Developing a dialogue

Suresh K Goel

Suresh K Goel  

INTERVIEW Suresh Goel, former Director General of the ICCR on his tenure. ANJANA RAJAN

Looking back at his tenure, Suresh K. Goel, former Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations — who relinquished office on July 31 — says he is happy to be known as someone who made a difference to the ICCR and hopes his “future direction will remain in the area of promoting such collaborations”. Bureaucrats are known to blame the usual conditions — shortage of cash and people — But Goel not stick to the script on these matters. Even as he remained a true diplomat, he also helped things move and change at ICCR. “There are always areas where one is full of a sense of un-fulfilment,” he concedes. “For example, our delivery on various projects remains hesitant mostly because of the resources available and the fact that the new approaches require a new thinking on part of the people. I have tried to introduce a training programme to develop a cadre of cultural administrators but have not succeeded so far.”

Now that he is free from government service, would he try to further this idea through some other route? He submits, “It requires considerable resources and organisations who would directly benefit from it. .” His last three years in office, he noteshave , been a period marked by an image change. “Today ICCR is considered not just as a promoter of Indian arts or culture abroad, but as an organisation which works in the area of developing a cultural dialogue with other societies. The departure from a performing organisation to a seriously thinking organisation is extremely satisfying for me personally,” he says.

As for adjustment, Goel’s views on soft and hard power are convincingly spelled out: “Both of them, equally valid, are means available to a nation to achieve their national interests. The only difference being that hard power requires much more State intervention while soft power is more oriented towards civil societies.”

Besides supporting artistes, the ICCR also has research schemes aimed at the publication of new work. He states, “Our research fellowships are highly in demand and are contributing high value research on historical, civilisational and cultural relations between India and other countries. All of them have produced significant works and research papers.”

Another area of success he describes is ICCR “changing its direction from externalising India’s cultural traditions to equal opportunity for foreign art forms to come to India and establish a dialogue between the two.” Here, he proudly names the International Jazz Festival started in 2011 at New Delhi’s Nehru Park, which “not only introduced the concept of Jazz in public places, it also promoted a better interaction between the Indian and the international Jazz groups on the same platform.”

He recalls, “I had said at that time that an effective cultural dialogue cannot insist on just my language but must incorporate the language of the other side too. This is what is reflected in the collaborative programmes of ICCR.” As examples, he names “Swan Lake-Revisited” (Mitul Sengupta bringing Flamenco, Kathak, Tap and Jazz together) and “Questionings” (Rukmini Chatterjee combining Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Norwegian Black Metal).

Suresh Goel has endeared himself to observers by his mere love of the job. That has been a breath of fresh air.

The last three years have seen more panel discussions, seminars and

workshops on “highly inspiring

and important subjects” than before.

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