As we bid adieu to a year of reform in the country, and indeed in the whole world, we notice that the same can be said about things much closer to home – reforms in this year’s cultural calendar. Wondering about the sudden increase in the number of workshops and open events? What has happened to so many of the GCs that were held with such gusto last year? InsIghT spoke to Kunal Mittal, the General Secretary of Cultural Affairs, to comprehend the ideology behind these changes in the cultural scene of the institute.
What’s the Buzz About?
This year, a number of low-prep cultural GCs, such as the Ad-making GC, Jugalbandi GC, and Stop-motion movie making GC were scrapped from the Cultural Calendar. They have, instead, been replaced by a number of workshops and open events.
Reasons for the Change
Club Centric: 5–6 years ago, people who participated in the cultural events took it as a hobby rather than as a platform for being a professional. GCs turned into one of the few big platforms for them to showcase their talent in extra-curricular activities. As time passed, people learned more and started aiming for the perfect-TEN act. This led to profound domination of the various clubs in the specific genres. Unfortunately, this practice was something that was detrimental to the general cultural scene, as it encouraged ‘club centric’ activity and discouraged ‘newbies’. Soon, the club meets were attended by a limited set of ‘club members’ and only they learnt the trade so as to speak.
On the one hand this serves as an excellent platform for the students to excel in their respective fields by providing them an excellent platform but on the other, it brings down the probability of novices entering a particular genre.
Forceful participation: The main aim for the existence of ‘Cult’ in an academic institute like IIT is to encourage hobby-activities and to develop personality skills in various arenas. Within the GC mindset, people are compelled to be a part of the ‘forced cult’ in the name of hostel enthusiasm.
Cultural overflow: The past cultural councillors of various hostels were of the opinion that the number of GCs that were held throughout the year were one too many. The fall in general levels of hostel spirit made it much more difficult to ensure good participation. The Cult Co was always under the scanner during the GCs and faces the brunt for poor performance, irrespective of the efforts put in.
How will the Change Help?
One way to resolve most of the above issues, as mentioned by Kunal, is to cut down on the number of GCs. This will not only ensure keeping the inter-hostel competitive spirits high but also counter the issues of increasing club-centricity and ‘forced cult’. The fewer number of GCs would take off a lot of undue pressure from the hostel councils too and help them to focus on just a few of them with better preparation.
Most of the low prep GCs have already been scrapped, this is again in view to upgrade the remaining high-prep GCs to the hype which Gyrations and other such GCs share. The reduction was carried out gauging two essential requirements of a GC – hostel spirit and competition. GCs that did not satisfy both these essential criteria were given the boot. For example the stop-motion GC required highly technical skills and only those who knew it well, could excel. On the other extreme, Ad-making GC simply got in a lot of people together, without entailing much competition.
Due to restrictions on the number of teams allowed per hostel, many students were unable to participate. Open events and workshops have been increased to account for this void. The cultural council is of the opinion that they need to cater to not only the club members but also provide a platform for the newcomers. The cultural scene in IITB should be more about personality development, leisure and fun, than about the competition.
Increasing intra-hostel events and workshops, would not only help identify and encourage new talent, but also help restore the weakening hostel culture as the newcomers would relate more to workshops. Also, these are far less intimidating than a General Championship event, where they would be representing their hostel. If the efforts of the hostel council go into organising an intra-hostel-event rather than struggling to put up an entry in a number of GCs, the hostelites get to learn something new and it will be appreciated more. Similar is the case at the institute level where it’s much easier to conduct an open event, given the limited resources.
It hardly makes sense to conduct GCs for every activity in a particular genre. Having open events for many of the activities in a genre instead would help reach out to the diverse expectations in a particular genre. But the institute also has a cap on the number of open events conducted and hence this problem is rectified only to a certain extent. The present response to the introduction of workshops, with an improvement in both the number and types of events has been very encouraging, according to the institute council. In comparison to previous years, the participation has increased, the council claims, and introduction of new events like sketching workshops, etc has introduced new people into the ‘cult scene’.
The above ideology looks good on paper. When we take practicality into account, quite a few flaws come to the fore. Limiting the number of GCs to one per genre will cut down the number of people required to participate. Only the more experienced people, the ‘club members’ would participate with their eyes on winning the one and only GC being held. Although more open events will ensure people don’t lose out on participation, they would still lack the experience of working in an event that counts. Having only one GC per genre would give a hostel only one chance to do well in an event. Failing to do so would push them out of the race, putting excess pressure on the council.
Another thing to be noted is that cultural activities are not part of a daily routine as other activities like sports. Besides the inter-hostel championship, sporting activities regularly have intra-hostel matches as well, which not only helps them practice and (but) improves hostel bonding as well. The new system might also lose out on people who participate with the motivation to compete.
The cultural scene has to work in a two-pronged way, increasing opportunities in the institute for the students with experience and at the same time, roping more people into the cultural scene in the institute, encouraging them to let go of their inhibitions and explore new domains. Paying attention to one would inadvertently lead to suppressing the other as resources are limited. The current cultural council is trying to find a balance, giving a little more focus to the latter. As for experienced ‘punters’, there exist ample opportunities even outside the institute. As this issue can be resolved only from the grass root level, initial hiccups would inevitably crop up but it nonetheless promises to be an interesting change to look forward to. Whether it achieves success though, only time will tell.