I got a call from one of my friends, Sanjay, who after working in NDTV for a while has moved into being an independent film maker focused on making films on girl child. Sanjay wanted to have two young dancers, Mallika and Nandu, daughter and niece respectively, to be part of the short film. I was supposed to be reach the location for the shoot, Shiv Nadar School in Noida by 9:30am. When I reached with the children, I got a call from Sanjay that the shooting unit is behind schedule and they will be able to reach only by 10:30.
As I had time, I thought of meeting my good old friends Col Gopal Karunakaran, the operational head of the Shiv Nadar school chain as well as the principal of the Noida campus, Ms Shashi Banerjee who were in the campus. To my pleasant surprise, that was the first day of the new academic year and the teachers from both the campuses of Shiv Nadar school were in their Noida campus for the inaugural session of the teachers training week. Shashi met me in the corridor and ushered me into the lift, inviting me for the session and was delighted to see Padmasri Geeta Chandran heading to session.
The hall was full with teachers and I found a quiet place at the back of the hall and settled on the floor next to a short table to listen to Geetaji. After the initial lamp lighting and pleasantries, Geetaji addressed the audience, about ‘significance of art education in the life of a child and how to facilitate’. She spoke from her heart. She is an eloquent speaker and does not mince any words when she has to.
I tried to recall her interactions, to reproduce here in her own words…. also added a few photos that I captured..
a. Arts and aesthetics bring sensitivity to human being. It builds tolerance, empathy and concern towards fellow beings and the nature around us. In the current context these are very important and need of the hour.
b. I remember going to concerts at the age of two. I have been very fortunate to have parents who took pains to expose us to these finer things very early in life. And I was introduced to dance at the age of 5.
c. In those days LP records were the norm. We used to listen to those 30 songs every day. As a child we knew the lyrics, raga and everything to do with the song. It was reinforced every day.
d. For the current generation, such a thing will set boredom soon. They want newness all the time. Technology changing ever fast, with that the youth is fickle.
e. We, as teachers, have a great role to play in the life of a child. Our words make or mar the child. In fact, what we say is the last word when the children are in early school. Our impact cannot be easily measured.
f. Art education is marginalized in schools, so are the art teachers. It comes under extra-curricular!! Subject teachers do not want to understand the significance of arts. And it is also true that the arts teachers do not mind about other subjects! Collaborating is the key. How do we integrate the curriculum? Very few schools are working upon.
g. We need to create energy in the class, especially when the space itself is challenging and we have to cater to huge numbers in the classes simultaneously.
h. It is very important how we connect with the children. How we communicate and share without compromising on the aesthetic expression. Building that emotional connect is the key.
i. When you want to buy a dress, you go to 100 shops to select, when it comes to arts you decide the very first instance.
j. Singers have a variety of styles to keep the audience interested – kajri, thumri, tharana…dancers too need to incorporate. When I was in 20s, I started incorporating Meera Bhajans etc to get the audience interested.
k. Yes, I do agree that we need to push the frontiers of art, need to understand the demands of the day and respond. But, the demand has gone to other extreme, now. People come and ask me that I need to perform in 40mts and that they want a few that are in their wish list!
l. As part of the committee at NCERT, to rejuvenate art education, a lot have been researched and suggested. NCF (national curriculum framework) talks about these. The implementation in schools is nowhere near what has been suggested. Very few school leaders take the initiative. We need to do it in every school to make it part of life, to help every child grow into a responsible citizen with sensitivity towards everyone else.
Let me wind up with a short demonstration to help one understand Lord Shiva, and his celestial existence…
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