YIF Newsletter Issue- 1
life set Bharath Kumar aflame
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who I usually spend so much time and effort just to define fan your flames.” When I read these who ‘she’ is, she, seamlessly, ends up defining who I lines by Rumi, I thought I had finally understood what life was all about. While it was one thing to feel inspired, it was another really and clearly am - A Psychotic in Love. to act on that inspiration. Life has a way of getting in the way Ritvik Carvalho of things. Reflections like this piece serve as a much needed pause button. It helps me stop to smell the proverbial roses.
I’ve decided that a corner in my future study will be reserved for an easel. More importantly, I’ve decided to trust myself.- Trust Yourself
“The medium is the message”
“The medium is the message.” This statement by the famed media philosopher Marshal Mcluhan has been hailed as legendary by journalists and media academia worldwide. Medium, indeed, is the message, and the necessity to have a medium in a living, breathing and dynamic organization was recognized by the fellows at the Young India Fellowship. A medium, through which anyone and everyone would be able to put forth ideas which others could engage with. This dynamic organization needed such a medium, and for this medium (a newsletter in this case) we needed a name. However, like all organizations made of enthusiastic young people, we struggled to find a name for the YIF newsletter. One or the other fellow wouldn’t be pleased with a name. Consultation with Dictionaries, late night discussions and endless ‘Googling’ followed. What does one, after all, call a newsletter for and by a bunch of young, energetic and insanely creative and lively individuals? But like all great things, the name came to us, on its own. A certain book that had been gathering dust till then, was picked up one fated day to help find the destined name- Élan. Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘Élan’ to mean energy, style, and enthusiasm- everything that we wanted to represent through a name. Furthermore, the discovery that the word ‘elan’ in Urdu stood for ‘open declaration’, was received with excited exclamations and nodding heads, much to our delight. There were other contenders too, but none lived up to the allure of ‘Élan’. Meetings were scheduled and deliberations about stories, ideas and articles followed. The main challenge was to find time to make everyone find time to contribute for the paper. YIF’s schedule is notorious to be extremely hectic, nonetheless we managed to get many to write and develop content for us. This done, the next challenge drew nearer- design. A YIF blog was already in place, but a newsletter required much more creative input in terms of photography, page design, logo design and illustrations. Only after never-ending to-do lists, mails, 3 AM coffees, endless brainstorming and heated arguments did we finally structure the newsletter design and layout. The sole motivation and drive was to develop a voice for everyone to opinionate and know about the numerous activities happening in and around YIF at Ashoka University in Kundli. We did make it finally and we sincerely hope this effort continues!
Sanjna Sudan Editor and Cartoonist Team Élan
The Team Sanjna Sudan
Editor and Cartoonist
Ritvik Carvalho Editor
Abhilasha Kumar Editor
Prama Neeraja Newsletter Designer
Apoorva Kamat Designer and Illustrator
A Life Set Aflame
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” When I read these lines by Rumi, I thought I had finally understood what life was all about. While it was one thing to feel inspired, it was another to act on that inspiration. Life has a way of getting in the way of things. All of this changed in July this year. About six years later than most people, I stood at the gates of university, ready to learn. Fresh out of high school, I didn’t think I needed to go to university for an education. A professional qualification and work experience was all I needed. I worked a full-time job and spent evenings studying towards a chartered accounting qualification. This may not sound very exciting, but I sure learnt a lot more than I would have attending college. In fact, I count this as my second best decision so far. But then came Ashoka University, and the opportunity to be a part of the Young India Fellowship. From the moment I read of the programme, I was hooked. The more I heard of it, the more I needed to be a part of it. And when the offer of admission came through on the first of April, I nearly didn’t believe it. There I was, three months later at the gates of Ashoka, ready to learn. I knew from the start that this wasn’t going to be a typical education. I knew I’d be taking courses I wouldn’t have imagined taking before. I was prepared. What I didn’t expect, was to be inspired – everyday. First, it was the campus. I delighted in the jaali frames and exposed brick walls, in the wide, open spaces and how the light played off the buildings.
Never before have I watched a Jim Morrison performance to understand pop culture. Never before have I listened to history be told as a beautiful story. Never before have I painted with my eyes closed. And then it was the people. I’ve grown up in Dubai, a quintessential melting pot of cultures. But never before have I built Lego towers and shared the vision for my future with a team of diverse individuals with absolutely contrasting backgrounds. Never before have I played a duet on the piano with a zoologist. Never before have I listened to a Persian love song in the moonlight. And if that wasn’t enough, there were the classroom experiences.
Never before have I watched a Jim Morrison performance to understand pop culture. Never before have I listened to history be told as a beautiful story. Never before have I painted with my eye closed.Time flies at the Fellowship. Each term is six weeks short. As I left home and all that was familiar, I pledged to document my YIF journey. What particularly stayed with me from the first term was the course “Reason and the Making of Modern India”.
What follows is a post from my personal blog about this course I have most enjoyed so far at the Fellowship: “I didn’t have to think very hard about what to blog about this week. This past Thursday, we had our last lecture of the course ‘Reason and the Making of Modern India’ with Professor Rudrangshu Mukherjee. There’s plenty and more about him on the Internet, he certainly is a popular man. Although, as with most great men, as we came to learn so well in his course, the Internet doesn’t tell the whole story. Professor Mukherjee did not teach us history - at least not the history I know from high school. He told us stories. Stories of men who’ve made India what it is today. And so enchanting were these stories, that one often forgot that Professor Mukherjee didn’t live in those times. He knew these stories so well he made them his own. He took these great men, these makers of modern India, off the high pedestals our high school history teachers had placed them on, dusted off the layers of myth and tedium, polished them with a generous amount of character and handed us humans who’ve done both great good and otherwise. Not in one class did we listen to a lecture; instead we watched history play out in front of our eyes. He ripped up the heavy history books we were so used to relegating to dusty bookshelves and created beautiful creatures that he breathed life into. I may eat my words sometime through the course of this year, but I think I’ve found my favourite teacher. So moving were his renditions, he often left the classroom with a few damp eyes in the audience. At his last lecture with us, however, we had the bittersweet honour of seeing him feel moved, for a change. Not to be outdone, the man left us with a blessing so profound, I immediately recollected all the magical moments I’ve had in that classroom:
éLAN “I hope you collectively and individually find a kingdom within yourselves, even if the journey is lonely and solitary.”
To use the words of Rabindranath Tagore, one of the many great men Professor Mukherjee introduced us to, “proper teaching does not explain things; proper teaching stokes curiosity”. I left that last lecture with immeasurable respect for Professor Mukherjee and a newfound curiosity for the world, both present and past.” At the Fellowship, this is all in a day’s work. What frightens me is that this will all go by too soon for me to remember all of it - as if I will wake up to realise it was all a dream. Reflections like this piece serve as a much needed pause button. It helps me stop to smell the proverbial roses. I’ve been fortunate to make some good decisions in the past, but the Young India Fellowship has been my best decision so far. I often find myself revisiting Rumi’s lines at the end of yet another inspiring day here. I believe I’ve set my life on fire, and the YIF is my bellows.
There is certainly great value in articulating profound ideas in common words. In an age where attention spans are withering away and the temptation to jump from one browser tab to another is immense, a digital piece in particular stands the best chance to be read only when it is written in lucid language, in a font that isn’t difficult to process and of a length that isn’t beyond the intimidating TL;DR threshold.
Battling a Story
Which relations are humanly, then, possble to endure such pain? I am going to attempt to answer that question with one such relation that I have had, continue to be part of, and the one that I might lose in the future. To begin in the manner of every clichéd love story - It is complicated
A Psychotic Love
An amalgamation of unfathomable extremities, your brain starts questioning the relevance of such emotions, but the strength of such an obsession is so profound that your conscious mind refuses to accept defeat. It is as though you have been conscious of those feelings for so long, that they cannot henceforth be separated from your subconscious mind.
Battling A Story
Every work of art carries with it the burden of a story. A sonnet that bespeaks the anguish of a lover, a canvas that bleeds with its artist, a symphony that alludes to a certain kind of madness or a string of words that reveal a writer – all art is a manifestation of its creator’s experiences. That is not to say that art in itself is secondary to the story it tells, for it is only in art that the story exists, in a sense that both are inseparable from one another. On a canvas, a page, a piano or the stage, an artist finds expression for that, which cannot be told otherwise, that which is desperate for an outlet,that which is difficult to convey through any other medium. The onus of narrating such an experience, and the quality Sanjna of such a narration, thus lies Sudan entirely with the artist. It is within this creative space that an artist is often faced with the choice between simplicity and obscurity, for to compose art that is simple is as challenging a task as creating art that confounds and confuses the subject Ruskin Bond’s The Room on the Roof is the perfect embodiment of a piece so simple, and yet so deeply moving. The existential crisis that Salinger so intricately weaves in the monologue of Holden Caulfield is depicted in equally powerful but easier, flowing words of Bond’s seventeen-year-old Rusty. It is the kind of novel that can be read on the metro, with music and distant chatter in the background. Literature, in fact, is splattered with examples of works that communicate the most complex ideas in the simplest of words.
éLAN The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéryis perhaps one such great work, that leads the reader into an intellectual odyssey entirely unawares. A personal favourite passage from the book goes as follows:
“People have stars, but they aren't the same. For travellers, the stars are guides. For other people, they're nothing but tiny lights. And for still others, for scholars, they're problem... But all those stars are silent stars. You, though, you'll have stars like nobody else... since I'll be laughing on one of them, for you it'll be as if all the stars are laughing. You'll have stars that can laugh!... and it'll be as if I had given you, instead of stars, a lot of tiny bells that know how to laugh ...” The complicated is only further simplified by Lewis Carroll, in his magnum opus, Alice in Wonderland. A book that is mostly read by children, when it should be read nearly as much by adults, is at the surface merely the story of a little girl on a fantastical journey in her dreams. However, every little creature she meets imparts her with thoughts that can provoke and enlighten an adult mind – be it the adorable White Rabbit, the wise Cheshire Cat or the rather amusing Mad Hatter. Here’s a sample:
Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’
There is certainly great value in articulating profound ideas in common words. In an age where attention spans are withering away and the temptation to jump from one brower tab to another is immense, a digital piece in particular stands the best chance to be read only when it is written in lucid language, in a font that isn’t difficult to process and of a length that isn’t beyond the intimidating TL;DR threshold. Even outside the world of Internet, the market for books that are shorter, simpler, more manageable in this fast-paced busy life that we lead is ever-increasing. If life’s myteries can be spelt out in a manner that the commoner can understand, why must one write arcane and dense philosophical monologues, and more importantly, why must one read such works at all? The first encounter with a writer like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf or even Shakespeare is typically unpleasant. A sentence, a paragraph and sometimes even an entire chapter seems impenetrable. The allusions are baffling, the language is daunting and the flow of ideas is difficult to keep pace with. But if one indeed manages to sail past the initial setbacks and inure oneself to the obscurity that surrounds these works, the experience is beyond rewarding. These are not books that can be read on a noisy train ride, or in a cafe that is brimming with coffee and conversations. They demand from you a certain sense of time and commitment, a promise, a marriage of the minds. The ideas that such works contain are more than just profound – they pose questions that you must find for yourself, the answers to which change with every reading. The reality that jumps at you from the pages of these books is scarily palpable. The intensity of such prose has the power to overwhelm you and move you to tears. A passage from Woolf’s masterpiece, To the Lighthouse reads:
“...she took her hand and raised her brush. For a moment it stayed trembling in a painful but exciting ecstasy in the air. Where to begin?--that was the question at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions. All that in idea seemed simple became in practice immediately complex; as the waves shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top, but to the swimmer among them are divided by steep gulfs, and foaming crests. Still the risk must run; the mark made.” Joyce goes a step further in his novel, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
“He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld. He did not know where to seek it or how, but a premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of his, encounter him. They would meet quietly as if they had known each other and had made their tryst, perhaps at one of the gates or in some more secret place. They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured. He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and then in a moment he would be transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment.” The burden of artists like these is greater – their story is difficult, their task is Herculean, their art is a struggle. The price that they are willing to pay is finding their work on the topmost shelves of bookshops, being picked by the rarest of visitors and being fully read by even fewer. But they have made that conscious choice, and chosen the complex over the simple. They do not wish to simplify the life they think is undecipherable – for them it amounts to misrepresenting life. If life is a battle, why must art, which only mirrors the same life, be any lesser? The dilemma of simplicity and complexity is one that every artist must face and solve for himself. Likewise, a reader must also face and solve the same dilemma. A laborious, lyrical work by Virginia Woolf might delight and enlighten you as much as a piece by Ruskin Bond might. The choice exists. Embrace it. The next time you decide to embark on a reading adventure, pick up a book that you feel you will not understand. Hear the writer, feel the words, sense the emotional upheaval, listen to the story. Out there in the Unknown is a story that might change who you are – find it.
“Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!” -Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte Imagine an obsession so tragic, yet so fulfilling, that it consumes you and liberates you simultaneously. Imagine drowning in a pool of passion so deep, that the feeling of suffocation almost becomes tangible. A whirlwind of emotions take over and the only constructive release is through the medium of your passion. Envision your mind being in a state of existence and a state of surrealism, a being of permanence bombarded by stings of transience, a form of coherence with cracks of chaos; imagine your mind feeling everything and yet, feeling nothing at all. Imagine and en route that reverie, feel the building blocks of your soul deconstruct themselves while the only solace you grant yourself is the hope that the very deconstruction you fear shapes you infinitely. In that state of mind, you feel empowered and weakened; empowered by the strength of your emotions and weakened by the lack of actions. At the pinnacle of passion rests a blank paper, a white canvas and an empty stage. It’s as though your befuddled brain screams out, only to be met with a disturbing silence of the hand and body. The world closes in and you feel as though the perfection in your mind shall forevermore remain understated. The fear of creating a flawed imitation pushes you to a claustrophobic space and submerged in that claustrophobia lays the chalice of tranquillity. An amalgamation of unfathomable extremities, your brain starts questioning the relevance of such emotions, but the strength of such an obsession is so profound that your conscious mind refuses to accept defeat. It is as though you have been conscious of those feelings for so long, that they cannot henceforth be separated from your subconscious mind. A loss of consciousness coupled with the embracing solitude of a newfound daze pushes you into a trance, and in that trance-like state, you discover the courage to take the plunge; that first word, that first stroke, that first step. As you were, hiding behind the protective veil of stillness, the dawning realization of an eternal foreplay of emotions fixates your focus to trials. Having been part of that masquerade of mental serenity for so long, you decide to break the shackles of your fears.
éLAN Through the course of this ordeal you fail your first word, you fail that first stroke and you fail that first step. Your articulation seems incomplete, the colour you use seems malnourished and your movement seems too rigid. You feel like you have finally met the demon at its mouth, but what startles you is not the size of the demon, but the hollowness of its being and in that hollowness you find a mirror. A reflection of yourself. You find the splendour of your first word, the perfect texture of your first stroke and the magnificence of the fluidity in your movement. A boundless sense of elation transforms you. You are still in a state of trance, but the same undertakes a meaning anew, and in that moment, you realize that you have finally managed to shatter your block. You have finally created.
A Psychotic Love
Have you ever lost a true love? Of course you have, you have been there before. So, what about finding it back? And what about losing it all over again? Have you been there? You might have. What about everything all over again? And again? And again?I don’t even think it is possible with human relations. You don’t have much time; you are you- an ego. You can’t lose much of you, your investment, and your life. We can only take so much. Forget about you, there are many more abstract entities in play: Space and Time – elements that are deeply interwoven into our lives. They are the many faces of you; they describe you, directly and indirectly. They push you, pull you, and take you in a flow like a stream through the forking paths of life. So, if not for human relations what relations are we talking about? Which relations are humanly, then, possible to endure such pain? I am going to attempt to answer that question with one such relation that I have had, continue to be part of, and the one that I might lose in the future. To begin in the manner of every clichéd love story it is complicated.
If there is one language in which I want to think, listen and When I dance, the music does not belong to me, the try to understand the world around me, it is that of music. air, or the creator of it – it belongs to everyone. In a Sometimes, I believe that I do that; I am peculiar. I have alway, like an instrumentalist, I am a creator of music ways loved music. I have slept with my headphones on more too. Forgive me if I take this act of stating and justifynumber of nights than I have slept on a proper bed. I have ing my opinions about her a tad too far; I am in love. spent many of my lonely nights pondering about the significance of it, the abstract entity - sound. This distorted sense of Our relationship, which one would colloquially refer reality, with its notes and tones, that bends, twists and guides to as an ‘on-off’ one, is four years old. It has been us through a rapture, an ecstasy, to a land where no man has intense in both ways – when she was around and when ever been before. We always want to go there again. I want she was not. I do not know if everyone finds her, or to be there all the time. I wanted more, I wanted to create it. I their version of ‘her’ so elusive but I do. wanted to be an architect of such a space that would eventu- In my opinion, I feel like an instrumentalist when he ally exist in everyone’s mind. A space which they could visit makes music, when I make mine symbolically. whenever they wanted to, to tread softly, to relish, and to go Although the rational mind ponders mad. I tried my best to make music and I failed, quite over problems of cause-and-effect, miserably. I had my fingers cut by the strings, when someone enjoys watchfound the percussion very hard to slap onto, ing a dance they are fooled and when I tried to use my vocals, I was by it, at least to an extent. often out of breath. But above all, I could They believe in the not get the sense of wholeness through any orchestration in a subof these, alone. I was only left there with a liminal way. Also, if we sense of suspension. It was always the mixture take a good look, the ra of all these sounds, the ensemble, which tional mind does believe in moved me. I was frustrated, depressed, the cause-and-effect relationship and still did not own any instrument for of an instrumentalist and not in the I had not found mine yet. I tried symbolic orchestration. The music prolistening to as many instruments as duced by an instrumentalist belongs to possible but nothing spoke to me. him no more than it belongs to the air that Nothing could have been a part of me, I have lost her so many times. I have in any way. Unless, it had been a stood on the same stage, where I had part of me all this while. I was a amassed almost all of my fame and fool to have not seen that for so name as a dancer, and I have gone long. This instrument is even when the music was jarring in something that defines, limits, my ears. I have stood there petrified and embodies me to a when only a fair image, an idea, or certain extent. It is Sanjna Sudan a conception of what she used to something that speaks be for me seems to dangle before to me and speaks for me: it is my body. When I play it, meta- me. In those times, I lose her. I do not even know, phorically, I move; I make music visible. It gives me a sense completely, what I mean by that. It is not the same of satisfaction, a sense of completeness. thing as losing something because of the lack of practice. It is more than just a fat built or emaciated “Through it, I can be a sharp tone of a guitar, the blunt muscles and the apparent loss of control of the body. sound of a tabla, the melancholy of a violin, the shrill voice It is much more horrible, much more frightening than of A.R Rahman, and I can be all these things together. I that. define and surrender to a rhythmsimultaneously. I try hard, very hard, to be the music. Although the scenery and I seem to be complete for others, I never feel complete. I struggle continued..... hard inside, to be complete, to be the music in every detail. In that sense, I am always in a state of suspension – it is the artist’s boon and bane. I dance. Although I am absorbed majorly with the activity of dancing, I will be referring to it from now on as ‘her’ – the love of my life, only for selfish reasons.”
éLAN There is always a certain sense of loss when I dance, when I am with her. It applies to many. People lose themselves every day when they are doing something that they are very passionate about. Psychologists and spiritual leaders call it a ‘sub-conscious act’; artists and few leadership journals call it ‘the flow state’; a neuro-scientist would name it the ‘transient hypofrontality’ or would look at someone and say, “you are shutting down your lateral pre-frontal cortex of your brain, which is responsible for self-editing, when you get into that state.” All these apart, I think it is enough and easy to say that one loses himself. It is where my problem lies, in the fact that I couldn’t lose myself anymore in dance. It is how I lost her many times. I stood there thinking, just thinking, about the beauty of the music, about the thoughts of people who looked at me so closely, thinking and expecting a white rabbit out of my hat every single moment, about the vacuum between me and the audience that deeply stares at me without encouraging or even yelling at me, about the small pauses between the music that confuses me by hinting an ending and beginning at the same time, about doing nothing, about thinking, about this vivid sense of consciousness that is left in me when I most repelled it, and about the pain, the pain of separation. I do not want to think all the time; I just want to dance when I want to. I want to stop thinking when I want to, which is a little too much to ask, apparently. I just want to make symbols with her, with the sleight of my hands, with the fluctuating movements of my tiny eyes, with my rocks, grooves, hops, pops, and locks, which can mean so many different things to so many different people – I am majorly a hip-hop dancer. I just want her. I have gotten her back sometimes and it is a beautiful feeling. She has been many things to me - a fling, a one-night stand, a retrospective love, and a long relationship too.
I think I have her with me now but I might lose her again. I will get her back, or at least, I won’t stop trying to get her back. Without her, without dancing, I am ‘symbol-free’; I mean nothing to me. I feel weird as I almost finish one of the most intense monologues that I have ever had with myself. Is it okay to personify it? Isn’t the act of personifying itself rather strange? Who is she anyway? Is she the music that I dance to? Is moving to the music, her? Or is she just me? Which part of this deeply intricate phenomenon is her, with whom I am in love?
When someone makes you think so much, you almost inadvertently fall in love with them. I have fallen before; I will fall in the future. Defining something is not always, if not right, the best thing to do. She is all of it - the candid movements, the rhythmic sound, and most importantly, me. While I usually spend so much time and effort just to define who ‘she’ is, she, seamlessly, ends up defining who I really and clearly am -
A psychotic in love.
Aunty Parker Speaks Dear Auntyji, Namaste. Given my poor dancing skills, I feel awkward during parties. What should I do? Please give me tips.
Auntyji, Auntyji... Could you please get up and dance?! Auntyji: The first step of overcoming any problem is to admit that you have a problem. And like they say, taking the first step is the hardest part, but look at you! You've already done that, so good job! One solution would be to just learn how to dance. If you're too ashamed to ask someone to teach you, you couldalways join a class or just watch a youtube video. I may be infamous for hating on all you young lads and lassies for your love for liquid courage (tsktsk, you now what I mean), but seriously, unless you are deeply and madly in love with your liver, have some real strong religious or moral or whatever principle against the consumption of liquid courage, maybe you could try some to loosen up? Yaar aunty, why aren't we allowed in the boys hostel forever ? Kya yaar. Auntyji: Babies. DUH. I don’t blog as often as I should.I have a feeling I’ll end up no where after YIF aunty. Help me out Auntyji: Don’t be so upset about not blogging enough chhottu! You’re chance of going somewhere through blogging were always zero to begin with.If you’re really worked up about your future, then you can always schedule a meeting with Pranay, or find a rich person to marry.Another lucrative profession is being a mad activist who hates fun and young people--It’s worked out pretty well for me Why Sarja likes everything? Auntyji: Because he is a strong,intelligent,independent man, and he can do whatever he likes.
a m a r o
Ingress into Sociology with Prof. Bateille
Venkat Prasath Few academicians in India influence the minds of the young as Andre Beteille does. It was 20th March 2012. Andre Beteille authored a piece in The Hindu titled, “India’s destiny not caste in stone.” As an engineer keen to understand the phenomenon of caste, I was amazed by Andre’s line of argument. Having only leafed through the works of M.N. Srinivas and T. B. Bottomore, I was on the lookout for contemporary authors on the subject. That was my first exposure to Andre Beteille and his writings. I am a great admirer of the way democracy works. In that sense, having read Ambedkar’s ideas on constitutional morality, I found Andre’s writing on the same topic to be a great revelation. With this limited knowledge of the subject, I found myself sitting in his class on the first day of the Sociological Reasoning course at the Young India Fellowship. I had never in my wildest dreams thought that I would meet Beteille someday. To me, he was a rockstar academic who had contributed immensely to the social and political discourse of our nation. I was very careful in my choice of words when I interacted with him as he had dealt with subjects as varied as anthropology and democracy. My class consisted of some of the most brilliant minds I have interacted with in my life, ensuring that the interaction with Andre and the quality of the questions were topnotch. Professor Beteille would periodically check his watch to keep time in class. Whenever he did that, I felt that the time should stop there and should not move forward so that we would get to listen to him more. One particular aspect about him at which I marveled was his breadth of knowledge. Students asked him questions ranging from Greek mythology, international relations, democracy, mythology, tribal affairs to history.
Young India Fellowship Facebook Page He was succinct, convincing, witty and eloquent in his answers. To a question on gun laws in the United States, he commented, “I can even understand cannibalism, but I cannot understand gun laws in the U.S.” He made us aware of the limitations of the law in our country and the realities of how society functions. He won over our hearts - at the end of every single class, he received a standing ovation. Commenting on the India of 1947, Beteille once mused in class, “For many Indians, and perhaps the majority, the habits of the heart are still the habits of a hierarchical society.” That quotation was unique and struck a chord with many of us. In a modern sense, it also means that the new, young India with 65% of its population under the age of 35 has to work on the problems that have arisen out of this hierarchical society. India had great writers and political thinkers before Independence. Today’s India takes lot of inspiration from their thoughts. I am sure Andre Beteille will continue to influence India’s political thought process through his writings in the days to come, just as the great thinkers of pre-independent India did. To sum up my experience in Andre Beteille’s class, I would like to draw an analogy from the Mahabharata. The tribal prince Ekalavya tried to learn from his favourite guru, Drona, without formally enrolling in his class. Similarly, I learnt and was influenced by Professor Beteille’s work even before coming here. In the epic, Eklavya did not get an opportunity to train directly under Drona - but I got six wonderful classes to interact with Professor Beteille, which I will cherish throughout my life. When I related my experience of Andre’s classes to some of my friends in the Indian Administrative Service, they reacted with cries of envy - and I realized I was perhaps in the right place.
is about solving problems” the professor said as we gaped at the phenomenal works by artists, who had also been renowned scientists and mathematicians of their times. My mind immediately flashed images of the paintings, sketches and other little works of art that I had done over a period of time and my being was immediately filled with the pride and contentment that I felt about them. However it also made me realize, how much I had been fed with the exact opposite notions; over and over again. “Take art as a hobby- a pleasure activity, but concentrate more on your math,” I had been told, repeatedly. This stream of thought also led me to my other memories; memories about how I almost rebelled against the silent calls of my sketchbooks and paints, for I had started to spend more time with school text books; year after year. Until, they were eventually silenced. The realm of logic and reason had triumphed while my sketchbooks gathered dust. But art had beckoned me again, and here was Anunaya Chaubey, the almost legendary art professor who simply drew the parallels between art and logic. He explained how art wasn’t just about solving problems, but was also about leadership. It was about leadership to seek art in the most unlikely of places and turn it into a means of livelihood for many, in fact, generations together. Art was about applying knowledge of biology, geometry, mathematics and physics together on the canvas. It was a medium that brought everything there was in our visual world to come together to create an image of our perception about the subject- the world that we see. It was entrenched in the culture we lived and loved. Of course it was about reason and logic too, how could you otherwise render a three-dimensional reality onto a two-dimensional canvas?
Professor Chaubey taught us, how art was also about conviction and believing in our eccentricities. Where could you be a radical and move away from the mainstream and invent something of your own? It took courage and conviction. This, in turn meant leadership. It led me to become conscious of the fact that how indeed, the Indian education system made the strongest and wildest of children to be caught in the web of the clichéd rat race. This race enticed them, almost with seductive persuasion to dream about having a better report card than the neighbor’s kid. All the learning that only art could bestow was lost in the process. And then they complain about the dearth of leaders and radical.
éLAN However, where could the polymaths- the gifted ones go? The ones who wanted to pursue both maths and arts, the Da Vincis? Thus, comes the urgent need for the Indian Education system to look into its past and seek answers from the Gurukul mode of learning. The almost dead pedagogy of developing well rounded personalities rather than one-dimensional adults. The one that encouraged its students to engage with a variety of subjects be it science, warfare, math, the arts or simply cooking; where was such a system now?
Undergraduate education in India today, asks its students to declare a major course of study without allowing them any room for exploring different avenues. Students have increasingly become unaware of critical new ways of inter- and multi-disciplinary thinking that provided them with a more in-depth yet diverse engagement with the world. We now, in turn, have a system where a corporate team leader with an artistic bent of mind is given little or no incentive to use his talents for business strategies and market knowledge to make something like folk art in India a source of livelihood for millions. The beautiful, dainty handicrafts and their makers are crying themselves hoarse for attention as poverty looms large in the heart of India- the villages. And then they complain about the dearth of social entrepreneurs.
“Art is about solving problems” he had said; but solving problems meant taking risks. However, the current system has not adequately inculcated in us the importance of exploring- of going ahead and taking ‘risks’ which art allows us to take; for taking risks is the touchstone for successful leadership. Art pushes, makes demands and calls on one to take risks. I was, at Young India Fellowship privileged to find art again and find leadership to be closely related to it. I don’t know where I will go from this renewed and deep acquaintance with art, but wherever I go, I will never be the same person. And I sincerely hope that India wakes up to this knowledge too and brings to the forefront dynamic, creative and whole individuals. And then they shall find leaders who will lead us into a world where imagination and reason walk together.
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I like school. I’ve spent several years in it and I’m soon to complete yet another, which will make the figure an even sixteen. The mention of school usually draws two reactions from most folks my age – one of fond nostalgia for a by gone era or one of bitter loathing for a rather torturous period. Thankfully, I belong to the former category. The romantic image of a schoolboy in khakis and a tie, walking early morning to school, Bible and hymn book in hand, has never quite faded from its sepia-tinted glory in my head. When I think of school, I fondly recall the formative years in my life — ones that not only gave me an education, but lifelong friends and memories to cherish. But fond as I am of school, I’m not a fan of the system. I recognize that education, for all its merits,has its limitations. And one of the pitfalls being a part of this system can bring with it is leaving it with an entirely wrong notion of who you are. My artistic ability (or apparent lack of it) was something I’d always been mildly embarrassed about. It’s not that I drew badly – I simply couldn’t draw. A month-long arts and craft class during summer didn’t remedy it either – I was hopeless in comparison with the other kids. At school, S.U.P.W. (Socially Useful Productive Work – a total misnomer) in my opinion was a sheer waste of time. It didn’t help that I had a grumpy old frump as a teacher who grudgingly distributed pea-sized quantities of Fevicol either.It helped though, that I was a bit of a nerd – I had recourse. I edited the school student newspaper, I was a regular debater, played an instrument and got good grades. But my failure to produce any satisfactory artwork by my or anyone’s standards nagged. The only ‘paintings’ I’d manage were juvenile renditions of mountain sceneries, repeated over and over. I eventually came to accept my apparent inability. Rationalization set in. I left school with this mindset and whenever the opportunity arose,
Ritvik Carvalho I’d proudly announce my artistic incompetence and make it the subject of self-deprecating humour. It’s no surprise then, that I entered the art course at the Young India Fellowship with trepidation. We were going to paint, I’d heard. Here, I’d be exposed. Here, I’d look incompetent. Here, I’d relive the pain of trying to produce any visual coherence on paper. Except that it wasn’t paper. It was canvas. And this was a course on art appreciation. What briefly assuaged my helplessness at the first class was our instructor, Anunaya Chaubey’sintroductory assertion –
‘This is not really a course on art. It’s a course on critical thinking.’ And so it began. Producing a painted canvas within a one-hour time frame. Reflecting on the experience, and the set of ‘problems’ it presented, creative and logistical. Critically analysing the same work through guided discussion and an exploration of art theory, which cultivated in me a descriptive conversancy, enabling me to engage meaningfully with any visual rendering. Looking at painting for the first time through the geometric lens of linear perspective, a simple but powerful exercise that emphasized the role of lines in directing the viewer’s eyes. Sketching-shading sessions with simple instructions – to simply see and reproduce what we saw using a minimal set of strokes.
éLAN Producing two more canvases, interspersed with lectures that traced art all the way from its documented cave origins to performance art in the present. My notion of being an art dunce was slowly hacked at and eventually shattered by these activities, all reinforced by Prof. Chaubey’s encouraging refrain to “Trust yourself.” I’m sure as hell no Michelangelo, but for the first time in my life, I came to hold a brush confidently and produce something coherent and meaningful. Coherent and meaningful enough to score over a 100 likes on Facebook anyway. I joyously discovered another source of the flow-state as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Up until now, the only activity in which I’d experienced anything that resembled ‘flow’ was writing. Painting recreated the flow experience for me, the canvas providing an instant feedback mechanism as it reacted to the application of the paint. As I progressed from one canvas to the next, every successive brush stroke seemed to convey a lesson on its own, each lesson finding a cumulative manifestation in my work.This class was a quake moment. It completely destroyed a wrong notion and crystallized a new one in its wake. The new one being that with the right mental nudges, the right guidance, and the right environment, you can overcome any problem and learn something new. That your identity and understanding of who you are is carved out largely by an already skewed perception — one that can, and should be constantly revised. This is not just an epiphany — it’s a lesson that can be applied in multiple areas and has very tangible ramifications for one’s life. It’s a revelation that alters your view of seemingly insurmountable challenges, reducing them to soluble problems.I’ve decided that a corner in my future study will be reserved for an easel. More importantly,
I’ve decided to trust myself.
Kartik S Menon
‘Chalein Sath Saath: Forward Together we Go’ – Modi’s to Washington
A Look at Indo-US Diplomacy through the Years One wonders if there could have been a better tagline to promote, what promises to be the most contentious product of India’s international dialogue and diplomacy than “Chalein Sath Sath: Forward Together we Go”, that called for a joint endeavour for prosperity and peace during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the U.S. This historic visit by him to the Washington set the tone to bring back the much debated and analysed foreign policy issue- the Indo-US ties. Dialogues and deliberations between India and the United States over the years have been rather deceptive. Notwithstanding the fact that there have been substantial, and in all fairness, remarkable gains on both sides, the question of ‘what could have been’ remains, even after successive bilateral discussions between New Delhi and Washington. Any attempt to grasp the present dynamics of Indo-US relations, naturally calls for some rudimentary knowledge of the history of deliberations between these two great democracies. India and the United States have been widely recognized in international circles as the world’s largest and oldest democracies respectively. Even as India trumps over US in terms of antiquity of civilization, the United States of America is ahead, in terms of governance experience in a democratic setup, as it had already established itself as a global power by the time India became independent in 1947. This complex interplay of forces made the relations between two nations a fascinating subject for study. However; as was to be proven immediately and subsequently many times over- the dialogues between the two democracies were not always as smooth and cordial as they could have been. India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru embarked on the path of Non-Alignment in a world which was divided on liberal versus communist ideological grounds.
This indeed was a brave move, considering the fact that the nation had just gained independence and development and realization of statehood would have needed assistance from one of the two ‘superpowers’- the democratic USA and the communist USSR. India’s refusal to join any of the two in such a bipolar world, or the SEATO and CENTO, further alienated India from US. US’ refusal to accept Pakistan’s aggression in 1947 and in 1965 and its evident tilt towards the Pakistan in 1971 war was considered as a hostile move by India. This however, did not mean that the US always took an antithetical position towards India because the US did contribute $ 931 million to help India in times of poor harvests. Furthermore, the Kennedy administration provided India considerable backing during the 1962 Indo-China conflict. John Gailbraith, one of Kennedy’s advisors helped to set up the country’s foremost computer departments at IIT Kanpur. Also, the considerable support provided by the US in ushering the Green Revolution is noteworthy. Apart from the political differences, the India’s contentious stand on acquiring nuclear weapons also, proved to be a bone of contention between the two nations in the 20th century. China’s entry into the nuclear weapons club convinced the US of the fact that other Asian nations including India would do the same. In a bid to stem this, the US along with other nations, devised the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty in 1968. Recognizing the inherent bias and the discrimination in the treaty, India refused to sign the treaty and in fact conducted nuclear tests twice, once in 1974 and then in 1998, events which had serious repercussions, with the latter resulting the Clinton administration imposing sanctions upon India; which were although subsequently removed.
Enter the 21st century and India became more and more central to the US foreign policy issues. With a population that had crossed the billion mark and a post 1993 liberal economy, clubbed with cheap and educated labor rendered India the image of being one of the ‘Nascent Global Powers’. India was increasingly seen to be a potential counterweight to China in the region. Thus, in 2005, the two estranged democraciesUnited States and India signed a ten-year defense framework agreement, aiming at expanding bilateral security cooperation. The two nations got engaged in numerous combined military exercises. The US has also undertaken significant arms sales to India. The value of all bilateral trade tripled from 2004 to 2008 and continues to grow, while the traffic of two-way investment is of a considerable magnitude and worth. The watershed moment of the bilateral relations in the early years of the 21st century, however was the Civilian Nuclear Agreement signed between the then Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and US President, George W. Bush after which several rounds of negotiations, amendments and notable protests (especially in India) took the shape of the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act, 2008. In November 2010, President Barack Obama visited India and addressed a joint session of the Indian Parliament, where he backed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It was in 2010 too that India and the US engaged in a strategic dialogue and came up with initiatives in ten key areas which included global security, disarmament, energy, climate change among others.
éLAN However, this period has also witnessed significant roadblocks to the blossoming relations. From the Obama Administration’s decision to limit the H-1B visas to spying the activities of the BJP and the now Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi by the NSA in 2010, to the entire controversy surrounding diplomatic immunity with the Indian diplomat, Devayani Khobragade at the centre of it, Indo- US relations have felt several jolts of late, in the continuing bid to forge better relations between nations whom once the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake called “natural allies”. It would not be exaggeration to posit that the present Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi’s visit to the US has taken both the nations and the entire global community by a storm. Never has any Indian PM been received amidst such fanfare nor has anyone evoked such frenzy amongst the Indian diaspora in the US as Modi has. Once blacklisted, Mr. Modi has been received at practically every level, with the image of Barack Obama accompanying Mr. Modi to the Martin Luther King Memorial- a telling signal to the world that the US government is keen to work in tandem with the Indian leader.
While new declarations on issues like energy and defense were not forthcoming, the pessimists got more meat to their arguments as both sides continued to defer deliberations on issues where both the sides had been at loggerheads, such as the Nuclear deal issue as well as matters related to trade and India’s stand at WTO. Prudence would call for the formulation of a substantive and more concrete stand on the issues of forming a common axis to deal with global terrorism and international aggression, something which could derive inspiration from the advancements in the fields of women empowerment, health, energy, andskills where considerable progress has been achieved. However, few would dispute the fact that Mr. Modi’s visit has provided a new impetus to the Indo-US relations which were faltering in the last years of UPA-II. Even so in order to bring their efforts to fruition both New Delhi and Washington need to work in mutually rewarding ways and find avenues whereby a truly symbiotic relationship can be created or to put it as the joint editorial which appeared in the Washington Post states “create a partnership that is robust, reliable, enduring and expanding”.
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Cinephelia Ritesh Agarwal The first film I remember watching was 1942: A Love Story in a shabby, single screen theatre- a vanishing breed of cinema halls. The theatre was called Payal in Siliguri, and ever since I have been watching movies with a religious zeal and a spiritual fervor. I think this mania can be attributed to my genes as all my family members are ardent movie goers. My father frequently sported Bachchan haircuts and my mother wore Devdas sarees to marriages. Nevertheless, I had always considered cinema as entertainment, a pastime with little or no acknowledgement of its transformative power and magic. However, it was over time that I felt that it was indeed a strange dialect, as movies became part of a live oral national discourse. Cinema today has become an important aspect of the cultural landscape, though it has been consciously ignored, subsided, censored and poisoned over time.With the injection of a progressive Jesuit education, a passion for movies and quizzing into my life, the contours of perception and understanding were ever expanding. The addiction to movies as a pastime along with the consumption of kitsch Bollywood garbage, metamorphosed into the quest for the science, language and art of cinema. There were two problems with this - accessibility and lone viewing.The accessibility problem was mitigated to a certain extent with the great piracy boom in the early 2000s and with the emergence of torrents and broadband Internet - with which I do not have a problem. However, the other problem is a serious one. In a small town like Darjeeling, to where I belong, I remember my teacher telling me to take real life more seriously than reel life. I did not understand this remark then, but when I think about it today, I strongly feel that the Indian cinema and its torchbearers are responsible for making films that are perceived as something that is non-cerebral, frivolous and trivial by the masses.
However, coming back to the question of cinema as art, I find the insight by Satyajit Ray quite descriptive - “Cinema is often not perceived as art, as many argue it lacks the purity of a painting, abstract qualities of music, analytical scope of the novel and the intensity of the theater.” This way, my first meaningful dialogue with cinema began with a film called Black Friday, which I saw on a pirated print, years after it was released. I saw it on a big screen with another 6 people in the audience, and I was transformed. Throughout college at St. Stephens in Delhi, my friends and I cultivated a taste for the language of cinema. The aesthetic poetry of Wong Kar Wai, the pathological edginess of Martin Scorsese, the genius of Charlie Kauffman, sensibility of Satyajit Ray and the visions of Satoshi Kon were considered important landmarks in our attempt to form our own worldviews and critical faculties. Nevertheless, I still felt a strong remorse at the state of the Indian cinema. Though I do not deny that there have been some good films, but being the largest producer and consumer of cinema, the number is too infinitesimal. The apathy towards cinema being a serious and meaningful art is similar to politics being distant and impersonal in the collective consciousness of a country. In the long drawn process of self-delusion and maintenance of the existent cultural and psychological status quo, I can safely say we have become ‘harmonious schizophrenics’. Using the revolutionary rhetoric,whether this era is to be considered archaic, medieval, modern or post modern, where surfing and torrents mean different things altogether, we are heading towards a crucial stage in the evolution of the plastic arts and this will extend to the domain of Indian cinema. With an over expansion in cinematic geograph and landscape, a question often comes to my mind- will it ever change the exploitative Indian cinema to an engaging and responsible art? It is with a sense of optimism and rebellion that the Film Society in Ashoka wants to use motion pictures and its allied arts as a tool to initiate dilogue, confront belief sys tems, stimulate profound experiences and engage with the greatest breakthrough in our thinking and knowing- through films. It hopes to use the cinematic engagements to set up a bulwark against odious, inert and regressive thinking.
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