Balvant Parekh Centre Nodal Centres, Sapta Setu: A Report

 

It was long felt that the idea and the ways of General Semantics should find a firm grounding in realities and languages of India, of Gujarat to begin with, where Balvant Parekh Centre is located. With this in view, seven nodal centres, called Sapta Setu, were proposed. Each centre focuses on an aspect of the actual problems and promises of the region around it and each centre attempts to bring General Semantics, Vyapak Anvay Vichar, to have some bearing on that cluster of issues. 'Anvay' means 'connection'. Located in the region spanning from Mumbai to Kutch, including Surat, Bharuch in South and South Central Gujarat, Kalol in the tribal Panchamahals, Jetpur in Saurashtra, and Bhuj in Kutch, these centres concentrate on different contemporary problems of our society. Their deliberations, discussions, applications and experimentations are all conducted in Gujarati, the language of the people of the region who could use GS in their own context.

 

Following is a report on the initial work of the Sapta Setu Movement:

 

Sapta Setu: Program 1, Inauguration of Sapta-Setu Series, 8 November 2014

 

                                                                         Rutul Joshi & Atul Dodiya                                                                  Sitanshu Yashaschandra

 

Balvant Parekh Centre's Nodal Centre at Mumbai organized, in collaboration with the Gujarati Department, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College, Vile Parle, the Inaugural event of its Sapta Setu Series on 8 November, 2014. The event explored how basic concepts and insights of General Semantics could be presented and discussed through visual arts and architecture of our own immediate environment and our cultural traditions.

 

The renowned visual artist Atul Dodiya spoke on “Many Shades of the Metropolis: Our Consciousness and Our Sensibility.” He presented a series of visual arts creations and showed how space in each painting could be viewed in more than one way. Gujarat's leading architect Rutul Joshi then spoke on “Integration and Segregation in Evolution of Indian Cities.” He displayed a number of well-selected slides of planning of towns and cities, ancient, medieval and modern, throughout India. He illustrated how space was differently made available for different ways of coexistence. Eminent Gujarati Author Sitanshu Yashaschandra introduced the concept of Sapta Setu and the relevance of General Semantics in understanding the many facets of the Metropolis and commented on how Indian General Semantics / Bharatiya Anvay Vichar could grow through our interactions with our realities and arts.

 

A detailed report by Shri Hemant Shah and Sejal Shah, coordinators of the Mumbai Nodal Centre:

 

 “Mahanagar ni mansiktani kelavani ane vyapak anvay vichar” (General Semantics and the Cultivation of the Psyche of the Metropolis) was the subject for the Mumbai chapter under “Sapta Setu Karyasala” (Workshop) organized at Maniben Nanavati Women’s College. The program revolved around some pertinent issues of multilingual and multicultural urban cosmopolis. Shri Atul Dodiya and Prof. Rutul Joshi led the workshop attended by nearly 80 participants. Shri Narendrabhai Parekh – Chairman, Board of Trust of the Balvant Parekh Centre presided over the program. Shri Sitanshu Yashaschandra introduced the concept of General Semantics as Anvay vichar vimarsh and gave a summing up talk at the end of the presentations by these two distinguished speakers/presenters. Bharatiya “Anvay Vichar” is not a literal translation of General Semantics; it connects us with Indian tradition and makes us think in a different way. It liberates us from our fixated thinking and connects us with living itself. On the 8th November – a workshop was organized by BKP Center Mumbai Chapter along with the Department of Maniben Nanavati Women’s College on the subject: “Mahanagar ni chitro ane sthaptya ma pratibimbit thati nagar chetna” (Many Shades of Metropolis: Our Consciousness and Our Sensibility). Shri Atul Dodiya presented numerous slides of his paintings related to Urban life and elaborated on the process of his painting (with reference to his shutters series paintings). He explained how his sensibilities are shaped by his urban living and how he translates and transforms them into paintings. He reflected on how he uses various motifs, how he uses colors, lights/shades and his own instruments to create a piece /painting. He has been narrating his experiences as to how each of his painting is a result of his particular experience. HE also narrated as to how he connects to living itself through such creations/endeavours. He emphasized that at the end of the day he leaves it to each individual to interpret in his own way the paintings he does. He does not attribute A SINGLE UNIFIED interpretation to his own painting. Prof. Rutul Joshi, Head of the Department of Urban Planning at CEPT University of Architecture explained how urban life has changed the living pattern of human beings over a period of urbanization and growth. With the help of numerous slides of historical and architectural relevance he explained how it has changed the modes of human existence across geographies. And therefore the thinking and interpersonal relationships have also changed. Prof. Rutul Joshi, based on his perspective of an architect, showed various slides of last 200 years’ history of urban growth and growth of various cities across the land. Shri Sitanshu Yashaschandra gave an idea as to how art, architecture and other creative arts are connected with the “anvay vichar.” He gave insight as to how GS liberates us from our preset, conditioned thinking. He gave a summing up talk and elaborated as to how the idea of “Sapta Setu” is to be linked to propagate the idea of “Anvay Vichar.” Seven centers include: Mumbai, Kutch, Saurashtra (Rajkot), North Gujarat; Panchamahal, South Gujarat, Vadodara. In future, these seven centers will actively spread the concepts of GS in Gujarati and later on in other regional languages. Many artists, poets, thinkers, art lovers, namely shri Kamal Vora, Shri Udayan Thakker, Smt. Urmi Desai, Shri Prabodh Parikh, Shri Amrut Gangar, Shri Naushil Mehta, ASK group Director Shri Bharat Shah, Shri Deepak Solia, Shri Deepak Doshi and the trustee of the college Smt.Yoginiben Sheth, and the Principal Dr. Harshadaben Rathod attended the workshop. The participants had an interactive session with the speakers.

 

Sapta-Setu: Program 2, “Issues of Good Health for Sane Society and Bharatiya Vyapak Anvay Vichar,”23 November 2014

 

Kirit Jagani addressing the participants

 

Another focal point for General Semantics in active practice was selected by the Saurashtra centre at Jetpur. It organized a one day seminar on “Issues of Good Health for Sane Society and Bharatiya Vyapak Anvay Vichar.”  The seminar, held on 23 November, 2014, at Jetpur, focused on how issues related to physical and mental health of people of the region could possibly be better addressed if the area is exposed to General Semantics.

Dr. Shailesh Jagani, Professor Municipal Arts & Commerce College, Upleta and Dr. Kirit Jagani, Professor Bosmia College, Jetpur, both dedicated physical educators of the region spoke on the issues of good health for sane society. Bhimjibhai Khachariya, Principal, Bosmia College, Jetpur and coordinator of the Sapta Setu of the Saurashtra Centre spoke about the approach and need for Bharatiya Vyapak Anvay Vichar in todays’ times. A large number of people of the region participated, as the proceedings were in Gujarati language. This also helped the formation of the Gujarati translation of GS vocabulary in a way that would be accessible to the local population. 

 

Bhimji Khachariya, Coordinator of Saurashtra Centre at Bosamia College, Jetpur

 

Sapta-Setu: Program 3

“Language that Allows Reading of Poetry and Responding to Poetry without Inhibition and Assumptions,” 14 December 2014

 

 

                                                                                A section of audience                                             Ashwini Bapat addressing the audience

Deepak Doshi addressing the audience

 

Kamal Vora & Kanji Patel

 

Maniben Nanavati College Nodal Centre organized a program titled, “Language that Allows Reading of Poetry and Responding to Poetry without Inhibitions and Assumptions.” Two pioneering Gujarati poets, Kamal Vora and Kanji Patel, led this exploration. They read their poetry and Deepak Doshi, a well-known editor of the widely circulated monthly Navneet Samarpan, discussed how language in each poet opened itself to a flexibility of 'reading', not restricting the reader to a monolithic interpretation. This, he said, was the basis of General Semantics and we are free to chart our own approaches to GS (Vyapak Anvay Vichar).  This was further elaborated by Prof. Ashwini Bapat. Prof. Bapat is a scholar of psychology and a bilingual writer. From the perspective of GS (Vyapak Anvay Vichar), she discussed relevant aspects of psycho-linguistics, highlighting the role of language in our day to day interactions and in creative arts like poetry. Professor Sejal Shah was the main coordinator of the event. Prof. Harshada Rathod participated and supported the event

 

Here is a detailed report by Shri Hemant Shah and Sejal Shah, Coordinators of the Mumbai Nodal Centre:

 

 “Sarjak Samvad ane Anvay Vichar”: Two poets namely Shri Kamal Vora and Shri Kanji Patel were invited for this function. Shri Kamal Vora is a Mumbai based Gujarati poet, who edits the quarterly Guajarati literary magazine “ETAD” and has published 3 collections of poems. Shri Kanji Patel is a Lunawada based Gujarati writer, poet, social activist and publisher and is the editor of the magazine Wahi. Shri Kamal Vora read some of his poems and interacted with the participants. He spoke on his professional life and explained his process of creation. His sensibilities are urban; but essentially his inner space is very rich. Though normally reticent he had been very communicative and forthcoming about his writing process during the session. Shri Kanji Patel is attached to village culture and has been working with tribals, which is reflected in his poems. His diction is very different from the suave urban writers and poets. His rich experience as a social activist and academic background with keen interest in linguistics was a good exposure for urban participants. Both the poets conveyed the true spirit of “anvay vichar” to participants without using any jargons of the metalanguage of General Semantics. Ms. Ashwini Bapat in her introduction had explained the interrelated concepts of GS and Cognitive psychology. Shri Deepak Doshi introduced both the poets as he has known them both intimately for a long time. Approximately 35 participants attended.

 

 

Sapta-Setu: Program 4 & Program 5, Film ‘Rashoman’ and the Principle of Non-allness, and etc., 17 December 2015

 

 

                                                         Bharat Thakore, Piyush Thakkar, Jagdish Gurjar & Javed Khatri                                   participants and Faculty

 

Keeping in view the diverse social contexts of Gujarat, Balvant Parekh Centre has formulated a pedagogic module to introduce General Semantics, (Vyapak Anvay Vichar), to the younger local population. It aims to discuss the principal of “Non-allness. —No one can know all there is to know about anything.” This was attempted with an innovative method: Viewers, especially students and younger teachers of the localities were shown the Japanese period drama film ‘Rashoman’ (1950). Directed by Akira Kurosawa, the film suggests how a single event could be viewed and described in many ways. The film is known for a plot device which involves various characters providing alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident. We intend to screen this film at different venues across Gujarat and discuss the psychological and linguistic aspects of the nature of human perception and response.

 

 

On 17 December 2015, Sapta Setu's South Gujarat Centre screened this film and initialed a discussion. The program began with the welcome note by the centre coordinator Prof. Jagdish Gurjar, who emphasized the importance of such a collaborative venture. Piyush Thakkar, Program Officer in charge of Sapta Setu Nodal Centres, introduced the concept of this experiment and presented a profile of Balvant Parekh Centre. Professor Hemant Dave, who has translated a core book of GS into Gujarati, spoke on relevant concepts of GS with examples from our day to day life and related them to the film to be screened. After the film was screened, Prof. Javed Khatri gave a talk linking Kurosawa's work with basic insights of GS. A lively discussion followed this. Professor Bharat Thakor coordinated the event.

 

 The short report of his presentation is as follows:

 

Report on Lecture: “Rashomon: Possible Interpretations and GS”

 

After the screening of the movie, an hour-long lecture pertaining to the interpretations of the movie was initiated by Javed Khatri. He started with few examples from the Gujarati language showing the slippery nature of the idiom and communicative situations. Then he moved on to discuss the movie and its background, incorporating some anecdotes about the director of the movie and shedding light on various levels on which the movie can be watched. Then he mentioned pragmatism and Face Saving Acts as the possible interpretations of the text. The symbols from the Bible can also be applied in the interpretations of the text. Certain anti-feminist interpretations are also put forward. The role of the audience as devised by the director of the movie is complex and participatory. After discussing various interpretive possibilities, Khatri pointed out various issues related with the linguistic representations and the problems we face because of them. He also talked about what the possible cinematic and thematic modifications could be. The study of General Semantics has been put forward as one of the solutions. It has been put forward that presenting our thoughts clearly is as important as accepting open-mindedly and open-heartedly others’ position and condition. The MA and M. Phil Students of the Gujarati Department attended this program.

 

Sapta-Setu: Program 5 on 31 December 2015

 

                                                                            A section of audience                                            Speakers with the principal Kishor Vyas & other coordinators

 

The Panchmahal Centre of Sapta Setu at the Manekla M. Gandhi Arts and Science College, Kalol also screened Rashomon in a meeting. This was attended by the Trustee of the College who welcomed this collaboration. Principal Kishor Vyas elaborated on the collaboration, giving details of our joint work involving students and others from this tribal area. Piyush Thakkar introduced the concept of Sapta Setu, presented a profile of Balvant Parekh Centre and its activities. He then introduced the core concepts of GS with relevant references from Literature and art. Following the screening of Rashomon, Javed Khatri discussed how the film demonstrates that a single event is open to many interpretations and gave some suggestions as to  how to relate it to some basic ways of General Semantics.

 

Reports of programs 4 & 5, compiled from the inputs from:

Hemant Dave, Javed Khatri, Jagdish Gurjar, Coordinator of South Gujarat centre, at Surat and Kishor Vyas, Coordinator of Panchmahal centre, at Kalol

 

Sapta-Setu: Program 6, “Bharatiya Vyapak Anvayvichar and Problems in Today’s Educational System,”8 January 2015

 

From left to right Shrirish Panchal, Pricipal , Kishor Vyas

 

Sapta Setu's Mid-South Gujarat Centre at Shri Jayendrapuri Arts and Science College, Bharuch, focused on the applicability of GS in the organization of educational institutions, colleges, schools and Universities. The nodal Centre conducted its first workshop of Vyapak Anvayvichar with two lectures. The first lecture was given by the eminent educationist and thinker, Prof. Shirish Panchal. He looked at “Some Problems in Higher Education and Some Solutions through 'Optimum Combinations' of Language.” This was followed by a lecture by Dr. Kishor Vyas on “Literary Journalism and 'Optimum Combinations' of Language.” This event inquired into ways in which open dialogues could lead to better administration in educational institutions.

 

Minal Dave : Program Coordinator, Shri Jayendrapuri Arts and Science College, Bharuch

 

Sapta Setu: Program 7, 20 January 2015

 

 

 Musical Performance in progress

 

The seventh program of Sapta Setu was organized by Shree Bosmia Arts and Commerce College, Jetpur in collaboration with Balvant Parekh Centre on 20 January 2015 between 10.30 am to 3.00 pm. The focus here was on the underprivileged children and the use of GS to relate local society to them, for due understanding and action.

 

The program was divided into two sessions.  In the first session, speakers were Gauriben Tank and Ranjanben Pandya, both working as heads of educational institutions. The speakers presented their views on “Bharatiya Vyapak Anvayvichar and the Cultivation of Positive Attitude in the Life of Children from Underprivileged Societies.” This was followed by the second session on Bharatiya Vyapak Anvayvichar and Convergence of Music and Literature.” Chiefly it was a Musical rendition of Poetry from Primary and Secondary School Textbooks in Gujarati by Children along with Musicians. The centre coordinator, Prof. Bhimjibhai Khachariya introduced the Sapta Setu concept in line with the activities of Balvant Parekh Centre, Vadodara. He even introduced the core concepts of GS in the context of other lectures on contemporary issues delivered at the program. 

 

Several school children and teachers attended this event.

 

Bhimji Khachariya: Coordinator of Saurashtra Centre at Bosamia College, Jetpur

 

 

Sapta Setu: Program 8, General Semantics: In the Context of Dialogic Society, Linguistics and Psychology, 24 March 2015

 

\

Jagdish Gurjar, Himanshi Shelat & Sitanshu Yashaschandra

 

The eighth program in the series was organized by South Gujarat Centre, Gujarati Department, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat in collaboration with Shri Bharatmaiya Ananddham (Old Age Home). The venue for the program was Bharatmaiya Vidyasankul, Surat.

 

The structure of the program was interactive, with three lectures. Prof. Sitanshu Yashaschandra delivered the first lecture titled “General Semantics: A Science Enlightened by Human Sciences and A Human Science Enlightened by Sciences.” Prof. Yashaschandra with his academic and poetic sensibility and sensitivity introduced General Semantics to the audience, relating it to their many contexts.  As a trustee of Balvant Parekh Centre and the convener of Nodal Centres of Balvant Parekh Centre across Gujarat and Maharashtra working in regional languages, he spoke on his vision. The second lecture given by Himanshi Shelat was titled “Linguistic Aspect of General Semantics: Underprivileged Children and Old People.” Prof. Shelat is an acclaimed author of several books of fiction and nonfiction. Her intense engagement with the issues of deprived children has generated conditions for genuine concern and active participation across Gujarat, especially south Gujarat.  Prof. Jagdish Gurjar delivered a lecture titled “Psychological Aspect of General Semantics: Analysis of Poetry that reflects on Old Age.” Prof. Gurjar, a dynamic scholar and teacher, is presently the Head of the Department of Gujarati, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat. He is an important Literary Critic writing in Gujarati and also the Coordinator of South Gujarat Centre.

 

Jagdish Gurjar: Coordinator of South Gujarat centre, at Surat

 

To sum up the report on this extensive and explorative work in Gujarat, for the different layers, segments and locations of Gujarati society today, we note the following:

 

In order to understand how Indian General Semantics / Bharatiya Anvay Vichar could grow through our interactions with our realities of Indian societies, their problems and promises and also through various art forms, the convener of Nodal centres working in regional languages, Prof. Sitanshu Yashaschandra has proposed Sapta Setu (Bhavi: Bharatiya Anvay Vichar), a series of Multicultural Programs/ Workshops to be implemented across seven centres of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In continuation to this we have so far established seven centres at educational institutes, with MOU signed by the following five centres:

1. Maniben Nanavati Women’s College, Vile Parle (W)

2. Bosmia College, Jetpur, Saurashtra

3. Department of Gujarati, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat

4. Manekla M. Gandhi Arts and Science College, Kalol

5. Department of Gujarati, Shah K. S. Arts & V. M. Parekh Commerce College, Kapadvanj