Monday, 7 May 2012

A R Rahman receives honorary American doctorate

Four years after the release of Slumdog Millionaire, America’s love affair with A R Rahman continues after the Oscar and Grammy-winning composer was awarded an honorary doctorate by Miami University on Saturday.

Intriguingly, it was Miami University in Ohio which conferred the doctorate on Rahman as part of its ‘Year of the Arts’ and invited him to deliver the keynote address at the university’s commencement.

A delighted Rahman said he was overwhelmed by the honour and couldn’t still digest the warmth with which America has embraced him; not least the personal invitation he had received from the US President inviting him over to the White House.

In a revealing and articulate speech to the more than 3000 graduates, Rahman laid out some of the principles that he lives by and which have brought him global success.

One insight seemed to be aimed specifically at Americans: “Learn through travel”, he said.  “Keep an open mind and be ready to receive things that come along the journey.  So often, we have an opinion from someone of a place or a culture before heading to a destination.  Each one of us are made differently sometimes there are so many hidden truths of a place that are never revealed to us till we experience it ourselves.”

He went on, “Never ever rush into Judgment, especially about people, there is always another side of a story, a good side – we must always find ways to see the beauty and value of a place or a person or an institution or an art form; half the problems for each of us can be solved if people do not rush into judgment.”

“Be in touch with the poor – try to think of ways to make their lives better – think of how you can pull them up – there is a hidden virtue in doing this because time and time again, when society ignores the poor, they always perish eventually.”

Rahman also alluded to his most prescient life philosophy: “To live in the umbrella of truth and honesty is so simple and easy if you think about it.  Having a strong ambition sometimes comes in the way of the truth.  To achieve a natural balance takes a lifetime but it is so worth it. In India, we say Satyameva Jayate, which means the truth, will always triumph and in fact, that was the name of my first song collaboration with Mick Jagger from our Band Superheavy.”

Concluding his speech, Rahman thanked the people who have helped him on his remarkable journey: “I wish to thank a few people who have made a significant impact in my life: My father and mother have anchored me with good values; then Mr. Mani Ratnam who is India’s noted film maker gave me my first break in the world of cinema in the film Roja. My Sufi teachers opened my consciousness and helped me discover myself. People from all around India have embraced me and my music without any discrimination and today, I find the same spirit of acceptance in Hollywood.”

- Poonam Joshi

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