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Sunday Editorial:What kind of cultural policy does Bihar need?


By Ratnakar Tripathy

Culture but how?

Culture but how?

First of all, I will start with the admission that I am not very comfortable with the very idea of cultural policy. In fact I react with some wariness when I hear the phrase. Culture happens. It is not created through firmans, fiats or even bribes and encouragement. In fact such moves may instead lead to the creation of something toxic called official culture, encouraging all kinds of culture vultures, sucking up to people in authority for grants, positions and awards. I am sure most of you have heard of good people demeaning themselves to receive the myriad literary and artistic awards floating like colourful balloons in the air on the appointed days of the year. Delhi is full of these culture fixers and you often see them in long elegant kurtas and designer jackets, taking the art of flattery to heights that would humble a courtly poet from a few of centuries ago.  I get mails from people who want me to turn the limelight on them in the pages of Bihardays – to me these are just people with a morbid liking for expensive silk shawls, not to mention the cheques which are not that measly anymore, these days!

So why am I talking of a cultural policy at all?

Because culture has always depended on patronage whether in the time of Vikramaditya or Wajid Ali Shah or Arjun Singh or Pupul Jaykar or Kapila Vatsyyan or Dara Shikoh – you may go up and down the scale of history randomly. Even a Muktibodh or Nagarjun Baba failed to valorise their astounding creativity into cash during their lifetime. So unless we wish to leave matters of culture to the market and take Chetan Bhagat, Bappi Lahiri or Shobha De to be the uppermost level of our cultural capability, veritably our version of a Tolstoy or Mozart, some form of patronage has to be arranged. In which case, it is either the ministry or the corporate. Among the corporate, you have a Goenka, a Tata or a Sarabhai and then you have others who may prefer to sponsor cricket rather than a concert. Even in the olden times, there were kings who patronized wrestling or elephant fights rather than poetry. Then there were the kinky ones wanting a captive rhino to attack a lion in an enclosed arena, whatever for, god knows!

What gives my plea for cultural patronage a leg to stand on is one simple thing. Culture is there in Bihar. It is here in the most lively and pulsating sense of the term, not just as a display on a shelf in a middle class drawing room. The blood and sweat that goes into Kalidas Rangalay and several smaller towns like Purnea and Buxar, despite lack of funds, the numerous magazines in Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Vajjika and Angika run on the fuel of goodwill, the craft geniuses hidden in rural crannies!

No one is asking the government to create culture – this is not a demand for fertilizer subsidy!

What gives my plea for cultural patronage a second leg to stand on is the fact that Bihar has already had a solid institutional history of patronage – be it Hindi, Bhojpuri, Urdu, there were academies [akademi] that did solid work in the 1960-80s – they researched, compiled, analyzed and published stuff of heritage quality. And I am thinking of Shivpujan Sahay and I am thinking of what one man may achieve in a brief lifetime. With meagre resources, the man motivated younger people to go out in the field and dive deep into Bihari culture. That we have forgotten him is surely a sign of our eroding culture!

Just visit the libraries of these academies or what’s left of them after nursing generations of moths, make sure to carry your inhaler if you are asthmatic and you will, to this day, discover treasures unimagined. Unfortunately, they may have to continue to wait for a young scholar from the west with a fat dollar grant.

For all the above reasons, I have a one line proposal by way of cultural policy for Bihar – revive the language academies, lend them a sense of dignity and worthwhileness. And wait. For all you can do in the field of culture is to sow the seed.

Culture will happen again in the sense it will turn up in books, concerts, exhibitions and well, even in tourism packages!


PS: as Biharis, let us admit the one grave weakness we have. Even if someday you win a Sahitya Akademi award or perhaps a Nobel Prize and come back to Bihar to accept a position – the first thing you are likely to do is give your niece a fellowship, and your cousin a supply contract. So I am not very impressed at the righteous anger expressed by Bihari intellectuals at the recent appointment of a supposed goon as a guardian of Hindi literature in Bihar. While I hope he doesn’t aim a fist at an argumentative poet visiting his ilaka, I must admit during my BA days in BHU, I knew this nasty dada who could recite the whole of Dinkar’s ‘Rashmirathi’.

Of course, he never felt the need to ask if you wished to sit up the whole night listening to the alliterative tales of Karna’s greatness and nobility.



One Response

  1. Umesh Patil says:

    Excellent, seems like a reasonable prescription.

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