Friday, February 27, 2009

A Bird-hit and Khairagarh University

Khairagarh is our destination today. We are supposed to visit the Indira Kala Sangit Mahavidyalay there. It is one of the reputed universities in India, which is completely devoted for imparting education in music and fine arts. We are told that this university is unique in South East Asia. We are excited to visit this university.

From the hotel window I look at the Central Avenue in Nagpur. There is some kind of serenity about this street. People are not yet up. Up there in the sky I see a crescent moon like a glittering love bite. Why I cannot get out of these romantic and sexual imageries, I ask myself and smile to myself. The greyness of the sky turns slowly into red and it is time for us to leave.

Somu revs up the engine and we are ready to go. We check the fuel level and it needs refilling. It is our fourth filling and we have already travelled around fifteen hundred kilometres. The car gives good mileage. Feroze talks about giving a quick service to the car. We drive towards the west side for a few kilometres, leaving the newspaper boys and milkmen behind. The sweepers are already in action and they broom the last day’s waste away from the streets. Nagpur is a clean city and it is one of the ten top cities in India.

Though it is a thoroughly planned modern city, something is lacking here. Suddenly I realize that this city does not have a precise character. Apart from its cleanliness and ordered nature, you cannot remember anything special here. It lacks in some kind of attraction. A perfect beauty, which can be worshipped but not enjoyed. It is picture perfect and cannot be invited to life. You expect a scar right in the middle of the forehead, or a mole behind the neck, a white spot near the navel, a broken tooth in order to make the beauty enjoyable. You feel like completing the beauty when some minor defects are present. And you like it in that way.

I am told that generally the Maharashtrians do not want their daughters to be married off to Nagpur. They consider Nagpur as too much religion and caste oriented. They feel that there is too much of political intrigue here. However, Nagpur flourishes in its own ways. One cannot deny it.

We take a right turn and we hit the highway. We would find fuel pumps in highway. After refuelling, we resume our journey. The morning is faintly cold and is romantic. There is greenery on the either side of the road. Birds fly in flocks, cattle moves in herds, huge trucks sleep off in deserted patches and the life generally looks beautiful.

We see a lot of cranes flying up and down, right and left along the highway. I remember a power point presentation that Feroze had showed me a day before we started our road trip. It was all about the V formation of geese flying. They fly in a V shape that provides them with an aerodynamic design that helps them to fly effectively. When one of them is injured or tired, he is separated from the flock and two other geese accompany him again in a V formation. When the leader in the V formation feels fatigue, he goes back to the tip and the one next to it takes up the lead. The PPT presentation was meant to explain the natural formula of success, which could be employed in corporate sector.

My mind wanders around the V formation. The stereo plays some good music. Everything looks perfect and calm. Suddenly a flock of cranes cross the road in a very low altitude and that covers the windscreen of our car. We are going on a 100 km per hour. Somu has quick reflexes and he applies break bringing the car suddenly to 70 km per hour. But the last crane in the flock hits the bonnet and the white feathers spread everywhere. We three are shocked. For a moment we could not react. Feroze asks Somu to stop the car. We can see one helpless white wing dangling over the bonnet.

“Is it dead?” we ask each other. After a few minutes Somu pulls the car over to the side. We get down and rush towards the front side.

Oh..God…the bird is not dead. It breaths heavily and rolls its frightened eyes to us. We realize that its beak is stuck into the radiator grill. Feroze carefully extracts its beak from the grill, Somu brings water from the car and I sprinkle water on its head and into its mouth.

Its wings and legs seem to have broken. We are in a dilemma. First we keep it in a thicket. Then on a second thought we feel that it would be attacked by some animals. So we keep it on the wedge of a tree. But then it can fall down from there. Finally we decide to keep it in a thicket.

We stand there is silence for some time. And the silence comes along with us back into the car. We resume the journey, but this time in silence. Somu switches off the stereo. Some kind of disturbance has crept into our minds.

We have to cut around two hundred and forty kilometres. And we are sure to reach Khairagarh by eleven in the morning. The memories of the crane slowly fade away. We come back to our normal selves and we start feeling hungry. By nine o clock we are find a daaba, where several trucks are parked. We too stop there and give order for rotis and omelette. It tastes delicious and the price is eminently cheap.

At the stipulated time we reach the ‘Indira Kala Sangit Mahavidyalay’, Khairagarbh. And instantly we fall in love with the place.

‘‘Indira’ does not mean Indira Gandhi,’ Dr.M.C.Sharma, Dean and Head of the Painting Department here tells us. “Indira was Khairagarh King’s daughter. She died at the age of four. The grieved parents gave away their palace to set up the Khairagarh University devoted exclusively for fine arts and music,” Dr.Sharma says.

Before Chattisgarh State was carved out from Madhya Pradesh, Khairagarh University was the only university that governed all the fine arts colleges in the state. The university, which was established in 1956 has branches all over India including the cities like Delhi and Kolkata.

“This is a unique university because it deals only with fine arts and music,” adds M.C.Sharma.

The building is stately as it was a palace. Pink colour seems to be the thematic colour for all the buildings here. In the large campus that runs into a few acres, has the boys and girls hostels built in. When the university was established all the departments were functioning from the main building, which is the palace. Now it houses the painting department only. All other departments namely, sculpture, graphics, music, folk music, dance and theatre, function from the new buildings.

The painting department was started in 1973 under the guidance of Dr.Bose. It was initially a certificate course and later on it got degree status and UGC recognition. The sculpture and graphic courses were started in 1989 and they got separate department status in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Pt.Bhimsen Joshi’s musical rendering from the record fills the atmosphere. “It is always like this. The campus always has a musical ambience,” says Shilendrajit Singh, who is a former student and now a guest lecturer in Painting Department here.

Khairagarh University has produced a lot of interesting artists. After their graduation many of them go for further studies in Santiniketan or Baroda. Those who do not want to go out of Khairagarh do their post graduation here itself. All the three departments in fine arts have both BFA and MFA courses.

“We have all the facilities here,” says Dr.Sharma. “The library is regularly updated. The students are familiar with computer and they can access internet throughout the day from within the campus.”

The students work here diligently. And there is a reason for it. Khairagarh is a small place and there are not too many diversions. The students are allowed to venture in the town only till seven in the evening. After that the hostel gates and the campus gates are closed. The students spend most of their time in studios, computer lab or in library. They are well informed about the contemporary art practices.

However, the picture is not rosy as it seems. There are only three permanent faculties here: M.C.Sharma heads the painting department, V.Nagdas heads the graphics department and S.P.Choudhury heads the sculpture department. There are not many guest faculties here. For art history supplementary course, the university invites guest lecturers from Kolkata or elsewhere for a few weeks.

“Nobody wants to come and join here in the departments,” Dr.Sharma expresses his helplessness.

Reason: the university is remote and it is not lucrative as there are no galleries around or the mainstream galleries do not take much interest to come over. Those students who pass out from here and migrate to the bigger cities also do not want to come back and help the departments.

“There are several posts lying vacant. We regularly advertise it. But then nobody wants to come. With the new state in place, there are some posts open for the reserved category candidates. But the rider is these candidates should be originally the residents of the Chattisgarh state. All these factors together make our departments less lucrative,” says Dr.Sharma.

However, there are efforts from the university and departments to gather up the support of the alumni. When the university celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2007, it had done a large group show of the Khairagarh alumni in a travelling show in Delhi. Now the University wants the Khairagarh legacy to travel far and wide and attract more people towards it. It has already planned exhibitions in Delhi, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad in 2009. “We want to tell the world that we exist and we have great reasons to exist,” says Dr.Sharma.

Despite the lack of teaching faculties, the students are very optimistic. “We do a lot of work and we try to keep in pace with the contemporary art scene in India as we have facilities here. But at times we too get frustrated as we are forced to live like secluded people. No artist from the big cities come here and conducts workshops here. No interaction is possible. We keep connected to the art scene only through the internet,” Pallavi Jha, an MFA Painting student opines.

Moving around the campus, we find spectacular facilities in this university. The state government pumps in ample amount of funds in this university. One can clearly make out that it is a cash rich university as each department has great buildings and facilities. Even the guest house and teachers accommodation are just within the campus.

We visit the Khairagarh University Library. It has special sections for fine arts, music, dance, folk music etc. Besides, they have general section for art and literature. The fully computerized audio visual room help the students to watch the movies, dance forms and listen to the music at any a time. There is an enormous collection of Indian classical music and folk music here and it is open to the students throughout the year. Computer lab is another speciality. The university in total has around hundred computers and out of that seventy are connected with internet. Twenty five computers are given to the students in a specially created computer lab, where students learn and even do professional works under the guidance of Prabhodh Gupta, the system analyst.

The library’s data base is connected with the data base of all the major universities in India using a software called INFLIB. Jaymohan, a young computer specialist looks after the library upgrading and manuscript preservation. “Soon the whole library, including the manuscripts will be digitally available on net. We are in a process of converting the LP records into digital format,” informs Jaymohan.

The university also has a museum, which houses the thirteenth century sculptures discovered from around Khairagarbh. There is a special officer to look after this newly built museum.

“There is a lot of politics going on in this university,” says V.Nagdas, who heads the graphics department. “They don’t understand the visual arts. They understand only music. And the teachers ‘buy’ doctorates and become professors and deans. Appointments are stopped because of this fixation with ‘doctorate’, whereas the UGC never in its strictures says that visual art appointees need doctorate. They just need post graduation, experience and acclaim. Here it is a strange story and the university is ruining the fine arts departments,” says Nagdas.

However, he accepts that the university has a lot of financial back up and facilities. Only thing he demands is the appointment of new faculties and the upgrading of the existing ones.
While coming out of the university campus, we have only one thing in mind: this university’s fine arts departments have all the potentials to grow. And it has all the facilities, which even Baroda and Santiniketan lack.

The solution should come from within the university. May be the former students of this university can help it become one of the mainstream fine arts departments in India.

No comments: