Today I’d like to share three significant incidents of my life. Incidents that helped me realize two incredible truths, ones that I hope, will propel students to find their truths, and their inspirations.
When I was about fifteen years old, our school was participating in the Inter Public School Cultural Competition. This in itself wasn’t anything new. What was exciting though, was that the competition that year was being held at the MGDs school in my hometown of Jaipur. That gave me, as part of the contingent, a chance for a mini-vacation back home in the middle of term, from boarding school. That I was to sing the solo classical song and that I won it, would be an added bonus. All that aside, when we were in Jaipur those few days, we were of course accompanied by my long-time guru, our music head of department from Doon, Gursharan Singh. Aside from being an immensely gifted musical mind, his forte has been the Sitar. On one of the evenings we were home, impromptu, he decided, in our living room, to play the Sitar. I can tell you, having attended some huge concerts by doyens of the same instrument; this seemingly modest gathering of a few students, my parents, and our teacher, was at a higher level altogether. It was intimate, mesmerising, spiritual even!
Years later, when I was at film school in Los Angeles, I had the chance to attend lectures from some stalwarts of the film world. My directing professor was none other than a gentleman called Alan Metter, the man behind a slew of iconic Rodney Dangerfield comedies (an older generation would know what I refer to). We had guest lectures from the greats of Hollywood, and called Universal Studios, our backyard, even shot our exercise films there. Here again, it was in a tiny living room at a classmate’s bachelor-pad where an unsuspecting, non-film student, a young boy from Italy who had happened to have shot a little film in his spare time, screened his eleven-minute story. I remember so vividly, it made all of us allegedly intellectual, serious film students, just gawk at the amazing treatment, storyline, and realism of this boy’s home-made movie.
Some years passed and I began to work as an Assistant Director in Hindi Films in Mumbai. I’d have the pleasure of regularly attending the biggest and ‘best’ festivals – music, film, and literature. I’d been coming regularly to the Jaipur Literature Festival as well, which I loved and adored, and continue to. Once again however, in the dimly lit grotto-esque PG (paying guest) accommodation of a friend in Mumbai, I was innocently handed the manuscript of a book. I was furnished the caveat that many publishers had rejected the manuscript. When I read the ‘unpublished’ book, not only did I have tears in my eyes, my entire soul had been stirred into evocative mayhem by the lucid yet poignant writing of this friend, who had brought alive the internal workings of a troubled childhood, one that I felt I had journeyed with him!
So what were these two life-changing realizations I’d had? First, that big is good but it does not mean small is not. That if one seeks, if one pursues artistic experiences, they can be found everywhere (not just at the ‘big’ gigs). And two, it is not only the famous, who are accomplished. That there are too many artists and creators out there, in fledgling anonymity but that is absolutely no reflection, indication, or measure of their undeniable, tangible, palpable, and transformative talent. My message this week is simple. Don’t wait for that world-famous singer, writer, or film maker to come along as part of the marquee event. Delve into your surroundings and I promise you will uncover hidden gems of artistic expression that will make your spirits soar. Truth and inspiration abound, even in one’s backyard.
The writer is a Writer, Educator & Literary Moderator. [Courtesy: Times of India]