Archive for July 7, 2013

To sum it up …………..

Teachings Of Masters

    Purify your heart through selfless service,
    Be devoted to the Lord and obtain his grace,
    Through japa (repetition of God’s name), kirtan (chanting), prayer and self-surrender.
    Practise asanas (postures), pranayama (yoga breathing), etc.
    Abandon egoism, desire, anger and greed.
    Control all the senses.
    Cultivate discrimination and dispassion.
    Practise the four means.
    Hear the srutis (scriptures).
    Reflect and meditate ceaselessly.
    You will attain Self-realisation.
    – Swami Sivananda

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    You can choose. –

    You can choose between blue cloth and red cloth, and that is about all   Your life is shaped, controlled by the society which you have created. You have created the wars, the leaders; you have created the organized religions of which you are now slaves. So your life is predetermined. And to be free, you must first be aware that your life is predetermined, that it is conditioned, that all your responses are more or less the same as those of everybody else throughout the world. Superficially your responses may be different; you may respond one way here, another way in India or in China, and so on, but fundamentally you are held in the framework of your particular conditioning, and you are never an individual. Therefore it is absurd to talk about freedom and self-determination. You can choose between blue cloth and red cloth, and that is about all; your freedom is on that level. If you go into it very deeply, you will find that you are not an individual at all.But in going into it very deeply, you will also find that you can be free from all this conditioning -as a German, as a Catholic, as a Hindu, as a believer or a nonbeliever. You can be free from it all. Then you will know what it is to have an innocent mind, and it is only such a mind that can find out what is truth. – Jiddu Krishnamurti,Hamburg 1956,Talk 4

    Let’s dance – The Hindu. Excerpt

     In a city where Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music are often the preserve of the privileged, Kalakshetra serves as a counterpoint, offering a life-altering experience to its students, many of whom come from deprived backgrounds

    “Have you eaten, akka ?” Kali asks politely, before picking up a stainless steel plate and helping himself to a dosa . He’s a third-year dance student, and his journey from Kovalam (a fishing village on the outskirts of Chennai) to Kalakshetra has been the stuff of dreams. V. Kali never imagined that he would, one day, learn dance at this premier dance institute, much less chit-chat over dosa and coffee with dancers from Russia and France. …………………………………But he’s been dancing since he was in Std. II. “I thought I was dancing Bharatanatyam,” he laughs. He couldn’t have known, as there was no money for dance lessons. Kali’s father died when he was six-months-old; his mother, a coolie, raised him and his three sisters. Kali, in fact, had never heard of Kalakshetra until his sponsor, Tara Chand, saw him dancing for the inauguration of the ‘Tsunami Kuzhandai Valarchi Maiyam’ in Kovalam. Recognising his talent, she brought him to Kalakshetra, where he got an admission and, from the second year, a scholarship. “If I hadn’t come here, I would’ve had to go to work.”

    Except, Kalakshetra itself was hard work. “The first year, my body ached from dancing; I cried, but I was also keen to learn. Teachers and friends helped. They taught me how to walk, talk, and dress. You know, I spoke no English when I came here, and I was very shy to speak up. Now, I can!” he says in a mix of English and Tamil. Dressed in a striped kurta , his wavy hair smartly cropped, Kali tells me about visiting home every other Saturday to see his mother. “She’s very soft. I want to earn money and look after her. And I want to choreograph; I want to go abroad…”

    Outside the 100-acre campus, established by Rukmini Devi Arundale, Kali’s dream might remain one; after all, Chennai’s classical dance and music scene, besides being fiercely competitive, is often seen as the preserve of the moneyed and/or the understudy of the famous. Classes are dominated by the upwardly mobile, often hailing from communities steeped in the classical arts; and many of the budding artists are privately tutored and personally groomed. But here, Kali stands a fighting chance — and all that’s demanded of him is commitment, a willingness to work hard and of course, a passion for the arts.

    “Rukmini Devi laid the foundation for a very democratic access to arts, cutting across economic strata and communities not normally associated with arts,” says Karunakaran Menon, Director-in-charge, Kalakshetra. “Where else but Kalakshetra,” he asks, “do you find a boy from a fishing village, a labourer’s son and a Mexican dancing to the same Sankarabaranam varnam , side-by-side?”

    Founded in Adayar (inside the Theosophical Society) in 1936, Kalakshetra moved to the current location in Thiruvanmiyur in 1962 and has since garnered for itself the reputation of one of India’s premier dance schools. (Besides dance, music and arts are offered at the Diploma level.) Overseas students add to its cosmopolitan character, and its alumni today teach in every corner of the world. Together, they inspire the next generation, especially aspiring male dancers; only, not many are from Tamil Nadu.

    If numbers are anything to go by, small-town Tamil Nadu isn’t sending (to Kalakshetra) as many dancers or musicians as Kerala; an irony, given that the art forms originated in the state. Several reasons are cited for these skewed numbers, among them, Tamil Nadu’s penchant for professional degrees, and the arts seen as something worthy of being pursued only part-time. “Moreover, Tamil Nadu has several government music colleges. But those who can afford it opt for private lessons anyway,” says musician Sai Sankar, former student of Kalakshetra and a teacher here since 1986.

    Classical dance is, moreover, not perceived as aspirational enough. Tamilselvan M., a first year dance student, faced stiff opposition from his family when he left his job (as draughtsman) and joined Kalakshetra. His decision meant that the family was once again dependent on his father’s income as a security guard. With no knowledge of dance or music, they resented him — a potential breadwinner — choosing dance over a career. “But my friends are sponsoring my fees. Even if I earn one rupee from dance, it will give me more happiness than what I earn being a draughtsman,” he says.

    But for Keralite brothers, Kailasanathan and Geethanadhan, studying at Kalakshetra was a childhood dream; one that their parents encouraged. Hailing from Kannur, the family has some connection with the arts (their father, a carpenter by profession, also dabbles in theatre). But it was the famous alumni from the region — Dhananjayan, Janardhanan and, more recently, Shijith Nambiar — who inspired them, even as children, to tell everybody they were going to be dancers.“Kalakshetra’s male dancers are very famous for their bani (style); men, here, dance like men. Naturally, we want to be performers, but we also have to teach; only then we will earn money,” they say, pragmatically.It is the same pragmatism that Venugopal K. echoes. Speaking in Malayalam — laced with Tamil for my benefit — the young, slim student says he’s very keen to be a performer. “But you can be a full-time performer, only if you’re from a rich family. Jeevika kaasu venum illaya, akka (you need money to live, isn’t it sister?),” he says simply.Photos: R. PRASANA

    There are plenty of job opportunities for Kalakshetra students, especially in private institutions in Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Government jobs, unfortunately, elude them as the students are only diploma holders — and not graduates — when they complete the four-year programme). Sunitha E. is waiting to take up one such job in Ooty. She needs to work and send money home to repay the loan taken for her sister’s wedding. “But the four years here have been great! I’ve learnt English. I’ve made good friends, and I’ve even forgotten non-veg food!”

    ……………………………Walking past the airy classrooms, we reach the big banyan tree; under its enormous canopy, students sit cross-legged, on floor mats; teachers sit in a semi-circle, on a raised platform; among them isGuru A. Janardhanan, former Principal of Kalakshetra, who trained under Rukmini Devi. The assembly begins right after the bell. A tanpura sets the pitch, crows caw in accompaniment, and voices rise in prayer and song.

    Mohammad Rashan is standing on the second row, a little to the left of the Ganesha idol under the tree. He sings the praise of Goddess Saraswathi, with his eyes closed, hands raised, palms facing the sky. He’s from Kurunagale, Sri Lanka, where his father works as a mechanic. Rashan had previously trained in Kandian dance; here, he’s learning Bharatanatyam, but his family is not aware of that. What do they think he’s up to? “Costume designing,” he says, his cheeks dimpling as he smiles. “My mother’s family is very orthodox — some think dance and music is haraam ; they will not accept dancing as a career.” But Rashan wants to follow his religion as well as his passion. “I do namaaz five times a day, I fast during Ramzaan and I also want to dance. Now, I will go to Colombo and start a dance school,” he says, a little unsure how his six siblings will receive the news…

    There’s clapping under the Banyan tree, whose stout roots are etched with names of past students. Janardhanan is distributing certificates for the prize-winners of the past year. Sai Komala, third-year music student, is awarded a certificate for the highest percentage of attendance for her year. The great granddaughter of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Aiyangar, her journey to Kalakshetra was neither easy nor straightforward. She had no parental support, and lived in an orphanage before coming here. “When I saw this campus, I really liked it. At the orphanage, they asked me to go the Government Music College. I insisted on coming here, as the teaching is better”.

    Devi. P, a first-year PG dance student is here for the same reason. “When I told my mother — a cook in a doctor’s house in Tiruvannamalai — that I wanted to pursue dance, she asked me to learn in Tiruvannamalai itself”. As the only parent (Devi’s father died years ago), with a son working as a lorry cleaner, her mother felt Kalakshetra was out of their reach. “But it’s precisely for candidates like her that Rukmini Devi introduced scholarships,” says Janardhanan. “She felt poverty should not stop you from learning the arts”. “And I want to, in turn, inspire students from small town Tamil Nadu to take up dancing”.

    The infrastructure at Kalakshetra is clearly a boon for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. For many here, routine visits to the sabhas — to listen to a Carnatic recital or watch a dance-drama — wasn’t part of their childhood. “But their challenges are not very different from the ones that foreign students face. To ramp up, they practise with their classmates, before and after their lessons. There are no restrictions on hostel timings. The talented and hardworking children show great progress, and catch up with their peers by the second year!” says Sai Sankar.

    …………………………………..“Rukmini Devi envisioned this years ago — art touching and transforming lives — long before we used words like ‘cultural exchange and outreach programmes’,” says Menon. Indeed, Kalakshetra, the institution she founded, teaches one to live with the arts.

      Loss and loneliness – The HinduExcerpt

    The poetry of cinema can teach one to care deeply.

      …………..Some of those Indian films which best spoke on those eternal themes of enduring art: love, loss, loneliness and longing.

    It is more than 30 years since I first watched Aparna Sen’s sensitive and observant 36 Chowringhee Lane , but I still feel a twinge of grief at the thoughtless betrayal of the lonely, ageing Anglo-Indian school teacher, played to perfection by Jennifer Kendal. Unmarried, her brother is senile and confined to a nursing home, and her friends are slowly dying around her. Her secluded life lights up after a chance encounter with her old student and her boyfriend. They visit her often and fill her home with youth and laughter, and she believes they are her friends. But their only interest in the old teacher is to use her flat for lovemaking when she is away at work. Her eventual discovery of how they used her, her heartbreak and dignity long haunt the viewer.

    One of the most aesthetically accomplished Hindi films of all times is Abrar Alvi’s Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam (Master, Wife and Servant). Set at the turn of the last century, it maps the hopeless and ultimately tragic rebellion of a woman, memorably played by Meena Kumari, married into a decadent feudal household. Unwilling to accept the traditional station of a landlord’s wife, she feels humiliated by her husband’s drunken nights spent in the company of courtesans. She demands respect. In a desperate bid to attract him, she even takes to drinking alcohol like the dancing girls. But he scorns and spurns her, and she ultimately slips into a melancholy alcoholism. As the years pass, and the fortunes of the decaying feudal household crumble, she cannot shed her craving for liquor, and the family ultimately has her killed. In her tortured discontent, we observe the incipient stirrings of feminism, even though her revolt is not against men’s domination as much as their disrespect; and her defeat in achieving a measure of dignity in her marriage destroys her.

    (Clockwise from top) Stills from ‘Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam’, ‘Mathilukal’ and ‘Apur Sansar’. (Below) Nutan in ‘Bandini’.

    A similar lingering melancholy pervades Ritwick Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara (A Star Covered by a Cloud). Sombre and poetic, it describes the fortunes of a young woman in a refugee family in Kolkata from East Pakistan impoverished by the Partition. She supports her family in their penury and hardship, but is cynically used by each of them, unmindful even as she sacrifices her own happiness and dreams. The protagonist’s aching longing is denied by her own goodness and her exploitation by those she most loved. In the haunting final sequence, as she lies dying of tuberculosis, she cries out to her brother: “I want to live”, words that became embedded in the hearts of a whole generation in Bengal to symbolise our doomed yearning for all that we have lost.

    ……………………..A much lesser known film, but one close to my heart, is Jahnu Barua’s Konikar Ramdhenu (Ride on The Rainbow). It depicts stolen childhoods in a juvenile home for children in conflict with law. A young boy escapes the violence of his alcoholic stepfather to work in a garage in Guwahati. But the garage owner tries to sexually assault him, and the boy hits him with a rod on his head which kills him instantly. The cold, loveless abuse of the juvenile home in which he is incarcerated is powerfully recreated, relieved only by the kindness of the superintendent.

    These themes of loss and loneliness are most exquisitely evoked in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar (Apu’s World).

    Bimal Roy’s lyrical last film Bandini (Imprisoned

    ………………..The wistful longing, the pain and humanity of many of these films became part of my own growing years. I learned from them the poetry of cinema; I suffered with their protagonists; but maybe they also taught me to care more deeply.

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