Sunday, August 13, 2017

Prasanna in Vidya Ashram

             Just a few days back we had a very creative and pleasant time at Vidya Ashram as Prasanna was with us for three days discussing and deliberating over art, philosophy and our outlook towards change.  Prasanna, from Bengaluru, is a well known theater personality and a social activist. He was with us in the Ashram during 7-9 August 2017. Other than the long, leisurely and informal discussions at the Ashram, he participated in the meetings of social activists in the city organized by . Sajha Sanskriti Manch. On the last day he told us about how to look at theater. One of these days he also made first class upma for our breakfast. Given below are some details that are worth paying attention to.

Prasanna and Sunil in a discussion at Vidya Ashram

            On 7th August there was a meeting of activists of Varanasi at the Bharat Mata Mandir, to welcome a yatra being undertaken in Eastern Uttar Pradesh to commemorate the occasion of the August Kranti 1942. In this meeting Prasanna spoke about how it would make great sense to organize opposition to GST on Khadi, handloom, and all products and services made by hands. He told that such an idea was under serious consideration of the Federation of Handloom Worker's Societies in Hyderabad and other places. The proposal was that they sell their products and services without paying GST and make an open statement about it and court arrest if the government so intended. His ideas were well received. There were persons from different organizations who said that further steps taken in this regard may be shared with the activists of Varanasi through Vidya Ashram. 
             On 8th August, there was a day time fast in front of District Court to express solidarity with the agitation and fast by Narmada Bachao activists on the bank of Narmada against huge submergence of adivasi population without proper rehabilitation. It was also to express peaceful opposition to the arrest of Medha Patkar, the leader of the agitation, and destruction of the samadhi sthala of Mahatma Gandhi by the government of Madhya Pradesh. The organisers of the fast at Varanasi also contended that they were against purohits of Varanasi participating in the Bhoomi Poojan of the temporary tin shades made for the oustees. Prasanna joined this public expression with Laxman Prasad and Mohammad Aleem of Vidya Ashram.
             On 9th August, we sat down to hear him on what is theater and what is the idea of representation. He talked about how theater is a community phenomena and how in Indian tradition of theater the actor continuously moves in and out of the character. He explained how Indian theater is different from that in the West. Our theater is very close to ordinary life and it does not have individualistic approach. Also it is not performance oriented but rehearsal oriented, meaning that the process of arrival has greater significance than the arrival itself. Vidya Ashram has all along had a reasonable engagement with philosophy and art in trying to see how these endeavors deserve to occupy central places in thinking about a new world and the interventions for the same. These discussions and ideas of art will, hopefully, give a further impetus to such of our efforts. We hope that this is just the beginning and our interactions will scale new heights.
              Prasanna had joined IIT Kanpur for Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1971, but did not stay there for long and left to join National School for Drama at Delhi. After that he went back to Karnataka and founded Samudayam, a theater movement. He wrote novels and plays,  directed them and performed many shows. He was a Marxist then. Later he was attracted towards Gandhi, built an organization called Charakha, a women's cooperative society.  In April 2015, there was a month long Satyagraha spearheaded by All India Handloom Organizations through out Karnataka to highlight the plight of weavers. Large yatras were organized and indefinite fasts were observed in many places. Prasanna had meetings, workshops, street performances and visual art campaigns during the Satyagraha and organized a large convention on 19th April on Sustainable Living at the Gandhi Ashram in Badanwal near Mysore. This is known as Badanwal Satyagraha ( LJA post on 27 April 2015). A large number of social activists and artists participated in it. Vidya Ashram associates, JK Suresh and GSR Krishnan from Bengaluru and Krishnarajulu from Hyderabad also took part in this Satyagraha. In the Summer this year we from Varanasi had opportunity to talk with him at his wonderful Desi Santhe at Ragi Kana in Bengaluru. In this Santhe (bazar) held on every Sunday, a large number of associations participate for sale of their craft products and a large number of people come to buy handloom and handicraft products, food products and organic agricultural produce. Generally also a meeting is held on some social issue. The call is : Come as a Consumer and go back as an Activist.  

Vidya Ashram