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Sabha hoppers
- GS Rajan

December 8, 2011

'Sabha hopping' is a commonly used phrase among the artists and innumerable rasikas visiting Chennai from various parts of India and abroad during the December music and dance season.

What exactly do these Sabhahoppers (S'hoppers, for short) do? Attired in their newly purchased wardrobes, most of them visit various sabhas to enjoy performances by their favorite artists. The schedule starts from morning and continues late into the night. Attending a seminar in the morning, having coffee and snacks in the sabha canteen, meeting artist friends in green rooms and wishing them all the best while being photographed with the artists - all these are important items on the agenda. The photographs are later posted in social networking sites like facebook, etc.

The S'hoppers then meet up with old friends and have lunch at some restaurant. Some go back to various sabhas after lunch, while others go back to their nest for a quick nap. These S'hoppers are back in the evenings, decked out in fresh outfits, and spend some time buying the latest music or dance DVDs and books, and making phone calls - fixing up dinner engagements with friends or artists in a posh restaurant.

These dinners are basically to discuss well-known dancers and musicians and their personal lives more than their performances. Some prefer to stand near the entrance gate of a sabha and meet people, and some just sit in the canteen, instead of taking a seat inside the auditorium.

Some of the senior NRI S'hoppers visiting Chennai every year in December share their experiences of hosting artists during their tours abroad. They swap stories on how many dosas the maestro ate or or how many glasses of wine the team consumed secretly.

Feel sorry for the poor unsuspecting artists? Don't worry! It is a common practice of artists to invite their hosts to visit them when they next come to Chennai. On reaching Chennai and calling up the celebrities, these NRIs often realize that the artists they hosted for weeks don't even remember their name, and are obviously trying to avoid them!

By mid January when as the season slowly wanes, S'hoppers prepare themselves to go back home. The last activity is to visit popular silk saree shops and temples. Like the migratory birds, S'hoppers then wait for next December to visit Chennai.

GS Rajan is a top ranking flautist, composer and arts administrator. (

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