Aflot of Lotus Leaf: Kapila Vatsyayan: A Cognitive Biography

Jyoti Sabharwal, Stellar, 2015, xiv, 550 p, ISBN : 9789382035008, $50.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Aflot of Lotus Leaf: Kapila Vatsyayan: A Cognitive Biography

A life beyond categories! Perhaps, that’s the quintessence of Dr Kapila Vatsyayan’s trajectory, both as a sensitive artist and profound scholar. She has not only questioned, but also defied the mindsets that create those categories, with her multidisciplinary approach. Given her proximity to the stalwarts of the intellectual and cultural arena, i.e. Aruna Asaf Ali, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Dr Grace Louise McCann Morley, and many more, she imbibed the finer nuances of feminine discourse of these strident pioneers, who crossed the social barriers and altered the gender perceptions.

In blissful formative years, Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore made her recite poetry, and legendary Nandalal Bose taught her to hold the painting brush at Santiniketan. She belongs to the generation that nurtured the ideals of a free India, to rediscover its cultural roots and reconstruct the broken tradition. And she devoted her boundless energy towards that lofty goal working closely with Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr S Radhakrishnan.

The original cultural czarina of India, she laid the foundation of ‘soft diplomacy’ in the post-Independence era, signing numerous cultural treaties across the world and formulating bilateral exchange programmes. Building institutions, she delineated education and cultural policies with her gifted tenacity, exemplary erudition, and critical faculty. Arguably, a great living authority on the arts of India, and a key administrator in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, archives, museums, et al, her multifaceted expertise has facilitated several bridges of communication, especially between the Indian and the Western arts.

Dr Vatsyayan has both witnessed and participated in the agony and ecstasy of the cultural history of India, seeking the inner core of its creative genius in all the vibrant hues. Though there may have been an inevitable clash between the innocent idealism of a bygone era and rueful reality of the contemporary saga, it’s been a journey worth emulating. More so, for the young aspirants of a post-modern India, this tome is a ‘must read’.

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