The virtual medium threatens to telescope living art into a capsule of a few minutes, in a cruelly compressed space.
The Covid-19 pandemic struck like lightning, the world was unprepared and was caught unawares. Even today we are fumbling, trying out means of survival, praying for an end to this calamity. The global economy has taken a beating. From 2020 till now, nations are tottering on the brink of collapse but somehow holding up. Stories of human endurance keep emerging and continue to amaze and inspire us to face these unprecedented times.
By Dr Sonal Mansingh
India with its humongous population has much more at stake than other nations. The enormous variety and diversity in cultural traditions, languages, religions,cuisine and so much else make it a
mammoth task to sustain normality in life, leave alone do something extraordinary and herein lies the rub. While experts can continue discussing problems and issues in
almost every field of economy, scientific research, modernisation processes, education, health and so on, none seems to be aware of the real problem facing us today which
begs urgent attention. This concerns the raison d’etre of culture, its existence, its manifestations and issues cry out to be urgently addressed.
I can imagine how most countries are facing these problems but somehow India with its wide variety of tangible and intangible heritage, which is not defunct but a perennial stream of consciousness depicted through millennia – old ideas, customs, traditions, concepts, dance, music and other art forms – leads us to the intersection where the tangible body represents the incredible and the intangible! More than ever, the human body which has been worshipped and misunderstood at the same time deserves revered attention for only then, with this instrument of the body, can we act, work, experience. As Kalidasa aptly puts it in his epic Sanskrit poem “Kumarasambhava”:
।।शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम।।
हिदी अर्थ: शरीर ही सभी धर्मों (कर्तव्यों) को परा करने का साधन है
English meaning: “Body is foremost instrument of doing all (good) deeds”
All this and much more was on display on real stages in auditoria and studios with real audiences applauding. There was that electric current which created sparks of delight and moments of beauty. Creativity was at an all-time high. Then the pandemic struck. Everyone was at sea, confused, depressed, anxious and unsure of how to cope. We are yet to find a satisfactory solution as we chug along the virtual way, trying to compress living art in a capsule of a few minutes, in a cruelly compressed space. Now the constant fear of “thumb up or thumb down” syndrome, how many likes, followers, viewership keeps creative artistes busy. Worries about attention span, boredom, dwindling financial support and the like may affect cultural manifestations in a way never imagined. If we believe that culture is the soul of a people, nation and civilisation, we cannot afford to lose
time to fix things.
(The author is Padma Vibhushan, Member of Parliament, Government of India.)