Hum ko mitaa sak, ye zamaane me dum nahin/hum se zamaanaa khud hai, zamaane se ham nahin (Time doesn’t have the nerve to wipe me out/Time owes its existence to me; I don’t owe my existence to it)
As Indians, one thing that we perhaps cannot take pride in is moderation—a balanced opinion on almost anything—it’s either good or bad. Not that I wish to pontificate on these extremes, but in the context of Indian classical music, which I practise, the extremes show up acutely; both from the point of view of the music as well as its social history—hierarchy and classification included. While in the context of Western music there are even questions being raised about the validity of genres like ‘classical’, given that it has existed over a span of 400-500 years and continues to take new shape and interpretation (for eg, is it even fair to compare Henry Purcell with Philip Glass?), in India hierarchies still matter. Historically, these have also acquired serious social connotations—in how we discuss genres of music, communities of musicians, musical lineages and much more, ostensibly with the concern and desire to preserve this rich tradition. Dhrupad is on the top of the list, followed by the highly evolved abstraction in ‘khayal’ and then the entertainers, thumri, dadra and other semi-classical genres. How music has been handed down to the family, extended family and students is also a very calculated tradition.