbow and causes you to spill all the water. THAT instant of rage is just what this is all about. You are about to let go of all your mundane problems and let yourself go on a peaceful wave of melody and...'MOMMY! I want to go home! NOOOOOOW!"
After I hit home, the rage is gone and I start laughing at myself. It is not as though that group or that child was doing all this of a purpose to mess with your head. The discussion is probably how THEY enjoy the concert; the mother can hardly give up ALL her interests till the child becomes manageable, if it ever does; and what does a child know about how its behavior affects others. (Hmm! All this empathy does not extend to the chronic cougher - though I am veering around to thinking that the other guy is the one I shall take out my murderous rage on)
All this empathy, this milk of human kindness sloshes around me till I hit the sabha for the next concert and then...Well! It is just like a driver with his road rage!