Reflection Music

Built on faith and patience

Kiran Seth Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Kiran Seth Photo: K. Murali Kumar   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Commemorating 40 years of the SPIC MACAY movement, which recently concluded its International Convention at IIT Delhi

 

When we started at the very same precincts (IIT-Delhi), most people were of the opinion that there were many more important problems that faced mankind. Many of my colleagues, friends and relatives often asked me why I was wasting my time on gaana bajaana, when I could use it to do research work. I must admit that I was often confused and did not know whether I was on the right track, but some intuition kept me going. It seemed that society at large was moving in a direction in which there was belief only in what one could actually see.

The intangible domain was slowly becoming either non-existent, or was being treated ritualistically, without an understanding of either its depth or importance. The intuitive impulse has grown in the past 40 years into an understanding of what SPIC MACAY is actually trying to achieve, which seems almost impossible in the present day scenario.

Two prerequisites

The reason is that, for an understanding of the depth of the philosophy which has been passed down to us through great penance by our ancestors, there are two prerequisites — patience and faith — both of which are at a premium in this day and age. The goal is abstract, subtle, inspiring and most importantly mystical. Imagine trying to experience the effect of a black hole in the universe. A great effort would be required to send a probe in the direction of what might be a black hole till a certain point after which it would be taken over and would completely disappear once it touched the event horizon. Traditionally, it has been the Guru who has helped chart the difficult course of the sishya’s probe. There is therefore the well known Guru Mantra: Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara, Guru sakshat, param Brahma, tasmai shri guravay namah.

Through various yogic techniques, using the body (hatha yog), breath (pranayama), intellect (gyan yog), sound (naad yog — our classical music) and many other methods, the concentration of the sishya is made like a laser beam. The most appropriate technique for each individual sishya is chosen, directing the inner probe towards the goal, with the hope that some day she would actually be able to experience the effect of the black hole.

The faith that something like this can actually happen comes down drastically because the idea of a Guru is fast disappearing (this is because very few real Gurus are left). Hence the brightest in society opt for a technical education with the singular aim of a better material life. Learning and experiencing traditional arts does not even ensure basic subsistence. This even leads some artistes to take the compromised route to commercial success.

Historically, the processes which resulted in the birth of SPIC MACAY may have begun at a concert which I heard, while doing my PhD at Columbia University in New York City in 1972 of the Dagar Brothers. It affected me deeply and I started organising concerts there immediately. On my return to India, after my Ph.D. and a two-year stint at Bell Labs, New Jersey, I organised the first concert at IIT Delhi in early 1978. After that, the movement spread organically and now SPIC MACAY conducts about 5,000 events yearly in about 500 towns in India and abroad.

Begum Parveen Sultana accompanied by Mithilesh Kumar Jha on the tabla and others at the SPIC MACAY International Convention at IIT Delhi, at Dogra Hall. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Begum Parveen Sultana accompanied by Mithilesh Kumar Jha on the tabla and others at the SPIC MACAY International Convention at IIT Delhi, at Dogra Hall. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

 

My own journey through SPIC MACAY is not just about the concerts; it has also been a deeply moving experience. I was greeted, in the residence of the great Dhrupad singer, Pt. Ram Chatur Mallick in Darbhanga, by two tanpuras, a cot, a bicycle and a smiling face, all in one room. Smt. D.K. Pattammal in Chennai, radiated her warmth in every corner of the simple house where she was bed ridden.

Guru Ammanur Madhava Chakyar in the Vadakkunathan temple in Thrissur, took me on his journey through Koodiyattom and the beyond. The pure, twinkling eyes of Ustad Bismillah Khan, Swami Chidanandji's simple and yet profound discourses at the Swami Shivanand Ashram in Rishikesh and Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar in his tiny Ashram in Kolkata, giving me a glimpse of the heights to which our classical arts can take us to, are memories which will stay with me forever.

SPIC MACAY needs the support of the artistes, educational institutions, government, companies, media and most importantly, many dedicated volunteers if it has to achieve its objective of reaching out to every child in the country.

Kiran Seth is the founder of SPIC MACAY.

This article has been corrected for an error.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 3:07:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/kiran-seth-looks-back-on-four-decades-of-spic-macay/article19174468.ece

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