Sona Mohapatra’s open letter JC Mohanty – IAS officer

The  popular singer, composer and lyricist was excited and honoured when she was invited to for a live concert at the Kota Dussera Mahotsav. But her experience there left her less than satisfied

Sona Mohapatra wrote an open letter on her official Facebook page to JC Mohanty — IAS Principal Secretary (PWD) of Rajasthan. Read full letter below…

Dear Mr Mohanty ,

The day I accepted the invitation to play my music at the Kota Dussera Mahotsav was a special one . I believe that these events are opportunities to reach out to my country & also to genuine fans of my music . Youngsters in India rarely have access to live music , concerts or artistes & their entertainment & cultural education seems to depend on the same old TV reality shows or Bollywood fare & for no fault of theirs . It was indeed a proud moment for me & my band .

The journey to Kota was uneventful & my social media posts will attest to the fact that I felt only love & excitement to be playing in Rajasthan , a place I hugely admire for its rich legacy of art , music , live performance & artistes . The only thing bothering me at that time was wether I’d do justice to the stage & huge expected audience of over 20,000 people . To demographics ranging from teenagers , children , 60 + ‘s & from tourists , villagers , students .. Truly a diverse crowd to say the least & not an easy task for any artiste to hold everybody’s attention you’d agree ? The reason that I was most worried is because I had come down with an asthma attack after a long tour & the main focus I needed to keep was on the show & keeping my voice .

On reaching the Umed Palace in Kota at 5 pm , having taken a long dusty road journey , we came to know that there might not be any time for my band to carry out a basic sound check , something that we usually require at least 1 hour . Secondly we were informed that a Ms Sambhavna Seth’s item dance will have to be accommodated in between our show . We were expected to move out of stage every 3-4 songs , break our graph & performance of largely Sufiana music to have a whole different energy take over . All these surprises apart , I was asked by the organisers , without any fore-warning I must add that I am expected to visit various ‘commissioners ‘ houses to click photographs . Since this was not part of my agreed schedule & I had much more important worries at hand being responsible towards putting up a basic performance for my fans who had travelled from far to hear us being the first priority , I requested for the meetings to be held in the hotel lounge . I think it was a fair enough request considering –

1) I hadn’t been informed or invited formally in advance . This is the basic courtesy one would expect as an artiste , as a lady & as a guest .

2) The show & performance was top priority & could be in jeopardy considering the arrangements were vague , we had no sound check time , the equipment for the band had to be checked etc

3) & most importantly I myself was feeling breathless after the long dusty ride from Jaipur .

Many families & various officials did show up in the hotel lounge thankfully & I was more than happy to meet , greet & take pictures .

Just when I thought that I could get back to my room , get ready for the show & possibly even go through the 2 hours of lyrics & do my vocal warm up exercises , I was told by the organisers that I would have to go & meet Mr JC Mohanty at the commissioners bungalow . This was 8 pm & my show was to start at 8.30 pm . This wasn’t an invitation of any kind but surely an order considering I’d already begged of going anywhere . Their desperation increased & they started pleading in front of me when I refused . When I requested for a meeting post the show , at the hotel lounge since it was night time & I ought not to be expected to go any strangers house be it a commissioner or any minister , this too was not acceptable by you . Any such visit had to be basis a formal invite & some protocol followed , wouldn’t you agree ?

The pleas , sad faces , the pressure to go meet you & the threat that they supposedly received from you about ” never getting to do an event ever again in Rajasthan ” put serious mental pressure & it’s a miracle that I stood my ground & reached the stage at the Dussera Mahotsav . Only to be called upon stage to meet you & your wife . Both of who met me with absolutely grim scary expressions . Ominous to say the least . I smiled , explained my position & health & even tried to reach out from the stage by calling out & paying ‘respect’ to the work being done by you in the state & could see that both your expressions remained angry & grumpy through out . Honestly , I regret this effort from my side , you were surely the most ungracious hosts I’ve ever met . All I was doing was my best as an artiste & as a leader of my team to protect them in whichever way I could . I also ( foolishly ) believed that you wouldn’t take out your anger on the young event managers & ruin their future as you’d threatened .

The night progressed with drunk personnel at the hotel banging on our doors . My hiding another lady musician in the bathroom & our eventual escape in the middle of the night . The build up of events before the show ensured that we couldn’t have hoped to ask for any help from the administration .

I came back thinking that our country might be in the 21 rst century but our mind sets continue to be feudal . An artiste- musician is just a commodity for people like you . A woman is more so . A nautch girl of yore ??? Someone who has to bow-scrape in front of people like you to keep her art alive ??

I come from a fauji family . Could have asked my Dad to get me connected to the military army base in Kota & thus feel safer & protected . Didn’t do so . Do not believe in using family & connections in my journey as an artiste & in my journey as an adult . Call me naive but I believe that I can live like this & effect change .

Have spent a good part of my morning writing this letter to you . Would like to move on & spend my Diwali in a better frame of mind . Do give my wishes to your wife & I hope she is smiling today unlike the 30 th of October where she looked extremely angry for whatever reasons . I’m sure you don’t have a daughter or else you might have understood what you put me through or if you do , you might be planning to keep her at home , safe & protected but definitely not walking the road of individual freedom or independence .

To all the rest of you who attended this concert , travelled long distances to hear us live , I feel immense love . Know that everything is worth it because I know that you came for the music . I felt your love every second of the show & it’s the best gift I could’ve hoped for . I’m not going to run away & sit at home because of this . No . That would be too simple

Happy Deepawali .

Sona Mohapatra