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Intolerance in our work culture
- Madhavi Puranam

November 11, 2015

(This editorial by chief editor Madhavi Puranam in the Nartanam - Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance - issue Volume XV, # 3 July-Sept 2015 - has been reproduced here with permission)

The aggressive spokesperson of a political party whose aim is to argue even if he strays from reason and ethics while making his case, the brash neta whose tirade is far removed from any finesse, wisdom or culture, the compulsive jargonmuttering corporate executive obsessed with graphs, pie charts and figures working at a lightning pace, the busy corporate doctor who forgets that a humane touch could work wonders in the treatment of the patient, the ever so humble artiste who can transform into a belligerent expletive-mouthing socialite, all seem to be the often-seen prototypes of the respective professions. The recent utterances of our Culture Minister have done nothing to dent this prototype. Today the common thread in the work culture is the aggression and the "competitiveness" in the pursuit of fame/propaganda which is often confused with "success". In this issue (Nartanam Vol XV no3.) we bring a moment from the past - the 1954 Inter-University Youth Festival - which underlies all the values that one knows to be sterling but which one seldom encounters within ourselves and all around us - the spirit of discovery, wonderment, and competing within the ambit of inquiry, sharing and unity. Arshiya Sethi, in her effort to chronicle the events of the first ever youth seminar in post independent India and its landmark artistic fallout, beautifully brings out the finer sensibilities of the times and the thrust behind the event.

Talking of work and its finer values/ethics, one cannot but look at the glaring fault lines in its apparatus. Recently, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, speaking of the need for strong institutional mechanisms, spoke of "jugaad". There could never be a more apt slang word to describe the unique Indian trait of finding ad hoc solutions in difficult situations. "Jugaad" definitely calls for a certain amount of genius but also invests heavily in shortcuts, omissions and commissions which often produce less than mediocre results. And "jugaad" is no less applicable to the field of dance at the artist, writer and the institutional level. We often encounter hasty writing, lecture demonstrations, seminars, and documentation not backed by enough research; poor productions and festivals with no definite artistic thrust; stagnation at the level of policy making and the execution of the existing mandate by national institutions dealing with arts and culture where in spite of many obstacles created by somnolent systems, lack of leadership and competent staff, and corruption, "jugaad" manages to deliver some results. But these results are just not good enough.

While we go to press, the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, is still bogged down with the students protesting against the opaque process in the recent appointments of FTII's Chairman and some of its Governing Council members. It is common that every government brings its own party members or supporters to head important institutions but credentials must be considered, transparency of the process is a must, and continuity in delivering the mandate of the institute matters. I also find a need to highlight here the intolerance creeping into our work culture. The recent killings of secular bloggers in Bangladesh and rationalist writers in India adds to the list of many writers across the world who have been harassed or murdered, or who have committed suicide. Has the Indian psyche come down to a level that it cannot handle a democracy where all citizens are equal and have a right to freedom of expression?

A recent refusal by one of our correspondents to file a report on an ill-presented seminar involving senior gurus, speaks for the intolerance for democratic expression in the field of dance. The young artist/reporter was being worldly wise in refusing to risk the wrath of the holy cows for calling a spade a spade.

Nartanam, notwithstanding, provides a democratic platform to air views and issues and an opportunity to present thoughts, research and reviews fearlessly. For we work in the spirit of: "The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

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