It was June 1993 at Delhi. “The Hindu” contained an article on IR.
I could realise that it was on the occasion of his 50th Birthday.
It was giving me the wonderful piece of information that IR has composed and got recorded “The Grand Symphony” at London by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and that news sent me for a roll!
I simply could not believe it, even though I used to dream for such news for a long time.
Then onwards any news on this topic I started watching keenly; and all the articles and news bits like John Scott visit to Chennai, the massive facilitations arranged to IR etc only enhanced my expectations and longing to hear that music as soon as possible.
But somehow, on the immediately following period, there were no news about the possible releases of cassettes/ records which worried me a lot.
It was that time, around October’93, all of a sudden, I got an opportunity to visit Sweden for a training programme from my company.
While any foreign tour would have set off some dreams and expectations in anybody, I was looking that in another angle.
That is “I am having a fair chance of getting the Symphony before others, if it is released during my stay there!”.
Dreams…! Wild Dreams !
It was a period of well over two months of November-December winter I spent in Stockholm. While as usual, any training or official work always take a backseat when compared to having a glimpse of the country of stay, atleast I remained focused on certain things..ie “whenever opportunity is there, search for music albums, particularly that of IR!”
Believe me, with so much enthusiasm I started searching whenever I entered any shopping mall there at Stockholm. I was truly amazed by the collections of Classical Music albums in any musical shops. (Now-a-days, we are also having Music World, Planet M etc. but in those decades, we didn’t have such exclusive music collections in one place).
All albums were alphabetically arranged by Composer’s name and no guess I could have rushed every time!
But the alphabet “I” always drew a blank.
Then I even searched for Asian or Indian music collections which again never existed.
It was a painful lesson to me that our Indian music, leave alone South Indian music, has not got its due share of attention, whatever you know or think about its richness and variety etc.
But atleast such searching gave me the chance to know and purchase a lot of WCM albums which remained a dream earlier. Particularly due to the forthcoming Christmas period, it was discount sales declared everywhere and classical music sections were one of the attractive sections.
Another peculiar thing I observed was that prices of cassettes were equal or costlier than CDs. Though I didn’t know much about the CDs in those period, I decided in favour of CD collections and went on purchasing and built-up my Bach and Mozart collections.
For the first timer like me in a foreign country, it always remained the fight between your dream ambition versus limited foreign exchange currency of those time.
We used to get our weekly allowances from our sponsor company. I controlled my personal spending as much as possible (being a “vegetarian” in all respect, there’s nothing you can spend money in such European countries) and whatever saving earned I put sizeable amount on CDs.
But, soon I had to put a halt for those purchases, when I heard my friends were planning for a Paris trip on their way back home with the saved money. Then it occurred to me that, why not I try for London, where I may continue to try getting the IR’s Symphony CD etc.
Then onwards, it was still rigorous savings I attempted. Parallel to that, herculean efforts went on with the embassies to get the Visa to London (even an African would get a visa easily in Europe, but not an Indian or Asian).
Finally, the Visa was confirmed, a month ahead of my planned visit. Then began the counting of days as well as counting my savings for London trip.
So when the training was over and when I arrived at London, it was last week of December.
Then came the shocking realization!
It was a virtual holidays for entire week in London and for that matter for the whole Europe.
The source whom I was depending for stay and other logistics (and also planned to take the help for searching the Studio where IR recorded etc.) had to go on leave, the rare leave he gets in an year.
Even though he made some arrangement for my stay etc it consumed more than 60% of my savings! So, I realized that I could do nothing now.
Anyhow, I spent the remaining money in some more CD purchases and in Oxford street Again whatever limited searches for IR Symphony in shops were not as fruitful as expected.
Finally signed off to London with a sigh and landed back homeland.
But then in 1994, I still sustained my hopes that, one day I would get that!
Slowly the facts emerged that it was never released and would never be available at all !
By hindsight, now I still believe that, IR has already given us more than that !