By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Apr 14 (IANS): Cooped up in their home during the pandemic lockdown since the past over one year, people in India and other countries are not exactly idling away or twiddling their thumbs.
Surprisingly, this was the period which sparked off a deep interest in Indian civilization, heritage, culture, the fine arts and other subjects, said a top academician from Maharashtra, Bhujang Bobade.
Incidentally, the global community will celebrate ‘World Heritage Day' on Sunday (April 18) with an appropriate theme -- "
It all started in July 2020 with a short-term Museums Heritage Course that Bobade, 38, and Director of Heritage Foundation, Jalgaon, launched without fanfare, for a modest Rs 300 and was quite satisfied to get around 150 candidates from 14 states.
Then, he launched the Museums Management Course, UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, which got similar tepid responses from the connoisseurs.
"It was only when I announced the Art & Architectural Heritage of India (one year) course, I was flooded with a stupendous 1,680 entries from 14 countries in barely 12 hours… That's when I realized that there is a huge thirst for knowledge about our country, its past, the glorious culture and civilization," Bobade told IANS.
Armed with this contemporary information, Bobade decided to design and conduct various types of courses which could cater to the peoples need and greed for knowledge of yore -- ranging from one-week to one-month to one-year duration with a job-worthy certificate or diploma awarded on completion from a prestigious collaborating institution.
"My aim was simple… Anybody who is interested can join in this Heritage Mission… I now offer 32 different courses… We have erased the barriers of age or eligibility to make it available universally to anyone who can complete their daily assignments on time. The course fees range from Rs 300-Rs 1000 only, and the annual courses are completely free," Bobade informed.
The result was wide-eyed kids of 7 years sitting in the laps of their wizened 70-year-old grandpas, studying Indian heritage, husband-wife team taking time off to bond on an intellectual level, youth or collegians polishing up on their existing knowledge or learn something new, plus working or retired professionals in different fields acquiring fresh insights into their wisdom-bank, he said.
As the participants increased, Bobade invited scholars and experts from different fields to join him and impart their knowledge to the enthusiastic new breed of ‘lockdown learners' -- and he was not disappointed.
"Soon, I had a team of experts in different fields like Hanoz Patel of Baroda, Sindhu Jagannath from Bengaluru, Medha Dube from Jabalpur, Sunil Pujari, Guru Shama Bhate, Nilima Hirve, Swati Daithankar, Rasika Gumaste, calligrapher Shruti Chuttar, musician Keshavchaitanya Kunte - all from Maharashtra, and some from abroad like Judy Frater of USA, Mathyu Sculpture of France and others to guide our participants," Bobade said.
And Bobade passed in his unique endeavour!
In the past year, he has taught, trained or enlightened nearly 90,000 people from 58 countries spending 18,000 Course Hours and 12,000 hours on YouTube on various types of courses.
Interestingly, his YouTube channel courses on Indian Heritage are extremely popular in Turkey, itself the cradle of Persian civilisation, one of the oldest in history.
Some courses of Heritage Foundation are: The Art of Storytelling, Heritage of Interior Design in Ancient India, Ethnography - The Art of Observation, Art & Architectural Heritage of India, dance forms like Kathak, Bharatanatyam & Odishi, Abstract Painting on Canvas, Fundamentals of Conservation, Indigenous Arts, Folk Music, Heritage of Indian Music, besides Japanese and German language courses.
Students like Balakrishnan Govindswamy (Malaysia), Alkesh Zaveri (USA), Prof Ganesh Raut (Pune), Anshul Gandhi (UAE), Prof Moumie Banerjee (Kolkata), Sukhda Joshi (Oman), Vinayak Nitturkar (Nagpur) have narrated their pleasant online experiences, adding to Bobade's zeal. Many lavished praises on the simple but interesting course content, the dynamic approach to teaching which enriched their intellect and lives during lockdowns.
Bobade now plans to offer several more courses in diverse subjects to cater to an even larger audience range, both domestically and internationally.