Prof. Chintamani Nagesa
Ramachandra Rao, popularly known as CNR Rao is a leading Indian
scientist in the field of solid state and materials chemistry. His
major area of research comprises transition metal oxides and other
extended inorganic solids, inorganic-organic hybrid
materials, nanomaterials and generation of hydrogen by
photocatalysis. His latest works include research on the new wonder
material graphene and artificial photosynthesis.
In the last thirty years or so,
the subject of solid state chemistry has been transformed into materials
chemistry by absorbing various features of modern chemical science. The
materials investigated by chemists are no longer limited to inorganic materials
but include a variety of organic materials. Synthesis has become a major aspect
of materials chemistry, with a variety of chemical strategies, soft chemical
approaches, in particular, being employed. Studies of structure, properties,
phenomena and relating structure to properties are important aspects of
Speaking to CSP, Prof Rao says that in basic nanoscience, India is
amongst the top four countries and there are a few individuals who have made significant
contributions in their areas of work and have gained a good reputation. While
he does say that he has become wary of rankings, he remarks IISc is ranked high
in India and JNCASR is ranked 7 in the world.
Rao is known to be forthright about his views on science funding and research.
He says, “it is not correct to say that a lot of funds have been provided for
research. Research of the kind we do in
educational institutions requires much more, if our infrastructure and
facilities have to be world-class. Do
not forget that we spend less than 1% of GDP on science. We have to work on
important problems and become more competitive.
We have to work hard. We have
to contribute very much more in terms of quantity and do much much better in terms of quality”
about youngsters going abroad to work and study and whether IISc has helped to
retain young talent in science, Prof Rao says “many young people are coming
back. We have to provide good places to
work. Also, we should create a better
environment for doing good science. Bangalore has the largest number of
well-known institutions and IISc is the oldest research institute of
India. It used to be a nice place to
live in. I cannot say that we offer anything special. The more important thing
is that we should work in our motherland and contribute to its growth and
Known for his vast publication
records, Prof. Rao has contributed 1600 research publications and
authored 51 books. He is the first Indian scientist to cross the
H index of 100 – an author-level metric that attempts to measure both
the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a
scientist. Prof. Rao is one of the few scientists across the world having
nearly 1 lakh citations for research publications.
In his research career of five decades, Prof. Rao had served at many national and international institutions in various capacities. In addition to receiving numerous national and international recognitions and awards, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna – the highest civilian award in India, in 2014.
Most technology is based on Mathematics. As Tony Crilly puts it in his book ‘50 mathematical ideas you really need to know’, “there is no longer any pride left in announcing to have been no good at it when at school.” However, in the presence of Indian Institute of Science Assistant Professor Abhishek Banerjee, one can’t help but feel a bit mathematically overwhelmed. He is our Bangalore Global Icon #15 for inspiring us to look at Mathematics, not with fear and trepidation as some of us did in school, but with awe and wonder.
Before joining IISc in January 2014, Abhishek used to be a Maître de Conférences (Associé) at Collège de France in Paris. And prior to that for three years he was a post-doc at Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS), Bures sur Yvette and a Zassenhaus Assistant Professor at Ohio State University. He received his PhD in 2009 from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
His research work is in the fields of Algebraic Geometry and Non-commutative Geometry. In the domain of Non-commutative Geometry, his main interest is in Hochschild and cyclic homology. In Algebraic Geometry, his main interest is in developing results for schemes over symmetric monoidal categories. Additionally, he studies bivariant Chow groups and also likes to dabble in K-theory and sometimes in arithmetic geometry.
One hears of different kinds of science – ancient Indian science and
Greek science. I wondered if in modern times, if we differ mathematically? Abhishek
says that modern mathematics is very international. “It is hard to identify any
particular subculture within mathematics based on geography. My
understanding is that at the college level, mathematics is taught in the same
way roughly everywhere; in India, in the US or in Europe.”
Here are excerpts from the interview:
a Non-Mathematician, and for a long time at that, I asked Abhishek how the
mathematical theories he was working on could help the world we live in.
AB: My work is
mostly theoretical, in fields of mathematics known as ‘non-commutative
geometry,’ ‘algebraic geometry,’ and ‘category theory.’ In terms of
applications, it is hard to know exactly. But sometimes, the applications are
not just more than we imagine, but more than we can imagine. For instance, non-commutative
geometry is one of the key tools used to understand the universe in terms of
what is called the ‘standard model.’ The standard model touches
everything from general relativity to the Higgs Boson and basic principles of
Recently, I was invited to give a series of lectures to physicists at a
large meeting in IISER-Kolkata on Quantum Computing. I was rather
surprised to find out that category theory is of great interest to those
working on Quantum computing. As you know, quantum computing is one of
those technologies that is likely to change everything about our world.
Personally, I tend to think of mathematics more as a sport, such as
running a race. Stretching the mind just as an athlete would push their body,
searching for its limits.
Although I suspect I know the answer, I still ask Abhishek about his
role model in Mathematics. After all Mathematics though spoken as one subject,
is a vast ocean – and one can have heroes in pure and applied Mathematics,
abstract and concrete, and even in the common man who can solve a Sudoku in a
AB: That’s easy. Srinivasa Ramanujan of course. Like I said, I think of
math more like a sport. And as with sport, we want to be like our heroes. At
one point, I really wanted to be a number theorist, which is the field that
Ramanujan worked in. But as I got more and more invested in the subject, I
realized there were other forms of mathematics that were better suited to my
I wanted to become a number theorist when I was young. Eventually, my
research went another way. So I married a number theorist. She is a faculty
member at IISER Pune.
From his ocean of research, I asked Abhishek to list his top three
research works out of a very long, mind-boggling list and their application in
AB: As I said before, my work is rather theoretical, but I can try to explain some of the themes. I already spoke about noncommutative geometry. In algebraic geometry, we often try to understand lines, curves and surfaces. A point has zero dimension, a line has one dimension and a surface has two. If you take two straight lines, they meet at one point, unless they are parallel. If you take two planes, they will meet in a line, unless they are
From a mathematical point, this is unpleasant. The fact that we have to
make an exception for parallel cases is ugly. In algebraic geometry, we find
ways to redefine what it means for lines to ‘meet’, so that two straight lines will
always meet in a point. Even the line will meet itself as in a single point.
A lot of questions in math begin like this. We identify something that
looks like an ugly exception and then we define something new and beautiful
that incorporates it into a single general rule. For example, we can add 10
given numbers or 100 given numbers. But how do you add infinitely many numbers
In a recent talk for CSP Abhishek spoke about a stereotypical Math
teacher whom all of us have encountered in our school days. So how do we get
children to love maths nonetheless?
AB: The way mathematics is taught at the ground level, in school, needs
serious reform. Not just in India, but all over the world. By the time students
are in college, many have already internalized the idea that math is ‘difficult’.
This is a cumulative failure of parents, teachers and popular culture, which
work together to create this impression. And really sad, because math is in
many ways the easiest subject. It requires almost zero rote memorization.
There are so few rules that they would fit on the back of an envelope and never
any exceptions to those rules.
So the first thing would be to stop telling kids that math is ‘difficult,’
so that it does not turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy. Let children
judge for themselves. Give them questions involving numbers and challenge them
to find a solution. Once they have a solution, ask them if there’s any other
way they could have solved the same problem.
Often times, the solutions to standard problems are presented as boring algorithms
to be memorized, starting with addition, carry overs and long division. This
should be avoided. Help kids figure out the place value system, not just in
terms of powers of 10, but powers of any number. Use the binary system to
explain powers of 2. When a kid understands how to take powers, ask them how
they would raise 2 to the power of pi. Would you multiply 2 to itself pi number
of times? What does that even mean? Don’t be afraid to think laterally or
ask questions that may be beyond the level. It’s okay to have some
questions unanswered, left for later as fodder for curiosity.
So what drives Abhishek -the most complex of numbers or how they relate
AB: I said that I often think of mathematics as a sport. I try to push
my mind constantly. Every day is an adventure. I fail constantly, but you have
to keep thinking harder and harder. A lot of mathematics is about seeking
fundamental patterns. Often times, I think I have a pattern but it turns out to
be a mirage. Remember that the person we can fool most easily is ourselves. So
first you think you have something and next moment you are disappointed. But
you think again, look for different fundamental properties and then maybe you
will find something. I would say what drives me is failure. No tonic is better
to keep going.
The beauty of maths lies in truths that have universal and absolute
validity. Abhishek Banerjee gives the example of certain kinds of cicada, known
as magicicadas, which have a 13 year life cycle, i.e. they hatch en masse once
every 13 years.
AB: “Now, why is that so clever? Notice that 13 is a prime number. In
nature, the life cycles of a predator will synchronize with prey to maximize
availability of food. If Magicicadas emerged say every 6 years, a predator
with a 2, 3, or 6 year life cycle would be able to feed on them. But the
number 13 makes it that much harder for predators. So we are all thinking
mathematically: even cicadas. If tomorrow we were to try to talk to an alien
species, how would we communicate? Hard to think of any language more universal
In the competitive world we live in the ‘Two-person, zero-sum games’ are
very common. A game played by all of us, involving two sides, where one wins
and the other loses. Finding the cheapest route, sending coded secret messages,
mathematics is all pervasive. I ask Abhishek about his conversations with a
biologist on the meaning of life as understood through mathematics.
One of my most interesting scientific interactions ever was with an
Israeli professor who was a biologist. We would meet for lunch every single day
and ask simple but perhaps unlikely questions. And try to find rational
answers. The first one we had was ‘why do we die?’ After a few days we agreed
that an organism that never dies would have to be able to survive without food,
water, be fire proof … not even susceptible to being crushed by a rock. The complexity
that would require is simply unachievable in one single evolutionary
Another question we had was – why are there two genders? Why not three
or five? We eventually settled on the conclusion that having sexual
reproduction by bringing together two genders is hard enough. Think about how complicated
cross pollination is with two genders already. Can you imagine how unlikely
pollination would be if a bee had to visit three different flowers of the same
species but of three different genders? As for genetic diversity, powers of 2
grow fast enough to produce healthy offspring with variety of traits. No need
to go for powers of 3 or more.
The first thing to realize is that things like these are scientific
questions that deserve rational answers. We wouldn’t claim that our answers
above were the correct ones. As I said, this was some informal chatting between
us, purely for entertainment purposes. I think the important thing here is the
focus on rationalism.
Theatre, film and TV personality, Prakash Belawadi
is a bold voice in contemporary Indian storytelling. He is # 14 in our list of Bangalore’s
Global Icons. In this free-flowing interview with CSP, he talks about Indian
cinema steering a new course and about the need to write stories which reflect
a new, vibrant India. Here is Prakash Belawadi, in his own words.
On Cinema: ‘The film industry defies
the logic of one India. It is a multi-centric India.’
I think we
should have a script bank and a bank of films and every year you should do an
Indic film festival that actually looks at and interrogates Indian history
reimagined in creative work today. Every year you must do that. Without
showcasing these works, people will not be familiar with our real history and
this must be in all the languages.
There is already a tendency in India now to
look at India’s immediate history. We never had the courage to do this so far.
That is why you had a biopic on the most famous person of the 20th
century to be done by Richard Attenborough. You did that because you did not
have the courage to give it to any Indian. Today such a thing will be
unbelievable. First of all we have moved so far away from that kind of an
India. The Government of India giving money to somebody else to make a film doesn’t
exist. A Kannada film dubbed and released in Bombay – KGF– beat a Shahrukh Khan film released that week in Bombay. This
is a changed India with films like Bahubali,
I acted in Madras
Café which looks at the assassination of a former Prime Minister. You have Neerja, the heroic tale of an airhostess
saving lives. I acted in Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift which documents the largest air evacuation in history
carried out by Air India. In Malayalam, I acted in a film called Take Off which talks about the release
of nurses from the ISIS.
In our times we didn’t have this. We had a Garam Hawa, an art film which was like a
lament on beautiful India lost. While doing my latest film with actor Surya, I
told him: ‘If a star of your stature can come and do contemporary history film like
this, it will lift Indian cinema.’ He said ‘it is time we all did this.’” That
sensibility has come. Maybe that stream needs to be strengthened.
I acted in ‘Accidental
Prime Minister’ which was based on Sanjaya Baru book on Manmohan Singh’s
tenure. The film did not have the profundity that you see in a film like ThePost
the true story of attempts by journalists to publish the Pentagon Papers)for example. However, you have films
from directors like Shoojit
Sircar (director of Yahaan, Vicky Donor,
Madras Cafe, Piku, and October. He also produced the 2012 film Aparajita Tumi) that are remarkable.
The Tashkent Files, which is such a low
budget film, has such high quality research. And its power lies in the
imagination of the director to frame the story in such a way so as to be able
to investigate the past with such contemporary or modern angst. All this is
very interesting. These narratives have to be strengthened. It is happening
Once I did the story
of Punyakoti as a puppet show and children were weeping. In Punyakoti, when the
cow tells the tiger, I will feed my calf and return, the tiger asks how can I
believe that you will come back, the cow says, ‘Truth is our community, Truth
is my father, mother. Truth is my everything. If I don’t agree to abide what I
have given in contract, Achuta Srihari will not forgive me.’ The tiger is taken
aback and lets her go. When the calf asks ‘When you go away, who will look
after me,’ the cow pleads with the community, ‘look after this child as your
own.’ When the cow is asked if she will not stay back, she says ‘I will not
break my promise, I will not think bad, and the commitment I have made,
whatever comes, I will meet it.’ What a profound value to give children. The
meaning keeps coming as a refrain – that you are bound to the Truth and the truth
here is Dharma. The cow is conflicted, it wants to live for the child. But it
has given its word. In the conflict of Dharma it is interpreted in a way we
On Content: “We need
to give people genuine avenues to understand what India was”.
We are dependent on
the media which is compromised by ownership, not just by politics. Owners come
with agendas and that has so grossly interfered with the traditions of media
freedom that you can no longer trust mainstream media alone. There are better
India narratives. Somebody goes to Kashi or Kashmir and writes a blog, you should
be able to fact check it, showcase it, and maybe commission these storytellers
to make small projects, make documentaries, give talks.
It is the casual
patriotism of the Indian people that is in the margins. I don’t use the word ‘nationalism’
as it is a bogus word and has no resonance in India. The Indian intellectual is
a Western intellectual. In India, it is not enough to be an intellectual. You
have to be a ‘viveki’. We should stand
above the intellectual tradition, western educated people are spouting. They don’t
know anything. What they know is what they have been told. I am sympathetic to
the casually patriotic Indian who has not even gone to college. A person who
has not even gone to high-school. You talk to auto-drivers, lift operators,
they are far more concerned about India than all these people. You need to take
the responsibility to reach this to them.
India, I can tell you has not been destroyed. It has seen much. All kind of stuff has happened. We have somehow survived, and this Liberal front that is projected in India is the swan song. This is the last stand. I feel after this we will settle into a sane debate. Where extremists on this side and extremists on that side will become irrelevant. So that we can talk. But for that to be enabled, you, we, can play a catalyst and it is a great role.
You need to do a sufficient
amount of push messaging before you have a critical mass of aware people, so
that a pull model can operate and they can do it themselves. I am not sure we
need to spend money to do a ‘Shankara TV or Aastha channel’. We don’t need
anyone to teach us bhakti, we need them to teach us viveka. We need to give people genuine avenues to understand what
On Translation and
vernacular narratives: You need to revalorise people who genuinely did good in
Your history books,
your best books are not translated into Indian languages. You should have a
great translation project and a dubbing project for great works in audio-visual
media. Invest in one radio channel or one frequency across the states and run
an Indic series. Radio is your most powerful medium. Forget print. Second you
should have a translation center, where great works are translated,
digitalised, kept in a library, create an app where people can easily access the
library. Just like the Gita and the Veda are now available easily, we should be
able to access what our great gurus and leaders said. I don’t know what Bankim
said. I would call him the father of the Bengal renaissance, but we Indians don’t
what he said. I don’t know what Madan Mohan Malaviya said. I don’t know what
Krishnaraja Wodeyar said – he was the Vice-Chancellor of Benaras Hindu
University. You need to revalorise people who genuinely did good in this
country and that should reach out not in a pious way but as knowledge, as annotated
notes, you should find ways to do it through a TV channel, a translation
center, and a series of radio channels.
Don’t try to start a
university. This is India, you just give them a little bit of self-awareness
and their self-respect will automatically flower. Indic culture is now a bonsai
culture, it is hidden in the ground, cramped, dormant, terrified, and covered
in mud. If you give them the sunlight of awareness, they will grow big.
There is a movement
around the world where people are saying, ‘human beings need not go and
regenerate nature, just leave it be, don’t go there, nature will heal itself.’
I don’t know if that is true and if we have done too much damage. However,
India, I can tell you has not been destroyed. It has seen much. All kind of
stuff has happened. We have somehow survived, and this Liberal front that is projected
in India is the swan song. This is the last stand. I feel after this we will
settle into a sane debate. Where extremists on this side and extremists on that
side will become irrelevant. So that we can talk. But for that to be enabled,
you, we, can play a catalyst and it is a great role.
As city dwellers we
know about Indian history because of Amar Chitra Kathas. Even when I was
reading Shakespearean plays, I was still reading ACKs. Because that is all we
had. So if you do quality literature people will be receptive. When Ramayana
and Mahabarata series were running on TV, wedding invitations would come saying
that TV sets had been arranged in wedding halls. The Indian narrative does not
need push. Where it needs a push is access to it.
One way of doing it is
by reviving traditions that we had in magazines like Chandamama, Ananda
Vigadan, Sindhura, Mayura. Exploit
opportunities where children can be exposed to things more profound rather than
just film songs through shows like Sa Re Ga Ma where their cuteness is
exploited. You can do a classical music event for children. Do a 40-day event
for children during holidays. Plug-in with the Ramotsav of the Ram Seva Mandali
which is going on for 80 years.
Look at the wealth of this country. Now students are doing Panchatantra instead of Aesop’s fables. The idea that we can turn to our own culture has already come into this country. In a population of 1.63 billion, if you can get one 1 million writers, and give them one year to write a story which has the quality of a fable or parable which has an Indic, complex, moral value, we have enough, we have the narrative. We must do a one million story project and promote our own stories.
a museum for music, showcasing not just the past, but a living, breathing space
where the sounds from the past and present merge in a very contemporary
setting. Where perhaps, as one writer put it, “comes the idea of taking art
(museum shows/collections) out of the realm of the ‘institution’ and putting it
into the hands of the individual”.
ambitious Centre for Indian Music Experience (IME) being built at a cost of Rs
40 crore in Bangalore recreates a sound scape of musical history, aesthetics
and sounds in a walk-around campus of two acres under the aegis of the Brigade
group. Started in 2008, the project was inaugurated this August by tabla
maestro Zakir Hussain.
Builders Brigade Millenium who own 20 acres of prime land in the up-scale JP Nagar area, had to dedicate Rs 2 crore to a socially relevant project. A survey was conducted to explore different ideas, and by popular vote it was decided to allocate the space to Indian music.
In many ways, Bangalore’s eclectic musical tastes
makes it the right choice for a national museum of such scale. It has been a
melting pot of various genres apart being the home of Carnatic and Hindustani
music. Director Outreach IME Dr Suma Sudhindra, says “Bangalore is a rich
cultural place right now. If you look at India, apart from Mumbai, I think that
it’s only in Bangalore that you have an audience for every kind of music and
music is appreciated in all its forms. Another plus point is that we have a lot
of tourists from abroad and this could become a great tourist destination.”
was the Chairman and Director of the Brigade Group M R Jayashankar who decided
to create a museum on the lines of the Experience Music Project in Seattle after a chance visit
during a business trip abroad. Like the Seattle Music Experience Complex, IME blends
exhibits, technology, media, and hands-on activities that combine the
interpretive aspects of a traditional museum, educational role of a school, and
audience-drawing qualities of performance venues and popular attractions.
York based designers, Gallaghers and Associates provided the Interpretative
Master Plan for the museum. They have designed many music museums in the US
including the National Blues Museum Interactives, Grammy Museum Mississippi Interactives,
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, LA.
believe the IME will be a
“vibrant music epicentre
that celebrates India’s unity in spirit, diversity and creative expression.
Visitors will be able to rediscover their connections to the living tradition
that is Indian music.” G&A worked to define the visitor experience model
and its relationship to a conceptual architectural plan.
Gallaghers design is the greatest attraction of the IME. A very contemporary
style, they believe “giving
life and meaning to the mission and collections of cultural organizations is
the heart of excellent experiential design. Collaboration
and innovative design creates engaging and theatrical storytelling. The design
of exhibit experiences with strong graphics and interactive components,
supported by well-articulated content, creates context and personal connections
for each and every visitor,” states Gallaghers.
The architects who worked with Gallaghers were
selected through a competition. Suma says, “We have not chopped a single tree
in this project. The fluidity of music has inspired the architecture. The non-standard
site shape and a desire to weave the building (covering 50,000 square feet) around
existing trees without having to cut them also makes it interesting.”
content for the Centre has been developed by a committee headed by eminent
musicologist Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao. Suma says, the idea has been to create an
appeal for someone who has no initiation into any kind of music except perhaps Bollywood,
“because everyone in India knows Bollywood, which is also represented here. If someone
goes through the museum in 45 minutes, we want him to come out with an
experience of our rich musical tradition. So basically we are not diving deep
into our various traditions, but we are touching upon every aspect of our music
from traditional to contemporary.”
touch upon most of the salient features. Here the concepts are more about the
music and not the musicians. Though we have the stars galary where we will be
featuring 100 legends of music across genres – from folk, to regional to
classical. Since there is a lot of virtual material, there will be a lot of
indepth material for someone who is interested. But if you ask very technical
questions, they may not be answered here.
five music Bharat Ratnas in music – MS Subbulakshmi, Bhimsen Joshi, Bismillah Khan,
Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Ravishankar are featured. Suma Sudhindra says “IME
has Bishmillah Khan Sahib’s Shenahi,
which was I think a very emotional moment for all of us at IME. Because when
his son came to hand over the instruments, he had tears while parting with the
instrument. As an instrumentalists we all understand how emotional we get with
our instruments. In fact its an intrinsic part of my life. I have hardly cried
in my life, but when my veena broke once, I cried uncontrollably.”
the Carnatic music instruments were given by practicing musicians. Suma asked
her performing co-artistes if they could donate their instruments and they did
so. “They have been very generous. So
much so that we have not bought a single Carnatic instrument and have got
excess instruments. It would have been easy to buy the instruments and house
them here. But it’s more valuable to have used instruments. Ghatam Manjunath
was a famous ghatam artiste of yesteryears. His ghatam was with one young
ghatam player Ravikumar and he parted with it. Ravikiran gave a ghotuvadyam,”
says Suma Sudhindra.
Prasad, on the managing committee of IME and a vocalist herself, says when she
when she completed her MBA and was turning down a career in Wall Street and
coming back to India to pursue a career in music, people thought she was making
a sacrifice. “How many people have the opportunity in their 20s to be entrusted
with the responsibility of setting up something that is going to be a landmark
musical institution not just for this generation but for generations to come? I
have lived this passion,” says Manasi.
vision of the IME is to increase the understanding and appreciation of the
Indian music, from the traditional to the contemporary, through experiences
that engage and educate. The idea is, we view this centre, which is to be the
first of its kind, as serving two important purposes—one, to inspire, because
young Indians today need role models beyond cricket and Bollywood, and see the
stories of people like a boy who ran away from home at the age of eleven and
toured India for over two years in search of a guru, and went on to become Bhim
Sen Joshi, or the boy from a wrestlers’ family who went on to become a celebrated
flautist like Hariprasad Chaurasiya… Whoever you are, wherever you come from,
these stories can inspire. And that’s what the IME aims to do, through
experiential storyboards we’ve created, from talking about these musicians to
listening to their music. So that’s one part. The other part is education—how
you can covey what the entire gamut of Indian music is about in a space of
twenty thousand square feet, which is our gallery space. We do this through a
variety of ways, and these are the experiences.”
IME consists of thematic galleries, where we’ve looked at various genres of
music, things like the history of recording, how music plays a role in
political movements like in our songs of struggle gallery. So we’ve taken these
themes, and how we create the experiences is we take storyboards, which have
images and little stories like how Vande
Mataram was not chosen to be the national anthem, but Jana Gana Mana was, or how the microphone changed performance, and
how some artists resisted it. There are hundreds of stories throughout the
museum through storyboards. Apart from that, what’s more interesting is we have
these audio-visual kiosks. We have these iPads, where whatever you see in the
museum, you will hear. For example in the Hall of Fame we have one hundred
musicians, and you will hear the music of these musicians with little notes
saying what’s special in these pieces of music. Then we have interactive
installations. So if you’ve always wondered how DJs create these pieces of
music that has a little bit of sitar coming, then drums, then the electronic
sound, we give you the chance to be DJs and you’ll have your own console, where
you can mix pieces of music on an interactive touchscreen. And there are many
interactors like this. And then we have many mini theatrical experiences. For
example, in Hindustani music there is a concept called Samay chakra, which is
about how music and time are so closely interlinked. How much ever you write
about that, people may not understand, but imagine yourself in a theatre—you’re
seeing the sun rise and set, and the music changes accordingly, and you can
hear a little bit of the sounds of thunder and lightning, and the malhaar. The
idea is to create the experience of the samay chakra, and not just give it in
terms of dry information.”
whole premise of the IME is ‘catch them young’. “We believe that it’s only when
you can influence young minds that you can really make a change. We also
subscribe to that philosophy of ‘you don’t need a thousand Tansens, but you
need a thousand kaansens’. The
audience is the ecosystem that supports the arts. The idea of a centre like
this, which we believe can create change, is that your first engagement with
culture and the arts should be in a way that’s fun, and exciting, and hands-on.
So you come here to a sound garden, and in most places, when you see an
instrument they say, “Don’t touch,” but here we say, “Please touch. Please play the instrument. Please hear what it
sounds like.” So when you have this hands-on experience, when you can make that
personal connect somewhere, we believe that that’s where people are going to be
more engaged with the arts. So that’s on one side. There are other ways of
answering the question. I do feel that there are problems with audiences. A
Carnatic music rasika may not necessarily attend a fusion music concert, or a
young rock music enthusiast will want to stay miles away from a Carnatic music
concert. The idea of a space like this is when you present different forms of
music on the same platform, people realise that ‘Hey, there are so many
connections out here.’ For example in our film music section we have a section
called diverse influences, where you look at the fact that there is a filmy Sufi
song, a filmy Bhajan, a filmy hip-hop, etc., then you realise that there is a
link to this tradition, which I will then explain in the folk music gallery,
which is thousands of years old. So why are we making these distinctions
between different forms of music? Yes, you can have a natural affinity towards
one form, but I do feel like a space like this can give people the chance to
experience more than one genre.”
Indian music experience is comprised of three main elements. The first area is
the sound garden, where outside the museum, there are installations, musical
sculptures that are made out of natural materials like stone, wood, metal. So there
are large xylophones, reeds, gongs, railings that produce sound… so the idea of
the sound garden is to introduce visitors to the principles of sound, where
they themselves can play the instruments and see how sound is produced. The
second part of the museum is the exhibit area, which has eight thematic
galleries and an instrument gallery. So here, through audio-visual kiosks,
through storyboards, etc, the visitors will get to explore and find out a
little bit about various genres of music… and also other parts such as the
history of recording, political and social movements and their involvement with
music, etc. As part of the exhibit area, there is an introductory theatre which
will plays a film about the diversity of music. At the concluding theatre, a
multi-purpose space live performances, film screenings and temporary exhibits
The third part of the museum is the learning centre, with five classrooms, a seminar hall and a library space. Music and dance classes are conducted. IME also does periodic workshops and seminars by reputed international musicians who come and visit.
NARAYAN is a recipient of the Karnataka State Government Rajyotsava
Award for his achievements in the field of electronic music instruments. His
company Radel Electronics Pvt Ltd has revolutionised music learning and performing
with several inventions including electronic tanpuras, tablas and veena. An
A-grade AIR artiste, he is a flautist, and also holds a Master’s degree in
Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras. His love for music and technology have
led to inventions which have dramatically decreased musicians’ dependency on
others for practice
heart of any music is the need to achieve shruthi
shuddham. Can your invention actually help learners develop a sense of
When we started making these instruments in our factory, technicians
without any music background used to test the instruments to see if each unit
is holding its shruthi. All they had to do was put 30-40 instruments (set to
the same pitch) in a sealed room and test them for about 3 hours. I found that
after 5-6 months of sitting in that room, the technicians had developed a
musical sense. And they were able to tune the instruments as well, sometimes
better than professional musicians. This made me realise if you just turn this
instrument on in your house for an hour or two and if your kids who are
learning music listen to this, shruthi
shuddham will come. A genuine musician who is seriously interested in
developing good shruthi shuddham,
should listen to shruthi and do exercises of holding on to a note.
Sadly, the desire to perform to higher levels of quality, especially when it comes to shruthi has come down. People think it is the fireworks, the brikhas, and complex patterns which are important, not the shruthi shuddham. In North Indian music also, people complain that present generation musicians are not as precise in sur as the older generation, but even to this day they hold on to a note for long periods because if they waver it gets noticed.
have you made on your original design of the electronic shruthi box?
The electronic tanpura which I made in the 1970s has gone through so many generations of designs. Every year we have come up with new designs. Initially it was the discrete transistor, then the small Integrated Circuit (IC) based tanpuras, then the microprocessor based tanpuras, then the microcontrollers and now we have Digital Signal Processing (DSP). Today’s tanpura is nothing but a digitally recorded tanpura sound in a studio. String by string these are played in real time in a sequence as controlled by the user. So you can alter the tempo. If people say it does not sound like a real tanpura, that does not hold true.
If you just turn this instrument on in your house for an hour or two and if your kids who are learning music listen to this, shruthi shuddham will come. A genuine musician who is seriously interested in developing good shruthi shuddham, should listen to shruthi and do exercises of holding on to a note
G Raj Narayan
All this was a result of developing the electronic tabla for
North Indians. The electronic tabla was mix of analog and digital systems. A
microprocessor was controlling the sequence but the actual sound generation was
through analog means. The tanpura sound is a far simpler sound as compared to the
complex sounds produced on the tabla. The electronic tabla had to sound
absolutely like the original and like it would have to distinguish between tha,
na, din. In the tambura you are looking for the Sa Pa Sa. If the sound is
slightly different it doesn’t matter as long as you get the pitch. Whereas in
the tabla, it had to sound like the dha, the na, the dhin. So it was a far more challenging problem than
the invention of the tambura.
Which of your
inventions has had the greatest impact on learning?
I personally feel that the invention of the electronic tabla
in 1987, is a bigger break through than the electronic tanpura. Not many people
have recognised this in the South. As a
child I was aware that whenever my mother practiced Hindustani music on the veena,
she would require a tabla artiste to come and play for her. The tabla is
required for practice whether you play the veena, sing or play the sitar, sarod
etc. Earlier North Indian musicians could only do the aalap or sing the raga,
not a tala-based composition. That’s because the entire tala system of North
Indian music is encoded onto the tabla. Anytime anyone wanted to practice
Hindustani music, they had to wait for a tabla artiste. And he would come for
maybe an hour, thrice a week. There was a limit on the number of hours a person
could practice independently per week.
All the great musicians can always command a tabla artiste
to come and play. But the middle level and beginners, and others
non-professionals and amateurs have a big difficulty. With this instrument,
they said atleast they had a point of reference. That is why I believe the
bigger achievement has been missed in the media as well as in the South. These
inventions have revolutionised Indian music because they have contributed to
people learning or practising by themselves for long periods.
You say these
technologies have made musicians independent. Can you elaborate please.
To demonstrate the tala instrument at the Music Academy, I
played a complex Pallavi on the flute. To practice a complex Pallavi you either
need somebody who is well-versed with music to put the tala or a machine like
this. It was an audio visual instrument, which had lights grouped for laghu,
dhrutham etc. Although it was not the same as putting the tala by hand, I tried
to create this audio visual effect so that it is not a completely new or
different format. Palghat Mani Iyer used to make some of these complex patterns
on the mridangam and he said this instrument would help him practice.
Similarly, corresponding to the tabla we have a lehra instrument which enables a tabla artiste to practice (also called Nagma). It’s a precomposed tune set to different taals. Each of it can be set to any taal, any raag, different tunes, and then you alter the tempo so as to enable the tabla artiste to practise at different speeds.
So South Indian artistes are independent thanks to the
tanpura, shruthi box and tala meter, the main Hindustani singer is independent
of the tabla artiste, and the tabla artiste is also free to practice now.
How is the electronic
veena different and how have musicians responded to this invention?
The sounds of the veena are very feeble. I used to play
duets with my mother and my wife (both of who are vainikas). After the
concerts, people would say that the concerts were good but they could barely
hear the veena. In 1971, I demonstrated a solid body electric veena with a pick
up and removable gourd. Then I thought why not put the tambura into the veena,
as they also need shruthi. This is a self-contained instrument where you have
the shruthi, the veena and the pickup for the talam string. It has undergone
various levels of development and today we have a synthesiser which is shaped
and played like a veena.
The need for all of these inventions was born out of
complete necessity. In any concert, vainikas have to keep tuning the strings every
3-4 minutes. When you pull one string, another string goes to a different
shruthi. Refretting is one of the biggest problems faced by veena players. It
is difficult to get it done even in India. Removable and adjustable frets are
an engineering solution. The artiste can alter each fret even on the concert
The main objection people had to the electronic veena is
that it does not look like the Saraswathi Veena. However, my design resembles
the veena in the older sculptures. Today’s vainikas are using the traditional
veena with a magnetic pick up. The magnetic pick up bypasses the big kodam. It
takes the sound from the string and out, exactly like the electronic veena. The
only difference is they are using an electric veena which looks like a
traditional veena. Why should a musician risk damaging a delicately carved out
instrument when he/she can instead use something which made of solid wood and
which does not break easily. Apart from solving the refretting and breakage
problems, the most important issue of volume (in the conventional veena the
fine nuances, gamakams, sangathis get lost because the sound dies) is solved
because here the sound continues.
We now have shruthi
apps and other manufacturers. How does Radel compare?
The app that plays in the mobile phone should actually be as
good as a CD played tambura or an electronic tambura. If they are not as good
as the electronic tamburas, it may be because ultimately the sound is being
played through another attachment, the amplispeaker. The amplispeaker is not
designed to reproduce the fine nuances of the tambura harmonics.
Flute Mali was already using a shruthi box developed by
someone else when I met him, but he was not very happy as it used to wobble and
drift with change in temperature. This is where I bring in my electronics
background in HAL where everything has to be extremely precise and reliable.
People have started using these new technologies because of
their convenience over traditional instruments, despite their initial hesitancy,
reservations, conservatism, and the feeling that this was ‘not traditional’. I believe
that tradition changes and if technology enables you to do things differently
without any drawbacks, you might as well use it. (
“Brands are meant to enable lives positively. Not by deceit. Not by subterfuge. And most certainly not by clever lines that hide more than reveal” – Harish Bijoor
When Harish Bijoor, Brand-strategy specialist was asked by me a few years earlier if Indian Classical Music needed branding, he replied, “A quick answer on this one. Yes. A big yes. Yes, yes, yes, said three times over and underlined even. Who doesn’t need branding really?”
By extension, everyone would benefit with a little branding. But as Harish says, “Branding a complex amalgam of people, mindsets, and cultures that a country represents is far more difficult than branding an individual.”
Harish Bijoor is CSP’s Bangalore’s Global Icon
# 10, our go-to man perhaps for strategizing India’s soft power. A Brand-thinker
and practitioner operating out of Bengaluru, Harish runs a unique boutique-consulting
outfit branded ‘Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.’, a brand name that has a
consulting presence across the markets of Hong Kong, Seattle, London, Istanbul,
Dubai and the Indian sub-continent.
has spent his career across the aggressive realms of FMCG, Telecom and Consumer
Durables. Ever ahead of the consumer thinking curve, Harish has spoken to
corporate audiences across the world for 10419 hours to date (MICA website).
teaches at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad & Mohali, in addition
to semesters at overseas Business schools in the US and Europe. He has been
teaching at the Indian School of Business for the past 15 years.
Intrigued by his book titled, ‘Brand Irrationals: a fundamental journey into brand-think’, I asked him about his thoughts on branding. “My definition of a brand is a simple one. The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people’s mind. A simple thought that gets planted (either by intent or accident) in the mind of a person. This thought then has the ability to germinate and flourish in a person’s mind. It equally has the ability to decay and get relegated to the farthest recesses of the mind. Brands that invest in keeping their “thought” alive, peppy, contemporary, relevant to the generation, original in impact and innovative in their offerings tend to thrive and do well. Those that don’t die and get pushed into the outer-most periphery of near-oblivion in the person’s mind. And remember, this is a “person” and not a “consumer” I am talking about. Brands live in people’s minds. And these people are not necessarily consumers or fans, as yet.”
over Soft Power has been concentrated in some core cities – New York, London,
Paris and even perhaps Mumbai. It is telling that a major city like New York
finds the need to spend billions on branding. In the 1970s New York had a
reputation for a being a hard city, with scary edges. Brand managers were roped
in, and branding budgets raised from $400,000 to $4.3 million and New
York was transformed. Ad agency Wolff Olins asked: “There’s only one New York City, but within it
are five boroughs, approximately 191 neighbourhoods, nearly a million buildings
and over 8.2 million people. How could a brand successfully represent this
The answer was a brilliantly successful logo designed by Milton Glaser. His “I ❤ NY” logo is possibly one of the most iconic logos ever, which represented everything the city stood for, for everyone who loved it.
So if one
had to brand Bangalore as a city – one can only turn to Harish Bijoor. “Bengaluru
is a thought. A thought that lives in people’s minds. These people may live in
Bengaluru, live outside it in India or live as a diaspora of citizens outside,
or live as citizens of other countries. Bengaluru the brand lives in each of
these myriad sets of minds. And each has a different thought of Bengaluru. Brand
Bengaluru is a collective amalgam of these thoughts. When we talk Brand
Bangalore, we talk of this collective understanding of the city brand Bengaluru.”
people think of Bangalore? How can we brand it better? Make people come back
again and again to it. Leave it with memories of a lifetime?
believe we can brand Bengaluru better by an effort that is rich in experience.
Rich in the collective experience of all our sets of consumers. To do that, we
need to make a bottom-up effort and not a top-down one. A top-down effort would
typically be an advertising effort that showcases Bengaluru and a bottom-up
effort in contrast is one that offers real-time good experiences to people. I
believe in the latter. Bottom-up Bengaluru is a preference anytime as opposed
to Top-down Bengaluru,” says Harish.
“Bengaluru is a peaceful city. Foreigners love that. We offer the best of the tradition and technology. We are at the cutting edge of both. For the foreigner, we care able to offer a cultural experience during the day and a nightlife experience that is not far from what he or she or they are used to in their own country. The city is a young city, and that in itself is an attraction.
Internet of Things, perceptions are created both offline and online. “Bengaluru
is therefore an experience we need to create. This experience needs to be both
a physical and a virtual experience. The physical experience will be felt by
those who live in it and visit it frequently and infrequently. The virtual
experience will be ones that will travel as tales from those who visit and
those who experience the brand physically. We can brand Bengaluru better by
enriching the first hand experiences of our peoples. These experiences will
cover the terrains of the political, the social, the economic, the religious,
the cultural, the ecological and the touristy as well. Brand Bengaluru is an
experience. We need to deepen and widen this experience. We need to enrich it.
We need to make it socially inclusive and politically correct as an experience
as well. This is a project in itself. A project no one wants to handle for
now.” Let’s not forget the New York story. It can be rewritten.
there are things that need to be changed. But what are the things that
Bangalore has going for it that attracts foreigners? “Bengaluru is a peaceful
city. Foreigners love that. We offer the best of the tradition and technology.
We are at the cutting edge of both. For the foreigner, we care able to offer a
cultural experience during the day and a nightlife experience that is not far
from what he or she or they are used to in their own country. The city is a
young city, and that in itself is an attraction. We offer 27 different
cuisines in the city and are non-jingoistic by and large. The Kannadiga is a
secular entity who embraces one and all, never mind where you come from. We do
not frown at dressing styles and are comfortable with skirts of any
length, from the South Indian ‘Pavada’ to the Korean mini-skirt. By and large,
Bengaluru is the microcosm of the world at large. And we speak English better than
a whole lot of countries can carry it off. These are big attractions for sure,”
help but ask the brilliant ad man, what would he choose as a slogan for
Bangalore. “My slogan would be: “Bengaluru: Bisi, Bisi Bisibelebaath
Bengaluru!” (“Bengaluru: Hot, Hot Bisibelebaath Bengaluru). Bisibelebaath,
to the uninitiated is the South Indian ‘khichdi’. Tastier and more varied than
the North Indian variant for sure. It has ingredients that come close to the
‘Sambar-rice’ combination. A wholesome meal in itself. It packs all of 23
ingredients. All varied. Everything that comes from all over.”
ties in with the cities cosmopolitan outlook. “And that is why I call Bengaluru
a bisibelebaath city. We have people
from every Indian city, from major cities of the world, and all of us cause for
an eclectic city called Bengaluru. And we survive and thrive. And how! Therefore
my slogan: “Bengaluru: Bisi, Bisi Bisibelebaath Bengaluru”! We are a
piping hot city for sure!
Harish has spoken about the ‘The Enabling Lives Dictum’ where he says brands are meant to enrich the lives of people. “Brands are meant to be solutions. Real solutions to real problems. The moment your brand is moving away from this dictum, it is time to re-orient your brand strategy. If your business owner is however inclined to go his way, time to call your friendly headhunter and re-orient your job-strategy instead. Brands are meant to enable lives positively. Not by deceit. Not by subterfuge. And most certainly not by clever lines that hide more than reveal.”
Interview with Director NIMHANS Dr B N Gangadhar and Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr Shantala Hegde
The National Institute of Mental Health and
Neurosciences traces its origins right back to the early 19th
century when the first rudimentary attempts at addressing mental health issues
were made in India. Today NIMHANS undertakes a wide range of
activities in creating awareness and also on destigmatising mental health both
within and outside NIMHANS.
As CSP’s Bangalore Global Icons No 11,
we have picked Dr G N Gangadhar, Director of NIMHANS and eminent music
cognition neuropsychologist at the same institute – Associate
Professor Dr Shantala Hegde.
Professor Gangadhar says that NIMHANS was the first Institute created as an exclusive Department of Mental Health Education way back in 1980’s, “to give thrust and to ensure that the awareness activities are conducted continuously. Before NIMHANS, the All India Institute of Mental Health (AIIMH) was recognised as a multi-disciplinary service, as a research and academic facility with the distinction of even establishing ancillary departments such as biochemistry, biostatistics, social work etc. It took a holistic stand on problems related to the mind and brain and the nervous system. In this, NIMHANS mirrored global thinking in its initial years and now continues to be a multidisciplinary organisation which makes it unique. The central government is now modelling other mental health institutions on the lines of NIMHANS as ‘NIMHANS-like’ institutions’.”
around 135 acres at the heart of the city, NIMHANS has long been a pioneer in
addressing mental health issues. “Public health is one important area where,
work at NIMHANS lead to a national program, District Mental Health
Programme. The other areas are Addiction
Medicine, Psychiatric Rehabilitation (for which NIMHANS received a national
award), Geriatric Psychiatry (Award winning) Women and Perinatal Psychiatry
(other countries have emulated this), non-invasive brain stimulation,
biological psychiatry including molecular genetics (led to international
grants), Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (we serve on national committees),
Suicide Prevention, Yoga and meditation in mental health (we recently set up a
department of Integrative Health) and also stem cell research,” says Professor
about the vision of NIMHANS in the coming years, he foresees technology playing
an important role in capacity strengthening, providing Mental Health services
and Human Resource Development. “This is expected to play an important role in
reaching mental health for all. For this
reason NIMHANS has strengthened telemedicine through VKN (Virtual Knowledge
Network) and formally created a NIMHANS Digital Academy. Several hundreds have been trained and
accredited by this. Accordingly the
number will cross 1000 in this one year itself.
NIMHANS also foresees a role in a national effort to convert Mental
hospitals to Academic institutes to augment trained human resource in the
has been a collaborating centre for the World Health Organisation for a long
time. NIMHANS has regularly participated
in international activities through WHO in terms of bringing out health related
manuals, training visitors from neighbouring countries who have been deputed by
WHO (the latest one will be a team from Maldives in November 2019). Faculty of
NIMHANS have been independently invited by WHO from time to time for several
academic and clinical agenda, from formulating ICD 11 criteria to inspecting
WHO projects in other countries to writing reports/manuals/guidelines et, says Professor
large scale nationwide National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) was conducted by
NIMHANS which helped in understanding the burden of Mental illness in India. It
emphasised the importance of Mental health and also the scope for research in
the field of Mental health. NIMHANS has established collaboration and is
researching on several specific disorders at international level including in
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Dementia etc.
NIMHANS Integrated Centre for yoga (NICY), which has been established in the Institute of National Importance i.e. NIMHANS, has been striving to do research on the scientific underpinnings of yoga in both healthy people as well people with various psychiatric and neurological disorders. NIMHANS is conducting an international conference on 26th and 27th of June 2020 titled “Yoga And Neuro-sciences Traditions And Research Approaches” or YANTRA 2020.
At NIMHANS there
are both basic science researchers and clinician researchers. Faculty members
from both Basic Sciences and Clinical Sciences are carrying out research work
in different areas related to Neuroscience and Mental Health on par with what
is happening in the global scenario.
Dr Shantala Hegde is a clinical neuropsychologist carrying out clinical
and research in two streams – one in the area of Clinical Neuropsychology and Neurorehabilitation
and the other in area of Neuromusicology. She is the first Clinical
Psychologist in the country to receive the Intermediate Fellowship by the India
Alliance DBT Wellcome Trust.
“The CPHI Intermediate Fellowship has given me the opportunity to hone
my skills as a clinician, and as a researcher under the mentorship of Professor
Dr Gottfried Schlaug (Director, Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Stroke
Recovery Laboratory, and Division Chief, Cerebrovascular Diseases Associate
Professor of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard
Medical School), a leading researcher in the field of Neurology and
Neuromusicology. I am thankful for
this opportunity to pursue my interest to bring the two areas of my
interest together, towards helping patients with neurological conditions, in
particular, Parkinson’s disease. It is surely the beginning, but worth a
journey to look forward to.”
Dr Hegde is
faculty in charge of the Music Cognition
Laboratory inaugurated in June 2011. This is the first laboratory in India
which aims at neuroscientific investigations of music perception and cognition
and to study its neural correlates.
The research focus of this laboratory is
music cognition and neuromusicology from basic science to clinical application.
The aim is to carry out basic science research (on musically trained, untrained
healthy participants and various clinical conditions) as well as clinical
research examining the effects of music based intervention to other domains of
functioning like cognition, language, emotion and overall functionality in
various neurological and psychiatric conditions using neurocognitive
evaluation, EEG/ERP, fMRI methods.
The laboratory is equipped with sound proof
rooms, 64-channel EEG/ERP system, a recording studio with infrastructure and
audio system to carry out audio recording and audio-data processing.
“Research work so far has examined musical
emotion, music and language, rhythm perception, effect of music on other
cognitive processes in musically trained and untrained individuals. The
variations in musical rhythm perception in clinical conditions such as
Parkinson’s disease, Schizophrenia and effect of music intervention during
spinal surgery on levels of anxiety and pain as well as its effect of
anaesthetic drug dosage, level of cortisol has been carried out,” says Dr
In her study investigating the variations in emotional experience
during the different phases of raga elaboration,
Dr Hegde found that emotional variations within certain ragas were often larger than between ragas. Indian classical musicians have the ability to
strongly vary the expressivity associated with a specific raga in their performances, but within the constraints
of the raga framework (Hegde et al, 2012).
In an electroencephalography (EEG) study, 20 musically untrained individuals listened to NICM ragas; they showed increased overall alpha, delta and theta power in comparison with an eyes-closed rest condition. The observed changes during music listening had previously been linked with highly relaxed states, such as meditative states (Hegde et al, 2012).
The world of mental health sciences in India has grown due
to the efforts of NIMHANS. From the ‘lunatic asylum’ in the 19th century to the
Mysore Government Mental Hospital in 1934, the All India Institute of Mental
Health in 1954 and NIMHANS in 1974 to acquiring the status of a Deemed
University in 1994 and being bestowed the status of Institute of National
Importance through a separate act of Parliament in 2013, NIMHANS has grown in
stature and made tremendous strides over the decades.
Pavithra Muddaya, Managing Trustee, Vimor Handloom
Foundation has a family tradition of preserving India’s beautiful crafts. Her
Nanjappa was the first Manager of Cauvery Handicrafts, Bangalore in the late
50’s. Cauvery Emporium at the junction of MG Road and Brigade Road in Bangalore
has been a cultural landmark showcasing the best of Karnataka’s handicrafts.
The idea of starting a saree business was
her father A C Nanjappa’s brainwave after her mother returned from the World
Fair in Montreal in 1967. On his goading Chimmy Nanjappa sourced sarees for a
Delhi buyer. Later while accompanying her husband for his work in Molkalmuru
she purchased some silk sarees, which she sold out of a trunk at home. After
her husband’s demise in 1974, Vimor was registered as a partnership between
Chimmy and Pavithra. What began as a necessity slowly grew into a passion to
saving handloom designs and supporting weavers to succeed, says Pavithra of
Indian social reformer and freedom activist, the driving force behind the renaissance
of Indian handicrafts, hand looms, and theater in independent India was a big supporter
of Vimor. “Forty ago she appreciated that we were preserving traditional
designs and supporting weavers. Her biggest advice to me when the saree design
was not to both our satisfaction was ‘I do not want any excuses from you’. I
was upset at that time but as I got older I understood what she meant and now
this is a line I use with my weavers till date,” says Pavithra.
Over the last 50 years, Vimor has done
yeomen work in working with weavers and preserving certain weaving practices
and styles of sarees. “The most significant contribution that Vimor has done is
that we have saved many traditional saree designs from being lost. We do this
by recreating these designs with weavers. Doing this with empathy and integrity
for the artisan and his crafts is of primary importance to us. Design
intervention is undertaken in a step by step process accompanied by monetary
advances and assured buy back, allowing him to function in a risk free
environment, till he is independent.” This allows the weaver to grow
successfully without using the Vimor name but continuing to use Pavithra’s
designs. Today this has created a ripple effect where some of the designs are
in continuous production for over 35/40 years impacting weavers unknown to
Vimor. This has helped weavers grown from weavers to businessmen, says
This July the Vimor Handloom Foundation
has opened a Museum called The Museum of Living Textiles in Bangalore
showcasing textiles. The foundation will look at research and documentation of
textiles, livelihood training for women in distress and advocacy and publishing
Some of the pieces are family heirlooms
while others have been donated by family and friends. On display is a datthi
seere, woven for children, with a length of 3.15 metres. The devi
sarees are woven on much smaller looms to suit the size of a goddess’ statue. A
rare Chanderi saree runs upto 64 inches. There are some Chinese
and Cambodian collections too.
textile industry is so varied with even neighbouring states having different varieties
and even within states like Andhra and Tamil Nadu there being many kinds of
sarees. Indian handlooms are known for their richness, exquisiteness, variety
and fine quality. “Handlooms comprise the largest cottage industry in the
country. Millions of looms across the country are engaged in weaving cotton,
silk and other natural fibers to bring out traditional beauty of India’s
precious heritage and also providing livelihood to millions of families. There
is hardly a village where weavers do not exist weaving out the traditional
beauty of the region. The skills and activities are kept alive by passing the
skills from generation to generation. What sets our handloom apart is the
excellent workmanship, color combination and fine quality,” says a well-known textile
Pavithra, who has been working with the most
beautiful of colours, patterns and designs, says “This is the most beautiful
aspect of our country’s diversity. We should celebrate our local cultural
spectrum and use these as inspirations to create products that are aesthetic in
design, environmentally friendly and allows weavers to participate and succeed
financially. At Vimor this is how we have always worked not letting geographic
boundaries restrict us.”
The saree will never go out of fashion.
How it is draped, what is accessorised, what is designed may change, but “sarees
will always be attractive to women. Our strength at Vimor is our design ability
and our customers have always supported this journey. Thirty five years ago we
created working women’s light silks, these were price friendly, easy home wash
maintenance. At that time there were many women in executive positions and
these sarees were worn to office and meetings. We believe design has to reflect
the time, and purpose so as to allow women to celebrate their individuality. This
is what will always make the saree attractive,” says Pavithra.
Famous people drop in announced to Vimor
and Pavithra has respected their privacy and “not used their names to further
our business and they respect this fact.”
“Sheila Dikshit (late Delhi chief
Minister) came to Vimor, saw my aunt wearing a kodava style saree and was
curious about it, so we dressed her in the style before she left. When she
returned to the Raj Bhavan, she told us that the staff was amused that she wore
one style going and another coming back.”
Indian textiles are much sought after. “Weavers are benefiting from the global interest in Indian textiles as the sheer variety and skill is difficult to find in any other country. Today the youth are tech savvy with using Whatsapp and social media for marketing and can cater for any overseas customer to grow their business,” says Pavithra of the growing market for Indian textiles.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was disturbed to see Arvind Kejrawal coughing non-stop in New Delhi, he asked him to visit Dr H R Nagendra, Chancellor S-VYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana) for a cure for an allergy cough caused by high levels of pollution in New Delhi. Prime Minister Modi himself visits Dr Nagendra regularly.
Dr Nagendra’s journey from NASA to S-VYASA is part of yoga lore. When the AYUSH Ministry set up a committee of Yoga experts in the country to direct the course of Yoga, Dr Nagendra was made the Chairman.
After receiving his doctorate in
1968, Dr Nagendra served as faculty of IISc in Department of Mechanical
Engineering. He then went to Canada as Post- Doctoral Research Fellow in the
University of British Columbia, Canada in 1970. From there, he moved to NASA
Marshall Space Flight Centre, USA as Post-Doctoral Research Associate in 1971
and moved to Engineering Science Laboratory, Harvard University, USA as a
Consultant in 1972. He served as Visiting Staff at Imperial College of Science
and Technology, London later.
Dr Nagendra brought his brilliant engineering credentials to Vivekananda Kendra, a service mission, as a whole-time worker in 1975. Today he heads India’s and perhaps the world’s largest Yoga University in Bangalore. He has published 30 Research Papers in Engineering and more than 60 papers on Yoga. He has authored and co-authored 35 books on Yoga.
S-VYASA has partnered with over 20
institutions abroad including East Tennessee State University, Central
Michigan University, The Centre for International Mental Health and School of
Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Japan Vivekananda Yoga
Kendra, Yonago, Royal Melbourne
Institute of Technology, Health Synergies, Indianapolis, Indiana, The
Perrott-Warrick Project, Alexander Group, Taipei, Republic
Polytechnic, Singapore, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer
Centre, KWA Kuratorium Wohnen im Alter Gag, Munich, and others.
The University attracts around 200 foreigners per year and the numbers
are increasing. S-VYASA centers run by Alumni are spread in 30 countries.
If one were to look at the research undertaken by the University in the last 5 years, it covers a host of topics, relevant to health and well-being. The most complex includes Cerebral auto regulation and sympathetic nervous system activity (SNS) while performing cognitive tasks during yoga practices which have different effects on SNS and the simplest is Effect of Fresh Coconut in A Balanced Diet A Randomized Comparative Study.
Speaking to the Center for Soft Power, Dr Nagendra says his vision was
to bring Yoga to higher education after it was introduced at Primary, Middle
and High school levels in Arunachal Pradesh Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalayas, which
had the wonderful result of “total personality development in children. We
should bring teachings of Yoga right form the Primary school level, thereby
attracting students to its fold by traditional yoga practices. We have done it
through Krida Yoga.”
Asked if he expected Yoga to reach the heights it has today, Dr Nagendra
says, “Ours was to do the efforts in all sincerity. Results, I believe was
expected to come. But it is our PM who has made it possible to the extent it
has grown now.”
In 2014, Dr H R Nagendra, Chancellor S-VYASA, the world’s largest university, put forth a new form of Yoga called ‘Vivekananda Yoga’ – modern, rooted and focussed on strengthening the mind. Dr Nagendra has been the Yoga guru for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Speaking about him, Dr Nagendra says, “He is a role model for yoga and for the country. It was incidental that he came to Prashanti Kutiram when Mananiya Sheshadri (my uncle, mentor and role model who introduced me to Yoga and Bhagavadgita at the age of 6) used to come and stay here for many days. For Modi ji and me Swami Vivekananda is the Aradhya devata. So we jelled well. He saw the combination of Traditional Yoga combined with modern scientific research here in VYASA which I think attracted him.”
Dr Nagendra says that scientific research as the specialty of S-VYASA with
the largest contribution of research on Yoga to the world. “We have been able
to unravel the secrets of Yoga from Yoga texts and bring them to benefit
society by an evidence based approach.”
The aim and mission of S-VYASA, he says is to bring the benefits of Yoga
and its applications to everyone in society by modern scientific research. “Combining the best of the East with that of the West, to bring
peace on earth, create ideal social orders featured by Wealth and Health, Bliss
and Peace, Efficiency and Harmony.” On a Nobel Prize for Yoga and Ayurveda, Dr Nagendra counters, “India should
develop and institute a bigger prize than Nobel Prize.”
Thoughts on YOGA
“Most people think yoga means asanas. But now people are
aware that Yoga is a way of life. The great master Patanjali said Yoga is to
gain mastery over the mind – Yogaha chitta vritti nirodha. Yoga means the
process of joining. We are small beings. We have to expand our personality and
merge with the totality. Raising ourselves to become great human beings, super
human beings, divine human beings, and reach perfection itself. That is the
whole process of yoga and in that the mind is the most important.”
“Does concentration make you a Yogi? No. A marketing
executive goes to work for 6 to 8 to 10 hours. He is full of concentration.
When he returns home he is worried, he’s anxious about what is going to happen.
In a few years he ends up in a cardiac ward. He is bright, intelligent, why
does this happen to him. Patanjali says this is only one aspect of the mind. There
is a second dimension to the mastery that is to calm down the mind. To silence
the mind. You should be able to come out of the worrying or thinking loop. Come
out of the enslaving loop and remain calm, quiet and silent. You are a giant on
one side and a pygmy on the other. This brings an imbalance in the body. It
causes and autonomous and endocrine imbalance. If not addressed it will lead to
many diseases. Unfortunately, in our education system all over the world we are
not taught techniques to calm down the mind.”
“Our children have become very brilliant, they can do
things very fast, but when we ask them to calm down, no chewing gum in the
mouth, no Walkman in the ear, no I-pad in the hand, it becomes a punishment.
The objective of yoga is to develop the second wing through yogic postures,
asanas. Use the body to gain mastery over the mind. Asanas are useful not only
for burning calories but more important to gain mastery of the mind. Patanjali
gives the answer – sthira sukham asanam.
Sit still in a posture. Make the asnaa steady, start saying in the asana longer
and longer, so Patanjali said imaginge a vast blue sky or ocean and keep your
mind tuned to that. That is the third phase of asana, which is called sukha.
Tuning your mind to ananthatha. In
every position you must relax the body, relaxation of the effort.”
“Another tool is pranayama. The manifestation of pranayama is breathing. Gain mastery over breathing. You should be able to slow down the breathing. We all breathe 15-18 breathes per minute. We whoudl come down to 12, 10, 6, 2 per minute and then 1 breath in 2 minutes, 1 breathe in 3 minutes. When you slow down breathing, you slow down mind. In our university we call it the breath of the Brahmari time. It maybe 15 seconds or 20 seconds. Then you must elongate it. If you achieve 35-40 seconds you are in good shape. Anxiety, depression, dementia, everything will start vanishing.”
Today, L Subramaniam plays the solo Carnatic violin at the prime 3.30 am slot in major music festivals across the world, from the Dover festival in the UK to neighbouring Bangladesh. He is also India’s leading composer for international symphonies. His work is published by Schott Music, the second oldest and the largest music publishing houses in Europe.
Dr Subramaniam has invested the Carnatic
violin with its own solo sound, repertoire, techniques and styles, and taken it
to the best concert halls around the world – besides composing orchestral music
for symphonies overseas. Violinist Yehudi Menuhin has said of Subramaniam’s
compositions, “I find nothing more inspiring than the music making of
my very great colleague Subramaniam. Each time I listen to him, I am carried
away in wonderment.”
The Western violin’s induction into Carnatic Music in the late 19th
century and its subsequent entrenchment over the 20th century as
both a concert and recording must-have, in its role as an instrument closely
following, but never ahead of, the vocal melody, must rank as one of the most
remarkable occurrences in the evolution of any conservative, classical
tradition anywhere in the world.
Something struck a chord in the Carnatic world, and it is no doubt
the fretless, bowed, violin’s almost unique ability to reproduce every nuance and
sustain of the human voice, vital in Carnatic’s modal, raga-based, gamaka-laden
Indeed, recent research published in the science Savart Journal indicates that “great violin makers, such as Stradivari and
Guarneri, may have designed violins to mimic the human voice.” The study’s
author Joseph Nagyvary, an emeritus
biochemistry professor at Texas A&M University, says that “violins
‘sing’ with a female soprano voice.”
But can the violin, then, be
happy being only an accompanist to the centre-stage vocalist, consigned
permanently to the notorious second-fiddle status? Having given of itself to Carnatic
music, will it not seek to take something back as well?
Many great violin players including Thirkkodikaval Krishna
Iyer and Govindaswamy Pillai, followed by
T Chowdaiah from Mysore, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu and Pappa
Venkataramaiah accompanied the greatest vocalists of Carnatic music, creating a
golden period for melody.
Even in those early days, accompanists were not entirely
satisfied in merely following the voice. While these instrumentalists became
legends because of their innovation and creativity in adapting a western
instrument to Indian music, for a long time it was difficult to conceive the
violin as a having the potential to be a solo instrument. For one thing, any
violinist, all old-timers agree, who showed off skill above and beyond the
accompanist’s role, might quickly find it a struggle get concerts to play.
So the violin in Dr L Subramaniam’s hand, as he sits in his
elegantly furnished home in Sanjay Nagar, Bengaluru, has indeed come a very
long way. His father V Lakshminarayana had a vision for the Carnatic violin as
a solo instrument, with its own repertoire, its own techniques and styles, not
just in India but in concert halls across the world.
Today, Subramaniam plays the solo Carnatic violin at the
prime 3.30 am slot in major music festivals across the world, from the Dover
festival in the UK to neighbouring Bangladesh.
“If you work hard, then you can achieve great things like T N
Rajaratinam Pillai did for the nadaswaram, Palghat Mani Iyer did for the
mridangam or T R Mahalingam did for the flute. Mandolin Shrinivas is one of our
finest musicians of all times, and in his generation he is the best. They were
artistes who did different things and brought their chosen instrument to a
different level. So people came just to listen to their instruments. My father
believed that the violin had that potential,” he says.
It was in the late 1970s that Subramaniam finished his MBBS
and went to the US. Prior to that he was playing with his brothers L
Vaidyanathan and L Shankar as part of the ‘Violin Trio’. Trained by his father
all his life, waking up at 4 am for practice almost every day, he had got to
the point where he had his first chance to lead a major orchestral symphony at
Los Angeles. But with his mother in hospital, he did not want to go ahead. His
father insisted that he not give up an opportunity to play the violin as a
soloist, that too with hundreds of western musicians playing behind him.
Lakshminarayana told him, “Just think of what you will be
giving up. Our dream is to make the Indian violin a solo instrument. Here you have
the opportunity to be a soloist, with hundreds of western musicians behind you
and they are playing your composition based on an Indian Raga.” Subramaniam led from the front.
When Subramaniam got his first chance to play at the New
York Philharmonic, his mother had passed away and he was grieving. Again he was
persuaded by his father and older brother L Vaidyanathan not to skip a chance
to play in one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. It was a special
opportunity to write a piece for the New York Philharmonic, and work with Zubin
Mehta. “My father was very clear what our role was. His dream was to make sure
that the Indian violin was heard in major concert halls in the world.”
For all of this to happen, two major changes had to be
brought about. The first was to branch off into solo playing, and the second
was to strengthen the techniques and the content of the music to enable solo
playing as well as to give it an edge while playing with Western artistes, to
whom the violin essentially belonged.
The first change was to carve a space for solo concerts in
an Indian milieu which was inconceivable in the 1960s and 1970s, given the
concert paddathi. But the change was necessary. “When you accompany people you
have restrict yourself, you cannot play what you want to play. If you are a
virtuoso player, practicing for so long every day, you want to exhibit your
talent and art for people who really like it and who support it. In that kind
of a situation there is a conflict. Because if you are a solo player and you
play an accompaniment, then you are not called for the next concert because
people start applauding your accompaniment as it is more expressive. Typically
they don’t want a scenario where the accompanist is getting more attention that
the main artiste. The only resolution to this was to decide to play only solo
or only accompaniment.”
It was not an easy decision to make. The concert
opportunities were not many and most artistes struggled getting a regular
income. “There were a few AIR jobs through recommendations, with only a few
available through merit. The rest of them survived by playing with somebody.
For that somebody to call you means that you should ensure that you don’t
overshadow them. This was the reality,” says Subramaniam.
Instrumental music in South India has had to fight for its
rightful place. In Subramaniam’s view, it is often “people’s personal agendas,
personal thoughts, personal prejudices which are always there in the framework.
You are a brought up in a society where there are many preconceived notions
about music. In India, our organisations put restrictions on what one can play.
None of the Indian organisations have made me what I am. People heard me and
called me all over the world.”
Subramaniam moved to the US in the early 1970s and around
that period stopped accompanying vocalists. Earlier he would accompany Chembai Vaidyanatha
Bhagavathar and it was during one such concert before Subramaniam’s final MBBS
exam that Chembai told him he would become a ‘Chakravarthy’ (emperor) in
playing the violin.
After singing for two hours, Chembai began a Todi. “I knew
that it would take a minimum of another half an hour to 45 minutes. I told him
mama, I have an exam next day and if I fail, I have to wait six months to write
the exam again. I played a short Todi, then he asked me to play it once more. At
that time he told me I would be a Violin Chakravarthy, and will not make a
single penny from medicine even if I pass the exam. It was Deva Vak (divine
word).” Subramaniam has never practiced medicine despite being a qualified
CONTENT AND TECHNIQUES
The second change that was necessary was to set up the
Indian violin against the Western violin. In order to set up a solo style that
was accepted globally, “we had to create new techniques because in terms of the
violin, the West was far ahead and they considered even our greatest artistes
as folk artistes or ethnic musicians who sat down and played the instrument.
“So the task before us was to create acceptance on par with
them and create a desire to collaborate with us. Changing that mindset was
difficult because they will not collaborate unless they feel you have something
to collaborate with on par with their level of technique, their level of
popularity or their level of musicianship,” says Subramaniam who since 1973 has
collaborated with Yehudi
Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli, Stevie Wonder, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Ruggiero Ricci,
Arve Tellefsen, Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Al
Jarreau, Jean Luc Ponty, Earl Klugh, Larry Coryell, Corky Siegel, Tony
Williams, Billy Cobham and Maynard Ferguson.
Lakshminarayana had decided to innovate with the content,
creating a solo technique in varnams, with multiple speeds, playing in a much
faster tempo, which normally doesn’t happen in a vocal concert. “My father
changed some of the right hand and left hand techniques and incorporated veena
techniques so that it becomes our own technique and we were not copying the
The greatest challenge was to try to do things which were
not easy for a vocalist, says Subramaniam. “There were a lot of things. Seeing
what it feels to play with full range, and then try and go beyond that range. I
recorded a varnam in 15 speeds pancha nadai with Palghat Mani Iyer playing the mridangam,
which till today has not been duplicated because you need a player like Palghat
Mani Iyer also to do something like that.”
The last century was a golden period for the Voice. There
was MS Subbulakshmi, GN Balasubramaniam, Ariyakudi, Maharajapuram Vishwanatha
Iyer, the Alathur Brothers and everyone was unique in their own way. Their
music was always innovative and vocal music flourished.
The content of their music, however, was not always based on
lyrics, says Subramaniam. “They were not singing krithis alone. Krithis are a
part of a concert. There’s the raga before, swarakalpana after, the Ragam Tanam
Pallavi, etc. and a major portion of it could be improvised depending on the
artiste. Are there words in the improvisation? Similarly in instrumental music you can enjoy
the music without words. We should have an open mind to say I will hear both if
it is good. If as an organiser you give only what people are asking, then you
can become like Bollywood, do Bollywood films. Here you have the responsibility
of spreading the culture.”
To him the power of instrumental music is undeniable.
Subramaniam says, “Instrumental music has been able to penetrate and spread our
culture in the West, more than vocal music. You see in Western music the power
of the orchestra. Why was instrumental music given that importance? They too
had vocal music, but slowly they started writing music only for instruments.
Right from the time of Bach to Wagner and Mahler. They did it with 200 people,
500 people. They write pieces with that magnitude for orchestra. The sound is
absolutely amazing and mind blowing. In India, only those instrumentalists who
were immensely talented or were exceptional, were taken notice of.”
Today, Subramaniam is India’s leading composer for international
symphonies. His work is published by Schott Music, the second oldest and the
largest music publishing houses in Europe. He picked up a masters in Western
Classical music, (formal training is useful for proper notation) and he
composes music and notates it himself. “The Double Concerto for violin and flute” combines western
scales and micro intervals. “Spring – Rhapsody” is a homage to Bach and Baroque
years he has written and created works for the world’s greatest orchestras The New York
Philharmonic Orchestra and Zubin Mehta
(“Fantasy on Vedic Chants”), the Swiss Romande Orchestra (“Turbulence”); The Kirov
Ballet (“Shanti Priya”) The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (“The Concerto for
Two Violins”); The Berlin Opera (Global Symphony), the live
concert of which was broadcast simultaneously over 28 nations for millions of
Symphony’ is a composition for a full symphony orchestra.
Dr Subramaniam received his doctorate in 2017 for his study
on Raga Harmony – a study he undertook when a lot of westerners asked him how
to compose music using the Indian system.
He has tried to create a system for both Indian and Western
musicians to be able to compose orchestral work with a knowledge of western
music and using the Indian raga system. “We can create full symphony works
using the harmony in the raga system. I have selected 36 ragas out of the 72
and with these 36 ragas we can create any harmony. And whatever harmony has
been used in the past also fit into this. So it is a complete system. These 36
raga scale fit in with the Hindustani raga system as well as the Western scales.
Everything fits into it, plus, one can go on creating absolutely new harmonic
systems. New tonalities which have never been explored can be taken up.”
If an Indian musician wants to write an orchestral piece,
without knowing western music, they would have to depend on someone else to
write it, based on the melody one chooses. “So, literally, it is not your
music. In the West, when we say Mozart wrote a piece, he wrote every note. Bach
wrote every note. In India, in Bollywood for instance, somebody gives an idea,
somebody will orchestrate it, somebody will arrange it and someone becomes the
Music Director. For our musicians to write Western music, they must have
knowledge of harmonics, counterpoint, writing score, etc. Similarly if a
western musician wants to write a piece using raga, then they must know our
system,” adds Subramaniam.
When Dr L Subramaniam
started out as a soloist people said he was making a mistake. They asked “Who
is going to listen to him.” In the generation preceding him, 95 percent of the
violinists accompanied vocalists. But he was driven by a deep passion for the
violin and wanted to play like his father said he should. “Nothing else mattered.
If you have God’s blessings, guru’s guidance, and faith, and love and passion
in what you are doing, nothing can stop you,” says Subramaniam.
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