“So, who’s getting the banners?” “Who’s picking up the artists?” “Who’s arranging the sound and lights?” “Which concert are you coordinating today?” “Most importantly, who is getting ‘the eye’?”…… this is about all we, in SPIC MACAY Pune, were talking about for the two weeks of the Heritage-2010 Series. Like always, SPIC MACAY does not need any major event manager to run the show. We, as a bunch of enthusiastic young college goers (or wait, we did miss a few days of college during that time!) managed to conduct 70 events in 15 days at over 25 institutes in and around Pune. Conducted from the 15th to the 30th of January, it was the biggest festival ever in Pune in terms of the number of events, depth and breadth of coverage.

Looking back, we indeed had some of the richest experiences of our lives in those times. Sometimes, there was no one from the institute to conduct the concert and SPIC MACAY volunteers had to do everything, right from cleaning up the concert hall to dropping off the artist! There were times when the hall was engaged for some other purpose until about 20 minutes before the concert began. We can never forget the times when a compeering team mispronounced the names of the artists or the time we nearly forgot to pick an artist up from the airport! However, apart from a few such glitches, we were able to pull off the event quite successfully.

I joined SPIC MACAY, Pune Chapter in November and Heritage Series was just round the corner. The weekly meetings then seemed like a fish market – everyone had lots to say and no one waited for the other to finish! During my winter vacations, I helped with making a souvenir that would be distributed during the series. It consisted of writing up profiles of all the artists who were to perform in the Heritage Series and also compiling short write-ups about each of the art forms. Apart from being an eye-opener for me, this little task was also great fun to do, especially when I got to read some amusing true life incidents of a few artists. I drew a great deal of motivation from these people who, against all odds, reached great heights in their respective arts, purely driven by their passion and love.

I returned to Pune five days before the Heritage Series started and was amazed to see the activity going on. Immediately after my return, my friend and I got stuck at the printer’s office for three days, compiling and making finishing touches to the souvenir. Meanwhile, those handling publicity were having a hectic time – running all around getting posters and hoardings prepared and put up. I remember the pride I felt when I stood on Senapati Bapat road one night and stared happily at our hoarding put up there… After a lot of phone calls and e-mails, the first press conference was held four days before the series began. Those handling the finances were constantly talking to different companies for sponsorship. Coordinating with artists, arranging vehicles for picking them up from airports and stations, conducting orientation programmes for the volunteers from the institutes hosting concerts – all these formed an essential part of organising the series. A friend and I even fought over which one of us got to receive the artists at their hotels! Many of us were permanently on our mobile phones, and on the road.

D Day arrived – on 15th January the Heritage Series kicked off with the inaugural concert by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia at COEP. That was the first time I participated in a concert being organized, and it was a lot of work. The evening was made even more memorable for me when Kiran Seth-ji asked some of us to sit on the stage and listen. I felt so thrilled to sit so close to the great master and enjoy his amazing Bansuri.

But that was just the beginning. On the following day was the over night concert at the same venue. This time, there was much more work to do as there were six concerts lined up one after the other! It began with a breath-taking performance by Pandit Birju Maharaj and his disciple Smt. Saswati Sen, both front ranking Kathak dancers. It was a fantastic performance – the hall was so full that people were sitting on the floor all the way up to and on the stage. One dazzling performance followed another, and before we knew it, the next day had dawned and Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan was singing the last bhajan of the overnight.

All in all, it was a marvellous beginning to the colossal event to follow. From then on, each one of us attended at least one concert everyday to make sure everything was taken care of. There were some taking care of publicity, some writing articles and updates about the concerts to the newspapers, some coordinating with the artists, some coordinating with the institutes, some taking care of the finance and sponsors, some looking after the website and many more. Each and every volunteer contributed a great deal and worked with dedication and perseverance.

But the most rewarding part of the whole event was the interaction with the artists. I could not believe that these people, in spite of their distinction and renown, were so modest and affable. They were so glad to talk to us youngsters. Personally, some of my most memorable moments were – chatting with Prof TN Krishnan over dinner and finding him a very jovial, grandfatherly person; conversing with Shri Sarwar Hussain over tea after a tiring day and discussing the various aspects of Carnatic and Hindustani music; chatting about movies with Smt. Ileana Citaristi over lunch after a concert; getting lyrics of the poetic Sufi songs and discussing their meanings with Shri Jamil Khan; chatting away in my mother tongue (Kannada) with Shri Venkatesh Kumar; discussing the various dance forms of India with the iconic dancer Smt. Ritha Devi; commenting on Twenty20 cricket with Shri Sankaranarayanan, Mridangam player over dinner and many, many more.

The euphoria during the first concert, students overflowing for the Birju Maharaj concert, some sparsely filled halls, spending hours with friends in a Cafe and discussing the various issues regarding the series, the satisfaction gained from watching inspired people signing up as volunteers for our organisation, sitting on the stage and listening to maestros perform, making long-lasting friends – all these moments are priceless. I received lessons in handling manpower, resource management, finance, communication, publicity, advertising and most importantly, values and morality – something that you cannot learn in any college or school. In this way, I think SPIC MACAY gave me much more in return than what I had contributed, and I shall forever treasure those wonderful moments. I now proudly call myself a SPIC MACAY Volunteer.- Sruthi Polali