VOL 25 NO. 7 OCTOBER 2011
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INDIA THIS MONTH
October 27-November 5 Phoolwalon ki Sair The festival traces its origins to 1812. Large floral fans are offered at a temple and a dargah (Sufi shrine) by both Hindus and Muslims. On the sidelines are music and dance performances. Where: Mehrauli, Delhi
November 5-9 Puri Beach Festival Activities range from classical dance and folk dance performances, handicraft and food festivals, fashion shows, sand sculptures, concerts to energetic beach parties. Where: Puri Beach, Orissa
November 9-13 Nadasurabhi Annual Festival A series of seven concerts for Carnatic music buffs. One can listen to percussion intruments like the mridangam and ghatam as well as the violin. Leading vocalists will also perform. Where: St. John’s Auditorium, Koramangala, Bengaluru
November 11-12 100 Drums Wangala Festival It is the annual harvest festival of the people of Meghalaya. A thanksgiving to the god of fertility, Saljong, it is held in the Siju Caves. Where: Garo Hills, Meghalaya
November 17-19 Hay Festival Kerala Launched last year by Hay Festivals, best known for its festival in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, it will bring together authors from India and abroad. Where: Kanakakunnu Palace, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
November 6-9 Pushkar Camel Fair One of the largest camel fairs in the world. Among its attractions are a camel race, turban tying contest and stalls selling local handicrafts. It draws tourists from all over the world. Where: Pushkar Village, Rajasthan
November 10-17 Kolkata Film Festival This is the second-oldest international film festival in India. Movies selected from the best of world cinema are screened in various categories — documentaries, short films and feature films. Where: Nandan West Bengal Film Centre, Kolkata
November 18-20 Mumbai Wine Fest The largest wine-tasting festival in India, now in its third year. Where: The Pier, Radio Club, Colaba
ndians, wherever in the world they may be, know the story of the Ramayana. The ancient epic has been told and retold for every age and in most Indian languages. It is a muchloved tale that can be enjoyed at many levels. Perhaps, this is why it is popular even beyond Indian shores, in Nepal, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Maldives, among other countries. In fact, over 300 variants of this Sanskrit epic have been identified. Children hear it from their grandmothers as a tale of victory of good over evil, of how Rama vanquished the demon king Ravana. For adults and academics it is a text that provides insights into Indian culture and society in times gone by. It portrays relationships and duties, and characters like the obedient son, the adoring mother, the ideal wife, the devoted brother, the faithful follower and more. It is part allegory, part a treatise on statecraft, a discourse on philosophy and, most importantly, a hymn to one of Hinduism’s most loved gods, Rama. The Ramayana has had an impact on art, temple architecture, dance and storytelling traditions, literature and society in large parts of South Asia and South-East Asia. This month, Indians in India and around the world are celebrating two festivals linked to this great epic. One of them, Dussehra, marks the day Ravana was slain by Rama and the other, Diwali or the Festival of Lights, commemorates the return of Rama to Ayodhya, his kingdom, after his victory over Ravana. In this issue we bring you a photo feature that summarises the story of the Ramayana. Renowned dancers Raja and Radha Reddy, along with their troupe, enact the epic and capture its essence and simplicity. October is, also, when the Goddess Durga is venerated, especially in the east of India. Beautifully adorned idols of the Goddess are installed in public places as well as private homes. At the end of the nine-day festival, the idols are taken in procession and immersed in water. Though, the festival is a Hindu one, it is a carnival celebrated by people irrespective of religious beliefs. Feasting, shopping and visiting friends and family are an integral part of the festival. In this issue, Hindi film actor, Raima Sen, recalls how gaiety and colour take over Kolkata, a place she calls home, during the festival. Another important date this month is Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, which falls on October 2. The day is a national holiday and is designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence. To mark the day, Lord Meghnad Desai analyses the legacy of Gandhiji. Also, we take you on a tour of some museums where the Mahatma’s memories are preserved for generations present and future. Best wishes to all of you during this festive season.
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
PERSPECTIVES October 2011 VOL 25 No. 7/2011
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RAMAYANA: AN EPIC SAGA Dussehra marks the day Rama killed the demon king, Ravana. Kuchipudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy enact the scenes leading to the slaying of Ravana.
COVER PHOTO: AN ARTIST GIVING FINAL TOUCHES TO AN IDOL OF GODDESS DURGA PHOTOGRAPH: DINODIA IMAGES / COVER DESIGN: BIPIN KUMAR
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
A SIMPLE MAN FROM INDIA CONTINUES TO INFLUENCE THE WORLD
ME G HNAD DE SAI
hat is it about Gandhi that still fascinates the world? Sixty-three years after his death, books still pour out at regular intervals exploring his life and personality. People are supposed to be shocked by revelations about his life. But as always we find that there is nothing any one can expose about Gandhi which he has not already put down in writing with brutal honesty. In terms of frankness about private life, Mahatma Gandhi breached the outer limits of possibility. Yet if the President of the United States, Barack Obama, wants him as his dinner guest — hoping of course that that is not one of Gandhi’s fast days or worse yet one of his silent days, then Gandhiji must have 21st century appeal. He was chosen as one of the three most influential persons by TIME magazine on its 20th century issue along with former President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and physicist Albert Einstein. He must have something timeless in his appeal.
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Of course what makes Gandhi perpetually relevant is his ability to make people fearless in the presence of superior force. Most importantly, he did this for men and women equally thus removing the very idea that bravery or fearlessness were intrinsically male endowments. He was the first major political leader to treat women equally as men. He was a pioneer of the Gender Revolution. In Tahrir Square or in Tunis, the people who defied the Army were Gandhi’s students. We also saw for the first time women coming out with men practising the Gandhian methods of struggle. The greatest thing he did was to make people fearless against the forces of power and authority. He taught ordinary people not to fear armed adversaries. This lesson has been learnt in Tahrir Square and in Tunis; it is still being used in Bahrain and Yemen and even during the bloody confrontations in Syria. Gandhi armed the unarmed masses with courage. It does not matter whether the oppressed are
A MAN BORN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY, AT THE HEIGHT OF THE VICTORIAN ERA, STILL HAS RELEVANCE A CENTURY-AND-A-HALF LATER. THE SECRET HAS TO BE HIS SIMPLE AND TRANSPARENT HUMANITY.
President of the United States
Former President of South Africa
“We in South Africa owe much to the presence of Gandhi in our midst for 21 years. His influence was felt in our freedom struggles throughout the African continent for a good part of the 20th century. He greatly inspired the struggle in South Africa led by the African National Congress.”
“Mahatma Gandhi was our torchbearer without whose guidance the history of our struggle for freedom and national independence would have taken a different course.”
“…I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office…”
—IN AN INTERVIEW TO INDIA ABROAD
KENNETH KAUNADA Former President of Zambia
“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force...” —IN HIS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
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MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement
larger in number than their oppressors or whether they are different people. The poor and oppressed are always many and their oppressors are always few. It was this lesson that Martin Luther King Jr. absorbed from his study of Gandhi’s works and deeds. In this context, the African-Americans were a minority in the USA. Faced not so much with alien power but fellow Americans in whose presence the Black people felt deprived and alien, he used his Christian faith and Gandhian techniques of unarmed and peaceful struggle to shame those who wielded power and overstepped human limits. I well recall those summers in the early 1960s, while I was in America as a student on the East Coast and a recent graduate working on the West Coast, how patiently the civil rights marchers faced the highway patrols and the National Guard arraigned against them. It was when the adversary saw their wish to resist change they inflicted damage and often that damage was on their own neighbours and fellow citizens. This was what shamed them. Satyagraha — the insistence on truth — works by revealing to the oppressor the truth of his situation which is exposed by the nonresistance of the oppressed. It was this demonstration which so moved Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas Senator, who became President after John Kennedy’s death, that he had to give up his past prejudices and join hands with the Civil Rights Movement to bring justice to the Black people. If Barrack Obama is President of USA today it is because a Texas-born President was moved to say on national television, “we shall overcome”. The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa was never fully non-violent but when the final settlement came it was Nelson Mandela’s long reflections in Robben Island which brought him to the path of peaceful reconciliation for
constructing post-apartheid South Africa. The armed struggle that the African National Congress (ANC) had waged had its own limits against a powerful white minority bolstered by the exigencies of the Cold War. But again when the end came, it was the world outside South Africa which joined in many forms of boycott and peaceful demonstrations against the South African regime – the peaceful force of the many round the world which turned the tide. By the 1980s, the Civil Rights Movement in America had resulted in a powerful, tough small presence of Black legislators which compelled the US Congress to initiate peaceful action against apartheid. Thus Mandela benefited from Gandhi via Martin Luther King Jr. and ANC’s struggle became a global peaceful struggle against apartheid. That said, there are many other aspects of Gandhi’s philosophy and lifestyle which has widespread appeal to particular groups of people. His wish to be frugal in his demands on the natural ecosystem, in his food and clothing and other aspects of daily life has attracted much admiration. He has become a hero for the Green Movement. There are those who are persuaded by his vegetarianism either for reasons of avoiding harm to animals or just for health reasons. Gandhi is a lifestyle statement for many today. A man born in the middle of the 19th century, at the height of the Victorian era, still has relevance a century-anda-half later. The secret has to be his simple and transparent humanity. Gandhi is every person who has ever suffered and fought back, who has needed courage and found it within himself or herself. He is a man for all times. —Lord Meghnad Desai is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. His latest book is The Rediscovery of India (Penguin).
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
treasures Museums across the country are rich repositories of memorabilia TEXT: MALVIKA KAUL
ohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi, led India towards freedom and spirituality in a way that his principles are followed even today. No wonder, museums across India are dedicated to the ‘Father of the Nation,’ as he is popularly known, which trace his journey towards freedom and peace. National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi Located near Rajghat or Gandhi Memorial, this museum is stocked with Gandhi’s belongings, rare pictures, letters and books. The photogallery documents Gandhi’s childhood, his years in England, life in South Africa, and his rise as a leader and worker for communal harmony and social justice. Some unforgettable images from South Africa show a young but poised Gandhi confronting the South African police; Gandhi, in a British Army uniform, working as a medical volunteer during the Boer War; and Gandhi, in football gear, playing for the Satyagrahi team. Among the museum’s possessions are the walking stick Gandhi used during the Dandi March, a pair of spectacles, a pocket watch he always carried and two of his extracted teeth. On view are charkhas (spinning wheels) — from traditional ones to mechanised versions — and yarns, handspun by Gandhi, his wife Kasturba and leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru. Among the exhibits is a statue of three monkeys (a gift from a Chinese friend). Familiar to most Indians, one of the monkeys has his ears covered, another his eyes and third his mouth; the message is hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. The Mahatma’s bloodstained shawl, one of the bullets that pierced his heart on January 30, 1948, and an urn carrying his ashes are the other items on exhibit.
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HOME TO THE MAHATMA: (clockwise from top) Gandhi Ashram, Sabarmati, Ahmedabad; Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, Barrackpore; Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai; and Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
Built on the banks of the Sabarmati River, the Gandhi Ashram, was home to the Mahatma for over a decade. The cottage where he lived has been preserved as it was during his lifetime
Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai It was in Madurai on September 22, 1921, that Gandhi resolved never to wear stitched clothes and gave up his turban, long coat and dhoti. A plaque commemorating this decision greets visitors at the Madurai Railway Station. The museum here is housed in the magnificent Tamukkam Palace. Its library has copies of about 27,000 letters pertaining to Gandhi and a remarkable collection of paintings and sculptures. ‘Fights for Freedom’ gallery has over 265 illustrations depicting the freedom movement. Among the items displayed in the Hall of Relics is the shawl Gandhi wore in London to attend the Second Round Table Conference and the blood-stained dhoti he wore on the day of his assassination. The Mahatma’s ashes are kept at the Peace Park in the museum.
IN LOVING MEMORY : (clockwise from above left) Office of the Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai; Gandhi Ashram, Sabarmati, Ahmedabad; the library at Mani Bhavan, Mumbai; and statues of Gandhi and his wife Kasturba at National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi
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Gandhi Ashram, Sabarmati, Ahmedabad Built on the banks of the River Sabarmati, the Gandhi Ashram was home to the Mahatma for over a decade. A neat little cottage in the centre of the ashram, where Gandhi stayed, has four rooms, including a kitchen. These rooms are kept just as they were 80 years ago during the Mahatma’s lifetime. Also preserved are the Udyog Mandir, a workshop for spinning khadi and Upasana Mandir — a spot under a tree where Gandhi offered morning prayers. Close associates, Vinoba Bhave and Madeleine Slade (renamed Mira by Gandhi), stayed in the spartan Vinoba-Mira Kutir. And the guest house — Nandini — was where many eminent personalities from India and abroad came to absorb the simple life. It is from this ashram that Gandhi launched the Dandi March against the British Salt Law. In 1963, a museum, the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay designed by famous architect Charles Correa, was built adjacent to the ashram. One of the exhibits here is a portrait of Gandhi made with groundnut shells.
Mani Bhavan, Mumbai The most visited spaces in this museum are Gandhi’s room, the library and the terrace where he lived in a tent and from where he was arrested in 1932. Gandhi’s room houses his low desk and spinning wheel. It is in Mani Bhavan that Gandhi learned to use the spinning wheel, started drinking goat’s milk and launched several of his struggles — the non-cooperation movement, the Swadeshi movement and the Khilafat movement. On display are his passport issued in 1931, his eye test report and an identification chart describing the marks on his body and his exact height. Martin Luther King Jr., who visited Mani Bhavan in 1959, was so taken by the place that he cancelled his hotel reservations and decided to stay where the Mahatma did. Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, Barrackpore Around 25km from Kolkata is a quaint museum that houses a collection of 800 photographs documenting events and aspects of Gandhi’s life. It also has a mural — 81 feet long — depicting different phases of India's freedom struggle. Rich in research material, the museum runs courses and programmes on Gandhi’s philosophy. Here one can browse through the poems on Gandhi written by eminent Bengali poets. Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi The Mahatmai’s last 144 days were spent in a bungalow that is now Gandhi Smriti. The Samiti operates from another campus and runs as an international centre for Gandhian studies. The Smriti building preserves the room where Gandhi lived, exhibiting all his possessions — his spectacles, walking stick, fork and spoon, the rough stone he used as a soap and a copy of the Gita. Visitors can pay homage to the Mahatma at the Martyr’s Column, the exact spot he was assassinated. The Samiti has a treasure trove of photographs, sculptures, paintings, frescos, inscriptions on rocks and relics connected to Gandhi’s life.
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
PHOTO: INDIA PICTURE
NATURE’S BOUNTY: Majuli is considered the largest freshwater river-island in the world
Island of Life
Majuli, Assam’s famous river island, is a world in itself — paddy fields teeming with avian life and forests sheltering a wealth of fauna TEXT: LAURENCE MITCHELL
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t is early morning and a dense fog is engulfing the river to the extent that it is impossible to make out the shoreline of Majuli Island that lies not so very far away from our mooring on the south bank of the Brahmaputra. Majuli is considered the largest freshwater river-island in the world. In this monochrome world, the gloom is only relieved by the cry of herons and the voices of Assamese village women collecting firewood on the shore that cut eerily through the fog as if from another world. The fog eventually clears and Majuli
Island with its sheer, sandy banks and palm trees becomes visible once more. We take a launch across to the island’s Kamalabari Ghat where a four-wheel drive awaits us. Majuli’s susceptibility to flooding and erosion becomes immediately apparent as soon as we set off along the road to Kamalabari village. The road follows a raised bund that stands several metres above the surrounding paddy fields: an attempt to protect transport links from the seasonal flooding that comes with each monsoon.
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
NAVIGATOR GETTING THERE: By Air: Jorhat, the nearest airport, is about 20km. By Train: Jorhat railway station has a daily service to and from Guwahati. By Road: Jorhat has regular bus services to and from Tezpur and Guwahati. The ferry terminal at Nimatighat can be reached by bus or shared taxi from Jorhat. On Majuli Island, buses meet the ferry to continue to Kamalabari and Garamurh villages.
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: (facing page) The Auniati monastery; (clockwise from top) ferries and boats are the chief modes of transport; a bhakta performing satriya dance; a Mishing woman weaving on her flat-weave loom
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The scenery we pass through is gentle and bucolic: a patchwork of small fields, some of which have oxen harrowing and ploughing up the rice stubble. The birdlife is prolific, with lines of white egrets working the freshly turned plough-line, adjutant storks standing sentry as motionless as statues and multi-hued kingfishers diving into fish ponds. Large stands of banana and giant bamboo give evidence to the island’s fertility, as do the water hyacinths that half-choke the fishponds. We are heading towards Auniati Satra, one of the most important of the 20 or so neo-Vaishnavite monasteries found on the island. Majuli’s neo-Vaishnavite Satras were set up in the 15th century in response to a call for a simpler means of worship that discouraged idolatry and the social rigidity of the Hindu caste system. The founder of neo-Vaishnavism, which centres upon Vishnu and his avatar Krishna, was Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1568), an Assamese sage and religious reformer who developed the ritual dance-dramas practiced in the satras. It was one of these classical dances, based on a tale from the Bhagavad Gita that we were going to witness later on. Leaving Auniati monastery behind we head back to Kamalabari village and on to Uttar Kamalabari Satra along a road flanked by silk cotton trees blossoming with brilliant scarlet flowers. At Kamalabari Satra we are led through the monks’ living quarters to the namghar, an airy, central hall that doubles as a ceremonial area for the monastery and an occasional meeting space for the local community. A dozen or so bhaktas or monks arrive, all immaculately groomed, long-haired young men dressed in pristine white robes and turbans. They take
their places cross-legged on the floor with their double-headed drums, and the satriya dance-drama begins. The lengthy and tightly choreographed routine incorporates complex hand, foot, head and eye movements alongside rhythmic drumming. It is a remarkably graceful performance and has been staged throughout India and even overseas. Next day, we return to the island to visit Amguri, a tribal village belonging to the Mishing people. The Mishing are the largest tribal group on the island and make up around 40 per cent of the total population. The villagers are a little less used to visitors than those that live closer to the satras. We are led to a stilted house where a group of women are weaving on flat-weave looms. There is a little coy persuasion to buy some of their handicrafts but it is a far cry from the hard sell experienced in other tourist places in India. A contributory factor towards Majuli’s relatively unspoiled status is down to its isolation. Few tourists currently visit the island and, although sensitive tourism is encouraged, it is a matter of striking the right balance as too many visitors would undoubtedly unhinge what is a thriving but vulnerable culture. Majuli Island’s unique cultural heritage and ecology clearly deserve to be protected. The Indian Government has proposed to nominate Majuli for inclusion in the ‘cultural landscape' category of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage list. The Majuli dossier will be ready by October, to be submitted to the Unesco in February 2012. Perhaps giving Majuli Island the same protection as nearby Kaziranga National Park might go a long way.
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
“Durga Puja meant dance, music and a feast” As October unfolds, the biggest festival of West Bengal, Durga Puja — in honour of the Mother Goddess — is celebrated. Actor Raima Sen recalls the drama and delicacies associated with the ten-day carnival in her hometown, Kolkata
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FRENETIC ACTIVITY: (Left to right) An artisan at work ahead of Durga Puja; a priest offers prayers in front of an idol of the Goddess in a pandal (a temporary structure set up to venerate the gods and goddesses) in New Delhi; and workers carry a large clay idol of Goddess Durga in Kolkata
cotton clouds of autumn, long before the drumsticks strike the dhak (drum) to spark off the revelry, long before Kolkata’s lanes and bylanes turn into a colourful sea of people and a carpet of lights drapes the city, Durga Puja, Bengal’s biggest festival, arrives in its myriad moods. The frenetic activity of idol-makers, the bamboo structures that sprout all over, the shopping spree… Durga Puja was not just about four days of festivities, but also the fun and excitement associated with the plans and preparations that began months ahead. I still cannot escape the heightened sense of anticipation that autumn ushers in. Even now, I look forward to the gifts mom and the others give us. During
Long before the sombre monsoon sky gives way to the
the Pujas, I make it a point to wear something new everyday. When we were in school, we would all go to my friend’s house wearing our little saris or brand new dresses. There was Puja in their building, and we would always be excited about the whole thing —collecting subscriptions, dancing to the music and having a great time. We would also join everyone at the community lunch, bhog, and in the evening, there would be cultural functions. My career has taken me to the other end of the country, and now I end up celebrating Pujas with people from the film world living in Mumbai. We all land up at the famous Mukherjees’ Puja. I usually go with music director Bappi Lahiri’s family. I make it a point to wear the time-honoured yellow sari with its red borders, and join others in serving bhog to the guests as they sit in long rows eating off banana leaves. I love it and it makes me feel very Bengali. However, a little part of me is always tucked away in my hometown — Kolkata. Mumbai tries to re-create that ambience, but it’s never quite the same. The last time I was in Kolkata, I joined my mother (actor Moon Moon Sen) in an immersion procession to the Hooghly river. We were in an open truck with the idol, and went all the way to the ghat. It was such great fun! This year, I may be in Kolkata for Puja — I have missed out the Pujas there for some time — and I am really looking forward to it. Grandma (well-known actor Suchitra Sen), mom and dad are all there, and so are many of the relatives and friends. They all want my sister, Riya, and me to be there during the festival. Although I love the new, I still yearn for the old. Pujas have become commercialised these days... the idols are now made of anything artists can lay their hands on. Some of them are really breathtaking, but I still prefer the traditional clay-and-straw ones. They have a charm of their own.’’
MYRIAD SHADES OF THE FESTIVAL: (Left to right) A devotee blows the conch at a pandal; a woman offers aarti (a ritual of worship) during Vijayadashami, the final day of Puja; and women smear each other with sindoor (vermillion powder) after bidding farewell to the Goddess, in Siliguri, West Bengal
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—As told to Arup Chatterjee
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
AN EPIC SAGA
Dussehra, which falls in October-November, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It marks the day Rama killed the demon king, Ravana. Kuchipudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy enact the scenes leading to the slaying of Ravana TEXT: RAJA RADHA REDDY / PHOTOGRAPHS: RAVI DHINGRA
C A S T
Rama/ Dasharatha: Raja Reddy
Sita: Radha Reddy
Ravana: Rashmi Vaidyalingam
C H A R A C T E R S
he story of Lord Rama is both a spellbinding adventure and a work of profound philosophy, offering answers to life’s deepest questions. It tells of a time when gods and heroes walked amongst us, faced supernatural forces of evil and were guided by powerful mystics and sages. Ramayana is an epic poem that narrates the journey of virtue to annihilate vice. Ram is the hero and ayana, his journey. Ramayana is not just the story or a portrait of Rama. It is the entire saga of Rama, the personification of God. It is also the saga of Sita, the consort of Rama. Hence, effectively, Ramayana is the saga of Rama and Sita. The character of Rama personifies values, and the epic is penned in a lucid manner, thereby lending Ramayana core values and practicality. It depicts the beauty of human existence along with the miseries experienced by man. If Rama personifies eternal love, Sita is the embodiment of compassion. The two pillars of human existence — love and
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Hanuman/ Maarich: Stans
Kaikeyi: Shloka Vaidyalingam
compassion — form the basis of the entire story. The allencompassing balance of the characteristics of Sun and Earth, smell and its manifestation, truth and beauty, lend Ramayana the status of an epic. Life in all its forms is the message embedded in Ramayana and it eulogises the principle of live and let live. The epic occupies a pride of place not only in the Indian way of living, but even in the art of living, worldwide. Every aspect of human life reminds us of some episode in Ramayana, and every person can find parallels in Rama’s life. Equality, compassion and homogeneity are the guiding principles of this great epic. The guiding principle undergoes many upheavals and finally culminates in the ever-beautiful finale with Rama’s accession to the throne. This is the inner meaning of Ramayana and the essence of life’s philosophy. In the following pages, we enact the Ramayana.
Rama, the eldest
son of King Dasharatha, travels to the court of King Janaka along with sage Vishwamitra to participate in the swayamvara (a practice of choosing a husband by a woman, from among a list of suitors) of Sita. The king had announced that only the man who could string Shiva’s bow could marry his daughter. Many able princes had failed. But, when Rama’s turn comes, he bends it so easily that it snaps into two. A delighted Janaka gives his daughter’s hand in marriage to Rama.
Rama snapping Shiva’s bow (left)
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When Dasharatha resolves to appoint Rama as heir to the throne of
Ayodhya, his second queen Kaikeyi asks for the two wishes he had once promised to grant her. She says, “I want my son, Bharata, to be made the king of Ayodhya. And decree Rama a life of a hermit bereft of all goods and make him live thus for fourteen years in the woods.” A shocked Dasharatha doesn’t know what to do. But a dutiful Rama decides to go to the forest along with brother Lakshmana and wife Sita. Dasharatha with Kaikeyi (below); Rama and Lakshmana (bottom)
The exiles live in the Dandaka forest. The hermits staying there plead with Rama to protect them from the demons. Rama agrees and from then, they incessantly fight the demons. Shurpanakha, sister of Ravana, the king of Lanka, visits Dandaka forest. Cupid strikes her as soon as she sees Rama. She makes amorous proposals to him. When rejected, she approaches Lakshmana, who scornfully rebuffs her, too. Humiliated, she tries to attack Sita, but Lakshmana cuts off her ears and nose. Full of rage, she vows to take revenge and approaches Ravana for help. Ravana sends Maarich to her aid. Maarich assumes the shape of a deer and draws the attention of Sita, who implores Rama to kill it and get her the skin.
With Maarich’s aid and through magical deception, Ravana succeeds in his attempt to make Rama chase the deer. After Rama shoots an arrow to kill it, the deer calls out for Lakshmana in Rama’s voice. Hearing the plea, Sita directs a reluctant Lakshmana to go and help her husband. He obeys Sita, but not before drawing a line outside the hut and requesting her not to step out of it under any circumstances. Sensing an opportunity, Ravana comes there disguised as a mendicant and begs for alms. He succeeds in making her step out of the line. Sita giving alms to Ravana disguised as a mendicant (above)
Rama, Sita admiring Maarich (above)
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OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
Ravana seizes Sita, drags her to the waiting chariot and flies to Lanka with the speed of wind. Sita, crying for help, draws the attention of vulture Jatayu, an old friend of King Dasharatha. He manages to smash Ravana’s chariot, but is finally overcome by the demon-king. Ravana abducting Sita (left)
After Hanuman traces Sita at Ashok Vatika
in Ravana’s palace, Rama and Lakshmana, along with a huge army of monkeys, build a bridge over the Indian Ocean to reach Lanka. They wage a fierce battle against the demons. One by one, the demons are slayed, including Ravana’s son, Meghnad, and brother, Kumbhakarna. The final duel between Rama and Ravana is the climax of the epic. Ravana says to Rama, “O hermit, you have fought and defeated many soldiers, but none like me.” Replies Rama, “Indeed, I have heard of your prowess. But now show it by deed, and not by mere hyperbole.” Finally, Rama kills Ravana after a fierce battle. Thus, the epic ends with good triumphing over evil. Rama and Ravana (above)
Rama and Lakshmana return to an empty hut. Distressed, they
start looking for Sita. In this quest, they meet Jatayu, who tells them that Ravana has kidnapped Sita and taken her to Lanka. On their way to Lanka, Rama and Lakshmana meet Sugriva, who seeks their help to overthrow Bali, the king of Kishkindha, and in return promises to render all help in finding Sita. Rama kills Bali and appoints Sugriva as the king. Here, they meet Hanuman. Rama, who has immense confidence in Hanuman, gives him the responsibility of finding Sita.
Rama and Hanuman (left)
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OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
A WIN-WIN PARTNERSHIP
After decades of protracted conflict, bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka enter a new phase
ri Lanka boasts of a unique multi-cultural, multireligious mosaic of society that bears impress of the Indian civilisation, and is proudly acknowledged as such by both the Sinhalese and Tamils. Bollywood has acted as an emotional bond, with Indian film stars and music a big hit with the Sinhalese. India is a place for pilgrimage for Hindu Tamils as well as Sinhalese Buddhists. Aided by Indian scholarships, thousands of Sri Lankan students in India have deepened people-to-people bonds. 2011 has a special resonance in the shared cultural history as India and Sri Lanka celebrate the 2,600th year of Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi, the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha, and the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka. India commissioned a 16-foot-high statue of Lord Buddha. It was unveiled by India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok Kantha and Governor of Central Province Tikiri Kobbekaduwa at the International Buddhist Museum complex in Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kandy, Sri Lanka. An international Buddhist conference, organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), was inaugurated by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa early this year. Indian Railways will launch a special Buddhist train, Damba Diva Vandana, from Chennai this year. The train will touch more than a dozen Buddhist centers in India, including Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kapilavastu, Sanchi and Kushi Nagar. The countries are also jointly celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of India’s sage-poet Rabindranath Tagore and Government of Sri Lanka released a special stamp on May 7 as a tribute to him. Tagore Film Festival held in Colombo recently received an overwhelming response.
ndia-Sri Lanka relations are a blend of good neighbourliness, humanitarian empathy and people-focused diplomacy that go beyond mere government-to-government interactions. Providing support to war-displaced Tamils, building houses, setting up hospitals, rebuilding railways, airports and harbours – the list of India’s activities in Sri Lanka is as diverse as it is long. Though separated by 20 miles of sea, the countries have had ethnic, social, cultural and religious exchanges that go back 2,500 years. ‘‘Relations between our peoples and our rulers are even older than recorded history,’’ says Prasad Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India. Building upon these historical links, India and Sri Lanka have a multi-faceted relationship that encompasses virtually every field from trade and development to defence and IT. Colombo, the largest transshipment port in South Asia, handles 70 per cent of Indian cargo, and is important for India’s maritime security as well. The signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) propelled the relationship to a higher level. It was an act of faith on the part of Sri Lanka to link its fortunes to the vastly bigger Indian economy rather than seeing it as a threat. India on its part did not demand reciprocity under FTA and provided more openings for Sri Lankan goods. ‘‘The growing engagement with India has facilitated creation of new capacities in the Sri Lankan economy in diverse sectors ranging from
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civil aviation and hospitality to ports and dockyards,’’ says Ashok Kantha, India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. The FTA, which came into force in 2000, has led to a more than five-fold increase in bilateral trade. In 2010, bilateral trade reached USD 3.04 billion; Sri Lankan exports to India increased ten times; India became the third largest export destination for Sri Lanka; and India emerged as the largest foreign direct investor in Sri Lanka with USD 110 million. Now, efforts are on to increase bilateral trade to USD 15-20 billion in the next ten years. Most big names in Indian industry have a presence in the island nation. Among those thriving are the Indian Oil Corporation, Tatas, Bharti Airtel, Piramal Glass, LIC, Ashok Leyland, L&T and Taj Hotels. This surge in bilateral business has prompted negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The end of the armed conflict created a new challenge – the relief and rehabilitation of around 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils. India was quick to pitch in with aid and resources, human and material. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged a grant of around USD 110 million for relief, rehabilitation and resettlement work. India dispatched 250,000 family relief packs, deployed an emergency field hospital, sent consignments of medicines, conducted an artificial limb fitment camp and deployed seven de-mining teams in northern Sri Lanka. New Delhi gifted more than
TEXT: MANISH CHAND
ASSISTANCE AT HAND: (left) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi; (top) statue of Lord Buddha installed at the International Buddhist Museum in Kandy, Sri Lanka
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
CORDIAL RELATIONS: (facing page) (clockwise from top left) Housing units coming up at Ariviyal Nagar, Kilinochchi; tractors gifted to Sri Lanka; National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon (left) and Nirupama Rao, former foreign secretary of India, with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo; and work in progress at Kanakesanthurai Harbour
10,400 metric tonnes of shelter material and 400,000 cement bags for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). India also pledged resources for providing livelihood to displaced Tamils and gifted 95,000 agricultural starter packs, seeds and 500 tractors for their use. In an important initiative, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, in November 2010, launched a pilot project in Jaffna to build 1,000 houses for IDPs, this is part of the 50,000 houses pledged by India during the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in 2010. A host of projects has been initiated in the fields of education and health, for the repair of school buildings and supply of computers. Most importantly, India has focused on rebuilding infrastructure battered by decades of civil war by pledging over USD 1.2 billion for the reconstruction of houses, railways, an airport, a harbour and a sports stadium in the Northern Province. India is also helping build a coal-fired power station near the strategic harbour port of Trincomalee. A 150-bed multi-specialty hospital at Dickoya is being built in the Central Province with a grant from the Indian government. The Indian government has given a Line of Credit of about USD 800 million for restoration of Northern Railway Lines. Aided by India’s concessional credit line of USD 167.4 million, the renovation of the Southern Railway Project is progressing well. India is assisting in the rehabilitation of the Kanakesanthurai (KKS) harbour and will provide additional grant funding for the dredging of the harbour and concessional credit for the rehabilitation of the breakwater and construction of a new pier and attendant port facilities. New Delhi is also aiding the restoration of the Duraiappa Stadium, the construction of a
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Cultural Centre at Jaffna and vocational training centres in Batticaloa and Nuwara Eliya. The waraffected women in the Eastern Province are being helped through a training and employment generation project being implemented by SEWA. India has also supplied equipment to hospitals in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu and is providing fishing boats and equipment to fishermen in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka. In the post-conflict period, India-Sri Lanka relations are poised for a major upsurge. India has impressed upon Sri Lanka the need to take steps for ‘genuine national reconciliation’ and a lasting political settlement. Colombo has responded positively, and has taken steps to initiate a dialogue with the moderate Tamil leadership. The two countries are determined to accelerate connectivity. A step in this direction is the resumption of ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin after a gap of three decades. A ferry service between Rameswaram and Talaimannar is on the way. India is assisting in the rehabilitation of the Palaly Airport. At present, there are nearly 100 flights per week between Colombo and India. The number of Indian tourists to Sri Lanka exceeded 125,000 in 2010. Last year, India’s High Commission in Colombo issued nearly 200,000 visas. The Sri Lankan leadership has shown foresight and statesmanship in welcoming India’s emergence as a global power by deepening relationship with New Delhi. Above all, the burgeoning partnership between India and Sri Lanka, as India’s envoy in Colombo stresses, is set to play a key role ‘in the coming rise of Asia.’ As President Mahinda Rajapaksa memorably said: ‘‘India is my relation. Others are my friends.’’ —Manish Chand is a senior editor at IANS
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
A novel global effort has been initiated by India to find a cheap and effective cure for TB
TEXT: ARCHITA BHATTA
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n a first of its kind, through a virtual drug discovery project, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a premier research organisation in New Delhi, is tapping scientists from all over the world to find a drug to cure tuberculosis (TB). The initiative, called the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) project for tuberculosis, launched in 2008, has already discovered two classes of compounds with proven anti-TB properties. ‘‘The rapid progress has been possible through a model of open innovation that has brought together several scientists and pooled knowledge existing in different parts of the world,’’ says Zakir Thomas, director of OSDD. Validating this advancement, the June 2011 issue of the Nature Chemical Biology, a monthly peerreviewed, scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing Group, says that OSDD shows a new research direction through the involvement of ‘‘knowledge integration and collaboration among small sciences.” Discovering a more effective and cheaper treatment for TB is a global concern. Since the TB treatment known as DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course) was developed in the 1960s no major advancement has taken place. Now, OSDD provides a collaborative platform to scientists, doctors, technocrats, software professionals and students to facilitate drug discovery. ‘‘OSDD has cut down the time and costs needed to move towards a new TB drug by bringing scattered knowledge together, sharing it and involving scores of interested people around the world,’’ says Samir Brahmachari, Director-General of CSIR and mentor of the project. The Government has committed `1.5 billion for the project and a similar amount is being generated from international agencies. CSIR labs such as the Institute of Genomic and Integrative Biology and the Institute of Microbial Technology, academic institutions such as Jawaharlal Nehru University and industries such as Sun Microsystems are involved in the project. Earlier, the OSDD project had chalked out the biology of the tuberculosis bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), and the information flow takes place within its cell through interactions between its genes. Web-based interactions between experts located in different countries are now facilitating the understanding of the findings. According to Anshu Bhardwaj, convenor of the project, 800 students and researchers have been trained online to take part in this method of participative research. Around 120 of
Source Drug Discovery project, has already discovered two classes of compounds with proven anti-TB properties.
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
students and researchers have been trained online to take part in this new method of participative research.
them have contributed in the construction of a map of MTB leading to the identification of 17 drug targets of which 7 were validated through existing research. Although MTB was sequenced a decade ago, details for only 1,000 of its nearly 4,000 genes were studied till 2008. OSDD has managed to map the nature and interactions between most of its genes by compiling existing research on the bacteria, making it available to the public, and involving experts. The project also compiles knowledge about chemicals that possess anti-tuberculosis properties and use them to generate models to predict anti-TB compounds. With numerous molecules to scan and test, this model helps in vital initial screening eliminating quickly unlikely candidates. A repository of more than 20,000 compounds from ChemBridge database — a global provider of chemistry products and contract research services for small molecule drug discovery located in California — has already been set up and to this have been added contributions of molecules synthesised by institutions like St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and Loyola College, Chennai. OSDD has also set up an open access screening facility at the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu, where these molecules are being screened. Drug discovery involves activities which are not just innovation-driven but also process-driven. Most of these, like pre-clinical trials and clinical trials are carried out in partnership with companies. Significantly, the process is such that it does not give exclusive rights of the drug to any single company. ‘‘Since no particular company will hold exclusive licenses for medicines developed through OSDD, a low cost of the medicine is ensured,’’ says Thomas.
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—Archita Bhatta is an environmental communications consultant and science journalist
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
INDIA CONNECTED Adding as many subscribers every two months as the entire population of Canada, the mobile phone revolution has completely changed the way Indians do business
TEXT: SHUBHA SINGH
he telecommunications revolution has brought a new kind of freedom to India, spearheading this revolution is the ubiquitous mobile phone. Mobile phones connect Indians to each other and to the whole world and are used for more than aimless chatter. Today, the bulk of the Indian business is being conducted on the mobile phone — from promoting products to placing orders to tracking them to making payments, the minutest of business activities now happen on the phone. People are communicating not only by voice, but through text messages, emails and closed group messenger services. So, whether you are buying vegetables, groceries, a laptop, a car, an air ticket or a house — all you need is a handset. In the cities at least, there isn’t a street vendor, domestic help, construction worker or taxi driver who does not use a cellphone. And it’s not expensive. With Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technologies, one can get a handset with prepaid connectivity and a few hundred free calls for as little as `1,200 (USD 25)
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per annum. Call rates, including long-distance calls, are about `1 1 (2.5 cents) per minute. And as operators reach the numbers required, the rates are set to go down further. Says Rajan S. Mathews, director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI): ‘‘India is the fastest growing and second-largest mobile telecommunications market in the world with an exceedingly high wireless tele-density. In fact, the mobile subscriber base is expected to touch 950 million by the end of this year and to cross the one billion mark by the end of next year.’’ With such high numbers, the sector is a strong contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), in 2009-10, telecommunications services earned nearly `158,000 crore (USD 35.2 billion), registering a modest but creditable increase of about 4 per cent over the last fiscal, despite the unprecedented recession. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion’s fact sheet on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) states that the sector has received nearly USD 10 billion in FDI
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
According to the DoT, in 2009-10, telecommunications services earned nearly
` 158,000 crore
registering a modest but creditable increase of about , despite the unprecedented recession.
4 per cent
since 2000. Samaresh Parida, director, strategy, Vodafone Essar, says: ‘‘The growing demand for broadband and wireless connectivity is a factor that makes India an attractive destination.’’ In April, the statistics revealed in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) start-of-the-year Telecommunications Performance Report have reinforced the good news. Between January and February this year, more than 20 million new phone subscribers have joined India’s phenomenal growth story which means that by early 2011 India had more than 826 million phone subscribers. Says N.K. Goyal, president, Communications and Manufacturing Association of India (CMAI): ‘‘We are adding about 18 million mobile connections every month, which is nearly six times higher than China. Our tariff is perhaps the lowest in the world. You can pay ` 5 (about 10 cents) and use the Internet on your mobile for a whole day which is not possible anywhere else in the world.” Sectors like banking, education, information and business are all jostling to be part of the telecommunication revolution. Bharti Airtel has partnered with the Indian Farmers Fertiliser
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Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) to set up a farm news and update service in Rajasthan. IFFCO provides subsidised mobile phones to farmers, which flash daily updates on agricultural practices and weather forecasts free of cost. HDFC bank has set up a BPO centre in Andhra Pradesh through its subsidiary Atlas Documentary Facilitators, which employs 550 people who work on data capturing and indexing of customer details. Earlier, this was handled by over 1,000 people in Chennai and Mumbai. Production of hardware is also expanding. Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu is reported to be producing more mobile phones than Shenzhen in southern China. Not a small achievement, considering Shenzhen makes one out of eight handsets sold anywhere in the world. This growth has fuelled momentum in other affiliated sectors as well. The drive for broadband rides on high-speed, highdependability optical fibre cables — India and China alone account for about one-third of the global demand for the cables. Indian operators collectively account for nearly 1.15 million
route kilometres of largely optical fibre-based wireline. Broadband’s overarching application in education, healthcare, e-banking, e-commerce, entertainment, utility and e-governance makes it indispensable. Such is the pull of the market that last year’s auction of third generation and Broadband Wireless Association (BWA) spectra brought in more than a trillion rupees (about USD 22 billion) by way of fees to the Government. No wonder in its 2009-10 annual report, DoT states that it is targeting 40 per cent rural tele-density by 2014. On its part, the Department of Information and Technology intends to set up more than one million internet-enabled Common Service Centres (CSC) across India under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). The Department of Education has begun to provide broadband connectivity to 20,000 colleges to enable the use of e-content for education. The mobile phone — accessible, affordable, effective — is the hub of the telecommunication revolution, empowering millions of people. India is a nation truly connected. Source: India Brand Equity Foundation, www.ibef.org
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
POWER FOR THE
POWERLESS A change-agent lights up the life of the rural poor TEXT: USHA RAI
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bank, his family did not have the money for the down payment to access the loan. SELCO stepped in and tapped funds from REEEP (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership) in Vienna to provide the margin money. With the lighting system in place, Channamma could work longer hours; her earnings increased substantially. Also, in Karnataka, 102 handloom weavers have benefited financially from the SELCO-REEEP tie up. By using solar lights they are able to extend their work hours from 12 to 14 hours a day. Among the many recognitions that Hande has recieved is the Ramon Magsaysay Award 2011. The citation of the award sums up Hande’s mission: “For his passionate and pragmatic efforts to put solar power technology in the hands of the poor, through a social enterprise that brings customised, affordable, and sustainable electricity to India’s vast rural populace, encouraging the poor to become asset creators.” Earlier, for promoting sustainable energy for underserved markets, Hande received the Ashden Award for Sustainable Development and in 2009, he won the Financial Times (London) Corporate Responsibility Award. All the cash awards received by SELCO and Hande have been leveraged to overcome barriers in reaching out to the needy. As for his latest accolade, Hande has it all worked out. He says: ‘‘The award money will be used to build programmes that incubate and mentor future energy entrepreneurs.’’ —Usha Rai writes on development and environment issues
Instead of a large centralised thermal station, Hande thought of small scale, stand-alone installations which could reach remote villages.
PHOTO: THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES
oft spoken, modest, Harish Hande, the curlymopped managing director and co-founder of SELCO Solar Light Private Ltd., Bengaluru, is one of the five winners of this year’s prestigious Magsaysay Award. When this graduate of IIT Kharagpur with a doctorate in energy engineering from Massachusetts University speaks of making solar power accessible to the rural poor, his eyes glow and there is an animation in his voice. At first, Hande was not sure where and how to begin. He found his answer in 1992. As he was leaving a village, an old woman came up to him and asked, ‘‘Can you provide me with light before I die?’’ This triggered the idea of spreading solar applications through a decentralised approach. Instead of a large centralised thermal station, he thought of small scale, stand-alone installations which could reach remote villages. With just ` 1,000 in the till, SELCO began operations in 1993. Today, it employs 170 people and provides electricity to 120,000 households. The average cost of a light installation is ` 4,000: with some loans people earning as little as `1,600 a month can afford this amount. The success stories are endless. Channamma, a widow living in a village in Karnataka, rolled beedis, traditional Indian cigarettes, to supplement the income of her son Lokesh, a daily wage labourer. With no access to electricity, she relied on the light of a costly kerosene lamp. Lokesh heard of SELCO which provided brighter, cleaner and cheaper light and was not dependent on a grid. Though the system could be financed through a
... COLOURFUL, CREATIVE, WHEREVER YOU ARE...
TEXT: MEENAKSHI KUMAR
here is not one single defining image that sums up India. It means different things to different people – not only to foreigners but for Indians as well. It’s this thought that has given birth to a global video challenge initiated by the Ministry of External Affairs, Public Diplomacy Division, called quite simply, ‘India Is’. The ‘India Is’ campaign will kick off this October with a global video competition for which entries will be invited from all across the world. Contestants will be required to send short videos – a maximum of three-minutes – of their perceptions about India under any three categories: ‘India Is Colourful’, ‘India Is Creative’ and ‘India Is Wherever You Are’. The competition will
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be thrown open from October 1, and entries will be accepted till December 31. The aim of this campaign is to get people to think of India in interesting and creative ways. Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs came up with the idea of 'India Is' global video challenge to draw attention of the younger generation across the world to the richness and diversity of Indian culture, its ancient civilisation, vibrant democracy and dynamic economy. A promotional video of the campaign highlights the essence of the contest. Member of Parliament and former UN UnderSecretary-General, Shashi Tharoor, who is one of the Brand Ambassadors – the other being critically acclaimed filmmaker
Shekhar Kapur – says in the video: “…Show us your India, be original, be creative, it’s your chance to show us the India that you want to matter to others. How is India creative? How is India colourful? How is India wherever you are? Think about specific things. India is the spices in a bazaar; India is yoga; India is cricket…” The online contest, conducted entirely through the social media, is open to anyone in the world. An online poll will eventually decide the winners, though a jury of eminent personalities from the world of art, films and culture will also help in shortlisting the winners. It is truly a democratic process. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – prize money ranging from USD 1,000 (` 45,000) to USD 7,500 (` 3,37,500).
Shekhar Kapur, director of award-winning films like Bandit Queen and Elizabeth, approves of the virtual approach for the competition since he finds the internet a more reliable tool for promotion. “What you get on the internet is not just publicity but widest possible views and opinions. When ‘India Is’ videos are there on the internet, they will present a picture of India as seen through the eyes of travellers, not just something exotic,” Kapur says. And this is only the beginning. Once the video contest takes off, this particular campaign will extend to other forms of expression – photography, dance, theatre and art – all giving us fresh insights to familiar stories. —Details of the competition can be found on the www.indiais.org
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
The Beholder and the Beheld
The musical history captures the multiple facets of classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar’s persona and genius
Life sketches of individuals who defined the epoch they lived in
OF A CERTAIN AGE
Documentary on Ganasaraswati Padma Vibhushan Kishori Amonkar
By Gopalkrishna Gandhi Published by Penguin Price: `499 Pages: 234
Directed by Amol Palekar and Sandhya Gokhale Supported by Public Diplomacy Division, National Culture Fund, ONGC and and Tata Capital
f any vocalist in modern India qualifies as an example of what T. S. Eliot would have called, ‘the play of Individual Talent’ within the Indian classical music tradition it would undoubtedly be Kishori Amonkar. A legend in her own lifetime, Kishoritai, as she is known to her close admirers, has brought a unique dimension to Hindustani music that combines the highest cannons of khayal singing with a personal flair for innovation and a razor-sharp intellect. Passionate, sublime and blissful, her singing is also innovative, dazzlingly crystal in tonal clarity and deeply moving. Ever youthful in voice and spirit, it is difficult to believe that this musical genius has completed 80 years. As the daughter and disciple of the purist Ganatapaswini Moghubai Kurdikar, Kishoritai inherited the hoary tradition of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana (school) with its many codes and restrictions of style and grammar. However, as she blossomed into her own, she applied her keen mind to expand its scope and increase its emotional appeal that has not only won her a legion of
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devoted admirers but also a fair share of critics and controversies. She has been accused of deviating from the well-trodden path, of being musically whimsical and temperamentally hotheaded. Actor and director Amol Palekar has now made an immense contribution to Indian musical history by capturing multiple facets of Kishori Amonkar’s persona and genius on celluloid for which posterity will be ever grateful. With extensive one-to-one interviews on a range of subjects — from musical structure to the aesthetics of voice as indicated in the rasa shastra — and interspersed with shots of her ancestral home in the lush, green vale of Kurdi in Goa, the film is a musicologist’s delight. It is also enriched by comments and tributes by many other musicians of our time, including tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, santoor wizard Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and sarod player Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. The film is bound to become a definitive document of musical history. —S. Kalidas
hen putting together a book of profiles, what makes the author choose a particular set of people? Should there be a thread that binds the collection? Gopalkrishna Gandhi, author Of A Certain Age, thinks so. In the introduction to the book, he goes to great lengths to explain why he has chosen the twenty individuals that feature in his compilation. Among the life sketches in the book are those of Mahatma Gandhi, his son Harilal, ornithologist Salim Ali, former Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bhandaranaike, the Dalai Lama and sculptor and printmaker, Somnath Hore. Their ages on 15 August, 1947, the author informs us, would have ranged from 11 (J.N. Dixit) to 59 (Acharya Kriplani) and then he painstakingly links them to Mahatma Gandhi. Finally, he says, ‘‘No one knows why one fascinates another. It could just be the chemistry of the beholder and the beheld. It could be neither being no more than a need on the part of the writer to spot some qualities lacking in himself. It could be plain sentimentalism.
(clockwise from above) Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru; Jayaprakash Narayan and his wife Prabhavati; and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
It could also be that incohate bonding, which like a slow log fire in a hill station, warms those who are of a certain age.’’ With the need to find a reason for the compilation put to rest, one can enjoy the profiles that benefit from Gopalkrishna’s personal knowledge that gives the portrayals a certain vividity. Gopalkrishna’s paternal grandfather was Mahatma Gandhi and maternal grandfather C. Rajagopalachari, scholar, statesman and the last Governor General of India — a legacy that makes him a privileged spectator of the country’s history. A former bureaucrat-turned-diplomat, Gopalkrishna is a regular columnist for major national dalies, he has written three books — Refuge, on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, a play in verse, Dara Shikoh and The Essential Gandhi. The essays in Of a Certain Age have been written over the last thirty years and most of them have been published before, yet they retain a freshness and Gopalkrishna’s effortless writing style makes them worth reading. —Maneesha Dube
OCTOBER 2011 INDIA PERSPECTIVES
“Architecture can be diverse, yet have consistency”
ctogenarian Charles Correa has been relentlessly planning and designing buildings and monuments. In a career encompassing over four decades Correa has created iconic structures like the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad and the National Crafts Museum in New Delhi. With many honours, including the Padma Shri, the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal and the International Union of Architects Gold Medal, Correa believes that through his work he can make others interested in buildings and the context in which they exist. Extracts from an interview.
Lisbon, where we just completed the Champalimaud Centre Centre on the site where Vasco da Gama sailed for India. Unlike music, architecture is not a moveable feast. A great pianist like Rubinstein could play the same Chopin concert one night in New York and the next in Brazil without changing a single note. But that’s not true of architecture. A building is rooted in the soil on which it sits – in the climate, the materials, the technologies, the culture – and of course, the aspirations of the people who will use it.
You have written: “You cannot look at cities without wandering into architecture on the one hand and politics on the other.” What did you mean by that? All your projects address not only issues of architecture On one hand, a city is a piece of hardware – and we love but also of low-income housing and urban planning, Paris, Jaipur and San Francisco because of the physical look of how do you bring these two aspects together? their streets and buildings. At the same time, a great deal of I try to address problems holistically. political will was required to make those Open-to-sky space is very important in cities look the way they do. Without If you really want India. Providing a poor family with a Maharaja Jai Singh, there would be no courtyard or terrace costs little, yet it Jaipur and no Paris without Napoleon III. to learn about doubles their living space, making their Architecture is wonderful because it eco-sensitive one-room tenement twice as useable. bridges the entire spectrum of issues that habitat then For the rich, the bungalow with its lie between these two extremes. visit a village in verandas and lawns is also the ultimate Kerala or the luxury and status symbol. As long as you What is your advice to budding Greek islands or work with basic principles, your architects to make them more the South Pacific. architecture can be diverse and yet have conscious of the environment? a great deal of consistency. If you really want to learn about an ecosensitive habitat then visit a village in What are the key factors that you keep in mind while Kerala or the Greek islands or the South Pacific. Necessity is designing projects? the mother of Invention and nothing is wasted in those All my buildings are here in India. Less than half a dozen are villages. Even the leaves of the palm trees are re-cycled as abroad and these are all in places I know well, and that roofs for the houses. So not only do they create a habitat speak to me. Like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is low-energy but they do so with incredible ingenuity. in Boston, where I studied, and where I teach every Fall or in Compare that with what we build today. Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, designed by Charles Correa
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