As we waited for the symphony to begin in that richly adorned, packed Opera house in Vienna, I couldn’t help but recall the many Indian classical concerts I had attended back home in Mumbai and Pune. Shoddy open air amphitheatres, dysfunctional audio systems and errant maestros of rare brilliance vying for thinning audiences, too Americanized in their musical taste to lend an ear to the scientific intricacies of Indian classical music. Vienna on the other hand, where the sounds of Mozart and Schubert still reverberate on every street corner, seemed like a world apart. Nowhere else had I witnessed such dedication to the classical form of music, on the verge of disappearing from mass consumption amid the emergence of international music labels and a plethora of rock bands and pop artists occupying mindspace. Austria as a whole surprised me with its commitment towards marketing its musical legacy to tourist groups. Museums, chocolates, operas, mementos, t-shirts – everything with a Mozart tag is available to commemorate his genius and keep his memory alive. The Austrian reverence for the composer is almost equivalent to other countries’ deference towards important political figures or freedom fighters. And that is perhaps why classical music still thrives in the country, countering the winds of American popular music that has so powerfully crept into the fabric of today’s youth culture globally. As India battles a similar scenario, that of the ‘bollywoodization’ of music (a term that to me personally denotes everything easy, popular, wannabe American, mediocre and superficial), the rich history of India’s classical musical tradition, acknowledged by many as the most complex system ever to have developed is slowly being left to rust. It’s pretty much a mirror image of what’s happening with our heritage sites and monuments – being disregarded and left to die so that one day we forget that such a thing existed altogether. It would be foolish to expect classical music to ever become quite as popular as a chartbuster from some latest Bollywood flick. It will always remain the pursuit of the classes & not the masses. But it is shameful that concerts by some of the greatest legends of our times go unheard in empty halls, that tickets have to be sold for subsidized rates in order to ensure a respectable number in the audience. It is also disgraceful that people like Ustaad Bismillah Khan for instance, the great Shehnai maestro, die in penury ignored by the government while it mulls giving a tax free status to more popular forms of entertainment like the IPL. But blaming the government is the easiest thing to do. As the last remaining patrons of this great tradition slowly depart, it remains the collective responsibility of the present generation to ensure that we keep what is probably our most priced inheritance alive for the generations to come. After all, this is the real stuff, made eternal by years of painstaking rehearsal, not the club chartbuster that we dance to, as ephemeral in its distinction as the flickering disco light.