It was half past midnight out side Cama Hall, opposite Li on Gate, in Fort. A compact and stockier version of the great late conductor Colin Davis stood at the shuttered entrance, looking forlorn and forsaken.
“Are you all right sir?“ “Do I look like? I came here at 12, yet got a token numbered 90,“ he said pensively , like an enfeebled oboe.
“So, is this the right spot where tickets for the Zubin Mehta concerts go on sale in the morning?“ “Yes,“ he exhaled in a deflated hiss.
A yard away from him was a coiled-up man with a shining pate, ready to spring forth with purpose any moment. “Sir, did you take your token? Where can I find one?“ “Oo, du not worrie at awl. Ewe see dat tawll man dere? He is geeving them,“ he said in true French fashion.
“Ok! So what’s your number?“ “Ok, I have three numbers.“ “Really! How?“ Uncoiling in a jiffy, he said, “Ha, ha, I have brought assistants with me who have taken tokens for me. It is a strategy to maximize my seating potential.“
“Well, I can’t say I understood that, but ok. So what do you do that you have so many assistants?“ “Ok, well, I work in submarines, in the navy . I am in India on the Scorpene project.“
“And your name?“ “Philippe Michelon,“ he said, flicking out a business card, on which was written the prenominal letters `Cdr (Rtd)’. “I don’t want to take chances. You see, I love the Razumovsky Quartets, especially the first. Ooh, nothing comes close to it. This was Beethoven’s opus 59 and Pinchas Zukerman will play his Violin Concerto on the 17th, which is opus 61, you see, and so, well, they are opus 59 and opus 61, which means they were composed around the same time and that’s why they have similarities. So I can’t miss opus 61 when it plays,“ he said, lighting up a cigarette in a queue of scores of people in repose.
The queue, for tickets to Zubin Mehta’s concerts on April17, 18, and 20, had started around 2pm on Thursday , 17 hours before box office was to open.Cdr (Rtd) Michelon, who claimed he shook hands with the great Karajan in 1988 after a concert in Berlin, was the only one in Mumbai talking Beethoven in depth, replete with keys and opus numbers, by the side of a road at 1am. As the night wore out, it became evident that the submarine man was by no means the only one of his kind. The difference with the others was that only he seemed interested in “maximising“ his “seating potential“. It paid off well. He got one of the best of the available seats. Many among the others had to be content with rehearsal passes.