Why SPICMACAY is in tune with Modi’s thoughts; he must listen to its beats | opinion$Comment | Hindustan Times
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Why SPICMACAY is in tune with Modi’s thoughts; he must listen to its beats

SPICMACAY doesn’t have an annual grant. Its volunteers have to do go down on their knees to extract a comparatively meagre sum each year. They depend mainly on donations including a sizeable contribution from the Norwegian government and the generosity of the artists who perform for a pittance.

opinion Updated: Jun 10, 2017 17:58 IST
Pt. Bhajan Sopori playing the santoor during a SPICMACAY event
Pt. Bhajan Sopori playing the santoor during a SPICMACAY event(Praveen Bajpai/ HT File Photo)

Student politics these days centres on nationalism which divides campuses provoking battles, police intervention, and even allegations of sedition. On Monday I heard the Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking by video-conferencing to student nationalists on strengthening the unity of India by spreading knowledge and indeed love of Indian culture. They were the 1,200 students attending the 5th Five Day International Conference of SPICMACAY, The Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth . The Prime Minister told these students music and culture could a big step towards ending divisions and playing a vital role in connecting India.

Because we journalists are obsessed with controversies Modi speaking on an occasion no one could object to got little notice on TV or in the papers. In my view SPICMACAY has never had the notice it deserves for its remarkable achievements. It has 850 chapters spread all over India, and over the last three years they have organised some 1,500 events, mainly concerts. Most events are held in schools. SPICMACAY provides an opportunity for thousands of volunteers to work for the promotion of Indian culture. There are only three paid employees.

Perhaps the low profile of SPICMACAY has something to do with the low profile its founder Kiran Seth adopts. While reading mechanical engineering at Columbia University in America he was dragged reluctantly to hear a concert given by Aminuddin Dagar. He emerged walking on air. When he returned to teach at IIT Delhi 40 years ago he determined to convey his new found passion to others. But only five students turned up for the first concert he arranged and three of those walked out before the end. Undeterred Kiran persevered, building SPICMACAY quietly, shunning publicity for himself, an example of nishkaam seva as the Prime Minister pointed out.

It’s sad but not surprising that a good news story centred on a man as modest as Kiran escapes the notice of the press. But it’s shameful that it’s been virtually ignored by the government. SPICMACAY doesn’t have an annual grant. Its volunteers have to do go down on their knees to extract a comparatively meagre sum each year. They depend mainly on donations including a sizeable contribution from the Norwegian government and the generosity of the artists who perform for a pittance. The Santoor player Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma always hands back his cheque and wherever Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia goes for a public concert he finds time to play in a school. The renowned flautist has been performing for SPICMACY since its beginning.

Perhaps SPICMACAY has not been noticed by the government until the present Prime Minister took notice of it is because all the emphasis is on vikas, development. But this single-mindedness is creating a society which thinks material development is all important. That is leading to the rape of India. There is ugliness everywhere in a country once famed for its architectural tradition. Rivers are being denuded of stones, sand is being mined, and trees chopped down, to create all this ugliness. Indians once felt at one with nature, now they seem to see nothing wrong in defacing natural beauty and treating nature as expendable. The culture the Prime Minister was talking about when he praised SPICMACAY encouraged the realisation that we are one with nature, the understanding that material needs are important but are only part of a fulfilling life.

The students attending the SPICMACAY convention lived the way Modi would have them live. They started their days at 4 am with three hours of yoga. That was followed by shramdaan, cleaning the venue. Then students interacted with renowned artists and heard performances. What more does a Prime Minister who established World Yoga Day and launched a campaign to clean India want to persuade him this is a venture worth supporting? What more did the press need to attract them to the opening night of the SPICMACAY convention than the opportunity to hear Girja Devi, the Queen of Thumri, sing. She was followed by the violinist Vidwan TN Krishnan and his daughter Smt Krishnan playing together as though they knew exactly what was going on in each other’s minds. The musicians did connect North and South India. Girja Devi belongs to the Banaras Gharana and the Krishnans are from the Carnatic, or South Indian musical tradition.

The views expressed are personal