A one-fingered salute for our ossified philistines

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: It is common knowledge that our politicians, as a tribe, are insulated from cultural refinement of any kind. Here is the latest instance.

A gurukula named after the late music legend, Gangubai Hanagal, was inaugurated in Dharwad on Saturday. Its aim: to provide the traditional type of teaching in classical music.

But under the aegis of the BJP government in Karnataka, the occasion turned out to be a political show, pure and simple. At an occasion where music, musicians and musicologists should have reigned supreme, it was the politicians and their chelas and chamchas who had their day to the exclusion of others.

Many bigwigs in the realm of music, who had been invited to the function found themselves totally ignored in the naked display of power put up by the BJP minions, with all the attention being showered on the chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, and his cronies in government and the party.

Among those who felt slighted as a consequence were such titans of music as Kishori Amonkar, Vidhyadhar Vyas and Pandit Mani Prasad, who had come from far and wide at the invitation of the organisers. But there were many local luminaries, too, who would have felt humiliated.

Not one of them got a chance to speak at the occasion.

As a matter of fact, Kishori Amonkar and Vidyadhar Vyas moved to get off-stage even when the CM was delivering the inaugural speech. They were miffed over the fact that not even one of the disciples of the late Gangubai had been allowed on the podium.

Amonkar was somehow persuaded to stay back.

But she immediately walked out after the formality of the common felicitation of the artistes, which took place later. The spectacle of the chief minister going through the same routine in a mindless manner, as has been his wont of late, was there for all to see.

At the time of the lighting of the lamp to mark the occasion, the so-called “people’s representatives” rushed to be around the chief minister to the exclusion of the musical giants. If the musicologists could get anywhere near the proceedings, it was mainly because of the interest taken by a BJP legislator.

After the felicitation of the artistes, the situation turned out to be more comical to say the least.

There was none to help Pandit Mani Prasad carry the mementos. Vidhyadhar Vyas was seen holding all the mementos on his lap for quite sometime.

Worse, none of the names of the musical bigwigs who had gathered found a mention in the welcome speech delivered by Jagadish Shettar, the minister for rural development and panchayat raj who happens to be the district minister in charge.

Incidentally, the Gangubai memorial itself is built on a similar slight.

It happened during the days of the first coalition government headed by Dharam Singh. At a function organsied by the Hubli-Dharwad municipal corporation (HDMC), the then Congress chief minister was more interested in catching the helicopter to reach Bangalore before it got dark.

After the formality of the felicitation, he straight away walked out along with his entourage to catch the chopper, leaving the aged doyenne speechless. Miffed as she was, Gangubai hit back by  arranging to return the memento, shawl and other paraphrenalia next day to the office of the mayor in a huff.

The BJP, then in the opposition, had condemned the incident and had vowed to make up for the lapse. Yet the incidents that marred the inauguration of the gurukula and the renovation of Gangubai’s ancestral home show that, for politicians, old habits die hard, regardless of their political colour.


Photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa flashes the mandatory “V” sign from a bus he travelled in, after the inauguration of the Gangubai Hangal gurukula, in Hubli on Saturday (Karnataka Photo News)


Also read: ‘Men will be ustads and pandits. Bais will be bais’

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How did Dharwad become ground zero of music?

Jewels before the train for Hubli chugged away