Thursday July 18, 2019

Kathak: Indo-Pak’s cultural bonhomie

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By Radhikka Vashisht

Founder of culture anthropology E.B. Tylor defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Dancers hold India and Pakistan national flags before the start of play in the ICC World Twenty20 cricket final match in Johannesburg

…and not just that. Culture bridges boundaries, ends silences and attempts socio-political rapport. So does Kathak really play peacemaker?

India and Pakistan parted in 1947. The partition led to fractures like separate homes, states, educational institutions, and all other sorts of civil amenities such as hospitals, courts, and law enforcement agency.

However, culture is the only thing which survived as the common strain between the twain. It still brings the people of two countries together, ethically and emotionally. The language, art and culture, which we inherited from our ancestors, have a renewed spark between both the countries.

Despite the social taboo by the Pakistani religious and political fundamentalist on dance performances, the Kathak dance form is still revered by Pakistani people deeply.

Kathak’, the word is derived from Katha, which means a story. It is a dance form which revolves around a theme where the person uses mime and gestures to narrate a tale. The core characteristic of this dance form is that the performing artist role plays and imitates the story with the help of dance movements, expression and gestures.

Throughout the year, Pakistani classical dancers have been contributing to keep this vibrant dance form alive in Pakistan’s society. Despite unfavourable conditions that have emerged due to foreign and political policies of past rulers in Pakistan, dedicated dancers like Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak, Nahid Siddiqui, Sadia Khan and Sheema Kirmani have kept this traditional dance form in Pakistan’s culture alive.

In Pakistan, Kathak dance is based on stories and folklores excavated from Urdu literature; whereas in India, this form of dance is based on mythological stories of India. Kathak dance form is the binding thread among the civilians of Pakistan and India.

Though political differences tend to disparage the bonhomie borne by both the nations, individuals belonging to each of these countries still share a common chord; a chord that brings together their penchant for Kathak.

Next Story

Developers Can Now Start Building Hindi Skills for Alexa in India

Right now, Alexa can understand some Hinglish commands but these are few and far between

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Alexa, Amazon, Virtual Assistant
Amazon Echo led the Indian smart speakers market with 59 per cent share in 2018 (Representational image). Pixabay

Amazon on Tuesday announced that developers can now start building Alexa skills for customers in India with the new Hindi voice model available in Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).

Developers would get a headstart and submit skills for certification as the company prepare to offer engaging experiences for Alexa users in one of the most spoken languages in the country, the company said in a statement.

Commercial hardware manufacturers who want to develop Alexa Built-in products for Hindi-speaking customers in India can request early access to the invite-only Alexa Voice Service (AVS) developer preview.

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of free, self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for developers to create skills, or capabilities, for Alexa.

Amazon last year launched a new category of skill called “Cleo” that enables customers in India help Alexa learn Hindi and other languages. The idea was to improve Alexa’s language model and help her gradually speak in local languages.

Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving ‘voice prints’ of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices. Pixabay

Apart from Hindi, users can respond to Alexa’s English statements in Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati and other regional languages.

Alexa is currently available in over 80 countries and speaks more than 14 language variants.

One can sign up for the first webinar on Hindi skill building scheduled on July 24. Developers in India who have their Hindi-language skill certified for publication in India before July 31 would receive exclusive early bird Alexa merchandise.

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Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa, told IANS recently that the company is working on infusing regional languages capabilities in Alexa for the Indian market but these are early days.

Right now, Alexa can understand some Hinglish commands but these are few and far between. (IANS)