Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I love vande mataram, when it is sung in raag desh; and I don't consider that to be non-secular!!!

The Union Human Resources Development Minister, Arjun Singh is in news again. And this time, the reference is not to the Cabinet decision to move the Bill to set apart seats in higher education institutions for the Other Backward Classes. I am referring now to the debate on an order from the HRD Ministry that vande mataram will be sung in schools across the country on September 7, 2006.

Now, I love the song and enjoy listening to it every morning. I recall having enjoyed this since my childhood and that was a time when the radio was perhaps the only means of communication. I recall the days waking up from sleep to a rendition of this song rendered in raga ``desh’’ and the tune is set in my mind. So much so, when A.R.Rahman was commission by the Government to render the song in a different tune, I was among those who felt angry.

And my anger only increased when Rahman explained that he wanted to ``popularise’’ that song, once a battle cry for freedom from the British, among a new generation. I was sceptical that this was no way to popularise the song. Let me clarify here that I also love rock music and do listen to pop as well. The issue was that vande mataram represented an ethos and in an era where that ethos was being decimated, the song was also bound to vanish from popular memory.

In other words, in an era where the ethos of selfless sacrifice and the ideals of the freedom movement are giving way to concerns of self preservation and material accomplishments, there is no way in which a powerful slogan or a symbol of the freedom movement can be preserved as part of the popular culture. And vande mataram is no exception to this larger rule!

If this needed any proof, it is there for all of us to see. A.R.Rahman’s rendition of vande mataram turned popular among the college and school students during the couple of months after the 50th anniversary celebration of independence in 1997. It will not be an exaggeration to say that it is no longer heard of anywhere now.

Arjun Singh’s initiative or enthusiasm now to ensure that the spirit of the glorious days of the freedom struggle is recreated on September 7, 2006 by asking students in schools across the country sing that song is, in that sense, nothing but a manifestation of this ``teflon’’ patriotism. It is synthetic and hence not going to infuse any sense of love to the nation and its people!

While saying all this, let me make it clear that I continue to love that song and after reading history books and thus come to know what vande mataram meant to a generation of patriots, I now listen to that song with a sense of political responsibility and not just in the aesthetic sense. The tune in which the song is played, everyday, on the All India Radio is also appealing to me in the aesthetic sense.

Meanwhile, it is sad that every time vande mataram is discussed, we find the clergy among the Muslim community making it a point of dispute. It is time that the clergy is
told by the men and women from that community as well as those
committed to pluralist and democratic values that there is nothing wrong with singing a song that was once the battle cry of those who fought for our freedom.

And those who do not know the history of this song, let me recommend a book. An eminent economic historian, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, wrote a book which he called ``The Biography of a Song’’ tracing all the stages it went through; that it was popularised by the sadhus in the Anand Mutt, that it became the battle cry, the debate in 1930 over some of its stanzas and the evolution of this into the national song.

The writer had dedicated this book to his grandchild with hopes that it will be read after a few years. Well, it is important that the youth of today reads this book as well. And that may lead to a situation when a large number of people listen to vande mataram in raag ``desh’’ and also reinvent the ethos with which the song evolved into a battle cry and decide to participate in the war against poverty, inequality and oppression. This will make sense rather than a symbolic rendering of the song on November 7, 2006!


Blogger Vibha said...

hmm..interesting...but i liked the AR Rahman version as well..though Desh, Hamsadhwani and Hindolam or Raag Malhar will be my favourite ragas.
and for that matter i am against the singing of the national anthem before screening of films in theatres in mumbai. "teflon" patriotism as you call it!

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Prasanth K said...

Like you,I too remember those childhood days when I used to wakeup listening to vande mataram from Akashavani.I liked that, I liked ARR's tune too.I fail to understand how will a song in a different tune dilute the memories of battle cry and freedom?Rahman's tune is popular amoung youths(and the not-so-oldies alike)because communicates with them very fluently.With his tunes in the Garden Vareli's advertisment and Roja he has mesmerised the masses and has created ripples in the world of film music,his tunes and the growing trend of pop and fusion has given rise to a new kind of music-probably the music that the new generation wants to hear.Vande mataram happened to be 'retuned'at this time.I think it is still popular world wide,in fact it ranked 2nd in the British top 10 some times back.
Yes,tune will dilute the essence of the song if it is from lip and not from the heart.
Which tune does Arjun Singh wanted it to be played on September 7th?

I like vande mataram in the contempery tune,also when sung in rag 'desh'.I am an Indian and I am proud to be one when I sing it in any tune.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to comment on what you`ve written but I'm sort of short on time just now... for now, I would love to know why exactly you would find it offensive if someone refuses to sing vande mataram.

7:24 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Prasanth, I will want to react to your comment in detail..but for now, let me clarify that I love the song just because I love it. And am not in love with vande mataram because I am an Indian....
This does not mean that I am not an Indian... the point is that it has nothing to do with being an Indian and being an Indian for me means getting agitated and angry with the manner in which people from my country are being treated inside and outside flights...And well, vande Mataram becomes relevant then...

And ABDUS, Did not say anywhere that I will be offended when someone does not sing that song. I am indifferent to someone singing or not singing vande mataram... I like the song ....

This is not the same as empathising with the clergy who seek to tell the faithful that they SHALL NOT sing this song...

And I did realise that a majority of HINDUS do not know the lyric of this song...

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your wanting to kick coke and pepsi...they are apparently just toxic coloured water. we have plenty of that in both side of all our streets.

But hey, why include mobile phones, shampoos in sachets( real cute idea if you ask me), and internet cafes ( thats our stronghold man)in the items-to-be-condemned list?

These are glorious symbols of the lib-priv-glob era. A time which gives the common man the right to some choices in life.
The good side of the coin.

.....Ranjani nagarajan.

5:15 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Well..about shampoos in sachets.. may be a cute idea but don't gloss over the fact that these sachets have taken the synthetic cosmetics to the villages and by this rendered the villager too a victim of the culture.. shampoos first and since they wash away the oil on the scalp and hence cause dandruff, promote the use of anti-dandruff shampoos and some such product to prevent hairfall and then ... it goes on.

The native shikakai has been forgotten in the process.

Now, about mobile phones and internet cafes... yes. Communication is simpler... but hey... don't get the ``common man'' here. The common man is committing suicide in Vidharbha, Telengana and is fighting the mite of the state in Kalinga Nagar and getting shot dead.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought i'd leave it at that, but that common man statement of yours got me started.
Who is to define "a common man" ?

Does it refer to only economically backward people? or is it peopel with no "conncetions" where it matters? I should think not.

For the military, a common man would be every civilian, for an it professional, it is every computer illiterate, for a guy in the performing arts, it is the audience, and so on and so forth.

We tend to club everybody who do not belong in our domain( work, economy, social)as the common man.

So in effect, everyone is a "common man. "

So along with the unfortunate suicides, the common man today is also travelling to work at nights, wishing his grand children a happy diwali via a webcam, taking a walk to the ATM after dinner at night, (just in time before tv prime time) to pay the rent the next day, investing in SIPs, and at the same time planning his entire day so as to be able to make it to the 6.20 train/ bus in the evening.

I feel it is irresponsible to negate the actions and choices of millions, in a bid to vocally support a thousands who are unable to do so.

..........Ranjani Nagarajan.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Vibha said...

actually's quite the other way around...its negating the voices and actions of millions at the cost of thousands...

and when we say common man...we are obviously referring to those who do not belong to the 20 percent of the total population of this country who are obsessed with malls and mobile phones and other products that form the visual sybols of globalisation. millions are still trying to just eke out a living to sustain themselves so that can get to work the next day.
and their lives are the ones that are getting affected adversely by a culture that tries to create a need for conspicuous consumption in ideas such as "cute" shampoo sachets and shopping in malls.
more later...have to run for a lec

9:11 PM  

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