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Imagine all the people: a note from the editor

How to keep a tradition alive and true to its form while drawing more people is what 'Lounge' tries to answer this week

Beating Retreat at Vijay Chowk, 1967,
Beating Retreat at Vijay Chowk, 1967, (Raghu Rai. courtesy Ojas art gallery)

One of the huge benefits of everything going digital over the past year, we have often been told, is that we will have larger, more diverse audiences. But while anyone can upload content, who’s watching, reading or listening is a question one of the essays in Lounge attempts to answer this week. The challenge for performers is how to keep a tradition alive and true to its form while drawing more people. It’s a similar question that runs through our cover on built heritage and its conservation—how does a society, or a country, move ahead and adapt buildings of the past to newer uses and needs? And it’s a pertinent one at a time when we watched what’s likely to be the last Republic Day parade and Beating Retreat ceremony in New Delhi’s Central Vista as we have known it all these decades.

Across India are buildings that may not seem significant enough to be declared monuments but are still old and important enough to warrant attention and conservation. Unfortunately, they are often earmarked for demolition or renovated and beautified with plazas or vistas that tend to keep out rather than welcome citizens. While safety and sustainability are crucial, older structures can be re-purposed to meet the needs of people who now use these spaces.

One of the hurdles to the conservation of contemporary structures in India is that there is no clear definition of “heritage”—how old should a building or a space be before it’s declared safe from demolition and worthy of preservation or renovation? Other stories in the issue also tackle questions of living heritage, and adapting the old to suit the new. In many parts of the country, entrepreneurs have started bottling indigenous ingredients for urban markets, while others have taken to making board games with Indian themes to popularise cultural heritage. These are just some ways to retain and mainstream cultural inheritance, but more needs to be worked out to help determine how we keep heritage—tangible or intangible—alive and relevant to everyone without boundaries.

Write to the Lounge editor @shalinimb

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