Exploring the ethos of Indian culture

Exploring the ethos of Indian culture

The author is critical of the prevailing blindness towards holistically understanding the multi-dimensionality of Indian culture and society

Culture and Creativity- Selected Writings of N Manu Chakravarthy

Today, there is a need for books that can truly make us re-think and evaluate all our firm (obstinate) beliefs. In ‘Culture and Creativity’, an inquisitive, authentic and fluid mind explores many areas of knowledge dwelt upon by Indians since millennia.

The editor has chosen well, covering most of the milestones crossed by N Manu Chakravarthy in his multi-disciplinary career. His ‘Madhyama Marga’ framework makes one remember ‘middleway’, the  term used by Gyorgy Lukacs’ to describe Sir Walter Scott’s protagonists in novels like Waverley. Here too, before jumping into any subject, the author denounces positing himself in any cliched ideology, thus creating a middle position for himself.

The author is critical of the prevailing blindness towards holistically understanding the multi-dimensionality of Indian culture and society. A trail of thoughts across the book reveal his intent to shed light on how Western models like globalisation and consumerism can never be the guide to understand the deeply philosophical and spiritual ethos of the country. The reality of India’s past and present is thus erroneously constructed. In one of the essays, he provides an unusual perspective of how the tradition of a lineage combined with individuality led to the formation of a new musical heritage, through analysis of two indomitable maestros, Dattatreya Sadashiva Garud and Pt Mallikarjun Mansur.

There is a call for a better understanding of culture as a space of interaction of different elements and forces. The author interviews Gustava Esteva to bring out a clear picture of the past and present of Mexico in the light of its tumultuous relationship with USA, without seeming to be a historical or biographical sketch of a country and its people. The idea of community, the prevailing attitudes, the plight of the marginalised and what positions are occupied by characters of socio-cultural significance in the backdrop of the historical period they are placed in, in films of Girish Kasaravalli or the works of RK Narayan, Gopalakrishna Adiga and others, have been shown.

Most importantly, one must look at how the author focuses on what goes behind the structuring of the story and characters and to what extent has the creator been given the freedom to evolve the characters in question.

The Gandhi-Tagore analysis brings about unique ways of looking at their political, philosophical and spiritual positions. In another essay, he fleshes out the dynamics within the works and the personality of his teacher U R Ananthamurthy in an intimate way. There is a contextual approach to analyse debated theories, like post-colonial and others, without being pseudo-western, while maintaining the nature of his Guru-Shishya Parampara.

The author’s pluralistic mind neither categorises, nor forms any dichotomies while analysing a subject. It is an Indian mind with its basic nature of being philosophical rather than crudely political or material.