S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Thursday, 3 November 2016


By V Ramnarayan

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

This is no 21st century lament but what the Greek philosopher Socrates is said to have said some four hundred years before Christ. 

In the field of sports writing, the sheer talent of modern athletes forces even the most cynical veterans to sing their praises, a nice change from the yesteryear practice of constantly berating youth. No longer can the journalist or writer dismiss current achievements as inferior to past glory. No longer can a Virat Kohli be treated like a spoiled brat, no more can we keep comparing Ravichandran Ashwin with the famed spin quartet of yore to his disadvantage. 

In music and dance, the trend of holding the present generation in contempt seems to continue unabated, judging from recent experience. Over the last few months, I have been witness to numerous outbursts by respected senior artists and gurus against today’s students and performers. Nobody respects the guru, noone has any appreciation of tradition, all every student wants is instant learning, skype classes, item acquisition, and more and more performance opportunities, if we were to believe them.

Many of these elder statesmen (and stateswomen) of our artistic world keep harking back to a golden age of idyllic gurukulavasam. They go into ecstasy remembering their own devotion to their gurus, and their gurus’ limitless love for them. Strangely the love they all received seems to have been tough love of the most violent kind. With masochistic relish they describe the physical atrocities their teachers specialised in. With considerable glee they wax eloquent on the various objects the guru flung at them. To listen to them you’d think they actually miss all that action, or at least rue their own lack of opportunity to flog their sishyas in our changed times. 

The irony of it all is that all this wisdom is spouted on occasions got up by their sishyas to honour these venerable gurus. Incredibly, however, there doesn’t appear to be any artifice or pretence in the guru bhakti on display at such felicitations. Are these the same irresponsible, undisciplined, lazy young people whom their gurus verbally flay in public? 

The preceding pages of this issue of Sruti offer so many glowing references by sishyas to their gurus (for example, Amritha Murali, Bharathi Ramasubban and Ramakrishnan Murthy about Shriramkumar, and Shriram himself to a whole pantheon of musical gods he worships) that we cannot help wondering if some of our gurus and acharyas have with age become self-absorbed and negative, bitter and ungrateful for their blessings.

To return to a sporting analogy, wasn’t it a heartwarming gesture by India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli when he recently surprised his coach with the gift of a car? Yes, our young musicians and dancers perhaps cannot afford to shower such expensive gifts on their mentors, but do they not publicly express their gratitude to the teachers who they say have moulded them, guided them, blessed them? Is it too much to expect equal grace from the old guard? 

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