Private initiatives are making waves in the Indian scheme of politics and national life?
It is good that the Bangalore-based government and private partnership in culture promotion, namely, the Bangalore Habba was postponed in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
The mood in the country is not suited for any celebrations of sorts. It is a time for deep anguish and introspection for the nation. Yediyurappa, the Karnataka Chief Minister reflects the nation’s mood, unlike many of his counterparts, his peers in his own state or in the outside states, who shave shown utter insensitivity and irresponsibility, as in Kerala Chief Minister’s case.
Even in states like neighbouring TN we see utter callousness and indifference to the happenings in Mumbai. Where politicians seem desperate as we see the DMK chief Karunanidhi who is losing allies and seeking nonentities as partners!
When the Indian politicians would become men, not just boys! Seeking selfishness and narrow agenda when the country is in the flames, literally and metaphorically?
Yes, it is like this sort of a question only that one seems to ask these days when we look around and take stock of our national life.
How serious we are about our own self-perceptions.
First the positive developments and the positive strengths.
Yes, cultural activities in the country, at least as seen from Bangalore, the booming international city of sorts owing to its international corporate culture, the arts and cultural scene is vibrant.
In one week I read and even attend say, music events, theatre events, paintings exhibitions and international rockers and other arts.
The state government for instance this year announced a grant of Rs.1.5crores and a private company Rs.one crore to conduct what is called the week-long Habba, cultural week.
Kannada film festival, music festival and theatre festival and handicrafts and many such kinds of cultural pursuits.
You can have it to your full satisfaction.
As Padmini Ravi, trustee of the Artistes’ Foundation for Arts (AFFA) says the arts and art infrastructure in the country has huge talent and any artistic promotion is, as she says, is only an investment in our future generation. So, we welcome the cultural promotion events and at the same time we like the arts and culture energises a people and reflect their feelings and moods as well.
There was time that artists from Bangalore went to Chennai to seek recognition. Now it is the reverse! Musicians like Bombay Jayasree and dancers like Leela Samson came to Bangalore to perform!
Where money is there culture follows, right?
It looks like that!
Just the other day came Anouskka, the daughter of Ravi Shankar to perform along with and international team of Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson.
These days it is all about high promotion, publicity and much else. Tickets priced in the range of Rs.1,000 and even above! Only Bangaloreans can afford!
Then, the Alliance Franchise and the Goethe Institute are equally active in promoting Western culture.
There is a Western Bangalore School of Music.
It is when we come to national scene and in some states where too much chauvinistic politics reign, there is cause for worry.
A noted culture critic, Sadanand Menon writes in a recent column that when he went to the National Institute of Design(NID) where he conducted a workshop he says he was surprised to find the very founders’ names of the NID, namely, Gautam and Gira Sarabhai whose initiative it was to set up NID in Ahmedabad, their names were found missing!
Menon also notes that a new book, namely, Indian Design Edge by Darlie Koshy, till recently the Director there didn’t cover the NID’s history fully! It was established in 1961 and then he takes a leap, says Menon and comes to the next 18 years as nothing and then to the 1979 year declaration.
More pointedly, what Menon says about this Indian mindset, a major character flaw of the Indians rather, that is to play down our recent past, of our great men and women who made us what we are today, be it politics or education or culture or any other field.
Says Menon: “a dishonest history about our own past can only generate dishonest and counterfeit design. What he says about design is equally applicable to any other field.
Menon in fact points out the lack of proper documenting of our own great many institutions. From Tagore’s Santiniketan to Vallathol Narayana Menon’s Kerala Kalamandalam to Sahitya Akademi to our other music and dance and arts akademies to many institutions of great distinctions. One is of course, as Menon himself points out about the one hundred and odd years old, Madras School of Painting, then there are such institutions everywhere, why even the Bengal school of arts, the very many libraries, even the famed Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tanjore I read is without staff or proper administration.
I can cite here one more personal experience. I was once invited to the Gandhigram Rural University, near Madurai to deliver an endowment lecture. It was instituted in the name of Kasturba Gandhi.
I was not prepared for the shock there.
None of the persons whose names were printed in the invitation were present! None of the other departments were present there either!
No faculty member seemed to have been friendly to other faculty member!
It looked the very university was not united by any common ideal or by any notable single authority!
Only after my visit and my lecture I found out the university didn’t have a vice chancellor for more than two years.
And, believe me who was the chancellor by the way? None other than our Excellency the Vice-President, amid Ansari, an eminent academic himself!
So, where do we go from here?
It is not that we don’t have knowledge or funds. We have an education minister, we have a separate culture minister as well. We have Dr.Karaan Singh, a highly qualified person and who heads the Indian Council for Cultural Affairs.
I am a student of Santiniketan and when I visited the institution recently, I was again not ready to receive the shock!
The institution was in total disarray!
At that time Kalam was our President and when I wrote a letter to the chancellor (Dr.Manmohan Singh is the chancellor)and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the state governor, only Kalam seemed too had acknowledged my letter. There was no response from the chancellor’s office.
When Rajiv Gandhi was the chancellor, and when I wrote a letter pointing out some issues, there was a detailed letters, the Pm instructed to his secretary, who was none other then the present minister Mr.Mani Shankar Iyer who wrote a detailed letter and even there was some enquiry from the culture dept of the HRD ministry.
Today, the culture ministry seems to be nothing to take notice of it. Clearly the minister, Ms.Ambika Soni seems to be a disaster! Most of Sonia Gandhi’s nominees are poor performers!
It looks what we all take it for granted, that is that culture and arts matter a great deal. Yes, they matter, the current scene in the country is one of vibrant interest in arts and culture but our cultural institutions are falling back in their original purposes.
The builders of these great many institutions, I remember the dedication with which, the founders of the Gandhigram, the Ramachandran couple toiled and created an idealistic enterprise.
Now, alas, it has fallen in its purposes, the place has become a job-hunting desert.
There are many tales I heard and it was too much for me to tolerate. But what can be done? Except to lament!
But then it is the duty of educators and culture-minded, to take up and make the needed propaganda and articulation that without a cultural content, our many other activities, including politics would become wooden-headed, robotic and at the same time venal elements.
An educated person needn’t be necessarily a cultured person. So too any founder of education institutions, the so many schools in Delhi would attest to my contention, they are just bucaneers!Not educators!
So too our career seeking politicians, the educated and the uneducated ones make here a strange bedfellows!
Otherwise, you would have found a difference to the government led by a highly acclaimed academically qualified Prime Minister!
Unfortunately, our politicians today seem to understand many things and culture is one of the more visibly distracting issues with our politicians.
There doesn’t seem to be a life for them beyond their political existence.
This shows our very much neglect.
Our archeological sites, our artistic enterprises, our very many cultural academies and even our seeking to recognise our artistes and other achievers need a nation-wide debate and policy corrections. There are too many issues here, space forbids!
We have so much rich artistic and cultural heritage. But we seek to live a life at the bureaucratic life, dull and boring life, our elites are left to themselves when it comes to pursuing their leisure affairs, be it music or dance or other theatre and film festivals.
All these events, these places are devoid of the leaders of our polity and society!
Is that a good or a bad omen?
Readers have to decide for themselves.