What is India ?
The million mutinies that have been latent in our nation are now simmering. There was a time, not too long ago, when these were identities and communities that lived in harmony. They even came together and responded to the call of Gandhiji in an unprecedented act of non-violent challenge to oppression. Does this spirit still exist?
There are many dialogues that were left incomplete at the turn of our Independence: Gandhiji and Nehru had an exchange of views for a few years leading up to the independence where they differed widely in their idea of India; Gandhiji and Ambedkar hardly had enough engagement with each other directly; Gandhiji and Aurobindo hardly met! Was there any attempt for a discussion between Gandhiji and Savarkar, I do not know, but one of his followers definitely spoke through the gun! If there were tribal leaders of substance with whom there was any engagement, we don’t seem to hear about it much. So the idea of India and the inspiration that led to the many sacrifices that the Indian masses made, and the idea of India that seems to hold sway today are very different.
Can we understand the many narratives that profoundly influence our identity as Indians? Can we reimagine an India that we will be encouraged to shape, and stand up for?
Honouring Bala Kailasam
Bala Kailasam in his short but impactful life as a film-maker and a shaper of Tamil Television enquired deeply into this question. His films, and those that he inspired, are a great context against which we can dialogue and introspect on our identity as Indians. His exploration covers many aspects of India from the rural to the architectural, from the Dalit narratives to the modern, from the artistic exploration of the land to an examination of a developmental initiative. These films will provide the canvas on which we paint our collage.
The Koodam is an old Indian institution where the members of a community drop all differences of age, status and power to enquire into matters of vital importance to the community. A Learning Laboratory works on the premise that introspection and sharing of one’s own processes of meaning-making and choice-making lies at the heart of transformative learning. The depth of the sharing and the ability to listen without judgment and prejudice form the basis for floating hypothesis about oneself and the system. Learning about the inner and the outer are two sides of the same coin. The proposed “Contemplative Conversation” will be based on a few of his films and intense introspection.
Can we create a microcosm of the India we would like to see? One that allows us to enter the public space, as who we are without pretence? That allows us to offer ourselves for enquiry and offer our resources to each other in shaping the space? That heals old and festering wounds? That honours the heritage of a living civilization?