Reflections on Changing Times
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Malini Viswanath in Conversation with Anju Dheman(The quintessential academic) and Chaitali Roy(The journalist with a bird’s eye view) `There were Opinions, Contradictions and Anecdotes as the conversation unfurled’
Malini Viswanath: In the last decade that we have been in Kuwait, we have seen changes in society, perceived mutations in societal structures and this metamorphosis has permeated into the minds and the behavior of the younger generation.
Carnatic classical music was my passion and avocation. In Kuwait I began taking it to genuine seekers of this 4000 yr old divine art form. Alongside came in a huge realization of how the younger generation perceived or rather misperceived our heritage. What began as a very skeptical foray into trying to reach out Classical Carnatic music to dedicated aspirants has today, after more than a decade in Kuwait eventually brought in me a realization of how intrinsic tutoring can mould minds. Most definitely even if one amongst every 25 students has carried the mantle of keeping our fine arts alive, it has transpired to and inspired many others through them. Our Ancient Arts is our treasure trove and is the harbinger of hope in changing times. I say this in the wake of old values being replaced by new emerging trends, posing a serious threat to the coming generation.
As an Educationist and as a Journalist, what are your reflections on today’s society and youth!!
Anju Dheman: Societal structures have seen a huge change. We have moved from spiritualism to materialism and consumerism. Nuclear family systems have replaced Joint Family systems.
Joint family system in Indian societies provided the centrifugal succor for children to be groomed and nurtured. (More in values). Today this harmony has broken down. This has resulted in increasing pressure on the parents. Parents often dream big for their wards and at least 80 percent of them try to realize their unrealized dreams through their children. Let me add here ` most of us are in no way different as guardians and parents’! In addition each parent wishes that their child should excel in a dozen more fields. The child comes home from school and then he is off to various activities. Extra Classes have become mandatory.
Malini Viswanath: I would like come in here. The extra-curricular are just `extra curricular’. How can we treat fine arts such as classical Indian music, dance, arts, as just a means to pass time. It is time to understand that they are in more ways than one, our altruistic heritage passed on to us. I m sorry to say, the respect that these fine arts deserve is missing today amongst both parents and obviously the younger generation. It is sad since these arts inculcate in us empathy, humility, and understanding of sacrifices by great creative geniuses-`all that which seems missing in the youth today’. Are our youth really aware of the sacrifices made by our math genius Srinivasa Ramanujam or Carnatic Legend Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbalakshmi? And to say the least, even remotely aware of their lives led in simplicity and humility?
Chaitali Roy: I agree .As someone associated with the print media and also Radio Kuwait over the last decade, I have tried consciously to make a difference through my work on Kuwait’s heritage and culture and Kuwaiti Women. I got involved with the restoration of heritage buildings, Kuwait’s folkloric music and dance, Kuwait’s old customs and traditions and the revival of Sadu (ancient Bedouin tribal weaving art form). With the disappearance of the old way of life, Kuwait was slowly losing out on valuable cultural information.
I would say the above contribution has been very meaningful. It has helped create awareness in their newer generation of their rich heritage and the role played by some extra ordinary women in nation building education and commerce.
Malini Viswanath: However tough it might sound, can academicians and teachers take the onus on them to convey it to students that scoring a 90% and above is not the end of it all, but pursuing a passion can be more meaningful. In a way isn’t our system by itself identifying students by their academic scores and parents still prefer to be referred to as `parents’ of toppers? Isn’t this the very core/crux of the stress and pressure that we see around? Failures leading to self doubt in vulnerable 17 year olds’ forcing those to extreme situations like suicides? Kota in Rajasthan is a place where we hear of young minds taking extreme steps ,and the collector of Kota remarking `I m so unfortunate to be the collector of a place where every year I m forced to read poetically chaste suicide notes by brilliant young geniuses’ `What a great loss to our nation’!
Being an educationist, how would you address the foresaid? It’s as if a 75% percent is just `nothing’ in today’s times? This has given rise to a chain of events `tuitions, pressure on the children, parents, and schools to be the best? Since each school is also known by the number of toppers it churns out!
Anju Dheman: I completely comply with the above views. But with no offence to creative arts and artists, in today’s times, everything around being stiffly competitive, to succeed in the field of arts is `a million dollar question’ There is only one Lata Mangeshkar! Every successful creative genius’s story is a saga of sacrifice, rejection and struggle. When such hugely successful legends of art could have struggled getting to the pinnacle of success, how would an ordinary artist succeed? On the other hand a decent academic degree would of course guarantee economic stability.
Let me share something beautiful. Today in our morning assembly, we had the theme `Look before you leap’ and `Think before you speak’ and let me tell you we have a student with ADHD Syndrome. He was the enactor and the narrator .He outshone with flawlessly natural expression, excellent narration, voice modulation and diction. In hindsight this student is certainly not cut out for Thermodynamics or Physics. But he might just succumb to the needs of the institution around, and societal and peer pressure. His passion for acting might remain unanswered! His act has made us think that we should introduce creative story telling as one of our activities.
I strongly elicit the view that if a child is attentive in school 75% is easily attainable. But sadly the need today has risen to 95% and above. Comparisons are what see around. Today’s society and youth in particular is enamored by the success of the hugely successful, but have they comprehended their struggle? Having said that, these days, unfortunately every one wishes to rise very quickly without having to work hard. We have stories of children from good backgrounds caught in incidents of chain snatching and car looting. Children these days are oblivious of the word` struggle and sacrifice’ We see around us a mad race to emulate .Youth need to emulate the struggle and not the success. This is a matter of serious concern.
Chaitali.Roy: And today, sadly in Indian cities a 6 year old commutes an hour or more to attend the best school despite there being good schools in the locality. Again here we are talking of societal pressures, peer pressures and what Anju Maam rightly said `emulating others’. Mindset of society has undergone a serious change. Certainly this is a cause for concern. Young children have no breathing space or time for themselves. Natural reflection is, every parent wants the best for their child. As someone associated with the print media, I have written about liberal education, change in mindset of parents, and such issues in society which I feel strongly about.
Anju Dheman: But, adding to the above, the educational statistics that we see around is alarming! Schools with 200 seats in Delhi receive 3000 applications online. Though the Govt has recently intervened to look into this menace. The demand has always surpassed the supply accentuating a chain of events. To get into a medical college in India the student has to be in the top .1 to .2 percent! Hence brain drain! Our students flock to Colleges in Georgia, Poland or South East Asia.
The other countries are making the best use of our demand –supply in- equation. Hence it boils down to economics. This is a serious matter which needs to be resolved by our governance in time to come. Our politicians have to move beyond vote bank politics. We still seem to be following the British legacy of associating power with people.
Malini Viswanath: As an artist, performer, organizer and as someone who believes strongly in my Guru’s teachings and life, inspired by the 17th Century poet, philosopher Saint Thyagraja,(who through his 1000 compositions in about 250 ragas gave us a treatise to lead life)I strongly feel, just being an artist in today’s times might not be the panacea. I would suggest every student to achieve a minimum academic goal, but continue keeping the passion alive and not drop it in the 8th and 9th grades .For, Education with Arts, will give one the ability to discern during troubled times and provide the spiritual succor. I often tell my students ,`Classical music is not only an art ,but a deep science of spiritual sound and frequencies of notes and at the same time the mathematics of musical rhythm is a mysterious multidimensional tapestry ’` So, someone who is brilliant at arts, will undoubtedly be good at academics’ since our ancient art forms carry in them all the components for the expansion of human intellect!
Most certainly working as an Engineer would have been emotionally an easy run for me than carrying the mantle of propagating an art as ancient as Carnatic classical music. But though this might not have been commercially viable given the small number of students I have always held, close to music, on the other hand when I see most of my students (academically brilliant, professionally competent and yet rooted and humble} I feel a sense of gratitude to god, to have allowed me the opportunity and grace to serve our heritage in the Persian Gulf. Absolutely satisfying has been my association with specially abled children who have embraced our classical music to embolden themselves and transform their lives and to say the least, the appreciation my album on `carnatic classical music’ `Music is Universal’ received at the prestigious Al Sabah Collection, Kuwait
Chailtali Roy: I cannot agree more. My years in Kuwait as a journalist, writer and editor took me to research intensively on Kuwait women thus realizing their hurdles, the glass ceiling they faced in the corporate world and their persistence despite deterrents. This sowed the seed to my just released book `Women in Kuwait’ `Turning Tides’. The book features some extra ordinary women like Sara Akbar, Sheikha Altaf Salem Al Ali Al Sabah, breaking their stereotypical portraitures. I felt a huge sense of achievement in bringing their voices to the world. Here we come back to how creative artists have their struggle. It wasn’t easy for me either. Right from building trust to accessing information not available hitherto, and getting someone to believe in my work and publishing it was a challenge . But it was immense learning all the while. That’s precisely what an artist gains. `Satisfaction’ !! At having served society despite the risks of failure. I trust this book will build yet another bridge of understanding between India and Kuwait.
Anju Dheman: I strongly believe that the parent’s perception of `Best’ and the Child’s perception of `Best’ should match. This would answer depression, suicides and the insecurity amongst the youth today. Unfortunately we don’t take inspiration. We always see the material success. We don’t see the sweat. This is a very wrong interpretation and a strong misinterpretation of success. I very strongly agree- Arts (Classical Music, Dance, Painting, Drama...) or (Sports) strengthen the child’s emotional balance. They give a child the opportunity to express beyond books.Conclusively, our conversation led us to believe, though Progression is the way of life and we need to maintain minimum acceptability standards in institutions,,, as parents, teachers and guardians `Let us give our children a guided and an informed choice. Children are too young to make their own career decisions. Let us not enforce them to choose `our choice of best’ but lovingly and caringly lead them to `their choice of best’. Explain to them the pros and cons of their decisions .Children should be encouraged to retain their passion for fine arts / sports, to help combat the trials of life. The change has to begin……
Malini Viswanath is a zealous practitioner of carnatic classical music. She strongly believes, her masters in engineering have shaped her ideas as a Musician, Performer, Organizer, Writer and a Guru. Malini’s shishyas (students) are spread across continents like US, Australia, Canada, and Middle East who continue to propagate the divine art through their deep reverence. Malini contributes through her writings on the `Joy of Giving’ through Arts and Education. Malini has recorded `Skandagiri Paamaalai’ an album on her Pujya Guru’s works and `Music is Universal’ essaying carnatic ragas and emotions for an international audience as part of the Al Sabah Collection, Dar- al athar al- Islamiyyah, Kuwait. Her reach-out to specially- abled children through the therapeutic aspects of Carnatic music are noteworthy.
Chaitali Roy has been in print media and radio broadcasting in Kuwait and India for over 20 years. As Special Correspondent for Arab Times, and as Editor and Producer for Radio Kuwait, she has been working on features and articles, and producing audio documentaries and special shows since 2001.Her published articles have been reprinted in blogs and websites. Her work, which spans art, culture, society, history, women of Arab and the Islamic world, brought her in touch with many inspiring Kuwaiti women who left an indelible impression. She is the author of `Women OF Kuwait `Turning Tides’ the first book of its kind released worldwide.
Mrs Anju Dheman, is the the Principal of Fahaheel Al-Watanieh Indian Private School (FAIPS-DPS) which is home to a 5000 strong student community in Kuwait. .An academician to the core and an able administrator , having headed academic depts across DPS Schools in India, she firmly believes in` There is a world beyond the sky’` Who says sky is the limit’?
FAIPS-DPS has come a long way since Anju Dheman took over the reins in 2008.…Mrs Dheman attributes the success of the institution to the collective vision of the management ,principal, Heads of depts, teachers and students.
Mrs Dheman’s strong mantra for today is `Sound education will take you a long way, but alongside one needs to maintain strength of character and integrity steeped in values and humility’ Faips,Dps under the formidable leadership of Mrs Anju Dheman aims at enabling its student community to face life’s trials and tribulations and stand strong against all odds.
Malini Viswanath:Is a passionate Exponent of Carnatic Classical Art,who firmly believes Cultural tenets serve as the strength of a society. Malini, a Masters in engineering, promotes Indian Classical Arts through Performances, Lec dems, Workshops,Cross cultural Collaborations with artists across genres, and has created a new rung of young students the World over, through her forum` Raag`N’Rhythm,in Kuwait.
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