Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This article about the the religion and the culture has been taken from The Hindu dated 27 Jan, 2009, Edit page, online edition.

Culture as a site of struggle

 
 

K.N. Panikkar

 
 

Understanding the nature and direction of the struggle and participation in it call for serious academic engagement.

 
 

In the communal conception of nation, culture not only occupies a central place but defines its character by its identity with religion. The nation, therefore,
is a cultural construct, with culture being understood as an integral part of religion.

 
 

Much against the grain of historical experience and contemporary reality, the communal assumption has foregrounded two inter-related notions. The first
notion is that each religious community has a homogenous culture. The second notion is that the culture of each community is distinct and different. Such
a characterisation attributes a religious-cultural character to the social composition of the country. It is further qualified by dividing society into
two unequal segments: people of indigenous and 'foreign' origin who were separated by religious-cultural differences. These differences were so irreconcilable
that they belonged to two different nations, with entirely different cultural traditions.

 
 

These differences accounted for the struggle between communities in the past. Subsuming the assumptions of colonial historiography but improving upon its
political and cultural interpretations, communal ideologues argued that religious communities acquired political identity through inter-community struggles
with which Indian history abound. More important, communities had distinct identities as a result of their separate cultural practices rooted in religion.

 
 

In a synoptic account of Indian history in his relatively less known work, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar interpreted the
history of India in terms of the Hindu resistance to foreign invasions. The importance of this historical experience was that they contributed to the formation
of a self-identity of being a Hindu nation. But such a political experience alone, it is held, was not sufficient to bring about emotional bonds strong
enough to bind a people into a nation. Something more abiding was necessary, which according to Savarkar was the allegiance to a common culture. The religious
communities, both Hindu and Muslim, were different due to their differing cultural allegiances.

 
 

During the 20th century the cultural logic of communalism assumed an increasingly aggressive character. An important example of this development is the
reading of Hindu-Muslim cultural differences by Bengali novelist Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. In a brief essay titled 'Bartaman Hindu-Mussalman Samasya,'
first presented at the Bengal Provincial Conference of 1926, he added a new dimension to the communal argument about the differences between Hindus and
Muslims. Many before him were of the opinion that the differences between the two were irreconcilable because they were fundamentally cultural. The two-nation
theory advocated by Savarkar and Mohammad Ali Jinnah rested on this argument. Sharat Chandra's focus was not on cultural differences, which at any rate
existed, but on the lack of culture of Muslims. Hindus, high or low, were born with culture, whereas Muslims were born without it! Worse still, Muslims
could not even attain it, however much they tried. Their lack of culture accounted for their general behaviour which, according to him, was characterised
by "brutality, barbarism and fanaticism."

 
 

Many communal ideologues in the past had harped on the cultural differences between Hindus and Muslims or on the cultural superiority of Hindus. But Sharat
Chandra's concern was of an altogether different order: to create the categories of the cultured and the uncultured on the basis of religious identity.
What he did was to reinvent the traditional category of mlech in order to serve a contemporary purpose. One purpose was social discrimination by means
of the demonisation of Muslims. Another was to achieve the political objective of undermining the Gandhian project of Hindu-Muslim unity, for according
to him, the union between Hindus and Muslims was impractical and, more important, unnatural. He argued that instead of pursuing the mirage of Hindu-Muslim
unity what was required was unity within the Hindu community, by ending "the folly of treating a section of the Hindus as low castes." By discounting the
possibility of Hindus and Muslims coming together and at the same time promoting the internal consolidation of the Hindu community, Sharat Chandra was
charting out a path for the construction of communal consciousness.

 
 

Neither Hindu-Muslim differences nor community consolidation was alien to the communal discourse which evolved from the 19th century. Yet, Sharat Chandra's
views were significant for two reasons. First, Muslims are excluded from the nation not on cultural differences, as Savarkar did, but on the grounds of
being 'uncultured.' Secondly, it represented a new communal aggression based on cultural authenticity derived from an identity of religion and culture.
Sharat Chandra's arguments are not an aberration, but a logical development of the ideas of discrimination and hatred inherent in the communal discourse
evolving from the 19th century. They continue to be influential in shaping the consciousness of the present, at least among a section of society.

 
 

The cultural logic of communalism seeks to unburden the secular cultural baggage that society has acquired historically. In the process is ignored the heterogeneity
that came into being as a result of the social togetherness of communities. The heterogeneity covered a wide spectrum: the creative and philosophical realms,
on the one hand, and everyday cultural practices of the people, on the other. It gave rise to a variety of cultural processes — synthesis, assimilation,
acculturation and eclecticism and, more important, the way people lived.

 
 

It is arguable that what really happened was not any one of these processes, but a combination of all in varying degrees, which imparted to Indian culture
the quality of a colourful mosaic. One of the implications of this process was the immense cultural variety within religious communities in terms of everyday
cultural practices and creative expressions. In other words, religious communities were not synonymous with cultural communities. Their boundaries did
not coincide or overlap. The cultural logic of communalism is, therefore, antithetical to the historical experience of Indian society. The meaning of culture,
which communalism foregrounded, was tantamount to the denial of the secular heritage of Indian cultural life. Even more than this, it failed to take cognisance
of the variety of cultural articulations within a community.

 
 

What is central to the exploration of the meaning of culture is a methodology for its study that will take note of its complexity and social relatedness.
The empirical and descriptive methods which held sway for long did not go beyond the narration of cultural practices. And consequently the meaning of culture
remained beyond their reach. The early Marxist method viewed culture as an epiphenomenon of economic base in the overall structure of productive force
determinism, which failed to interrogate the complexities of cultural existence. A paradigm shift was heralded with the 'cultural turn' in Marxist studies
in the mid-20th century, which recognised the relative autonomy of cultural production and all forms of social consciousness. The historians who initiated
such a change by drawing attention away from the cellar to the attic heralded both a departure and continuity in the application of historical materialism
to the study of the past: continuity because it can be traced to Marx and Engels, and departure because it meant a reorientation in historical analysis.
The defining characteristic of the methodology so conceived and practised recognised the relative autonomy of the superstructure within the rubric of its
dialectical relationship with the base.

 
 

A turn towards culture with such theoretical sensitivity was slow to occur in Marxist historical writing in India. A serious attempt in this direction is
seen in the works of Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi. His methodological and theoretical contribution to the study of history has been so original that he is
credited with ushering in a 'paradigm shift' in the writing of Indian history. This was possible because of an interdisciplinary approach and very creative
and innovative use of Marxist method. He started with the superstructure rather than the base: because of the compulsions of the unavailability of sources
he turned the Marxist metaphor upside down. That led to the rejection of economic determinism and reflective theory; recognition of the dialectical relationship
between base and superstructure with relative autonomy for the latter; criticism of the mechanical approach of official Marxism and, above all, questioning
of the conclusions of Marx himself wherever they were not in conformity with historical facts. Such openness and intellectual freedom lay at the back of
the cultural turn he brought to bear upon Indian historiography.

 
 

The relationship between the base and the superstructure — dialectical, dynamic and complex — around which Kosambi's analytical model was built, had opened
up immense possibilities for the study of Indian culture. But after him they remained largely unrealised, as the focus of Marxist historiography has been
either on economic issues or on political movements. Cultural issues hardly attracted attention. And when they did, their treatment suffered either from
reductionism or empiricism.

 
 

More grievously, the historical totality with culture as an integral element, as Kosambi had suggested, by and large remained outside the Marxist concern.
As a result, an impression has gathered ground that Marxist method is inadequate to deal with matters cultural. Kosambi's contribution proves the contrary.

 
 

A critical and innovative approach to the study of culture which Kosambi had pursued could herald a new theoretical and analytical approach in the study
of culture in Marxist historiography in India. That it has not really happened in any significant measure is surprising, as quite a few historians of the
present generation were inspired by Kosambi's work and many among the young are attracted to the study of everyday cultural practices. Such an inability
to further the study of culture has become particularly glaring as 'cultural studies' with a linguistic turn threaten to overwhelm the field. Whether the
relatively inadequate attention to the study of culture in Marxist historiography has made it easier for communalism to appropriate and imperialism to
hegemonise the study of culture, is a matter which requires serious consideration.

 
 

Nevertheless, the contemporary reality is such that culture has emerged as a very intense site of struggle. Understanding the nature and direction of this
struggle and participation in it call for serious academic engagement.

 
 

(K.N. Panikkar is general president, Indian History Congress; former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University; and Vice-Chairman, Kerala State Higher Education
Council. These are excerpts from his presidential address to the Indian History Congress held in Kannur during December 28-30, 2008. E-mail:
knp8@rediffmail.com)

 
 

******

The perceptions as well as appreciation about the Indian cinema or cinema over India is fast changing. Here is an extract from the Edit Page of "The Hindu [Online edition] dated Jan 26, 2009, about "Slum dog Millionaire

India does not hate Danny Boyle

 
 

Ian Jack

 
 

In India, films about poverty used to cause great offence. But not Slumdog Millionire.

 
 

— Photo: AFP

 
 

Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire, at a press conference in Mumbai.

 
 

A foreign director comes to India and shoots a film that in part depicts considerable cruelty, poverty and squalor. The Indian government is outraged when
the BBC broadcasts the film. There are official protests; severe restrictions are imposed on the BBC and any other foreign organisation that wants to film
in India; the director never enters the country again. Forty years pass. Another foreign director shoots a film in India in which the cruelty, poverty
and squalor are even more horrid. It wins four Golden Globes and 10 Oscar nominations. Most of India is delighted; domestic film-makers are chided for
the timidity of their vision and mindless escapism of their output.

 
 

The first director is Louis Malle, whose documentary series, Phantom India, examined some indisputable truths about so much of Indian life. The second is
Danny Boyle, whose Slumdog Millionaire takes some of the same truths, dramatises and exaggerates them inside a fantastical story — which slum boy is going
to jump into an oozing latrine, even for the autograph of Amitabh Bachchan? — set to Bollywood melodies. Something has happened in the years between these
films, to western as well as to Indian sensibilities. The reasons are complicated, but perhaps the main ones are that Indian society is a thousand times
more confident, that the word "vulgar" has vanished from the critical lexicon, and that the world has grown very small.

 
 

India has always had a difficult relationship with its easily observable poverty. Thirty years ago, the government's PR departments would express a sullen
disappointment that foreign writers were so "obsessed" by it. Its depiction abroad was seen, with just a little justice, as a plot against national ambition.

 
 

In the 1920s, the American writer Katherine Mayo had been helped by the British administration to research a book, Mother India, which demonstrated how
unfit India was for self-government. Child marriages, hopeless sanitary habits. Mahatma Gandhi famously described it as "the report of a drain inspector,"
but while it may have been inspired as a work of imperial propaganda, many of its facts were true.

 
 

In the 1960s, another foreigner, V.S. Naipaul, made squalor more vivid. His Indian ancestry offered no protection against unpopularity. Indians stood accused
of selling the country short. Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali put Indian cinema on the map and is now considered a monument to humanism. But in 1955 its
account of an impoverished family in Bengal drew a hostile response in some government circles and Ray was accused of "exporting poverty."

 
 

The same charge is now levelled against Boyle. His "poverty porn" is damaging the image of a country on the brink of becoming a superpower. So far as I
can tell, that's a minority opinion. Bachchan, the great Bollywood star, made some mild remarks implying that the world took notice of Indian cinema only
when a foreigner hijacked its techniques, and he was widely condemned for what was taken to be spite. Fewer people now believe that a single film can represent
the Indian generality — supposing such a thing exists — to a foreign audience, who knows, or should know, of India's tremendous variety and compelling
social change. And there are now so many ways to know — mass tourism, business travel, the web, hundreds of satellite channels. And anyway, who cares?
It's only a film, and not a serious one at that, dealing as it does in the bestselling cliches of the Mumbai film industry. Poor man makes good, finds
lost love, gets rich, lives happily ever after. The more interesting question is: whom do we trust to best describe the experience of the poor? Ideally,
the answer should be the poor themselves, but even in much more equal societies than India's that has always been a rarity. Dickens spent some of his childhood
in a blacking factory, D.H. Lawrence's dad worked down the pit, but usually descriptions of the poor come from higher social castes. Writing is essentially
a middle-class activity for a middle-class audience. In India, very few accounts of poverty have come from the people who know what it means. Literacy,
opportunity, time, inclination: these are formidable barriers. Almost every Indian novel heard of in Britain has come from the Anglophone elite.

 
 

The author of Slumdog is no exception. The film was adapted from a first novel called Q&A (now retitled as a film tie-in) by Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat.
This week I met him at the Jaipur Literary Festival, where he was one of the week's big events. Schoolgirls queued to get his signature, displaying all
the grave and intelligent deference ("Thank you, sir, please put 'To Priya'") that will one day be put to use ruling the world. He was modest and polite.
In the evening, among the large audience gathered on the lawn to hear him speak, a deferential questioner asked, "Sir, you have become a very famous writer.
Many of us wish to write. Can you tell us, sir, how you did it?" And Swarup replied that he just sat down and wrote, and if he could do it, anybody could.

 
 

He was born into a distinguished legal family and entered the foreign service in 1986. He had no great ambition to be a writer. What struck me was his immense
practicality. He grew up enjoying James Hadley Chase and Alistair Maclean and ignored India's fashionable new generation of novelists until his early forties.
They were all very "literary." He had spotted a gap in the market. He would write an Indian thriller.

 
 

While posted in London, he was intrigued by the story of the British Major Charles Ingram convicted of cheating his way to the top prize in the U.K. version
of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He sat down to write. Several agents turned him down, but one took him up. The novel was finished quickly — "20,000 words
in one weekend," he said. And a year before it was published, there were rejections here, too, the film rights had been bought. Five years later, it has
been translated into 36 languages.

 
 

Swarup has never been inside a Mumbai slum, but poverty in India was impossible to ignore. "The brown arm snakes through your car's open window and asks
you for alms," he said. "No man is an island in India." This contradicts my own experience. Many people are islands, joined in an archipelago of social
position. Becoming island-like offers you best hope of enduring sights that seem impossible to alter, and prevailing against the consequent despair.

 
 

Still, even as I write that sentence I see in it an old-fashioned attitude, dating from the time when India was filled with conversations about what could
be done, when the poor were fretted over and documentarians such as Malle put anger into their work. Much good did it do. As objects of pity, the poor
were one-dimensional. Swarup and Boyle show instead what they call the triumphant human spirit of the slums, and there are now trips around Dharavi, the
Slumdog slum, to show tourists that feistiness at work. It certainly shows they are human, as imperfect as us, but could it be that our new approach also
reveals self-interested pragmatism? Some facts can't be changed. The poor will always be with us, and we may as well make the best of them.

 
 

Related links
Golden Globes for Slumdog Millionaire - Photos
We have been waiting for this for 80 years: A.R. Rahman
3 Oscar nominations for Rahman
Rahman and the Oscar

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One year harmonium playing certificate course

From the academic session 2008-09, a new certificate course on harmonium playing has been initiated by the department of Music, M. D. University, Rohtak, Haryana. This course has been designed by the former Head and famous Sitar maestro Dr. Ravi Sharma. The main idea behind this course was to give the graduating Sitar students an opportunity to learn the technique of harmonium playing. As we are aware that harmonium playing is considered essential for the school teachers.

Previously in the private schools the appointment of the sitar graduates has always been doubtful as they had no knowledge of harmonium playing. This course provides an equal opportunity for the students of sitar to try their luck for the post of school teachers.

The duration of the course is one year consisting of two papers of a hundred marks each one theory one practical. Not only the sitar graduates but any body who has passed 10+2 from an appropriate school/board is entitled for this course. The forms are available at a reasonableprice.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Smt. Radhika & Shri Rajnarayan

Exploring Musical Creativity: Digital Veena

First of all, at the very outset, let me tell you that there is no musical instrument in the name of Veena. There are different kinds of Veenas. For instance, Rudraveena, Vichitraveena etc in Hindustani music and Saraswativeena, in the South Indian music. What I mean to clarify that Veena is a specific group of musical instruments. Thus, when we talk of the Veena, it denotes a specific category of musical instruments. After this initial clarification, now I can address the main issue regarding the Veena.

Veena has a very ancient and rich traditional heritage. References of this musical instruments are available from the very beginning of history of Indian music. In the Vedic literature as well as in the ancient works of music, Veena has been refered to at the numerous places. In the ancient times, there were different kinds of Veenas. Some musicologists are of the view that Veena was the common noun for musical instruments. At least this can be agreed upon without any reasonable doubts that Veena was the common noun for all the stringed musical instruments.

There are many myths related to this instrument. However, in this essay, it is not my objective to elaborate upon those stories. My purpose behind telling all this is that I wish to establish this fact that Veena has been and is a very important musical instruments as far as the Indian music is concerned.

But now-a-days, the instrument which we call Veena is in great trouble. It is on the verge of being extinguished. There are many factors which are responsible for the unpopularity of this potential instrument. Its enormous size is the apparently is the first and the foremost challenge. Difficulty in transportation, problem in acclimatization etc are some other problems which have contributed to its present state.keeping in view all the hinderances and difficulties which are making Veena impopular, Smt. Radhika and Shri Rajnarayan experimented with the technology and came up with a very encouraging solution. Here let me tell you that Smt. Radhika is an exponent of Karnatik Veena. She is the artiste wife of Shri Rajnarayan. When she faced the problems which all the exponents of Veena have to, her husband Shri Rajnarayan came to her pursuit. It is also note worthy that Shri Rajnarayan is engaged in giving a new shape to Indian musical instruments since around1976. He has come up with the electronic versions of Tabla, Tamboora, Swaramandal etc. He has floated a company to manufacture electronic musical instruments. This company is called, "Radel electronics Pvt. Ltd." It is based in Bangalore Karnataka. Therefore, he decided to make an electronic version of Veena too. His scientific temper alongwith the artistic outlook of his better half, made it possible for all the Karnatik style Veena exponents that now they can play Veena without any difficulties. The new electronic Veena is easy to tune, easy to move from one place to another, easy to adjust to the magnitude of the tonal quality and there are many more feature which make this musical instruments much better than its traditional counterpart.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time of the underdog

The Hindu Editorial Page

 
 

Admirers of good cinema everywhere will be delighted with the triumph of British director Danny Boyle's film Slumdog Millionaire at the Golden Globe Awards,
putting it in sight of the Oscars. But it has a special meaning for Indians, particularly much-maligned Bollywood. For although the film was a British
entry with a British actor of Indian origin playing the hero, it is essentially an Indian product — based on a novel by an Indian, co-prod uced by an Indian,
and filmed in India with an Indian cast. The icing on the cake is of course A.R. Rahman's music, one of the four categories in which the film was honoured.
By winning four Globes (for best film, best musical score, best director, and the best screenplay) against some serious competition, the film took its
own creators, including screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy, by surprise. Such overwhelming recognition of the quality of Slumdog Millionaire by some of the
world's most influential critics (Golden Globe awards are given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) is no doubt a huge achievement for the team
behind the film. But it is also a triumph of meaningful cinema: an affirmation that good movies are truly global.

 
 

On the face of it Slumdog Millionaire, adapted from Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A, is the story of the struggle of an orphan boy from the slums of Mumbai who
ends up winning the top prize in the Indian version of the television show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" But Mr. Boyle uses the simple rags-to-riches
Bollywood formula to explore the reality of modern India — the helplessness of India's teeming poor, the horrors of child exploitation, communal violence,
and widespread cynicism and apathy. The film has been praised for its 'Dickensian' portrayal of modern India. Critics familiar with Mr. Doyle's work have
called it his best work so far. He rips through the dark underbelly of a 'shining India' much the same way Aravind Adiga did it in his wonderful Booker-winning
novel The White Tiger. The difference, though, is that for all its hard-edged grittiness, Slumdog Millionaire is punctuated by dollops of hope — a socialist-style
belief in a new dawn. Mr. Boyle is able to detect humour and optimism even in the depths of gloom without appearing to romanticise poverty. He is also
not coy about using elements of popular cinema to make the film accessible, which makes it work at the level of entertainment as well as serious social
comment. The global economy may be in terrible shape, hurting hundreds of millions of people, but in the creative realm it's been a good time for the underdog.

 
 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Appreciation of arts

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started
to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played
six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time,
since it was rush hour, it was calculated that a thousand
people went through the station, most of them on their way
to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there
was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a
few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar
tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without
stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to
listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started
to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy.
His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to
look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and
the child continued to walk turning his head all the time.
This action was repeated by several other children. All the
parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people
stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but
continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When
he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed
it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of
the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most
intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5
million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold
out at a theatre in Boston and the seats average $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the
metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part
of a social experiment about perception, taste and
priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace
environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in
an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could
be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the
best musicians in the world playing the best music ever
written, how many other things are we missing?

(Read the original article in the Washington Post web site. Link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/ article/2007/ 04/04/AR20070404 01721.html