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If music be the food of strife

As the 77-year-old music maestro Zubin Mehta conducted the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir concert in the famous Shalimar Garden in Srinagar, sounds of bullets going off in the distant background probably didn’t hit the mersmerised ears of the audience there. However, the biting irony does remind us of a golden line from Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, ‘Politics in a work of imagination, is like a pistol shot in the middle of a concert, something vulgar, and however, something which is impossible to ignore.’ While the maestro’s breathtaking dance on the violin was a beautiful gift for Kashmir, was it inclusive enough in its spirit to not be closed to the ordinary Kashmiris, who had to brave difficulties in order to witness the spectacle of the concert happening in their own hometurf? Would an hour and half of Beethoven be enough to drown out the years of riotous and wretched existence that the beleaguered people of the Valley have by now accepted as life, holding on to hopes of justice and basic freedom even though they carve out a subsistence before the barrel of a gun, whether it belongs to the state or the separatists. And even as the spellbinding symphony emanating from Mehta’s genius Bavarian orchestra captivated those who were fortunate (and affluent) enough to afford a ticket to the concert, youths were being fired upon and killed in the Shopian district by the armed forces stationed there to keep the situation from going out of control. As the Saturday afternoon in Shalimar Garden, amidst its lamenting pink stone pavilions and hissing Mughal-era fountains, saw music rise both as a loadstar on the horizon and as billowing smoke, the serenity of the manicured lawns got lost in the rippling irony that started at its own gates.
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