Gurukul we have heard of. A place where young ones went to learn. Today, a cool guru is the operative word!

Seeing young India and them millennials at a Sunday morning function celeb a 75-year-old guru (though she looks 50 – proving once again dance keeps one young, fit and smiling – like this Guru Sucheta Chapekar Bhide), I realised India has changed. Them millennials are gung ho about life. Classical dance in digital age, was the topic. Each one did some homework, wrote points to focus on and kept to the time line. Looking like young brides of dance, they were there in their Sunday best! Pity it was only girl power on display, not a single male talent or panelist on stage. The plus that came through was outreach. Many more are watching and can thanks to the internet. Flip side of quality of content.

For the millennials, it is first fun then work. For most, art is NOT necessarily a profession but a, err, hobby? To reach out, meet and greet on the social media. To have a following, even comments from here and there if not hundreds of emojis! To, maybe, learn for a year or two and then either do dance on their own UTube channels or Insta noodles! They are not un-serious about their engagement with art but they are not going to die for it either. It is like most things young people do these days: casually, without much emotional involvement or real commitment. Some are experimenting while others are experiencing. If this doesn’t work out then that will attitude. It gives choice but takes away focus.

This doesn’t mean they don’t have the brains or band width. They just don’t care, ultimately. They will do most things for the moment and most also have a great sense of entitlement. Swaraj is my birthright has a new meaning altogether!

Then where does tradition stand? On paper? For most these days, tradition is old fashioned, if fashion at all and it is something their grandparents knew, not even their parents ( who have also contributed to the making of these millennials in the first place). Their pursuit for better life and good fortune (read economic betterment) have afforded them less time to mould the character of these kids. So we have mostly Western-minded millennials, in lifestyle and attitude, without necessarily the discipline, hard work, basic honesty and ethics of West.

What’s a guru? Most today are mistaking a teacher for a guru. Here’s a ready chart someone made on the very basis of two.

cool guru 

Guru is not merely someone who teaches. Guru is an example, how to conduct life. Guru gives not merely education but moral values. (what’s that? One Peshwa power-girl once asked me in Pune, that’s how the above issue of attenDance came about!). A real Guru is also not in the market. They don’t need economic upliftment by selling their wisdom or wares. They don’t need an order or a brand. They don’t even care for recognition. Most first generation gurus in arts, sat alone in their villages and students from cities went to them to learn. These gurus didn’t do salaam to darbaar culture; they didn’t need it or care. Their lives started and ended with their pursuit, not performance. They didn’t even get up and teach! Just by inference and interpretation. That way a ward remained alert also. Everything was not spoon fed.

cool guru

Today, ordinary teachers have taken the title of gurus. They need work as there is not enough scope to show their paltry art. So teaching is a way out to stay in field, be visible and also RELEVANT.

They may not have the moral fibre but love the feet-touching and respect the word gives them. Thirty, forty years old, barely a decade old in the field act as if they have attained Lord Buddha type gyaan and are set to be brahmagyanis! They are very much in the market, in fact competing with one another when not slyly putting one another down! They don’t care for any ethics or principles. What’s that? Not all, but most are like this today. One in a thousand is real gold. Rest, just metal or foil. Especially those who have just come to the field in last decade and want everything on a platter in one day. Some quiet ones inspire and continue to do sincere work. But majority might not stand the test of time.

The day is not far, as these panelists said, when AI will teach art and give one a feel of the landscape without ever seeing one for real. While technology is unavoidable and even useful (I’m writing this column on my cell as I don’t possess a pad or laptop and hate lugging an extra kilo in my travels), it cannot replace the real thing. When someone treats everything in field as cursory or casual then one can see why young India has no real staying power or stamina. They are very seasonal with no long-term goals. While this is lovely state to be in, will it lead to something tangible and meaningful, time alone will tell.

Reality check was afforded in this morning session lovingly put together by a singer – dance disciple Padmini, who was epitome of good grace and management. Meeting a group of sardars from Batala, in Punjab that morning, whose roly-poly granddaughter was acquiring some Madrasi culture in South, showed art is without boundaries and limitless. There was a genuine air of goodness in the air.

It was left to a wise Arundhati Patwardhan, inheritor of Guru Sucheta’s art and legacy to sum up the realities nicely but striking a balance between reality and the virtual world. Experience counts and practical vision more. Mithun Shyam, a male star of Bangalore dance scene added his two bit by building bridges between the two worlds.

India today is truly at cross roads, culturally. While govt carries on with its mission of mahotsavs and mammoth machinery of cultural disposition, it is young India that’s going to take India forward. They need mentoring as they looking for it. They don’t need talking down to. Most are bright and raring to go; some are even truly talented. If any generation, they need gurus most. Cool. Not fools!

Ashish Khokar loves and serves Indian arts and culture selflessly, by writing, documenting, filming, archiving, celebrating and awarding. 45+books, over 5000 articles, work with 10 inter/national organisations make his work the gold standard of the field. More details on



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  • Top notch article, Sir! Awesome writing! You have explained so beautifully, the differences between Teacher and Guru!

  • So rightly said Ashish Anna. I once belonged to the cool just for fun clan, I transformed, thanks to dance. There will be a few who will eventually see the importance of Moral Values, Indian Culture, Gurus, etc. in life. Serious dancers should definitely keep Gratitude as a part of their regular routine. I feel Great Gurus are like Army Veterans. I personally am enjoying this journey and the exploration of what it has to offer. 🙏

    Would love to read a column on how Army personnel and dancers are somehow similar and also uniquely complement each other.

  • Article is so relevant to today’s and future’s lens of art and culture. The medium of engagement is replacing and also collapsing what is essential. The bane of digital engagement also contributing to human disengagement is highlighted extremely well. A brilliant article to refer and reiterate.

  • So very well analysed and expressed about today’s situation sir, if one really wants to serve in the field of art, then there is a lot to learn from this article, for students as well as for teachers! Sharing this in my groups.

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