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V.R.Devika in DT next
21-10-2016 15:54 IST

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Gandhi’s teachings hold solutions to our problems

Published: Oct 03,201608:00 AM

As another Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) goes past, there is an urgent need to adopt the Mahatma’s sound ideologies to fix our modern-day problems, rather than just talking about them.

Description: V R Devika

V R Devika


Today, Gandhi is viewed as the ‘mahatma’ and put on a pedestal. But take a closer look at his teachings and one would find solutions to many of our problems. When there is so much of water scarcity now, Gandhi has already spoken about conserving water through dry composting. In an era of identity crisis, his philosophy — have your own identity while respecting others — rings true. Gandhi had also defined a good Hindu as one who makes his Christian friend a better Christian and his Muslim friend, a better Muslim. He was a visionary, who had foreseen the problems of the future. Instead of putting the Mahatma on a pedestal and forgetting about it, we should take look at Gandhi’s education and environmental policies. Anticipating the problems of power, he had advocated decentralisation. He was a strong advocate of Swadharma, where an individual can decide on how to live his or her life. For him, democracy was a ‘majority wins’ situation, which may or may not work everywhere.


What is real Swachh Bharat 

Gandhi is a mascot for Swachh Bharat, his iconic spectacles doubling up as the logo for Modi’s pet initiative. But how far Gandhi’s policies are followed? As far as sanitation was concerned, he urged people to get rid of their fear of cleaning toilets, a fear which sprang from the Varnashrama Dharma or the caste-based system. In fact, he encouraged people to not only clean their own toilets but also the latrines of other people. He urged people to get rid of the fear of the human excreta. So, for Swachh Bharat, we need aggressive action such as ensuring waste segregating, introducing more dry composting toilets and conserving water.


Rise to the occasion 

Gandhi also believed in the power of the individuals. He felt that every person should come forward and work for the betterment of the society. If we don’t look at where our organic waste ends up or what happens to the waste from our toilets, we are in for a lot of trouble in the future. We have already clogged up almost all our rivers. Today, individual action is the need of the hour. The ‘Father of the Nation’ advocated dignity and self-respect. He “invited his people to think about the future with fresh ideas. He told them at the margin to discard lethargy and reject fatalism and claim their own dignity through non-violent assertion.


Non-violence, way to future 

In a world of increasing violence, Gandhian values of peace, truth and non-violence are perceived as archaic. Gandhi advocated the use of dialogue as a means of non-violent action in order to see the opponent’s version of the truth. For him, truth was dynamic, which could change with the addition of facts. Viewed through these perspectives, Gandhi’s policies and teachings are still relevant in today’s scenario.


The writer is a cultural expert, storyteller and Gandhian scholar


‘Museums need to become more vibrant’

Published: May 18,201608:30 AM by Tuba Raqshan

On International Museum Day (May 18), experts say that museums in the city, though not so well-maintained, are still viewed as repositories of our cultural heritage rather than a space for social interactions.

Description: (Clockwise from top) Cholamandal Artists’ Village, Government Museum and museum in Fort St. George

(Clockwise from top) Cholamandal Artists’ Village, Government Museum and museum in Fort St. George


Visitors to the historic Government Museum in Egmore have to put up with dim corners with insufficient lighting, cobwebs on the walls and lack of monitoring as noisy, disinterested children run amok. This, pointed out Dr S Suresh, Tamil Nadu State Conveynor at INTACH, is the sad state of museums. A Fullbright Visiting Professor, Dr Suresh has been lecturing in universities across the US on museum culture in contemporary India. 


Dr Suresh pointed out that museums in India lag behind when compared to their western counterparts. “A large number of museums are not well-maintained and are not popular among adults or children. We have to understand that museums are not just a repository of heritage but also a centre for social interactions. In other countries, museums have an in-house library, reading room, souvenir shop and educational activities for children. But this is not the case in India. A lot of effort has to be put into making the museums attractive to children and not just scholars. The museum shop, selling souvenirs and prints, is very slowly catching up here. This is a way in which museums can make money. We need to reimagine our museums, with better displays and facilities, packaging and advertising it better,” he said.


Loss of a museum: 

S Nandagopal, sculptor and son of the iconic artist KCS Paniker, said museums are still not valued in the city. “In Cholamandal Artists’ Village, there is a Museum of Madras Movement, documenting the works of artists who defined the Madras Art Movement between 1940 and 1985. We’ve had students from across the country and the world visit the museum but hardly any students from Chennai,” he said, adding that the documentation of the exhibits is under way. 


This attitude towards museums is not new, he revealed. “When my father was dying, he wrote to the CM of Tamil Nadu, stating that he wanted to donate his life’s work (68 paintings and four bronze sculptures) to create a museum for the future generation of artists. My father wanted it in Chennai because he lived and died in this city. But he didn’t receive any response. Later, when this notice was put up in other newspapers, the CM of Kerala called up my father the very next day and in 1977, the KCS Paniker Art Gallery came into existence in Thiruvananthapuram. This is the only museum with all the works of a contemporary artist. The gallery was recently renovated,” he explained. 


Private players can help:

Cultural expert VR Devika said that private partnership can help bring about a change in our museums. “Private individuals have the passion. But for most of the officials, it is just a job. Museums need to be vibrant, with a souvenir shop, activities for children and other facilities to draw in a larger crowd,” she said. 


Fisherfolk kids take art route to happiness

Published: Feb 27,201607:15 AM by Tuba Raqshan

Children from kuppams across the city are being exposed to music, dance and art, helping them gain confidence and also induce a positive behavioural change, especially in those hailing from broken families and abusive backgrounds.


Over the last few weeks, children from the Urur-Olcott kuppam have been punctually waiting for Veronica Angel, a Villuppattu teacher, to begin their daily practice sessions. These children, who will be performing at the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha starting today, are eager to show off their newly-acquired skills. Veronica said these sessions are helping the children gain confidence. “They ask so many questions, which even I can’t answer at times. Villuppattu, which is a form of musical storytelling, is easily understood by the children and they are eager to learn. I teach 15 students, out of which almost eight are performing at the vizha,” she said. Veronica added that these classes ensure that children are occupied constructively after school hours. “These children are in a safe place and are learning something constructive —this helps them stay out of trouble,” she added. K. Saravanan, a local fisherman, pointed out that more children from the kuppam are now interested in learning new art forms. 


“Around 7-8 children from the kuppam are learning Bharatanatyam,” he said, with a hint of pride. Thilagavathi Palani, a Kattaikuttu artiste, has been constantly working with children from various kuppams in Ennore. “Some of these children come from broken families and violent backgrounds, where physical abuse is quite common. When they start learning this folk art form, they learn how to perform in front of a crowd and how to present themselves. They gradually gain confidence. Over a period of time, they express themselves through art. Sometimes, we have used plays and storytelling to get the children to open up, especially about abuse. In one such situation. I remember this instance where a young girl said that her legs hurt when she danced. We got her to create a play around pain and realised that she had been a victim of abuse,” said Thilagavathi. V.R. Devika, cultural expert, uses the power of storytelling to get the children to express their painful experiences.