My last twenty-seven years of journey with SPIC MACAY has been a journey of exploring self. It has been a very soulful one. Though initiated into Music and Dance from early childhood at home by parents, SPIC MACAY did nurtured and stroked my creative pursuits. As I entered into my forties, I can say that the richness of my life is only because of the movements like SPIC MACAY, especially SPIC MACAY being a complete voluntary movement – of the Rasiks, by the Rasiks for the Rasiks.

As a volunteer of SPIC MACAY from my college days, I have had the great opportunity to interact with the greatest Vidhwans of our rich culture. And I have many an anecdote to share. One of them stands out -

I was a student at IIM Bangalore. It was 1994, Ustad Bismillah Khan saab was on the campus, with his grand entourage for the SPIC MACAY concert. Ustadji is a man of little needs, but a few of his entourage members had too many wants. We were running around to meet all the demands of the entourage. The manager of Ustadji called me aside a few minutes before Ustadji entered the concert arena and said, “Kindly announce that audience should clap only between the pieces and not during the rendition as Ustadji will get very angry.” So I did, before the concert began. Ustadji commenced his performance and was in full flow; went on to play shehnai with so many subtle variations. I am sure many wanted to clap, but none did, as was the command. Ustadji expected appreciation at a few moments, but none came by. He stopped the performance and asked in his inimitable style, “Aadmi bhaithain hai ki koyi aur…. Itni bhadiya Shehnai bhajrahi hai, thalliyan kyo nahin?” Everyone in the audience laughed and all pointed hand towards me. Ustadji called me, “Idhar Aao,” and when I went near him, he held my ear and twisted and gave a tender slap on my cheek and said “Kabhi suna hai shastriya sangeet?” I smiled and apologized.

The 2010 convention at IIT Kanpur had another interesting episode. As the campus is a sprawling on, I looked for a bicycle to hire. As over thousand volunteers had descended from all over the world for the convention, all the cycles with every vendor have been hired out. I had to carry a large Camera Bag and accoutrements, so I went to a cycle rickshaw hiring shop and requested the owner to lend me one. With a lot of coaxing, he gave me a rickshaw at a rental of Rs.20/- per day. Along with my Camera equipments, my wife Indira and daughter Mallika also occupied the passenger seat occasionally, whenever they wanted to head in the direction I was headin. But whenever the passenger seat was empty, there were many people hopping on to rickshaw to reach the venue. So it was photographer-cum-rickshaw service provider, that I was, at the convention. It was wonderful being of value to many.

In Kohima convention, 2008, I found this boy, Karthik, from IIT Chennai, all alone every morning at 4am, religiously cleaning the entire kitchen and dining area, even before other participants woke up at the convention. There were umpteen instances when Manish with his courteousness and graceful smile always nodded his head, even after being at the receiving end of anger of many an elder – artists and others. I am sure each one has gained immensely being part of this movement.

It is really inspirational to experience elders like Kiranji actively initiating shramdaans by setting an example, Panchamji with all his humility going to any length to make the artists feel comfortable, Singhsaab in UP taking responsibility of organizing the performances across even when he does not keep well, Neerjaji running to make it reach around the world, Gangadeviji passionately pushing the movement in Andhra Pradesh and south; and the youth brigade is no less committed : Anshuman jain’s purposefulness to get the newsletter out at any cost, Rajasthan’s youthful team to be at the forefront of the number of concerts in any state, Supriti’s crisscrossing the country with single-minded pursuit to make the movement robust, Ricky’s vehement desire to get systems and processes in place to support such a growth… There are too many of them who make this movement a vibrant, lively, engaging and enriching…… I Salute each one.

I am sure if each one recalls, we will have a compendium of wonderful memoirs of this glorious movement, fuelled by volunteers. It is very important to treasure this exclusivity of volunteerism, yet we need to create a robust support system for the volunteers to excel, thrive and contribute. We need to reach our rich cultural heritage to at least a fifth of the population of our nation in the coming decade, which is about 300 million. Only Volunteerism be able to fuel such a progression. 

- Srinivasan Ramakrishnan