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Responses to
The dancer's elusive quest for amenities
- Sruthi Krishnan

Jan 2, 2011
Respected Madam,

I read with disdain your comments on Mr. R Krishnaswami in the Hindu in the context of an article on dance facilities in Chennai. The disdain is due to all of the following:

a. There was no need for a personal attack on Mr. Krishnaswami. But for patrons like him who have put in so much of their time and money in support of the arts, Bharatanatyam dance would still be treated as the realm of the red light areas.

b. Artists need to stop acting as though the world owes them everything. Your services are at best discretionary and a luxury that one can do without. In a country, where some have to eat their own excreta to quench their hunger as noted by the CNN hero nominee Krishnan in explaining why he gave up his job to feed the poor, people like you should consider yourself pampered by the patrons of arts like Krishnaswami.

c. Everyone looks up to a TVS, Sanmar, or whoever to fund all this. What have the artists themselves done by way of donations and volunteering to improve things? Ask yourself.

d. The "mutram" is indeed "konal". No one argues with that. But luckily there are many eminent artists who do well without whining in a vicious way that looks like biting the hand that feeds.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. V. Ramaswami

Jan 3, 2011
Respected Sir

Thank you for the time taken to write to me about your "disdain."

We are not beholden to any single person for space and patronage.
Theatre owners and patrons along with artistes are in a PARTNERSHIP.

Mr. Krishnaswami is a respected member of the arts. However, his comments are totally unacceptable.
Please do not preach about "REALM OF THE RED LIGHT AREAS" since it smacks of a feudal/colonial tendency that we can well do without.

No one person can make or break an artiste and we are all in a city where there is huge talent and an abysmal lack of facilities. Without artistes, Narada Gana Sabha will just be another building. It is because of the energy of the arts that any cultural space becomes vibrant.

Mr. Krishnawami's comments sounds like Mr. Bhanot at the CWG who says that India's standards of hygiene are different.

If you feel so strongly about my response, why don't you kindly post your comments on the HINDU page please? Or are you too used to dancers/women not speaking out and just being good, pretty obedient cultural products, who shake their heads and dance mutely?

MY FAMILY does not feature in this debate. I am not involved in auto components and was always taught to speak out and stand up against injustice. I would like to remind you that my ancestors were also jailed for anti-British activities.

Any invader or violator of basic human rights will have to be resisted. And that is what I am resisting now. That no local dancer will speak up also does not surprise or bother me. That they all accept this shoddy state of filth and apathy is what surprises me.

Dr Anita R Ratnam

Jan 4, 2011
Dr. V. Ramaswami asks, "What have the artists themselves done by way of donations?"

Now, isn't it our turn to ask Mr. R Krishnaswami where are all those crores of the unaccounted donations that the artists were forced to pay (without getting receipts!) despite the performances being "sponsored" by various sponsors? Can we see how that money was spent? Where are the receipts? And where is the transparency? Why do the parking boys at Narada Gana Sabha want to collect back the parking tickets when we go home after the performance?

Why are the tickets called "donor passes"? Isn't it sheer fraud, or is it tax evasion?

I would like to know how much of his own (not of some credulous sponsors) time and money Mr. R Krishnaswami actually put in support of the arts, and how much of it was in support of his own self-importance, silly ideas, and social status.
Pathetic to hear some pompous old megalomaniacs asserting that without them the Earth would stop rotating around the Sun, and Bharatanatyam dance would still be treated as the realm of the red light areas.

Ashwini Shankar

Jan 5, 2011
Dear Sir/Madam,

I suppose you would have read the recent set of articles published in The Hindu regarding the poor facilities for the dancers in sabhas. Those articles not only highlight the lack of bare minimum facilities in most of the sabhas but also bring out the apathy of the organizers to these abysmal conditions. Being an organization representing the dancer community, I would assume all dancers in the city expect ABHAI to take this up as a core issue and work towards improvement of those facilities. Is this something you are actively looking into doing or is this something you believe you can do nothing meaningful about due to lack of funds and clout for the dance fraternity as a whole or is this something which doesn't fall under the purview of ABHAI's organizational vision & mission?

I am just concerned that the opinions and even anger expressed in the forums as comments will get fizzled out in time without any meaningful action taken. Rather if ABHAI or any organization which represents dancers is able to brainstorm this problem with a group of key dancers, create a set of realistic action items from that, form a plan to achieve that, track it continuously over the year and ensure we see real visible progress by the next season, it would be a commendable achievement in solving a multi-decade problem facing the dancer fraternity.

I am a humble rasika of Indian classical dance, who believes if all you great dancers join hands, you can solve this problem quickly and effectively. I definitely would love to contribute to such an effort as an ardent rasika who is bothered about the well being of the dancers.

Thanks and regards,
Sridhar Mahadevan
(a rasika)

Jan 5, 2011
Respected sir,

Thank you so much for your comments. I have been the one to instigate or perhaps to use a better word, to catalyze this debate online. So far there is a lot of indignation but no sabha secretary has responded favourably although the general community is shocked at the state of affairs which has JUST NOW come to light after more than 35 years of rotten neglect.

No dancer will come forward and I doubt that ABHAI will lead any charge for change. Dancers are scared that they may be shut out of the sabhas if they complain. I have always spoken my mind but am not an office bearer, just a cultural commentator.

We need to mobilise opinion, so suggestions are welcome.

Anita Ratnam

Jan 6, 2011

This is an initiative which will bear meaning only if dancers take it up. People like me can only be effective behind the scenes. So we need more dancers to voice their opinion and to work towards making their opinions count. Some suggestions I have are:
1. Host a debate in NDTV Hindu or in any Tamil channel where sabha secretaries, dancers and rasikas could be invited and this issue could be discussed at length. This will create awareness.
2. Create a sabha rating initiative where all dancers can rate the sabhas based on the different facilities each sabha provides and we can provide an award for the sabha secretaries who have the best facility. This will act as an incentive for them.
3. Create a signature campaign where a set of demands could be listed with priority and submitted to the sabha secretaries.
4. Have a photo blog which bears photos of the bad state of the facilities of each sabha - unclean toilet, dusty stage floor.
5. Each sabha is a non- profit trust and I think they have to publish their financials somewhere. If we can get access to those financials, we can publish that as well to see if their assertion that they don't have enough funds to make improvements is valid.
6. See if in each of the sabha's managing committee (board) there is a dancer and a musician as part of it so that their voices could be heard. It is filled currently with patrons which is understandable considering the fact they invest funds for the development of these sabhas.
7. Understand why the dancers don't get as much audience as the musicians. In a way this relates to the apathy of the organizers as well. If we are able to by some means generate more interest and audience for dancers, the organizer's attitude might change.

Jan 11, 2011
To Dr. V. Ramaswami

Bravo!! For not many people are honest enough to publicize their feelings about dancers. I was so touched when you wrote, "Your services are at best discretionary and a luxury that one can do without." I would so like to ask you which organisation, if any, you belong to. So the next time I meet you or hear about your involvement in some organisation, I will always remember who wrote this visionary statement. I was foolish to think no one can possible top Mr. R. Krishnaswami's legendary statement in a national newspaper, "If you want to dance, you have to adjust." You re-instilled my faith in art connoisseurs!! I salute you.

Does your New Jersey employer provide you with no janitor service for your restrooms and are you served with infested food at your office parties because, you know, you have such great empathy for people back in your home country "where some have to eat their own excreta to quench their hunger"? Would you feel privileged if your New Jersey employer paid you less than your colleagues since, you know, there are scores of Indians who make less than Rs. 100 a day? If you feel the need to sue them for say racism in this hypothetical situation, for such an atrocious action, reach out to me. I will remind you of what Mr. Krishnaswami said on Jan 2 2011.

Oh! and that bit about TVS? Nice touch! To drag Ms. Ratnam's family name since, you know, they are visionaries who have provided employment for many people in India! Very mature (wink). Of course, they should pay the sabhas for all her performances. In fact, there should be an unspoken law of how no one, who does not come backed up with an illustrious family, should not become a dance performer. Oh wait, there already is. It is listed as one of the requirements of a good dancer in Abhinaya Darpana. Every dance performer should pay the sabhas for a slot, pay the musicians for their services, the light and sound technicians for theirs, the caterers and the videographer and go without a penny themselves. You know, since the dancer's services are so dispensable and they only provide employment to 10 people at most and a moment close to salvation for 100's in the audience. Wait a minute! I have a new idea. Maybe we should start paying the audience too! That way literally everyone will make money except the dancer as Swarnamalya points out in the comments section of that very article. That way we will provide employment to a sizeable population and then we can be closer to being indispensable in Dr.Ramaswami's revered eyes.

We Indians are so blessed to be amidst people like Dr. V. Ramaswami. For without them, who will take pride in Indian arts and artists in the lala land of USA. Let's not forget his thought of relatives back at home. Those who let us perform after we pay them to let us perform and
then crib about the utterly demanding lot that is dancers. May Lord Shiva be pleased with your service to the Nation, to Hindu dharma and its heritage.


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