I just came back from a magical experience. My kathak teacher Ms Jayashree Acharya, who teaches in Nirvana in Gurgaon had organized a pre-Holi cultural evening to which she had invited a select group of students, parents and interested acquaintances. I went without any expectations and was delighted to discover that she had invited disciples of other kathak exponents as well to perform.
Other than appreciating the performances, which ranged from simple compositions to the rendition of sufi kalaams, we had the rare experience of seeing how different each teacher’s style was. Some performances were technically oriented with a focus on straight lines and geometric perfection, others were lyrical and flowing, still others were full of emotion and expression. Students too, brought their individuality to their performance. Many young students were outstandingly confident.
My teacher is a stout believer of guru-shishya parampara, the mode in which education has been traditionally imparted in India and still practiced to varying degrees in the classical Indian arts. Over the years, in music and dance, I have experienced personally how vital the role of the guru is; as a role model and as a guide not just for the art but of life in general.
Today I realized that the guru plays another vital role for her student by bringing to her doorstep a wide range of performers from her wider cultural circle, offering her exposure and the opportunity to observe, learn and interact (in a more intimate baithak setting, as opposed to theater-scale impersonal performances) ; and then re-analyze her own learning in this fresh context. This role of being a facilitator of culture serves not just students, but a larger circle of rasiks, lovers of art. In creating small nerve centers of culture, like Jayashreeji did today, gurus have the power to breathe life into otherwise barren landscapes, otherwise neeras (sans flavor) lives.