Ave Maria


Malangba Bangormayum

Sometimes, thereare gaps between intent and action. This gap, for me, is most visible in the arts. We have ample exemplars of this phenomenon.A devout faithful can sing the glory of the Lord, but to the effect that the auditor runs away for her dear life. On the other hand, a sinner can sing the same glory, and you are transported, while your feet are firmly rooted to the ground you stand. I have been puzzled by this observation. Thinking about this reminds me of a story once told to me. It involves a cow.

There are some localities with a wee-bit more enthusiasm when it comes to the arts and performances, entertainmentand festivities. In one such locality, and knowing its tradition of patronage of the arts, a newly constituted theatre company, made up mostly of inexperienced artists approached the local club to have a premiere of their new production. A day and place for performance was fixed, the microphones and the mikes were put in place and the performance started. It was clear that the performance was a bad one from the first act, and there was a general apprehension that it might turn worse. The audience bore the performance with fortitude. Bad performances can make you weep. It can be a real torture. A youth, who could not take it anymore, released a cow tethered nearby, and made it charge towards the performance. The audience ran amok.The‘male actresses’ also ran with shouts of “mother”, I was told. When the melee settled, there was a real drama to follow. The owner of the cow, greatly peeved and humiliated, and in defense of the honour of his cow that has been blamed for the mischief, the abortion of the performance, challenged whoever released the cow to come forward and make himself known. He challenged the unknown miscreant to a manly fight. Though everyone had the fright of their lives, they must have secretly blessed the cow.

There are moments when one feels that there is more than what meets the eye. There are times when one feelsthat what we see may not be all to what there is.There could be a realm that is beyond us. This ‘transportation’happens. The first time I felt, if for just a moment, that there must be more than what meets the eye, was during the performance of a famous Requiem by a choir with a splendid orchestra, in a cathedral. It was magical. Closer home the feeling of an extraordinary dimension came at a performance of RasLeela many years ago. I had gone there to call someone, not to witness the performance, not to prostrate in devotion. But that single minute of watching it unfold, from a respectable distance, has had an impact which has outlasted the distance of time. No wonder then that art has been used to win over those who do not believe. Faith has been expressed, propagated, instilled by the ‘instrumentality’ of art. No wonder, it has also been used to make money.

Is art just an artifice? Is it something that befools you; throws dust upon your eyes? Is art an instrument to making profit to a point of vulgarity?Yet,this vulgaritypales in comparison to the vulgarity that is there in trying to hide the intention of profiting with pretension of authenticity. I would prefer works of art that says, I am here to make money and entertain you rather than art that says, I am not here to make money but to tell a story that has to be told, when the fact is writ large that it does not care anything but the money in your pocket.If money is the end for an art work, then it has to pander to popular taste. Then there has to be some sacrifice on art’s seeking its own end – the end to transport us perhaps; the end to say the unsayable; the end of speaking unspeakable silence.

Flies know what is good for them. There must be more flies than human beings. If worth is decided by number, then flies must be right. There can be nothing more worthy than rotten things.

There is this song called “Ave Maria”, a song in praise, in prayer to Mary, mother of god. A very popular song considering the genre to which it belongs. This is one of those songs, which can be cherished if performed well. It has a quality that seems to say “this is the real deal”.This song proves that you can have your art and your money too. But here money follows arts’ walk. And I believe that something is wrong if it is the other way round. It is just a feeling that I have. To those who think that this feeling cannot be entertained since I do not have justifications forit, I simply say -“Ave Maria”.


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