Take a Plunge into the Heart of Arts


Published in EDUVERSE- JNANADEGULA special supplement of DECCAN HERALD on Saturday 26th May 2018

By S. RADHA PRATHI

The air in the higher education scene is certainly undergoing a subtle change, if the recent response to the results of CET is anything to go by. The reaction of the students of second PUC who have taken up the exams has been surprisingly lukewarm, considering the fact that it had been held a sacred ritual for every student of science for almost two decades. Apparently there is more to it than the eye can see at the outset. Though the confusions and pandemonium connected with the examination in the last two years or the reservation policy appear to be the obvious culprits there are other latent factors that are working on the minds of the Indian populace.

Even as early as the last academic year the educational system represented by the colleges followed the unwritten rule of taking students with a high score into the science stream and phasing out to the commerce and arts streams respectively as the total marks of the board examinations tapered down. The parents and students accepted this unwritten dictum and tried very hard to get into the sciences to prove their worth.  The student tribe as a race flinched at the idea of taking up arts as they fear that they may not be respected in their peer group, especially in the urban areas across India. Well they cannot be really blamed for their conviction because an invisible and unlabelled stigma has been attached to the subject.

While the commerce stream invariably took the middle path and played it safe, it has been the arts stream that has been bearing the brunt of it all except in a few rare cases. If a brilliant student chose to study arts in the past he invariably aimed at taking up the civil service examinations. Then there were others who took pride in obtaining and honours in BA in the past, but the mediocre students pursued the same to embellish their names with a degree which could be obtained without much strain.

A study reveals that on an average in India, the arts stream has an astounding number of female students the ratio showing almost eight girl students for every two male students. Most of these graduates in arts have been showing a leaning towards teaching or have reclined back in the glory of just being a graduate. Even those who pursue their higher studies through distance education show an affinity for the arts as it facilitated self study and gave them scope to answer the papers in the vernaculars. Usually, students who choose to take up under graduate and post graduate courses through correspondence courses opt for arts to serve their purpose of completing a degree course.

The mindset of the regular students of the undergraduate courses in the arts stream did not reveal a very different tale. In fact when several lecturers and heads of institutions were asked their opinion on the arts courses they were certainly not ecstatic about it. They unanimously opined that only the dregs of very academically poor students take up arts and this trend has eroded the interest of both the teachers and the students over the years.

Even the best of colleges revealed that barring a handful of sincere students who were passionate about their subjects the rest of them took it for a lark. It appeared that the students who dappled with combinations that highlight the study of literature in several languages, journalism and psychology were considered to be more astute among others who chose the customary combinations like  political science, sociology, History etc.

Of late there has been a noticeable change in the attitude towards studying arts at least in the urban sector. It is important to note that this trend is catching on only among the elite and intellectual urbanites who have had an international exposure. The rest of the brethren are pursuing the course because it is cheaper, easily available, can be pursued with or without guidance and most importantly as everyone consulted on the issue chimed in that one does not have to study the “dreadful subject” called mathematics.

The present craze to pave way for a budding career in the arts stream should not be misinterpreted for lack of opportunities in the past. One glance at the subjects and several combinations offered by the PU Board of Karnataka and various universities in the state reveals that there has been absolutely no dearth of subjects right from day one, but colleges that came under their wings never risked to experiment beyond one or two common combinations.

However of late this trend is undergoing a gradual change as more and more enterprising and gifted students are aiming at becoming Art Historians, Archaeologists, Theologians, Anthropologists, Curators, Copy Writers. The colleges in the state are recognizing the need to cater to the need of these aspiring students as a record number of application forms have been filled out for these courses in almost every college.

At present the serious students of arts are migrating to America, Australia and England to follow their dreams. Some of the students who have dared to tread the “untrodden path” have found that it is not only “Cool” to study Arts and if pursued in right earnest it can woo a lot of “Hot” money too. Go take a plunge if your heart beats for the arts.

 

 

Exploring the Road Less Travelled


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/exploring-road-less-travelled-670482.html

The lakhs of students who have cleared their tenth, twelfth grade and pre university courses from various state boards, ICSE and CBSE streams are presently in the threshold of their future. Some of them do have clear cut ideas as to how to charter their future course of action. Then there are others who   find themselves led by their noses to choose the course they have to pursue. Actually the situation reflects the mental landscape of the normal Indian student, no matter to which class of society, religion or financial bracket he may belong to. Indians as a race feel very secure when they try “the road well travelled” as there is little or no risk involved; moreover they also attach a lot of importance to the assured financial security that certain jobs offer.

Keener observation of this situation reveals that issues have not undergone even an iota of change over a couple of centuries. The value of each course has been determined on the basis of what the possible returns could be in terms of monetary benefit and social status. In an earlier era children were expected to follow the learning and profession adopted by the family. When education became institutionalized by the British most good students were goaded to become professional lawyers as it spelled a lucrative turnover. When we became independent, science courses in professional arenas became the crowning glory of an excellent student. Though the emphasis has been on different courses over the decades the basic idea behind selecting the course has invariably been the same.

The income factor happens to be only one side of the coin. The educational caliber of a person is determined by the stream of study the student opts for. Personal interest and core competency for studying the subject appear to be subject of little or no interest to the general public. What the candidate ends up doing in life is of no consequence as long as he opts for a course that steps up his standing in society.

It is an unwritten and unquestioned decree for students scoring high marks to be absorbed in the main stream or the science stream by the colleges impervious of the fact whether the student has the aptitude for the subject. The cream of the toppers opts or professional courses like medical or engineering leaving the lesser their brethren to take up lesser under graduate courses in science, commerce and arts precisely in that order. This practice has almost become a tradition in our educational system much to the chagrin of the serious students who have opted a particular course out of interest.

Though many youngsters are able to effectively put their foot down and surmount the obstacles that come in the way of choosing their favorite course not everyone succeeds. This is the reason we find a lot of educated people to be thorough misfits in their vocation. Many post graduates in subjects like Physics or Chemistry have settled down as bank managers or have found themselves plush jobs in the corporate sector as administrative staff because the remuneration is high. There are several doctors who have cleared their course in more than a few attempts working as medical transcriptionists because the package is incomparable.

When one tries to understand the underlying psyche of the Indian masses, the apparent reverence towards education and its innumerable virtues appears to be a shameful sham.

 

Education has come a long way from its original objective – an abstract wealth which will stand in good stead to its possessor through the thick and thin of his life. Perhaps that is the reason why we find that by and large most people were literate in the past and had a fairly good idea of the rudiments of language and mathematics. Scholars wrote well researched treatises on a plethora of subjects at great length. Somewhere along the line Indians shied from taking “the road less travelled by” causing a widespread stagnation in the field of education. It is certain that the future of variegated education lies in the hands of the present batch of tenth standard students who are standing at the crossroads of their lives with latent dreams, thoughts and ideas…..

 

Connecting Dots, Spiritually


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Every festival is celebrated with grandeur in our country. So isDhanur maasa which falls between December and January. The south celebrates this season both spiritually and musically.

One cannot miss the mellifluous music that rise from our temples early in the mornings.

Sabhas and music halls compete with each other to provide a stage for both the established and upcoming artists alike. Similarly, one can not miss the art of rangoli/ kholam designs either, which are drawn in front of homes at the crack of dawn.

These days one sees them drawn out even in apartment complexes and gated communities. Some commission rangoli artists in their social circles to draw different rangolis for each day of the month.

If you are wondering what is special about Dhanur Maasarangolis, VR Bhat the Archaka at the Ganesh temple on New BEL Road explains, “Ideally a rangoli should be drawn in front of homes every day, except when the household is mourning. Creative and colourful rangolis can earmark special days in the family and festivals. Patterns based on dots, instil a sense of harmony and connectivity.”

Dr Shatavadhani R Ganesh explains the origin of rangoli, “What we call rangoli today, has its origins in the Sanskrit word Rangavalli. It means creeper-like lines on a stage. They have been a part of Indian art and culture ever since Vedic times and have been used as embellishments and as an expression of aesthetics and faith.”

On the origins of this art, he says, “The lines are blurred between the classical and folk form of the art, leaving us guessing. The geometric Mandalas of Vedic times paved the way for some of the Rangoli patterns drawn to this day.”

The constellations with their relationship to the cosmos, the power of the forces of nature have been symbolically, geometrically and graphically represented as a rangoli, which are also called Yantras.

Sheela Sankaran, a student of Indian Art and Aesthetics, Mumbai University notes, “The Margazhi month in the solar calendar has been earmarked for the art because south India is at latitude of 32 degrees from the Equator. Since this solstice brings the earth closest to the sun, our ancestors decided to highlight the season by infusing music and art in the Rangoli form to celebrate the season.”

It is heartening to see that a few homes in our city still draw out these intricate designs in front of their homes.

Syamala Subramaniam, a 77-year-old home maker reveals she has “not missed drawing a kolam outside my home since I was seven. I enjoyed making huge designs as I had time and space. Ever since I shifted to Bengaluru, my rangolis have become smaller.”

From Art to Heart


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/646739/from-art-heart.html

Denizens of Namma Bengaluru are treated to dollops of street art every now and then. More recently, the painting of a swimming pool in and around a large pothole captured a lot of attention. The painting seemed to come alive when somebody captured a realistic snapshot of a random pedestrian trying to step in gingerly into the painted waters holding the bars of the ladder and uploaded it onto social media.

The picture sent me on a nostalgic trip down the busy streets of our city a couple of decades ago. Just about every Saturday, a couple of kids would appear at around 4 pm with brooms and fine brushes. They would clean up a patch of the ground measuring the size of a small carpet. An hour later, their master would come and quickly draw the border lines without using any instrument. Charcoal powder or white rangoli powder would be evenly spread on the floor. Then the master would draw another border around it.

Within a matter of an hour, he would be going round and round drawing the outline. Gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon would emerge magically as he deftly coloured and gilded their ornaments. Once done, he would rest on the platform with his young companions, waiting for the footfalls to linger there. The public would offer prayers and place a coin carefully along the demarked borders before proceeding.

For kids like us, it happened to be the staple weekend all-round exposure to the arts, culture and resourcefulness. No one, except an occasional gust of wind or a spell of rains, would disturb the work of art till it earned bread for its creators until the next weekend.

These artists, though torn apart by time and space have managed to strike a chord and have warmed the hearts of many who have been exposed to their works. They have managed to make us not only appreciate their work but also reflect on it, even if only momentarily. These artists who unleash their creativity with confidence and élan silently remind us how a piece of fine art can warm the cockles of our heart and ruminate on matters beyond the mundane. They serve soups to our souls and hence it becomes our moral responsibility to sustain them and their art. For art is long and life is short!

Perhaps, this is what Khalil Gibran’s meant when he said:

“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players – buy of their gifts also.

And that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.”

Science Psyche & Entertainment


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/580202/science-psyche-entertainment.html

Of late, people have been getting hooked to horror movies and scary TV serials that have made it to the big and small screens like never before. Modern technology has facilitated these pieces of art into spectacular and stunning bits of entertainment.

Creative directors and story writers are taking advantage of this provision. So now we have snakes slithering into the bedrooms, fires emanating from water, lemons morphing into ferocious animals, earth cracking under ones feet, spirits, goblins and ghosts rubbing shoulders with their mortal kin, occult, black magic, voodoo among other things.

Subjects like life after death which was in the realms of theosophy and philosophy have been given a new lease of life by being introduced into the story line. So now we have a series of “murdered characters” flitting about as enraged or morbid souls in finery seeking revenge by entering the bodies of their erstwhile enemies.

For good measure, they also settle other minor scores giving scope for eerie humour. These stories which made the rounds mostly on late night shows have been gaining visibility even during the day. The escalating TRPs are proof of their popularity.

What is more interesting is the fact that modern science has facilitated the access to these unfounded, medieval, dark age stories and belief.

In other words, poppycock nonsense has regained its past glory by the very science that was used to expose it. The most bizarre ideas are translated into the visual medium by intelligent minds who know how to wield the essential equipment. Truth be told, they are doing a splendid job.

On the one hand, this trend speaks of the might of human intelligence which is able to cater just about anything that is demanded of it.

On the other hand, it is a little frightening to know that people who do not exercise their grey cells are lapping up the farfetched stories of another era which were retired as redundant, obsolete and illogical. It is when viewers start attaching value to it beyond the entertainment quotient the trouble begins.

There have been news stories about audience responding to this genre of entertainment in hitherto unheard ways. The first category of people get inspired by what they see. They utilise their limited knowledge and make use of horror to derive some thrill by frightening their friends and enemies out of their wits or skins. The other category is the typical hero worshipping admirers of the subcontinent, who do not mind throwing away their personalities and sometimes even their lives in the name of adoration.

Scientific temperament

They are the naïvetes who start believing and imbibing the various concepts and ideas that are presented to them. They lose track of their scientific temperament and never care to verify the truth before communicating the same to others. It is alarming to know that a large section of population who belong to this category happen to be women and children who may or may not be educated.

It is ironic to note that the very science that was/is used to enlighten the human mind and help it overcome baseless fears, superstitions and beliefs is instrumental in worming into our wisdom.

While there is nothing wrong in using science to aid creativity, one must also curb the tendency to spread irrational thinking in the name of entertainment. The intelligent brains that come up with exotic and innovative ideas must also keep in mind they are indirectly responsible for shaping the minds of their consumers.

They must remember that people like to copy, adulate and emulate what fascinates them. Statutory warnings or censor boards can be inadequate in stemming the possible damage to the human psyche. Hence, it becomes the sacrosanct responsibility of the ingenious ilk to use their expertise judiciously.

Technology has come a long way and shrunk the world beyond imagination. It has made the world closer and sometimes closed as in the present case. Today, more than ever before, we must ensure that the role of science makes a positive impact on modern man’s life.

Science should be  used to open up minds to newer possibilities because it can sustain, empower, help us evolve and emerge as better people or very simply decimate us to being mere mindless zombies who stop living and start existing.

 

Quintessentially Indian


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/495045/quintessentially-indian.html

Radha Prathi, August 14, 2015:

The streets have exotic stuff that can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things.

You can shop for beautiful and exotic items that are sure to brighten up your home, on the busy streets of India. Radha Prathi explores the enticing choices

Are you the sort who takes pride in thinking globally and acting locally? Are you mindful about boosting our local economy by carefully buying goods made in our country? Do you enjoy patronising indigenous artists? Do you think you have innate bargaining skills? Do you always gravitate towards all things bright and beautiful? Do you think that your home or office decor should be expressive of your personality? Then it is time to hit the streets.

The highways leading to Indian cities and busy streets have exotic stuff, which can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things. You will spot these goods being sold by artisans and their families off the sidewalks. Since they pay little or no rent to the city corporation, their articles are sold with minimal profit margin. If you happen to buy more than one unit, you can always demand for more discounts. Make sure that you examine your purchase for damages or anomalies before they pack them for you. The only flipside really is that your credit cards will not be accepted.

The silver lining is that you can pay up in a jiffy, without waiting in long lines and also, round off the bill amount to a lower denomination! Now let us take a look at all the possible things that can brighten up your hearth and home.

Down to earth

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It does not matter if you’re the sort who is down to earth or eclectic, or for that matter anywhere in between. Next time you see terracotta items being sold somewhere, stop. The humble water pot fitted with a stainless steel tap can be a healthy replacement to your electrically managed water filter. Tea and coffee have a way of assuming a surreal look when served in terracotta crockery. You can select a collection of figurines or wall plates of gods, damsels, animals and birds and place them tastefully in your garden amongst the plants or anywhere else you fancy.

Huge vats, vases, shallow basins and flower pots can double up as corner pieces. Gaily painted hundis and masks have the ability to warm up hearts and hearths. The traditional diyas can light up your place. If you are good at wielding the paint brush, unleash your skills on your earthen goods. Though terracotta goods can be found through the year, they have a tendency to mushroom around the Diwali season giving you infinite choices to pick from. If you care for the good earth in the form of porcelain, there is a whole market waiting for you out there.

Wood is good

If you are a connoisseur of Channapatna  toys, pencil tops, containers et al, you don’t have to necessarily go to the toy town or an arts and crafts emporium, as you can easily spot these beauties in busy market places. If you want any particular item, you can request the seller to procure them for you and he will, in all likelihood, be only too happy to do so.

However, there is a catch. Original, handmade, lacquer-painted goods are sold along with machine-made ones coloured with acrylic paints, and it can be hard to notice the difference if one is a novice. At such times, it’s better to give the benefit of doubt to the seller and take his word for it, if he refuses to lower the price after a certain point. These wooden pieces prove to be safe anywhere in the house, from the kitchen to the children’s room.

Friends with nature

If you are an eco-friendly person, never miss an opportunity to stop by at a place  where coir or woven grass items are sold. Mats, coasters, fans, baskets, jewellery boxes, winnows, musical instruments, rattles, toys, wall hangings and pen holders are some of the things that are made in coir and woven grass. In fact, you can find just about any item that has utility or aesthetic value sitting pretty in such shops. You can pick them all if you mean to give your space a theme or just zero in on the ones that attract your attention.

For the love of carpets

Having a luxurious Persian or Kashmiri hand-knotted carpet spread across the living room floor is worth every penny you spent on it. These days, we find native craftsmen doing the rounds around cities, selling handmade carpets and mats on push carts. If you fancy any of them, do not buy them right away; visit the nearest Kashmir emporium and do your homework. Unroll the item of your choice and inspect both sides of the carpet in daylight. If you love it, haggle until you reach some point of agreement. If you want variation, voice it and you may be able to get in the time frame suggested by the seller.

Perk up the walls

If you think your walls need that fresh coat of paint badly, but you do not have the means to do that due to various constraints, do not get disheartened. You can instead fill up your walls with all your favourite posters. Or you could even make that collage you have always dreamt of. When the time comes for painting the walls, you may have to rip them all off. But if you want it to be long-lasting, you could consider laminating them.

Something that sticks on Stickers happen to be the most contemporary, prominent and practical way of expressing yourself these days. You will be spoilt for choice with regard to the design, quality and size. You can find traditional stickers for the home’s doorstep to the shining stars that adorn the ceiling. If you feel overwhelmed by their sheer number and variety, go slow as you are likely to hoard on them for they come really cheap.

Stained in delightful shades

The next time you spot a vendor selling Plaster of Paris idols, vats, vases and wall plates – which come in some delightful classical and mythological forms – do take a look. They are usually light, stained in gold, silver, copper or bronze shades and are available at competitive prices. If you want to customise them, go in for uncoloured ones. With a little effort, talent and patience, you can create magic.

Brass effect

Occasionally, busy roads are punctuated with antique dealers who sell brass items like gramophone equipment, classical telephones, lamps, bells, figurines, junk jewellery and coins, among others. Make a selection of the items you fancy, but don’t buy them on the spot. Come back with a pinch of tamarind or some lemon juice and touch the tips or the bottom of the selected items. If the metal glows, then go ahead and clinch the deal.

Knick knacks

There are times when you find an assortment of adorable items like fur dolls, puppets, wind chimes and the like sold along the busy city streets. Inspect them and do not hesitate to make a purchase if you really care for the items because you may not spot them again and even if you do, they may not turn out to be the same.

Once in a while, it’s absolutely fine to pick up a few balloons for your home. You don’t always need a birthday party or an anniversary at home to buy balloons. Available in a plethora of colours, shapes and sizes, they never fail to attract the eye, especially when they seem to wink at you from a busy street corner.

Tasteful home decor items need not always be sourced from international visits or high-end decor shops. As you traverse the streets of our beautiful, diverse country, you’ll be amazed by the splendid choices on offer. And once you clinch a deal, it might leave you asking for more!

So, this Independence Day, as we sport the tri-colour with pride, let our homes too reflect the splendour and rich diversity of our many arts and cultures.