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Tribute to Pattabhi Raman
by Uttara Asha Coorlawala, New York

Dec 2002

May Shri Pattabhi Raman's passage be blessed and joyful.

I dearly loved his dedication to dance and music and his openness as an editor to opposed viewpoints. For many years, Sruti provided a very important forum for dancers to vent and communicate with each other…Recalling my first impressions of Sruti, I remember that the writing was fresh, close-to-the heart and raw. Regardless of the writer's mother tongue, or comfort levels in Hi-nglish or Tamilish, Sruti would privilege the grassroots knower of the arts. An intimate and experiential understanding of issues shone through discussions on its economical paper and basic format. Sruti magazines have served as a most important primary resource for my dance research.

Personal agendas, even vendettas were occasionally laid bare on its pages, so that readers might evaluate, each according to his or her prediliction. In recent years, grace, compassion, love for the heritage skills have characterized the sthyayibhava of its articles. Moves towards new cultural spaces have also been tentatively contemplated by the larger community of Sruti readers. Here too discussions have been rich in teasing out some of the complex irritations that are necessarily evoked as habitual boundaries of perceptual comfort are challenged, as change asserts itself and is acknowledged.

Sruti greatly furthered the Chennai agenda of building up a cultural scene to counter the Delhi-centrism that was plaguing the performing arts in the seventies and early eighties... Because of P.R’s geo-cultural location in the Carnatic arts, these arts were necessarily the focus of Sruti, and their coverage has been deep and extensive. However, P. R's years in New York and his global interconnections with diaspora readers have brought Sruti a wider perspective. Scholars, performers, art lovers, all have been constantly writing in to the editor with so much passion and involvement that even those not involved in the Indian performing arts, glance at my Sruti magazines and wonder at these arts that seem to elicit so much sustained energy and discussion.

During the first fifty years of Indian Independence, dance has played a key role in representing Indianness, both to ourselves and in displaying to the European world, the sophisticated, intricate and evolved artistic sensibility that our dance/culture entails. Many have written about Indian dance and music in scholarly terms, but Sruti enabled us to perceive that our fascinations are shared with a broadbased community. Sruti has given voice to many who might have been voiceless and brought transcontinental discussions to table.

Patabhi Raman himself "spoke" with many voices - it took me some time (and I might add help from Sunil Kothari) to figure out his various noms-de-plumes, and to understand how wholistically he perceived the arts and the space of artists within society. The words samadrishti, humanity and sustained commitment come to my mind when I remember Patabhi Raman.

Perhaps it is my own location in time that speaks when I start to feel that with the new millennium, those who brought the arts from oblivion to a new place of honour, those who kept it alive for many familial generations regardless of social and economic hardships, and those who benefited to blaze glory trails, all, are passing the baton....

I do hope Janaki with the Sruti parivaar in Chennai will continue to support and carry forward his work.

With much love to all of you my friends as our bodies flow down temporal rivers towards shared and separate destinations....