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Globalisation 'n all that jazz

The East and the West should never be the same because they are complementary, writes Varupi Jain.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2005 17:02 IST

It is not everyday that you get to hear a musician trying to connect topics as diverse as globalisation, guru-shishyaparampara and typical nine-to-five jobs. Pundit Hari Prasad Chaurasia's visit to Berlin, Leipzig and Duesseldorf last month provided for just that.

Having performed nearly in all continents, Punditji hardly sees any difference between European and American audiences. "They have all bowed down before Indian music and food. They have kneeled down before our cultural heritage," he says.

India is perhaps the only country where the traditional guru-shishya parampara is still practiced, of course in modern forms. "While we have benefited a lot from globalisation, thankfully it has not yet shaken our roots," he says. Punditji has opened a gurukul called 'Vrindavan' in Mumbai for poor children.

"They live, study and eat there and devote themselves full-time to music education. Typical school and college education can fetch you only a typical nine-to-five naukri. To reach different ends, we employ different means at the gurukul," he offers.

According to him, belonging to a musical family does not play any role. While on the one hand children of families of musicians find it easier to come up as compared to children from non-musical families, the former have a distinct disadvantage too. Their success or the lack of it, as musicians, is always compared along the parameters set by their parents, he points out.

"Students from non-musical families need not aspire to attach their names with those of well-known gurus. I started learning music from a lady who is still unknown. In fact, she does not even know how to play the bansuri. I learnt only music from her and applied it to my instrument," he offers.

Shortly before parting, he tells me to look at the world. Look at the number of engineers and doctors, he says. And look at the number of kalakaars (artists/creative people). God is not selective in churning out doctors, lawyers and engineers, but he is careful in who to instill the gift of creativity or else there would be many more kalakaars on the planet. So my only message to the young generation is to devote yourself to your calling with bhakti.

That our unwritten musical traditions have withstood the turbulence of so many centuries says a lot about their sound fundamentals. According to Punditji, we often tend to muddle the concept of development. "Many point out that a rich spiritual heritage and firm traditions cannot feed the hungry and educate the illiterate.

But we are developed in a different way. The East and the West are unique and should never be the same because they are complementary. The West can make social security networks but cannot prevent them from crumbling. However, our joint families continue to exist. So, while we should continue to race ahead in our globalising world, we should not forget our fundamentals. Our USP lies somewhere else," he asserts.

Love etc.

Trying to faintly connect globalisation, music and East-West in an imaginary mind-map, I recalled an incident which confirms how you often bump into people at the most unlikely places. And these are often the people you're least prepared to meet at that moment. I remember a flight back home which my friend and I decided to book together. Lufthansa having just introduced the Delhi-Munich service, she insisted we try it out. Christmas was approaching and while getting bored at Munich airport, we decided to check out the airport Christmas market - Christmas markets being very typical of Germany this time of the year.

We were quite impressed with the expanse of the airport Christmas market and its international flair to attract multi-ethnic passengers halting at the airport. A Greek dance group looked quite enthusiastic and my friend and I decided to join the people dancing in a ring. The ring became a whirlwind - the music got faster and alcohol levels higher. Seconds before the crescendo of the dance, I saw my friend brush across an Indian looking person, after which all I can recall is her shouting and pulling me in a corner and within seconds we were away from the hullabaloo.

Apparently, she had rubbed shoulders with her former boyfriend and thanks to a tacit agreement, they were simply not aware of each other's whereabouts for years now. Filmi, very filmi. But so what, I asked her? Either you could have talked to him or you needn't care. I spent the Munich-Delhi flight trying to find for her answers which she knew I did not know - had he noticed her; was he drunk; was he alone; what he was doing there - two Indians who had fallen in and out of love on the streets of Delhi rub shoulders during a Greek dance at the Christmas market at an airport in Germany. LH 760 ran out of soft-tissues for my friend that night.

As the plane prepared for landing, I looked down at the blinking hearts of Delhi - wondering how the paths of some lovers are meant to cross incompletely. How in our globalising, wired world, strands of love often fall a victim to mobility and distance.

First Published: Aug 23, 2005 16:15 IST