Interview with Dr Raghavendra of Ananya
Your childhood and education was perhaps not entirely in Bangalore.. Could you briefly walk us through your education and early life?
My father had a transferable job. We’ve been in Gangavathi, Davanagere, mostly north Karnataka.. I was there through my education until pre-university. I moved to do my Bachelors in Chitradurga and further, my Master’s in Mysore. I pursued PhD in IISC Bangalore. I’ve lived In malleswaram ever since. I was very interested in nature. I felt that the ways of nature were very similar to metallurgy and went hand in hand with it. This lead me to do my post doctoral research in metallurgy.
What inspired your study in PhD and what followed?
Let me start with giving a background. Kemmangundi is very close to my heart. I did my field-work there. Actually, It is like Switzerland of Karnataka, and a treasure of minerals. I’d pack breakfast in the morning and set off until evening exploring nature in the forms of geology, botany, zoology. . Such a beautiful environment always inspired me and made for a very encouraging learning atmosphere. After 4 years in Kemmangundi (1973-76), I got varied exposure to subjects which are interdisciplinary. This made it convenient for me to fool chemists using geology, fool geologists using chemistry and I could always fool metallurgists (laughs).
I had planned to settle in Mysore after my post doc, and had applied for a job in the University of Mysore but unfortunately I didn’t get it. Perhaps that was more fortunate because this lead to joining some of my friends and starting a small scale testing lab called GML for suppyling quality control products to industries. With time, I became the only one managing the lab with a lot of work. I was a consultant for a mini cement plant at CRI Delhi where I was responsible for all the work from start to finish. Similarly, I also happened to be a part of mines and geo lab in J&K for another quality control project and another big project for Japan.
The rocks in the nature didn’t stop you from being a rock to handle the ups and down in your life…
Right.. We have worked in exceedingly difficult and challenging situations in the forest and mountains, with the danger of the wild life. These hardships did not bother me much because I loved what I was doing. In fact, these experiences did bring a balance in my mind to help me face ups and downs.
You are fundamentally a geologist and an art connoisseur. With these backgrounds, what is your response to the word “nature.” That which gives “alaukika aananda” is nature. How would you describe the laughter of a tender child? It is impossible. It is the same with nature. Nature is something that cannot be just imagined or gauged by the human mind, the experience of it gives a sense of happiness beyond words. It is the same with art- something that can only be experienced. We always go in search for something based on various experiences our life has given us. That “search” is something we experience when we walk through nature. Art also has the same inherent quality of “search.” Hence, followers of nature and art are always searching for something. This is what makes art and nature alike.
When referring to ancient science, we consider our sages as scientists.. Ancient scriptures about botany talk about photosynthesis as it was perceived through divya drishti. How would you draw parallels of such discoveries in ancient science with the advancements in modern science in terms of similarities and differences?
Present is the key to the past. everything has a scientific way of study. Thousand years ago the direction in which copper ore was available was found without the use of compasses etc which was then melted and extracted. There are several other instances, like the iron used for Qutab minar which hasn’t rusted. We do not have an answer for these, but there must be some content. these days we have been pushing away the traditional practices, without looking into the “why’s” of it, but I strongly feel that the ancient science is very vast and has a very big arena for modern science.
Could we intersperse the aesthetics in art with the methodicity in science?
Yes, to an extent. I feel too much use of technology disturbs the complete joy of art. Art may well be enjoyed when done in front a set of lifeless rocks, like in a temple. Not that there shouldn’t be use of technology, but artistry of an artist should not depend on technology.
How has your experience been so far, with Art, artists and the art world? All journeys have both good and bad. The bad has not showed up much in my journey. I like to work without expectations from others. There are many who work with me without expectations from me. I recently invited the artist community for lunch and they all turned it into a fun filled get together with a lot of entertainment. It was overwhelming to see their participation and enthusiasm. I’ve had many such good experiences and I’m fortunate to have come across some such artists who work with me for the relationship, without expectations.
What inspired “Ananya”?
I’ve been interested in art since childhood but couldn’t learn formally since I was fully into academics. Till my work (Lab) reached a stage, I couldn’t do anything. Then I made an attempt to do something for myself. I felt that no need to be an artist to enjoy art. I learnt to enjoy art. It always gave me satisfaction to relish another artist’s art. That is why I began this venture. When I was in mysore I used to be a part of an organising group.
Then my brother Prasanna (ex director of Rangayana) advised me to organise events on my own, I did it through Ananya. It gives me a lot of satisfaction being an art connoisseur. There are moments when I do regret not being an artist, but I am very happy that I am an art connoisseur. Thus, Ananya was born on May 27th, 1995. I thought of Ananya Arogyadhaara to facilitate aid for artists who are injured, or who need financial aid for health or other reasons.
Whether Ananya or Arogyadhara or the library.. all born the same way- whenever I was faced with a concern of an artist or the art field, I came up with these as possible helpful resources. Though I’m not an artist, I feel very fortunate and blessed to have artists who have reciprocated to, and encouraged all my ideas and have been with Ananya throughout its journey.
Ananya has contributed a lot in the field through the magazine, CDs, programs, lecture-demonstrations, and many other events. We notice that you have keen interest in novelty, new artists and new ideas. What would you like to say about it?
Rather than saying new artists, I would say, I mean to give opportunities to those who need rather than those have. This gives the opportunity more value. Youngsters have an enthusiasm to do new things and try new ventures. I like to encourage that, by giving an incentive. This ensures that they retain their interest and enthusiasm. Ananya has also given space for senior artists (like RK Srikanthan, Doreswamy Iyengar). When young artists perform on the same stage as such senior artists do, it inspires them in more ways than one.
Your simplicity and open mindedness has always inspired our generation.. What would you attribute to these qualities in you? Look at what our elders did. The moment we see how much they’ve done, we feel what we’ve done is very small considering all the facilities we have. We have a lot more to do. I have met many scholarly people like S.K Ramachandra Rao. They were like walking encyclopedia. They were so humble. When people like them can be so humble, we have only to see and learn from them.
What is the philosophy you most believe in?? I believe work is worship (Kaayakave Kailaasa).
Your message to the youth?
We should do things to make others happy. We should always remember, it is not “My art” which is great, it is “Art” that is great. Everyone is important, every element in a program is important. No one thing is more important than another. When someone says “I live my art” with a big “I”, I not only take it with a pinch of salt, I take it with a bag of salt. Bhakta Kumbaara says “Naanu hodare hode” It means, the moment the “I” go(es), I reach heaven. Whether artist or scientist or anybody, everyone should come out of the “I”. The art should reflect in the work, not the ego. I am very happy about today’s artists who’re simple and down-to-earth.
What are your upcoming projects or endeavours? I am planning to get 100 ragas recorded by young artists, so that listeners can be informed and educated enough to identify the ragas, composers and other important aspects of any composition. I want to make this available for public at low cost. Work on this has begun. I also want to record another 25 CDs recorded by talented and seasoned singers of dance, to have a collection of songs for the next few generations. One project serves as an educative material and the other one is for dancers to explore through productions/choreographies.
Very happy sir, it was an experience talking to you! Thank you very much!