An impulsive go to to town revealed not only a gracious host and a music competition, however one thing a lot bigger than that
It was 2018, the times heavy with the promise of rain. I used to be at work after I acquired an e-mail from somebody who launched himself as Navjeevan Khosla. It was a captivating mail, inviting me to attend the Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan, an annual affair staged each October in Le Corbusier’s metropolis.
The person had taken my e mail deal with from professor of music Gurinder Singh, a pupil of Kishori Amonkar, who had as soon as written a shifting tribute to her guru for this newspaper. “Gurinder is a superb singer,” wrote Khosla, “and I strongly counsel that you simply take a flight and be right here to hearken to her.” The person was in his 90s, it was an endearing missive, however I didn’t actually take it severely. Chandigarh is just too far-off from Chennai to go to on a whim.
Then, final yr, in August, my cellphone rang. On the opposite finish was Khosla saab. This time he had determined to name — “early sufficient in order that you should have time to make journey plans”. The nonagenarian’s enthusiasm and heat have been touching and in addition intriguing. I discovered myself reserving a ticket to Chandigarh, considerably to my household’s bemusement.
However my intuition hadn’t let me down. What I discovered was not only a gracious man and a music competition, however one thing bigger. One thing that caught in my head and slowly dawned right into a clearer understanding of that elusive creature we name ‘patronage of the humanities’.
In Chandigarh, Khosla had organised my keep in his dwelling, an old-style bungalow surrounded by an ebullient backyard whose fruit and veggies unfailingly discovered their method to the eating desk. Staying with us have been three others — the beautiful Gurinder; Hari Sahasrabuddhe, the late classical singer Veena Sahasrabuddhe’s husband; and music critic Manjari Sinha. We have been all there for the 42nd version of the Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan, organised by the Indian Nationwide Theatre, an organisation based in 1968 by a bunch of town’s culturati and inaugurated by Prithviraj Kapoor.
Competition of ardour
In 1978, urged by Khosla, the INT launched the annual Sangeet Sammelan. And within the 42 years since, pushed nearly completely by one man’s ardour, one of the best of Hindustani music’s singers and instrumentalists have recurrently wound their method to this metropolis to regale a small however ardent circle of listeners.
“Dhondutai Kulkarni, Vilayat Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Gangubai Hangal, Kishori Amonkar, Kumar Gandharva…” Sitting within the morning room with the daylight pouring in by the French home windows, Khosla reeled off the names of the stalwarts the Sammelan had hosted through the years.
The previous IAS officer was nonetheless on the centre of all of it however had roped in Vinita Gupta, singer and instructor, to take over a lot of the accountability. He stays chief curator and critic — a job he performs with formidable ability — holding his nervous coterie on its toes.
That week, as an illustration, he raged and stormed through the performances of Raghunandan Panshikar and Ravindra Parchure, each of whose expertise is undoubted however whose concert events have been marred by an over-long rendition in a single case and tussles with shruti within the different. Khosla saab left the venue early, strolling stick in a single hand, devoted retainer on the opposite. However his frail well being carried out itself with honour through the largely unknown however supremely gifted Shalmali Joshi’s live performance, as her assured voice poured forth notes of pellucid magnificence.
“The massive singers cost an excessive amount of today,” he informed me. “And after they come right here, they don’t take the viewers and town severely. Nowadays, I search for the small and upcoming names, artists who care just for the music and are hungry to carry out.” From the primary, the Sammelan has labored on meagre budgets. “In these days,” mentioned Khosla, “no one spoke a lot about cash; they got here for the love of music, accepting no matter we provided.”
Illustration: Kannan Sundar
On the partitions are imposing footage of turbaned males; Khosla’s great-grandfather was a dewan within the courtroom of Patiala’s Maharaja Mahendra Singh. His grandfather was a Cambridge-educated barrister and decide. Khosla’s love for music appears to have come from his father, Niranjan Prashad, who was near the legendary Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, serving to him with funds when he arrange the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in 1901, a music faculty that was open to all and among the many first to run on public donations fairly than royal funding. Paluskar was then one of many first singers to scandalously give paid public concert events.
At one time, encouraging the humanities was proof of a ruler’s discernment and refinement. Kings surrounded themselves with poets, singers and dancers, gifting them land and wealth. Wealthy households adopted swimsuit. Recitals have been held in royal courts or non-public properties. Temples adopted performers, their music and dance thought of choices as a lot as incense or blooms. With democracy and the abolishing of royal households and the zamindari, the wealth that supported such cultural effulgence was misplaced. The baithak, the place the cognoscenti would congregate at non-public properties, was supplanted by auditoriums and a paying public.
Whereas this democratisation of classical music was welcome, it additionally meant that dedicated patrons have been changed with intermittent company sponsors. The burden of long-term help for the humanities thus fell upon the federal government, an obligation it took upon itself enthusiastically within the early years (organising numerous awards and Akademis) however quickly let crumble beneath bureaucratic indifference and corruption. Till at this time, when we’ve got reached some extent the place the very thought of state help for the humanities is regarded with resentment and ‘tradition’ is equated with faith, propaganda and diplomacy.
The items of this crumbling inventive edifice have been left then for trusts and people to select up. Individuals like Ashok Vajpeyi in Delhi, one other former IAS officer, whose Raza Basis does extra for the humanities than all the authorities. Or the late Okay.V. Subbanna, whose Ninasam belief in Heggodu, Karnataka, has sustained a cultural motion over 5 a long time. Gira Sarabhai’s extraordinary Sarabhai Basis in Ahmedabad, the late Ebrahim Alkazi’s Basis for the Arts, O.P. Jain’s Sanskriti Basis, the late Vijaynath Shenoy’s Hasta Shilpa Heritage Museum, the late Komal Kothari’s Rupayan Sansthan, Laila Tyabji’s Dastkar…
…And folks like Khosla whose exceptional effort to protect and promote classical music in his hometown is backed solely by ardour, some private wealth and public donations. Khosla’s word within the invitation card that yr was characteristically acerbic: “However we can’t survive on recent air, tea and type phrases alone. So kindly convey your cheque books alongside.”
As round us the pandemic wreaks havoc on the livelihoods of innumerable musicians, the absence of structured state help is felt sharply. The federal government and its ‘cultural’ arms are once more lacking in motion. As I see involved people step into the fray as soon as extra, I consider Khosla saab, who has simply turned 98. Throughout India’s bylanes and again streets, however for a handful of such dedicated people, the heartbeat of classical music won’t have stored throbbing beneath the nice ambient hum of mass leisure.