Vishnu Sahai calls himself '80-years-young.' He is the brain behind Gurgaon's first cultural set up - International Cultural Center. Excerpts from the interview with Sahai.
What is culture according to you?
It is a very wide term. A well-read, well-behaved and who carries himself with dignity is a cultured man. Culture also involves fine arts and performing arts. It is combination of aesthetics, which, I must confess, is missing in Gurgaon. This city has a lot of potential to be culturally vibrant.
Do you think Gurgaon has a vibrant cultural life like Mumbai or Kolkata?
I don't think so. You cannot compare Gurgaon with Mumbai or Kolkata. Haryana definitely has its own culture fabric. In rural areas, you will find men wrestling or playing hockey. Due to the Khap culture, women are not allowed to step out of their houses. Gurgaon has tremendous scope of improvement.
What do you expect in the cultural sector in 2013?
My aim behind setting up the International Culture Center was to invite artists from different countries and expose residents to their culture. Today, we have the Kingdom of Dreams and Epicenter holding various events. The response has been extremely phenomenal.
You have been credited for infusing spirit into the city's cultural life. What urged you to do this?
Accidentally, I was present at that time and I did it. I come from Kolkata - a city that has a very rich and lively culture. When I shifted to Gurgaon in 1994, I faced a culture shock. The city seemed culturally dead to me. After many years, there was news floating that 24 malls are to be built in the city and I wondered where these malls are going to come up. I was certain that this 'Cola Culture' is not right for the younger generation. They have to be exposed to art, tradition, culture. That's when I decided to take the initiative to start a culture group that would organise events, debates, get-togethers etc. That is how the International Cultural Center was established in 2003. Now, city residents don't travel to Delhi's India Habitat Center. They have their own Epicenter to enjoy cultural activities.
Are you satisfied with the city's cultural growth?
Yes. There was a time when I used to go door-to-door and distribute pamphlets of events. I also motivated people to attend these events and take part in activities. But now things are well-organised. Cultural activities have certainly increased and scores of people throng the Epicenter daily.
Has culture become an expensive product?
It is fast turning into one. Not everyone can afford a Kingdom of Dreams or Epicenter. My cousin Sushma Seth, who is an actor, teaches drama to the children of a nearby slum every week. Culture should be induced at the grass root and village level, just like education has been made compulsory. It is an important part of education. Art and culture make a person.