The curiosity deficit
- Shrinidhi Narasimhan

May 12, 2016

Being a young dancer in India can be very unsettling. And being a classical dancer, while we’re at it, is an even more profoundly disconcerting experience. Why, you ask? Because it feels like speaking a language that no one understands, and worse, no one seems to want to understand. This insularity is effected, I think, by a fundamental lack of curiosity about the arts, particularly the performing arts – and it accounts for a huge chunk of the issue.

To begin with, the arts are of little meaningful interest to those who are not directly connected to the field in some way – school/college students, working professionals, government officials, journalists, leaders, administrators, institutions and organizations – you name it.

And it all begins, I think, with the fact that the arts do not find space in our education systems. That’s not to say that the arts don’t account for any meaningful or relevant space in our curricula – it’s to say that in the six odd years that I took history classes at school, I don’t recall ever having read even one page about any of the arts or their larger histories in a text book. This status quo remains in higher education too. A rudimentary google search for course offerings in arts or culture studies (or in allied disciplines like culture policy or arts administration) at the higher education level will throw up just about a handful of results. And while you’re at it, search for internship/fellowship opportunities, and you’ll see that those are just as sparse and bleak.

The problem then, I think, is that the arts find no space in our psyche. There’d be no context or reason for a lay person to be exposed to the arts, simply  because we don’t see, hear or read about the arts as much as we do about, say, politics or economic policy. The arts find little or no space in mainstream media and journalism – open your morning paper on an average day and you just might be able to spot one run-of-the-mill half page article covering a show or an event, if that. Few newspapers run regular columns by arts critics and commentators or have an arts department dedicated to covering this ‘industry’, if you can call it that.

How then does one begin to draw an indifferent crowd to this alien world, seeing as it is that the average person would have no reasonable excuse to be curious about the arts in the first place? How does one reach through the fence? These questions, I think, are at the heart of this deep rooted, complex problem. And they are immensely significant questions to be engaging with, for all of us, on both sides of this fence.

Shrinidhi, a student of Ananda Shankar Jayant, is a 17 year old dancer who has just graduated from high school.


Very correct, and aptly put across. Great to know youngsters can take moments to sit, analyze and draw their opinions. Kudos to you.
 - Anuradha (May 14, 2016)

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