Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Din and Tonics in Delhi


The Harvard Din & Tonics had their first performance in Delhi yesterday.

Just a few days ago, while reading Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat", a few unfamiliar words had made me reach out for a dictionary. In a paragraph about how Georgia Tech improved its performance by encouraging its undergrads to take on musical pursuits, there was something about "Glee clubs and Capella Bands". Capella had turned out to be something like karaoke ("empty orchestra"), except that the performance rested entirely on vocals. I had imagined it to be something like the erstwhile "Cochin Mimics" in Kerala, but that was way off the mark.

Stein Auditorium at IHC was already jam packed by the time I got there. The hall was dark, the music was already on, but something was wrong... Instead of a bunch of Americans, a group of glum Indian students stood under the spotlights crooning a Hindi song.

Was I in the wrong hall? I checked Arshia's invitation again - "7:00 PM, Din & Tonics" is what it said. It looked like a filler anyway, so I squeezed into an empty seat and took a closer look at the bunch.

The poor fellows looked like they had been dragged away from a cricket field, handed some instruments along with a threat - "Sing! or else...". They sang well but the voices barely managed to get past the loud drums and synthesizers .

This turned out to be a fine way to introduce the Capella. It was a relief to see the offending instruments dragged off stage and replaced by a bunch of eleven sprightly, quaintly dressed undergrads from Harvard - and none of whom carried any instruments.

They were sharp, articulate and completely self-processed. As the program got going with their carefully coordinated singing, dancing and antics, I couldn't help wondering - were these delicate, effeminate and amazingly talented kids from the same country that is sending out troops and bombers to bully Iraq? Are these the guys who are still debating the merits of detention and torture at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and Eastern Europe?

But the performance was awesome!

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