SPICMACAY, a movement of the students, by the students and for the students, has grown from strength to strength.

It is an annual ritual and the week-long assembly entails a packed schedule of interactions with the who's who of the art world, intensive courses, orientation programmes and more. After a week, another successful batch of converts is ready to enter the world with a mission. This isn't a religious conglomeration. It is more cultural evangelism at its best. Veejay Sai writes on SPICMACAY's 27th National Convention from Surathkal.

Mid-May is not the best time to visit Surathkal, near the Mangalore coast. But the National Institute of Technology at Surathkal was abuzz as it played host to the 27th SPICMACAY National Convention.

Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (SPICMACAY or SM), the brainchild of Dr. Kiran Seth, began in the 1970s as a small venture by interested individuals with a common love for Indian arts. Through the 1970s, which also saw the rise of other Indian social movements, Seth's non-profit organisation was set to revolutionise the way classical performing arts would permeate the mainstream and be instilled into a new generation on the verge of cultural displacement. By 1986, Seth's team had grown from strength to strength and the first national convention was organised in Hyderabad. Twenty six conventions later, the statistics are mindboggling. The organisation, with its chapters, has meticulously covered the whole of urban India. “This is a movement of the students, by the students and for the students,” said Seth in his brief speech to the assembly of over 2,000 student and teacher volunteers, who gathered at the convention this year.

A typical day at the convention begins with an exhaustive session of yoga at 4.30 a.m. to keep the participants fit. Throughout the day, intensive workshops are conducted in classical music, dance, crafts such as leather puppetry, block printing, papier mache and clay dolls, Kalamkari and Rajasthani tie and dye work, Madhubani and Odisha paintings under the supervision of experts and senior craftsmen. The noon sessions include screening of films, talks and seminars.

After an early dinner at 5 p.m., the evening ends with music and dance concerts by the who's who of the art world.

The hectic week concludes in an all-night music and dance festival and a quick tour of the heritage sites near the venue.

SM is totally a youth-driven movement and up to date with the latest technologies in the market. This year's convention was webcast to Indian art lovers across the world.

“I had no knowledge of the various aspects of our country's rich cultural heritage. I've been with SM for five years now and learnt a logical and scientific, Indian way of thinking,” says Prasoon Raj, an M. Tech. student in nuclear sciences from Delhi University, who also volunteers with SM as its secretary, national executive.

“Our Vision 2020 aims to reach out to every educational institution in the country and create an awareness about our arts. This means we still have over 17 lakh institutions to cover but we are sure we'll manage,” confidently adds Vikas Nagrare, the head of the central resources team.

The SM annual report details over 4,500 concerts across 380 cities by 200 artists in the last year and spilled over to concerts in schools across Canada, France, Norway, Singapore and the U.S.. At this pace, it won't be long before Vision 2020 is realised.

Building bridges

“This is our first time at SM and our heart reaches out to them. They are doing unbelievable work, which is highly motivating. We hope to start a Karachi chapter of SM soon,” says Arshad Mahmud, programmes and administration director of the National Academy of Performing Arts from Karachi. SM could easily take the credit for building new cultural bridges between the two neighbours.

The SM ethos contains no elements of rebellion, rejection or dissent — remarkably so, given that countercultural opposition would seem to be inevitable in the context of youth-driven movements.

The makings of a new youth culture may be getting redefined as SM efficiently progresses. When Tagore wrote of tireless striving, stretching its arms out for perfection, he probably foresaw movements such as SPICMACAY in his mind. Kudos to Kiran Seth and his vision!

(Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and culture critic)