Golu 2018


These are some of the pictures from our Golu 2018 captured by some of my dear friends and well wishers. The theme was FLORA. Natural plants, arts and crafts of a varied range have been worked on and have been used to depict the world of flowers and explore its overwhelming global presence in mythology, history , literature and architecture.

An Ode to My Music Teacher


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-middle/ode-my-music-teacher-693371.html

S RADHA PRATHI, SEP 18 2018, 23:25PM IST UPDATED: SEP 18 2018, 23:26PM IST

When my music teacher taught me the Sargam when I was a mere child, she had asked me to visualize them as a set of steps, which I had to ascend and descend. Just like the steps, the musical notes would remain static in their designated places and if I needed access over them, I had to reach out to them. She probably said it just once and may have said it to put across the point, but somehow the image has remained with me ever since. I have always imagined that each step represented a Swara.  I would step, skip, linger or bounce over them in accordance to the lessons taught. Thus I practiced Sarali varase, Genti varase, Dhatu varase and Alankaras  mentally when I paced and hopped up and down the stairs without particularly going up or down. All the jumping left me breathless especially when I tried going through them in the second and third speed. Not to mention, that I would be reprimanded for being so very restless. Now I find it amazing that I had not divulged what was going on in my mind or explained all the ascending and descending. Though the exhausting exercise did not impact the quality of my singing then, I learned the basic difference between constants and variables at an impressionable age. I was able to understand the distinct distances between musical notes which helped me hone my skills as the years passed. However what fascinates me to this day is the fact that whenever I catch myself alone on a staircase, I immediately assign them the Sargam in a raga that catches my fancy at that point of time and  hum a pattern of notes in my mind and step accordingly. In other words, I can never go past a set of stairs without thinking of music.

Interestingly, it was my music teacher who had helped me understand Algebra several years before it was introduced to me in school when she explained the concept of octaves in music. She said in passing (again) that the first note of the Sargam determined the placements of the other Swaras. Whenever, I had to find the value of “x”, in an equation, I could not help thinking of it as the “Aadhar Shadja”. Learning sets and drawing Venn diagrams was cake walk to me in school because I had been taught about complete octaves which paved way to mini ragas with  a few notes, the similarities and differences in the notes between ragas which made them distinct . I could not shake off music when I was taught   the concept of 360 degrees around a point which can be segmented. I was well aware of the raga chart akin to a pie chart into the 72 major ragas were segmented. Sums to be solved on Permutations and combinations seemed easier when I converted marbles or balloons into musical notes. I have never been able to overcome the sense of déjà vu in the mathematics classes.

When I reflect over the deep seated influence on thinking that my music teacher had over me besides helping me to learn music I realise that teachers do have the knack of influencing you for eternity!

Palm Leaf Paper


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Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

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.”