Archive for January 15th, 2013

Sawai Gandharva in Pune! Or, …

January 15, 2013

A musical antidote to regional chauvinism:

It was around 1930. In Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra, a play was being performed. An actor came on stage and began to sing in a unique voice. There was a commotion amongst the spectators, and someone called out: “Kaanadi appa” (a derogatory term used for Kannadigas in Maharashtra). Others picked up the cry. The accompanying instruments stopped playing. The actor came to the front of the stage, and said: “You are showing this intolerance because I am from the Kannada desh. Show me someone amongst you who can sing as well as I do, and I will engage him in a contest.” Having said this, he sat down for a baithak. He sang for a good three to four hours. The spectators fell silent. As the man finished singing, garland after garland was heaped around his neck. Everyone began to praise his display of erudition. The actor who conquered Marathi intolerance with the light of his knowledge was Sawai Gandharva.

From Tejaswini Niranjana’s Music in the balance: Language, modernity and Hindustani sangeet in Dharwad at EPW.  A must-read!

There are more interesting stories too — like the one about Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur and Ustad. Bade Gulam Ali Khan (which also involves Ustad Alladiya Khan) and the role of chillies in promoting Hindustani music in Dharwad. Have fun!

On writing papers and what it means to be a professor

January 15, 2013

Professor Buchanan’s comments on my papers followed a somewhat predictable format.  He would always start by saying something positive about the content, perhaps focusing on how well the paper was written, if lost for positive comments on content. He would then add his incisive comments, which sometimes forced me to set the paper aside.  But on one paper I remember well that he didn’t start with his usual positive remarks.  He wrote to this effect: “Dear Dick, we all write good papers and bad papers.  With some papers we pursue publication.  With others, we trash them.  In the process of writing any number of papers, we acquire great wisdom in deciding which papers are which.  You will acquire great wisdom in deciding what to do with this paper.”  I didn’t need for him to say more, which he didn’t.  I never tried to revise that paper.

Today, I am pleased to call James Buchanan my professor for pressing on me a remarkably simple but important point that escapes so many colleagues across the country:  Being a professor is a privileged position.  It demands scholarship, but it also demands that you give of yourself in ways that will never show up on your resume, or in your obituary.

From here; the entire thing is a must-read.