To the Unknown Artiste
People sing in praise of a lead performer;
And the person playing the second fiddle
Often goes unsung and unhonoured.
That is the fate of all such auxiliary artistes, say,
A guitarist strumming the chords—
To keep up the rhythm
Or, as typically in India,
The tambura player,
providing the continuous harmonic drone,
Which no electronic substitute
Can possibly offer—
Not to the entire satisfaction of the audience,
As it would be lacking in timbre and temper.
Yet, comparatively speaking,
There may not be much money in it.
Percussion artistes, on the drums,
The Mrudangam or Tabala,
Are all worse off,
Though they often perform multiple tasks.
Now striking, for instance, a cymbal,
Now a triangle or a xylaphone.
Even the famous Sivamani has got to do it.
They all, however, go about their tasks on the stage
With as much zest as the lead performer—
Yet a Sivamani or a Zakir Hussein
Hitting the headlines, is very rare.
Their presence is hardly noticed,
Though their absence may surely be felt.
Their role is comparable
To that of the squirrel—in the Ramayana,
Which helped Rama,
In its own humble way,
To put up the bridge
(preparatory to his encounter with Ravana)
Across the Palk Strait to Sri Lanka,
And yet did its best.
Such artistes do exemplify team spirit.
They also serve who stand (or sit)
On the stage and do auxiliary work!
Ram R. V.