Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Art and the Masses

As a fresh-behind-the-ears college student, I had my fingers in myriad pies at the same time. There was quizzing, theater, freelancing at the radio station, debates (at which I sucked), intra-mural competitions, that club, this club ... anything, basically, to get away from classes and have a legitimate reason.

One of those causes happened to be this guy whose movement of the moment was, he said, "to bring art down to the masses." His "office" was miles away from our end of town and it had taken my friend and I a good few hours to get there and back by auto in the Bangalore of old.

Thrilled at the concept (Wow! Bringing art down to the masses! So cool!), we went back home and I reported to my mother the details of this new mission of mine. If she was worried about how far I had gone and how often I had to go there, she did not show it.

She patiently listened to my excited chatter and asked, "Why bring art down to the masses? Why not bring the masses up to art?"

As a practical matter, perhaps the same program might have accomplished both, but to me, my mother's simple query laid bare the snootiness contained in the idea of "bringing art down to the masses". As if art could not remain where it was, but had to be dumbed down so the masses could appreciate it.

She never told me not to get involved, but rather prodded me to think about the issues I was putting my energies into. Something she said today reminded me of this episode from long ago. The more I think about it, the more I realize that she is the exponent of smart parenting (and now grandparenting), while I subscribe to the tenets of stubborn, bone-headed parenting.


Nino's Mum said...

:) it takes longer to unlearn than to learn, don't you think?
your mum sounds very hug-able.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Aww, thanks NM. She is, although she thinks she's so tough and doesn't need any. She does.