A world in lockdown has meant that entertainment venues have had to rethink their entire pre-scheduled calendar, planned out months if not years in advance. As the coronavirus pandemic triggered cancellations across the board, the Nehru Centre in London was among many such cultural hotspots that was faced with balancing the social distance dilemma with the need for cultural succour.
The cultural wing of the Indian High Commission in London, a daily hub of activity, from Indian dance and music to book launches and insightful debates, faced the prospect of an uncharacteristically empty auditorium.
The Director of the Nehru Centre, Amish Tripathi, took it as an opportunity for some innovative thinking and decided to take the programme into cyberspace instead.
As the Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Dinesh K. Patnaik, said during one such virtual event from New Delhi: Culture is the difference between existing and living. Every crisis creates a space for creativity through the sense of hardship and loss.
Kick-starting with a webinar on Creativity in the time of Corona? with authors Farrukh Dhondy and Mihir Bose, the Nehru Centre's new-look programme moved on to a unique Heal the World? digital concert series with musician Anoop Jalota, popularly referred to as the Bhajan Samrat or King of devotional Indian music.
Amish Tripathi, Minister (Culture), Indian High Commission, UK explains:
I know it's a cliche, but the world has truly changed since the coronavirus pandemic burst out of China. The traditional model that many cultural centres had, of organising physical events, is impossible to do now; and the situation may remain so for many months. Some have decided to wait for the situation to return to normal. Others have decided to be positive, and think of innovative solutions.
?We at Nehru Centre have decided to be positive and innovative. We are moving our events to the web, and frankly, we have been pleasantly surprised by the strong traction?our events are getting online.
?We did an event with writers and thinkers such as Farrukh Dhondy and Mihir Bose, which was very well received. We also thought of the healing power of music at a troubled time like this. And if we add the power of spirituality to music, the combination becomes that much more effective.
?We were proud to organise the first of our Heal the World performances with Bhajan Samrat Padmashree Anup Jalota ji. The performance was a super hit. And we intend to organise many more such events in the future.
Do join the ride as we take the Nehru Centre into cyberspace!"