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21st Century Crises Hovering Over Indian Classical Music

In ecosystem of any art form, one individual can play multiple roles; for example, I am a student of Indian classical music, I perform very rarely and I am an avid listener.

As a listener of this magical art form and after listening to musicians from past three to four generations, I have my views about the current Indian classical music ecosystem based on some observations. Apart from this, as a part of Baithak Foundation we also organise concerts of artists, mostly in schools, for kids.

Most importantly, I am a believer who believes music can change lives. Thus this article, about music, musicians and the overall scenario, is inspired from all the positions that I have mentioned above. I am writing this not because I hate some artists and prefer some others; rather, I am writing this because I love this beautiful art form.

Are we going to wake up only when we need nine stitches?

Is everything alright with the present Indian Classical Music scene? Well, on the surface, yes. Let us ignore the impact of COVID-19 for the time being and consider the situation at the beginning of 2020. You may say, concerts are happening everywhere. Festivals are flooded with audience. Some artists are busy, doing as many as 20+ concerts a month. Even young artists have decent performance opportunities. With Skype and other tools, online teaching is also a source of additional little but steady income. More parents want their kids to learn an art form which creates ample of employment opportunities for the young as well as mid and senior musicians…….wait, wait!

I am not asking about the musicians. I am (right now) concerned about the music. What’s the state of music that is being served? What’s the quality of music being presented, what is the quality of experience that audience has? What is the quality of Taalim that is being given and received by disciples (or students?)

In cities like Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, etc. maybe, things do not look that bad. But what’s the situation other than these few large cities? Let us take an example of Amaravti, a district in Maharashtra. I stayed in Amaravati for a couple of years and when I was living there, I came to know of many musicians who could perform phenomenal music. As cases in considerations, I am sharing two videos here.

First one is a recording by Pt. Manohar Kaslikar from Amaravati, presenting Raga Gaud Sarang:

Second video features Pt. Dinkarrao Deshpande, singing a Natyageet. Some of his full length Raga recordings are also available.

In the 70s and 80s, there were at least 5 musicians of this calibre in Amaravati. Same was the situation for Nagpur, Yavatmal, and other nearby towns and fairly across the country.

What do you think is the current situation in these or similar smaller towns? Many places may have teachers but do smaller towns have musicians and Gurus of the above mentioned calibre?

I want to point out a steep deterioration which is happening throughout; it might not be visible in cities like Mumbai, Pune or Kolkata, yet. That does not mean that there is no deterioration.

In our holy field of music, some questions are never asked. Forget of asking them, even having them in your mind might be perceived as a crime. In this long piece, I am going to put aside my fears, respect and other things. When one enters a temple, one keeps out the footwear.

I think undue pompousness about tradition, teachers, rules, formalities are like footwear if one wishes to enter the temple of genuine enquiry.

I am not claiming that I am out of the problems that I am about to discuss; I might be a part of them but I am willing to stop and question. Readers are free to share their thoughts through comments on this article or by writing to me on my email.

The music field has become diabetic because everyone is sweet!

Two years back, I was sitting in front of the editor of a leading Marathi newspaper. This newspaper wanted me to cover the famous Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav. They did not want me to do facts reporting; rather, they wanted musical comments and insights.

With lot of excitement, I met the editor. The first thing he told me was not writing anything negative about any artist. To quote, ‘this is a festival and we never say anything negative on festive occasions.’ That was the clause which came before discussing anything else.

Imagine, if every newspaper tells this to their music reporter, all musicians would be maestros, pundits and ustaads.

But, I was not ready to give up so easily. I played my card.

“Okay, I understand, but can I write suggestive?” I asked.

“Means what?” the editor questioned.

“I won’t say what went wrong. I would write about what could have been better,” I answered the query.

I got an approval on that.

With tremendous enthusiasm, I wrote my first piece, taking all care that I nowhere sounded negative or even critical. I only made few suggestions which were very obvious!

Next day, when I checked the paper, those suggestive comments were simply chopped off.

Why? Why cannot someone as a listener point out what was not right? We all understand that for a musician it might be a bad day and one wrong review might spoil his or her career. But there are dozens of musicians who are consistently performing crap for decades. You can’t anymore call a spade a spade. Immediately your ‘knowledge’ and ‘humility’ bear a question mark.

And, a good reviewer can of course mention that it could be a bad day and be as gentle as possible. Today, no organiser will book an artist from reading a newspaper review. There are YouTube Videos, fancy brochures, personal recommendations etc. through which organisers make these decisions.

Frankly, the world of Indian Classical Music has a history of honest reviews. If you do not believe, sharing two reviews written by veteran journalist Mohan Nadkarni – here and here . I am sharing these reviews just as examples of how critical a reviewer could be. I have heard of far more pungent reviews written about artists of the stature of Pt. Kumar Gandharva and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and the likes. Many of these reviews were out of hatred; some of them had a point. The point that I am trying to make is, there was no pressure on a journalist that he needs to sound sweet.

Honesty is the new Aprachalit Raga

We often hear many anecdotes about how great maestros of the old time shared their frank opinions about music of fellow musicians. At times, these opinions were born out of a sense of competition and jealousy but, in general, musicians shared what they felt about the music presented. To take this a step further, even accompanists were quite open about sharing their views about the music of the main presenter and vice a versa.

Recently, the only feedback that artists give each other are nice, very good, kya baat hai, bahut badhiya! We never hear something like –

“I liked your performance but the tanpura could be tuned more precisely” or

“I like the vilambit rendition but I found the drut rendition a bit gimmicky which hampered the bhava of the Raga.” Or something as simple as –

“I liked your last month’s performance more than today’s.”

Lack of constructive feedback, from fellow musicians, from accompanists, from audience, from organisers is damaging not only the field of music but also the journey of musicians.

Is Sincerity the Lupta Raga?

Well, for this particular point (by God’s grace) there are exceptions. I request you to prove me wrong by pointing out more and more talented and sincere young musicians. But, I am talking about the overall scene here.

We are always told the stories of dedication, sincerity, riyaz etc. of artists of the yester-years. Keeping aside the details, we can safely conclude that they were utterly serious about what they were doing. We have the story of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Sahab wearing a kurta made of the thread which he used for the javhari of his tanpura and we also have heard the story of Kesarbai Kerkar who would return ticket money of audience in the last rows, if they were not able to hear her clearly. She stopped singing when she had huge following just because she could not sing up to her own standards.

And then, we have musicians who share recordings of concerts where they are out of tune for 90 percent of the time! Being surel is very difficult and is a life long journey. What bothers me is, can a musician not avoid posting it? Don’t post it. I understand, one wants to be ‘seen’ and hence one uploads them. But please, do not DM your audience and tell them how beautifully you have sung. At least be humble!

Many times, artists do not even cut the patches where they have fallen flat on their faces; or record it on better quality devices. At least, learn a bit of technology to ensure the music that goes out is worth a listen.

I am not writing this sitting on a pedestal. I know I am far from being surel. What bothers me as a listener and as a music lover is this casual attitude. It makes me think of a salesman who sales rotten tomatoes with broad confidence on his face. It might be working for artists; but it is damaging the art for sure.

Today, lack of talent is not the problem knocking on our doors as much as the lack of sincerity and the burden of publicity. Somehow, we have lost fresh air which is very essential for an ecosystem to flourish.

One might argue that in spite of all this, the art form is becoming more popular and I am being pessimistic. Well, let me tell you a story.

Let’s hope Indian Classical Music does not end up like that coffee company…….

Once upon a time, there was a company which sold the finest Arabica coffee in the world. Their sales were growing exponentially. Their newly appointed CEO came up with a strategy to take profits up through the roof. He proposed to blend the Arabica coffee beans with the much cheaper Robusta beans. They did trials; some packets had pure Arabica while some had the blend.

Their study showed that most of the people are not able to make the difference and within a month, all the packets going out consisted the blend. The profits increased almost three to four times. Everyone was proud and happy. After 15-20 years, the sales started dropping crazily.

A team of consultants was hired to find out what was going wrong. The reports from the consultants said that only the people from earlier generations who were addicted to coffee drank coffee. The next generation stopped considering coffee as a drink of choice.

The company realised their mistake. By blending cheap coffee, they made huge short term profits but this new blend could not capture young consumers. They liked other options much more than coffee.

The company immediately banned the blending. It took them a generation or two to get back to their earlier size of consumers.

Let’s hope our rich tradition of music does not end up like this coffee company!


What is true collaboration?

‘Collaboration’ the golden word of today’s times. Every time you read about an event or read about any kind of work that gets done; you read who collaborated with whom. The best part about collaboration is that you do what you are best at and let the other partners do what they do best. 

However many times when we collaborate we feel frustrated, irritated or unhappy. Why so? For the past 4 years Baithak has collaborated with a large number of individuals and organisations and here is what I have observed and learned from these ‘collaborations’. I intent to share my experiences so that you may choose your true collaborators. 

Giving funds is not enough. 

I am sure all organisations will agree that there is always a paucity of funds. Our ideas are infinite and funds are always finite. To convince someone to financially support a cause is not very easy. Out of a hundred options that a donor may support ‘why’ your project? Thus funding is always important and one needs collaborators who can provide  enough funding to actualise ideas. However finding funds is relatively easy than finding a sensitive patron. A patron who supports the cause must be sensitive to the intent behind the work. Is it just another cause that he/she is funding because he/she has lot of unspent money or does one feel for the cause? Is the funding available unconditionally or has strings attached? We have seen collaborators who start dictating the program terms without even understanding the purpose and the depth of the intervention. Is such a donor/patron a true collaborator? Do we accept funding from a partner who is not sensitive to the cause? We have come to a realisation that implementing few ideas in a manner that you intend to implement is better than doing multiple programs where not even a single one is in-line with your vision. Thankfully Baithak has some highly sensitive patrons!

Mutual marketing has limited results. 

In this  digital age everyone is looking for collaborations which bring more followers, more likes, more comments and more views. We want to be on each other’s pages so that we are noticed by a pool of people who don’t know us. We want some celebrity to share our story, tag us and say we are doing good work. Does this work? Maybe yes…maybe not. 

If we intend to be famous then it’s a yes but if we intend to touch people then it’s a no. A post shared by a celebrity gets hundred or thousand more likes than usual but that does not translate in funding, or increase in the number of volunteers or passionate interns. We may create a social media hype but that does not mean anything on ground. Sometimes you may lay hands on a unique opportunity but that’s not a guarantee. Personally, I also find this deceitful. If someone likes the work they will share about it; why do we need to say we are collaborating to promote the work? Why this obligation that in return, one will get a program or a token of appreciation or anything like that? 

Providing four walls and a roof is not a venue partnership. 

There are multiple venue partners with whom we have worked and it has been great joy to work with people who have created spaces out of sheer passion. Pune’s Pagdandi Bookstore Cafe is one such happy place. They are diligent about marketing the event and are equally invested in it as the curators. The space is well set-up before the event. The mats are clean, there is water for everyone and a cup of warm chai. They do this without you asking. When one provides a space (for free or rented) what is that one is truly providing? I have always felt that a space holds energy; when we enter it we are infused by it. All these small gestures, smiles and love; give you the energy to deliver an event. We will give the space, you do what you want; does not give the same energy. There are multiple people who offer us collaboration opportunities by providing their space; however in only few spaces we feel equal involvement. It is always wise to choose your space and not the other way round. Fortunately Baithak is blessed to have found multiple such partners! 

Content collaboration is the toughest. 

Sometimes the funding is readily available and you are requested to work as the content curator. This is my favourite place. It saves you the energy that is sometimes drained in organising things and managing funds. However this is the toughest one! When you have ideas and a detailed execution plan communicating your vision is difficult. At every step you need to ensure that you communicate the ‘why’ behind your work. You must always devise mechanisms to share openly and clearly state the non-negotiable elements. 

When do two organisations or individuals truly collaborate? 

I like to think of collaborations as relationships. You give and take not because you are obligated; not because it benefits but because you truly feel so. Relationships based in unconditional love last long. It is not possible that you have the same kind of relationship with everyone and the one’s which nourish you will always be few. Organisations which are absorbed in the love of the work they and their collaborators do are the best partners. 

How do I identify the non-ideal collaborators? Well, it’s tough to say exactly how that happens; I mostly go by the vibes. Also if I hear any of the following lines, in a tone that I feel is non-caring; I feel that’s not the right person/organisation. 

  • This was not our responsibility. 
  • We didn’t know you will need water. You should have told before. 
  • Oh, we forgot to put your logo. 
  • You will have to write a mail asking us to send you the recording/photos or else we cannot share. 
  • I can’t do it. 
  • Everyone does this, we will also have to follow. 
  • Oh, I thought you will get your mats. 
  • We can’t pay you. Just letting you know.

Beware of collaborators who say the above quickly without any discussion or any feeling of guilt whatsoever! With them you will always have to fight for everything. 

Whereas, the following sentences in an inquisitive tone is what I love to hear. 

That’s obvious, we will make sure it happens. You don’t have to mention all these small things. 

Please send us your logo. We will get the creatives made. 

Is this text ok to go on public platforms? Let us know if you have any suggestions. 

Who should be credited in the news? Can you send us the exact names and the correct spellings? 

I am very busy but I will try. 

Do it the way you think it needs to be done. You know your job better. 

People and organisations who love your work and who are interested in touching real lives are the people and organisations we love to collaborate with. I have been disturbed, have felt anger and have passed many sleepless nights when I have made wrong decisions. I have learnt my lessons and I continue to learn. Thought of sharing my learnings so that some of you don’t have to face the same. 

Recently in association with Precision Foundation we did a series of Tune IN workshops in Solapur. We haven’t yet met any other Foundation that truly understands collaboration as Precision does. They own the program like you do. The arrangements are just right. Credits, acknowledgement and mentions are always done appropriately. The responsibility is shared and the mechanisms are transparent. We feel so lucky to have met them and have this wonderful opportunity to collaborate with them!

Check the backdrop. We had not asked for this but Precision did it willingly and mentioned not just their Foundation but ours too.

Collaboration means to stand on each other’s shoulders. We must care for each other beyond our obligations; truly share the joys and the pains. Hope you find a responsible collaborator!


A Letter to Tyeb Mehta, One of India’s Greatest Artists…

Hello Tyeb,

When I saw a painting of yours in an exhibition catalogue, for the first time I came to know that a person like you exists. For me, the world of colours and lines was restricted to M.F. Hussain, Picasso and other such celebrated names.

Do not be mistaken. I have no knowledge of paintings. I was sitting along with an accomplished print artist who was touching up photos of a musician for us. And, I hated you because, someone would call him and he would keep aside our work and start touching up your celebrated work, Kali.

But, my hate lasted for only a minute. As I saw this accomplished print artist playing with the scary blue colour of your Kali and trying to match the scan colour with original painting, I could sense my heart melting in the blues. Honestly, in spite of this, I truly got interested by you when I read the auction price of a few crore rupees noted against Kali.

“He is really something!” I thought.

After this short interaction with you, I absolutely forgot you. But, our meeting was not supposed to be so short. Two days ago, while I was having a cup of coffee at the Zen Cafe at Amdavad Ni Gufa, I saw a book store around. From their glass walls, I could see piles of heavy and costly books.

As I entered the book store, Ideas Images Exchanges was the first book to greet me. Though I had to catch a flight and had very little carrying space, I bought the bulky book along with Svaraj written by Ramchandran Gandhi.

For past two days, your colours, strokes and immortal figures from your famous Shantiniketan Triptych have been haunting me. I call those figures immortal because they touch human or life instincts which are temporary yet perennial. How can you, on a piece of paper show something which is trivial and then something which is significant; as significant as the existence itself?

At first, your paintings look absurd. To a novice like me, the dark blues and reds in them might even look obscene or Bibhatsa. It was Ramchandran Gandhi who held my hand and showed me what richness you had put together on the canvas.

As a student of music, I am more touched by you and your work. We musicians have a Tanpura which gives some reference to us. Though finding a correct shade of a note takes lifelong practice for a musician, I wonder what it must be taking for a painter to select a shade of colour to convey what he or she wants to!

I know, your paintings are nothing more than just a drop of what you are and what you have absorbed looking patiently at life around you. A painter or any artist, can never flourish if he is only concerned about his art and not bothered about the play, leela happening around. And then, the artist also has to master the Sakshibhav, the role of a witness to see through this Leela. I deeply admire you for the fact that you managed to be on both the sides of this curtain of Maya and managed to show both the sides of it on a single canvas.

As I google more about you, I understand how your paintings being sold for crores of rupees helped little with your financial situation. Who am I to tell you that you have accomplished much more than piling up huge sums of money?

Through your works, you preserved a seed which will blossom when the right time comes!


This is the time corporates should focus on wellness of their employees!

Many times, we grapple with our work so intensely that we forget what’s it that actually allows us to work at optimum levels. Corporates, government offices, educational institutes and not for profits, all are quite concerned about increasing the efficiency and productivity of their teams. Doing so without paying much attention to the fact that wellness of the employees is the single factor which drastically affects their productivity is of no help. 

Through Baithak Foundation, we consistently conduct de-stressing and mindfulness sessions for corporates, which include manufacturing and software companies, educational institutes and not for profits. Titled as Naad Yoga, these sessions are aimed at introducing the healing and de-stressing power of Indian Music to the participants.     

As we conduct more and more sessions, we realise that if companies do not give due attention to the healths of their employees now, the situation might just go out of hands. 

For those who think I am exaggerating the things, here are some observations: In most of the companies, after sitting down for 7 -8 minutes, the participants become uneasy; a clear indication of poor upper and lower body strength and weak respiratory system and blood circulation. Almost all the participants are constantly shallow breathing. Many of the individuals are just unable to sing in their natural voices and indicator of constant fear of being judged. The attention spans are coming down too fast. In any weather or season, a third of the lot is suffering from cold and cough. Most of the participants look pale or sleep deprived or under immense stress. 

As the age old wisdom goes, a healthy mind is cultivated in a healthy body. Lately, we have been taught to look at our body as a magic-machine; capable of running at optimum levels in spite of being abused consistently. On the contrary, our body is like an asset, which like any other asset, needs proper maintenance, care and rest. Same is the case with our mind which is constantly abused by unwarranted stimuli. Yet, we hardly do any activity (or remain without any action) so that the mind is rejuvenated. Imagine, you are expecting your axe to cut more without sharpening it. Eventually, you will need more force and rigour to cut same amount of wood with the blunt axe. The higher force will further damage the axe and also your body. Also, the quality of wood that is chopped will go down. The most simple solution to the problem is, dedicate some time to sharpen the axe. This sounds so logical then why we do not we apply this wisdom to our body and mind? Why we just keep stretching them? Why cannot we ensure that we spend some time, even ten minutes a day, for wellbeing of our mind and body? 

Music practice can directly impact the wellness and hence the productivities of the individuals in multiple ways. 

First of all, music practice can significantly improve the breathing of the practitioner, positively impacting the overall wellness, mindfulness and energy levels. Music automatically makes us take deep breaths and prolong our exhales. This tends to push participants in the parasympathetic mode of nervous system. 

A large number of studies point out that singing calls for coordination between a large number of centres in our brain. Practising music regularly can have measurable impact on memory function, creativity, attention spans and many other  pointers which not only improve the wellness of the practitioner but helps him or her to do in a better way whatever they do.  

Music practice is a superb way of enhancing one’s emotional quotient. Singing and learning music can help enhance the understanding of situations, scenarios and people and their mindsets. Music is also a great medium of expression. It makes one sensitive of his or her own emotions, thereby enabling to better understand emotions of others. 

Listing even proven benefits of music practice will make this article very long. The point is, many times, the solution to most pressing of our problems is not difficult or costly to implement. Most of the times, it is so easily available that we tend to neglect it. A fifteen minutes music practice, when done consistently can result in long term benefits. As we are providing this experience to larger number of companies, we see increasing awareness and willingness to practice and learn music. 

Do get in touch with me if you would like to organise one such session at your workplace. 


संत साहित्याच्यी कालाबाधितता

काल मला आणि दाक्षायणीला पुण्यातील वाडिया महाविद्यालयाच्या वाणिज्य शाखेच्या विद्यार्थ्यांनी ‘संत साहित्य – एक साठवण’ या विषयावर संवाद साधण्यासाठी बोलावले होते. थोडं बोलणं आणि थोडं गाणं असं कार्यक्रमाचं स्वरूप होतं. आजच्या काळातही संत साहित्य ताजं आणि उपयुक्त का आहे? या विषयावर तुम्ही नक्की बोला असं त्यांच्या प्राध्यापकांनी सुचविलं.

संत साहित्य कालातीत का आहे? याला अनेक कारणे आहेत आणि यातील सर्वांत महत्वाचे कारण म्हणजे संत साहित्यातील ‘फॉर्म’ आणि ‘फंक्शन’ यांचे संतुलन. फंक्शन म्हणजे ते मुख्य काम जे करण्यासाठी एखादी गोष्ट बनविण्यात आले आहे. उदाहरणार्थ, अंग झाकणे आणि प्रतिकूल पर्यावरणापासून संरक्षण करणे हे कपड्यांचे फंक्शन. फॉर्म म्हणजे त्या वस्तूचे दार्शनिक रूप. कपड्यावरील चित्र, जरी, नक्षी म्हणजे फॉर्म.

संत साहित्यात ‘फॉर्म’ हा अगदी गरजेएवढा आणि नेटका असतो. संतांना जे सार सांगायचे आहे, ते सार स्पष्टपणे श्रोत्यांपर्यंत पोहोचविण्यासाठी आवश्यक तेवढाच तो असतो. त्यात गरज नसताना अलंकार वापरले नाही आहेत. गम्मत अशी, जशा लोकांच्या आवडी बदलत जातात, तसा त्यांना आवडणारा फॉर्म बदलत जातो. २० वर्षांपूर्वीची चित्रपटाची गाणी आजच्या पिढीला आवडत नाहीत. यामागचे कारण फार सोपे आहे. त्यांचा फॉर्म आजच्या पिढीला जो फॉर्म आवडतो त्यापेक्षा फार वेगळा आहे. संतांनी त्यांच्या वाणीत लोकांना ‘खेचण्यासाठी’ फॉर्म चा वापर नाही केला. त्यातील सार हे फार उच्च दर्जाचे आहे आणि म्हणून ते कालातीत आहे. अनेक लेखक, कवी हे त्यांच्या काळातील समाजाला रुचेल किंवा आकर्षित करेल असे लिहितात. संतांनी अतिशय सध्या आणि परखड भाषेत सत्य लोकांसमोर मांडलं.

आपण कितीही उत्क्रांत झालो असलो, तरीदेखील हा ओंगळपणा तसाच आहे आणि संत साहित्य नेमके त्या ओंगळपणावर बोट ठेवते.

आपण सर्वच मानवाच्या उत्क्रांतीबद्दल जाणतोच. परंतु जे. कृष्णमुर्ती याबाबतीत फार सुंदर बोलायचे. ते म्हणायचे, कि उत्क्रांती हि फक्त शरीराची आणि बाह्य गोष्टींची झाली आहे. आपल्या मनातील हिंसा, राग, भावना इत्यादी शेकडो वर्षांपूर्वी होत्या तशाच आजही आहेत. दोनशे वर्षांपूर्वी माणूस प्रसिद्धीसाठी जितका हपापलेला होता, तेवढाच आज देखील आहे. संत साहित्य काळाच्या बदलापासून अबाधित आहे कारण कि ते या मूळ मानवी मनावर आणि त्यातील ओंगळपणावर भाष्य करते. आपण कितीही उत्क्रांत झालो असलो, तरीदेखील हा ओंगळपणा तसाच आहे आणि संत साहित्य नेमके त्या ओंगळपणावर बोट ठेवते.

आपण कितीही झाकायचा प्रयत्न केला, तरीदेखील आपल्यातील कोतेपणा आणि त्यामुळे आपल्याला आणि आपल्या आजू-बाजूच्यांना होणारा त्रास आपण उघड डोळ्यांनी बघत असतो, त्यापासून मुक्त होण्याचा प्रयत्न करत असतो. संत साहित्य हा त्या दिशेत मार्गक्रमण करण्यासाठी एक आश्वासक मदतीचा हात म्हणून उभे राहते. हेच त्याच्या कालातीततेचे रहस्य.


अतुल पेठेंची ‘किमया’

आपण स्वतःहूनच ओढवून घेतलेली पण आपल्याला अजिबात न सोसवणारी आयुष्याची गती; आयुष्यात सतत अजून काहीतरी मिळवायचे आहे हे वेड, आयुष्याच्या परिपूर्णतेबद्दल असलेल्या किंबहुना लादलेल्या किंवा उसन्या घेतलेल्या मृत संकल्पना; या व अशा अनेक कारणांनी आपण आपले आयुष्य गचाळ आणि गलिच्छ करत चाललो आहोत. या सर्व गदारोळात ‘घर’ या संकल्पनेला किती महत्त्व उरणार? काचेच्या निर्जीव खिडक्यांनी बनलेल्या आणि एक तुसडेपणा निर्माण करणाऱ्या, गारठवणाऱ्या वातानुकूलित ऑफिसात अर्ध्याहून अधिक दिवस घालविल्यानंर घराबद्दल, त्यातल्या रंगसंगती आणि रेषांबद्दल, त्यात विराजमान झालेल्या अवकाशाबद्दल कोण विचार करणार? 

घर हे केवळ चार भिंती नसून तो आपल्याला स्वतः बाहेरील व स्वतःतील अपरिमित अवकाशाशी जोडणारा दुवा आहे हा साक्षात्कार केवळ एका तासात घडविण्याची ‘किमया’ अतुल पेठेंनी केली. निमित्त होते प्रसिद्ध स्थापत्यकार माधव आचवल लिखित ‘किमया’ या पुस्तकाच्या अभिवाचनाचे. संकल्पना होती ज्येष्ठ नाटककार अतुल पेठे व सोलापूरचे अनुभवी स्थापत्यकार अमोल चाफळकर यांची. सादरकर्ते अतुल पेठे! अतिशय नव्या धाटणीच्या या प्रयोगाचे स्थळ होते अनुपमा कुंडू या अतिशय सिद्धहस्त स्थापत्यकर्तीने साकारलेले संवेदनशील चित्रपट दिग्दर्शक क्रांती कानडे यांचे घर. ज्याला आपण नेहमी दुय्यम लेखतो ते चार भिंतींचे घर आपल्याला, आपल्या भावविश्वाला किती हळुवारपणे स्पर्श करते याची जाणीव घराच्या अंगणात पाय ठेवताच झाली. मन्सूरांच्या गाण्याने स्वतःची एक वेगळी ‘स्पेस’ निर्माण केली होती. बघता बघता दिवाणखाना पूर्ण भरला. ठीक वेळेवर प्रयोगाला सुरुवात झाली. 

पहिल्या काही क्षणांतच आचवलांचे एखाद्या चित्रकाराच्या लयबद्ध रेषांसारखे शब्द, पुस्तकातील मृत शब्दांना पुन्हा जिवंत करून संप्रेरित करणारे अतुल पेठेंचे वाचन आणि कोणाही व्यक्तीला आपल्या पोटात घेऊन लगेच आपलेसे करणारे क्रांती कानडे यांचे ‘घर’ – या तिघांनी मिळून आम्हा श्रोत्यांच्या बोथट झालेल्या संवेदनांची कलेवर आमच्या समोर टांगली. खरंच की – आपण किती यंत्रासारखं आयुष्य जगतो; घरांचे आकार, त्यांची मांडणी, त्यांना कुशीत घेणारी आजूबाजूची झाडे, घरांचे रंग, त्यांचे सभोवतालच्या निसर्गातील रंगांशी होणारे संवाद, खिडक्या, पुढील गवतावर खेळणारे सूर्यकिरण आणि ते पाहतांना घराच्या चेहऱ्यावर पडलेला समाधानाचा सोनेरी प्रकाश; आपण ज्यांना निर्जीव समजतो ती सर्व घरं जिवंत असून फक्त आपणच निर्जीव आहोत हे उमगलं. फार कमी प्रयोगांतून साक्षात्कार होतो. किमया हा त्यातला एक.      

थोडक्यात, आपली घरं हि आपल्या ‘मी’ ची प्रतिबिंब आहेत. किमयाचा प्रयोग अनुभवून घरी आल्यावर केवळ माझे घर बघून मी स्वतःबद्दल खूप काही शिकलो. घराच्या भिंती, त्यांचे रंग, टापटीप किंवा अस्ताव्यस्तपणा; सर्व काही मला माझ्याबद्दल खूप काही सांगून गेले. 

आपल्या सर्वांच्या आयुष्यात एखादा मंच असतोच. वक्त्याचा मंच म्हणजे तो जिथे व्यक्त होणार ते सभागृह; गायकाचा मंच म्हणजे तो ज्या ठिकाणी गाणे सादर करतो ती जागा; किंवा शिल्पकाराच्या मंच म्हणजे त्याचे शिल्प ज्या ठिकाणी विराजमान होणार ते स्थळ. परंतु आपण सपशेलपणे विसरतो कि वरील सर्व मंच हे व्यक्त होण्याचे आहेत आणि आपल्या सर्वांचा सृजनाचा मंच म्हणजे आपले घर. नाटकाच्या स्टेजवर कागदाचा एक चिटोरा देखील आपण खपवून घेत नाही पण घरात मात्र कपडे, पुस्तके, सामान, कागदपत्रे, जाळी-झळमट, सारे काही आलबेल. अलगदपणे श्रोत्याला पुरते कळून चुकते कि आपण आपल्याला सामावून घेणाऱ्या आपल्याच घरावर आणि आपल्या वस्तूंवर किती अन्याय करत आलो आहोत. 

स्थापत्यशात्रातील काही किचकट संकल्पना या अभिवाचनातून फार सोप्या आणि जिवंत पद्धतीने उलगडल्या गेल्या. अशीच एक संकल्पना म्हणजे अवकाश, किंवा स्पेस. किंबहुना घर या संकल्पनेचा उगमच अवकाशाच्या संकल्पनेतून झाला असावा. नाही म्हंटले तरी आपण सर्वच ‘मी’ च्या जाणिवेने ओतप्रोत भरले आहोत. आपला हा तोकडा ‘मी’ अपरिमित अवकाशात कसा जगणार? म्हणून मग छोटी अथवा मोठी घरं. थोडक्यात, आपली घरं हि आपल्या ‘मी’ ची प्रतिबिंब आहेत. किमयाचा प्रयोग अनुभवून घरी आल्यावर केवळ माझे घर बघून मी स्वतःबद्दल खूप काही शिकलो. घराच्या भिंती, त्यांचे रंग, टापटीप किंवा अस्ताव्यस्तपणा; सर्व काही मला माझ्याबद्दल खूप काही सांगून गेले.     

    बिंदू, रेषा, अवकाश, प्रकाश, बाग, जलस्रोत अशा अनेक घटकांनी वास्तू साकारते. आणि हा प्रत्येक घटक म्हणजे जणू काही एक शास्त्र. रेषा एकत्र येऊन अवकाशाचा एक छोटा तुकडा कसा कापून वेगळा करतात हे एक शास्त्रच आहे. किंवा आचवलांनी पुस्तकात नमूद केल्याप्रमाणे वास्तूच्या सभोवतीचे जलस्रोत तिला कसे एक प्रकारचा हलकेपणा आणि गतिमानपणा देतात; हे देखील एक शास्त्रच. विविध वस्तूंचे आणि घटकांचे योग्य परिमाण साधणं; हे देखील एक शास्त्रच आहे की! किमया अशा नानाविध शास्त्रांना उकलते आणि त्या किचकट शास्त्राचे रूपांतर कोणी अनुभवू अथवा जाणून घेऊ शकेल अशा एका बोलक्या भावनेत करते. 

किमया चा एक तास घरात नाही मावणार इतकी श्रीमंती देऊन गेला. खरंच, स्थापत्यशास्त्रातून येणारी संवेदनशीलता आणि श्रीमंती हि घरात न मावणारी आहे. घराच्या दार-खिडक्यांतून बाहेर येऊन ती बाग आणि अंगण इथपर्यंतच न थांबता रस्ते, आजूबाजूच्या वस्त्या, नद्या, असा विस्तृत प्रवास करत प्रसरण पावते. आपण संपूर्ण अवकाशाचे आणि त्यातील सर्वच घटकांचे खूप मोठे गुन्हेगार आहोत हि जाणीव पाण्यात बनणाऱ्या बर्फासारखी आपल्या आत स्थिरावते.  

एक प्रयोग म्हणून ‘किमया’त अनेक बाबींचा सखोल विचार झाला आहे. प्रयोगासाठी घरांची निवड फार काळजीपूर्वक केली जाते. प्रत्यक्ष प्रयोगाची तयारी सुरु होण्याच्या आधीपासूनच अतुल पेठे व त्यांचा संच वास्तू समजून घेतात, तिच्याशी संवाद साधतात. प्रयोगातील प्रकाशयोजना समर्पक असून नरेंद्र भिडे यांनी केलेले संगीत नियोजन नेटके व साजेसे आहे. वाचनातील निरनिराळ्या संकल्पना उलगडण्यासाठी केला गेलेला ‘प्रॉप्स’ चा वापर फार विचारपूर्वक करण्यात आला आहे. अनेक तरुणांनी हा प्रयोग साकारण्यास हातभार तर लावलाच आहे त्याचबरोबर प्रयोगादरम्यान देखील अनेक मदतीचे हात शांतपणे कार्यरत असतात.

‘किमया’ चे खरे यश कशात आहे? माझ्या मते, एका व्यक्तीला तिच्या घराबद्दल संवेदनशील करण्याच्या या प्रयोगाच्या अफाट ताकदीत त्याचे यश आहे. आज शहरे, त्यांचे नियोजन, रस्ते, वाहतूक, गावांना मिठी मारणारा भीतीदायक गलिच्छपणा, नाले झालेल्या नद्या, हे सर्व आपण जाणतोच. माणूस एकदा त्याच्या घराबाबत संवेदनशील झाला, कि त्याचा पुढचा प्रवास आपसूकच सुरु होतो. स्वतःचे घर नेटके करण्याची फुरसत, किंवा ओढ जोपर्यंत एखाद्या व्यक्तीत निर्माण होत नाही, तोपर्यंत तो आर्क्टिकवर वितळणाऱ्या बर्फाबाबत फक्त समाजमाध्यमांवर ‘शेयर’ करण्यापलीकडे काहीच करणार नाही. अगदी सरळ शब्दांत सांगायचे झाले, तर किमया फारच ‘ऍक्शनेबल ‘ आहे. त्यावर लगेच कृती करता येते. ‘किमया’चा एक प्रयोग त्या व्यक्तीला पहिल्या पायरीवर चढवतो- स्वतःच्या घराची. हि एक पायरी चढण्यातला आनंद इतका असीम आहे कि पुढच्या पायऱ्या ती व्यक्ती आपोआप चढणार. किमया हे केवळ एका पुस्तकाचे वाचन नसून ती मानवी संवेदनांची पुनर्मांडणी आहे. किमया व्यक्ती आणि समाजपरिवर्तनाचे चक्र आहे. ते नुकतेच फिरू लागले आहे. गतिमान होण्यास वेळ नाही लागणार!

किमयाचे अधिकाधिक प्रयोग होणं आवश्यक आहे; आपल्या व आपल्या पुढच्या पिढीसाठी आणि समाजाचे धागे टिकवून ठेवण्यासाठी ‘किमया’ एक आशेचा किरण आहे.    



The Circles in Life

Many times, it is quite difficult to evaluate the impact of work that you are doing. If one keeps throwing seeds around, the impact won’t be seen the very next day; may be it will take a decade or so to realise that the mere act of sowing seeds has transformed a barren piece of land into an intricate ecosystem.

When we meet someone for the first time and explain them the work that we try to do through Baithak Foundation, the most obvious question that we get is – What is the outcome of organising concerts and workshops in schools? How is it actually going to help the students? How is it going to support the art form?

While exposing kids to music has many immediate benefits like building sensitivity, awareness about culture, imbibing values and discipline, support to young artists etc., could there be any long term benefits as well? Can such trivial exposure to this art form affect the Course of life of a person?

To answer this question, I would like to share two incidents which happened in the last year.

In the year of September, I got a call from a Pune based mid-aged man who wanted to host a Baithak at his house during Ganpati Festival. When we reached the venue, my first question was – What promoted you to host a classical music concert and not DJ or other forms of loud music?

The answer which he gave, was eye opening. When he was a kid, his family was a patron of art and stalwarts like Pt. Ravishankar used to stay at his uncle’s place for days and perform. Though this gentleman did not have any connection with music thereafter, in the later parts of his life, he felt like he was missing this art form and should reconnect with it.

Not only this, being in the profession of audio-video equipment, he also donated a professional recorder to Baithak which we now use to document our work.

The second incident happened in a school. At present, we are working with more than 12 locations in Pune, a mix of construction sites and municipal schools. Principal of one of the schools was quite keen on having our sessions at her school. When we did first concert in her school, we saw that unlike many other schools, she had done an excellent job with entire event organisation – from better publicity of event and student interest to actual on stage arrangements.

After interacting with her, she shared that when she was in college, she used to attend Spicmacay concerts and these concerts had had a deep impact on her and she was very keen to provide same experience to her kids.

Just imagine, a college student who heard Indian Classical Music in her college days and was touched by it, the experience she had is impacting how she provides experience of Indian Classical Music to next generation of students.

We often feel that one can contribute to art only by becoming a donor or a performer. That’s so untrue; there are so many roles in this ecosystem for which we need passionate people! Whenever I see some volunteer taking notes of a concert, with an intention to convert it into a nice piece of documentation, or someone passionately preparing the stage before the concert, I feel thankful that in society, we have so many people who are touched by immense power of this art form and are honestly trying to contribute to the ecosystem in whatever manner they can.

While working, one has to believe in the circular force of life – what you do, will not immediately bounce back on you; it will follow a circular path and will meet you unexpectedly, may be after a few decades!


Being Grateful to Silence

Can I paint if my canvas is shaky? Or can I dance if the ground is not rooted in the stillness? As I closely observe these trees, their bottoms rooted in the darkness of the night, yet their peaks touching the light of the moon and the stars, I realise that this universal silence is the playground on which creativity of existence unfolds relentlessly.

As clouds pass through the sky, all our actions and activities pass through this silence. As clouds are unable to taint the sky, our activities, howsoever loud and violent they might be, can not even touch this eternal silence; disfiguring it is far from reality.

Who is an artist? May be the one, who tries to paint this silence on a piece of paper; or the one who sings so that people hear the silence he or she is hinting at; or probably the dancer, who through his or her postures, makes us aware of the infinite space in which we are born, live and die.

When the canvas or the space in which we survive is at even a slight unrest, creativity is impossible. When artists are madly running behind creativity, is it not wise to halt for a moment and be grateful to this silence- the ultimate benefactor of creativity?


Address by Kiran Khalap at The Kabir Way Launch

At the launch of The Kabir Way, Kiran Khalap, author and co-founder of chlorophyll brand and communication consultancy had a dialogue with audience about work-life separation. Here is the full video of his talk:


Can we stop the wars from happening?

Wars seem to be an integral part of life. Wars are happening on the earth for ages; between castes, societies, countries, animals and individuals. With the recent happenings (India and Pakistan), we are again on the brink of war. Over the period, the way we fight wars has evolved; it has become more sophisticated and subtler and even more cruel and gross at some places; but wars do happen.

Should we think about stopping wars or should we embrace them as an inevitable reality in our lives? More importantly, if we think we should stop wars, what’s the way to achieve that?

To begin with, I remember a beautiful sentence by Osho, where he says, ‘when the peace inside is disturbed, the wars happen outside’.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-4-34-53-pmWars are the manifestation of the turbulence inside. All possibilities of war are eliminated if minds are peaceful. When we typically talk about stopping war, we are essentially talking about stronger armies, powerful ammo and warfare technology. As one can see, when we hear the word ‘war’, our first reaction is protecting ourselves and defeating our enemy and never about preventing it from happening. The only way to stop wars from happening is creating peace within oneself. A person full of anger, frustration, hopes and passion is not at peace and unless he is not at peace, war is inevitable.

Everyday conflicts are also sort of wars. small frustrations and small conflicts add up and evolve into big wars. The first step to stop big wars is living life in such a way that it prevents the accumulation of frustration, anger inside oneself. Drops of violence come together to form the ocean. Meditation is the way to stop the formation of the drops of violence within oneself!