A Journey with Kumar Shahani

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Andolan, Gamaka, Kan-Swar or Gitkari, Meend or Murki: the Alankars are multiple in types, and innumerable in practice. Each melody acquires its ornament, each note, its body. Alankar, a term for aesthetics in the Indian arts, is the adornment, the embellishment, the process that reveals the beautiful from within – the inherent beauty. Fascinating paradox: the Alankar is wilfully produced, coming above and beyond the theme, but it only enhances a beauty already proper to the art. Alankar permits beauty before the accompaniment – Alankar recalls how the inner light is still shining.

Eddin Khoo: Puppetry as a Paradigm of Continuity

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Puppetry, a paradigm of continuity. Why? Opening the PRISM Lecture Series 2014 on Cultural Continuum with Malaysian cultural conservationist Eddin Khoo was a hint at the ambitious spatial and temporal scope of the debate. South East Asia is a cultural crossroad, echoing the multiplicity inherent in Indian traditions, and, in fact, often genealogically related to them. But, the spread of Sanskrit as the lingua franca of literature and the arts around the turn of the first millennium, or the simultaneous spread of Hinduism and Buddhism, should not reduce the region to a mere offspring of Indian cultures. What makes South East Asian culture, then? What is Malaysian culture? Eddin Khoo recalls the interrogation he offers to initiate with his students. “What is the Malay identity?” The only available answers are constitutional. Never cultural. A unified, common cultural history cannot easily be found. And it is precisely through culture, and through the multiplicity of cultures, that the concept of identity can be questioned. Through culture, the ubiquitous starting point of today’s political climates can be shaken.

Sadanand Menon: State of Arts Institutions in India

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Sadanand Menon provocatively opened a puzzle box for us, while speaking of the state of arts institutions in the country. Some of us are still reflecting on the tensions he articulated. Sadanand began with a reflexive question, ‘what makes me a part of the moribund arts bodies of the State?’. A brilliantly layered lecture followed, focused on the dangers involved in the political construction of various cultural fields – forms as well as institutions – promoting a homogenized the idea of national culture. The measures to ‘protect’ the country’s unity in diversity, paradoxically result in the erasure of the voice of the conflicts integral to creative expressions, and in turn send all diversities into exile from the ‘united nation’ of the arts. This ultimately results in the establishment of a machinery that continues the customary without confronting the radical; it regulates people’s spontaneity, weakens institutions from within, and abdicates all forward-looking perspectives.

SALMA: Inspiring Minds l The Many Tongues of Poetry

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It was heartening to see a full house in early evening in Delhi; people from all walks of life… From this event, we will definitely cherish and keep warmly in our memories the translators’ meet, with Anamika (Hindi), Roomy Naqvy (Gujarati), Rabiul Islam (Ahomiya), Himanjali Sankar (Bangla), Kaif Ali Taqvi (Urdu), along with Salma herself. Nivedita Kalarikkal, who did a sensitive Malayalam translation of Salma, unfortunately could not join us as she fell ill, but Satchin Joseph Koshy of LILA represented her. As the translators had to work on the basis of Rizio Yohannan Raj’s English translation, this was also a good chance for the translators to exchange notes, and observe the possibilities of translation among different Indian languages.