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.
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.