Posted in Dance, Family, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Life, Little Moments, Wishes

The journey

Unbeknownst to me, tears were streaming down my face as the recital came to a conclusion. They were not tears of joy or sorrow; they were the culmination of an experience that was so profound that it brought the vastness and depth within me to the forefront.  The guru, holding the hands of his sishaya, bowing to the audience in reverence, in humility. The audience, drenched in the experience, elevated and humbled by it.  Perhaps, this is what they mean by the soul in me bows to the soul in you?  

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The recital was also tinged by a pang. One that comes from the knowledge that I can only be a rasika. The one that is dazzled but not the one to dazzle. The one that tried but the one that did not go much further. 

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Hari, Ram and I headed to the attic, our weekend sleeping arrangment. We exchanged notes on the day’s happenings. It was a milestone day for Hari. He played in adult cricket league with a red ball (that’s a milestone for wannabe cricketers).  He got two wickets, gave more runs than he would like, which was partly attributable to the size of the field, and he ended up umpiring as well.  Ram naarated his deed for the day – how he helped appa with yard work and shopping for pavers for the patio. Then, I told him about the evening, how I wished that all the people that I loved could experience what I did – something that was bigger than the self.  

I drifted off to sleep reliving the dance. The concept of yathi that I learnt in the workshop last week so beautifully articulated in the dance. The geometric patterns of the yathi shown gracefully in the mridangam, damuru, nandi’s tail, and the waves of ganga. Bharathiyar’s poem gnyayiru – are you the sun that gives light to darkness or are you the one to kill it? – narrated through dance. One form of art blending with the other. Then came the story of the Ganges – her origin, her role as sustainer of life (birth, maturity, and death all found in the river), and her current plight. A dance item that made me reflect on the sanctity of life forms and natural resources. Then came Rama’s virakthi at losing Sita. Shringara is pervasive in Bharatanatyam but more often than not, it is the heroine pining for the hero. This one was unique portrayal of a heartbroken hero. A sweet reminder that shringara is not exclusive to women. The finale was fitting with Krishna mukunda murari – we are born alone, we die alone, but we live together. Why criticise, why blame, why not treat each other well? 

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I woke up this morning earlier than I wanted to. Ram drifting to me, his arms instinctively reaching out to my body for the warmth. The recital from last evening still fresh in my mind. The brilliance of portraying the cow’s tail for gopucha yathi. The way the night that was described as a kadhali, shown elegantly. The eyes darting left and right in all speeds for mrignayani. The swaying and dancing of Krishna.

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Downstairs, I can hear Da. The man, who loves his glory sleep, is up bright and early, making tea and breakfast. He has a full day of chauffeuring the boys to towns far away for sports practice. He takes it in stride, without complaints, without expecting me to ease the load for him. Ram is mildly upset that we did not wake him early. You still have plenty of time, don’t stuff scrambled eggs in your mouth, drink some water, I remind him while I am sipping my morning tea without a hurry in the world. Hari comes down with a super stuffy nose, “I had the worst night with my allergies amma.” He was sleeping right next to me, and I had no clue. Why can’t I be that kind of mom that turns the world upside down to make her child’s life easier? I don’t say that to him but chide myself in my head. I just tell him I wish I was awake with him so I could have done something to make him feel better. “Don’t worry amma, if it was unmanageable I would have woken you up.”  

Seeing the morning play out in front of me hits me that I am not needed, I am wanted. That I am loved for who I am, with my imperfections, without any conditions. How lucky am I? 

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Being loved by my family unconditionally reminds me to be gentle on myself. Self compassion trickles in.

It’s true. Life is not a level playing field. We are born with our uniques abilities, strenghts, weaknesses and circumstances. There are some things that are not within our control. There are some things that are within our control that we do little about. It’s ok. It’s ok to be the one that tried. It’s ok to be human. And I remind myself again – it’s not a means to an end, it’s an end by itself. It’s the practice. It’s all about the journey. 

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Little Moments

Bharthanatyam – What it means to me?

I was nominated for a 10-day dance mom challenge on FaceBook, which entailed posting a picture a day in the life of a dance mom or a significant dancing moment. I chose to do it only for 5 days because I didn’t have the bandwidth to continue, I was getting distracted from my routine, and finally I felt vulnerable sharing too much. Since I don’t have much readership here, I feel relatively more comfortable sharing things that are close to my heart in this space. Along with that picture, I had put in a blurb providing context to the picture. I am  repurposing those posts, without pictures, with some expanded content here and there.  

  • I am lucky that my parents (thank you, thank you and thank you appa and amma) went along with my choice to pursue dance when the popular vote was for music (pursuing multiple interests was not as common in my growing up years). More importantly for just asking – dance practice eppadi porthu? Sometimes it is the simplest of reminders that galvanizes you into action. I am also fortunate to have been married into a family that takes interest and pride in my pursuits. I am thinking of my mil who would accompany me to my dance class with excitement. As the sole member in our family of four that enjoys Bharatanatyam, I do struggle with balancing “me” time with family time. A weekend afternoon spent attending a dance recital is an afternoon away from them. And sometimes that is the only time we have together. Often, I dilly dally not knowing what to choose. Sometimes family wins, at other times dance. What I have learnt is, the only person judging my choice is me. The trick is to not think of the dance recital I missed when I am with the family and not to think of my family when I am at the recital. Shout out to Da for being my rock, my punching bag, and for constantly reminding me that I am learning dance because it makes me happy. Flying kisses to the sonny boys for caring about my pursuits. They will throw a tantrum if I were to take them to an arangetram but they would be heart heartbroken if I were to pass up on an opportunity to perform. 
  • I have learnt Bharatanatyam, on and off, for the most part of my life. The breaks were sometimes short, and at other times were prolonged. Sometimes due to lack of continuity at the teachers’ end, and  sometimes due to life events and circumstances. Board exams, school in one city, undergrad in another city, postgrad in yet another city, work in fourth city, then came marriage, move to a new country, back to school, kid no. 1, kid no.2. One way to look at it is, it has been a slow and shaky learning experience. Another way to look at it is, life has been generous in bestowing me with opportunities and teaching me resilience through dance. A constant in my life. Thank God for that! Thank God for all my teachers who willingly took me under their wings, gave me their time and attention, and in the process kept the spark alive. I am exactly where I need to be, all those breaks were necessary to lead me to where I am today, to ensure that there was continuity in the journey. To all my dance teachers, past and present, gratitude from the depths of my heart. Without you, dance would have only been a longing.
  • Janmashtami tradition – may be it is the fact that I have two veshama kara kannans in my house, I love Janamashtami. Our Janmashtami celebration is more about storytelling than about bakshanam. When the boys were little, they would get dressed up as Krishnas, and Balaramas and we would act out Krishna Leela. What better way to tell a story than via Bharatanatyam? All those giggles, broken mazhalai tamizh, and role playing. Deeply grateful to the art form for giving me ways to bond with little humans, my own and the ones that cross my path. 
  • The day before a performance is humbling. You hold the blessing close to your heart and want to give it your all and beyond. You are also a bundle of nerves. You run through the sequence in your head. Once, twice, thrice, and a few times more. By yourself, and with your gang. Then you obsess over the costume, jewelry, food, and family. Details, details, so many details to think of for the compulsive mind. Then, there comes a point when you simply let go. And you remind yourself to just be and dance your heart out. Being in the moment, soaking in the music, taking in the space and the lights, and trusting that your practice will carry you through. That’s all matters! One of the nicest parts of learning to dance as an adult is all the fabulous women you get to meet over the years. Self-made, independent, accomplished and courageous. When the group clicks, you know you have surrounded yourself with empathetic, compassionate and strong women. Ones who inspire, encourage and support each other. The experience is heightened when you have found your people. My heartfelt gratitude to the girl gang, who have knowingly or unknowingly, have helped me in small and big ways.
  • Dance is my Zen. It has taught me the power of practice, perseverance, and having a growth mindset. To do something purely for the love of it, not as a means to an end. Through my practice, I learn more about myself. If you came up to me and asked, are you a dancer? My answer would be, I learn dance. I love Bharatanatyam. Dancer is a label that I hold to high standards and don’t think I am there yet. I am more like the Giraffe who found his music and learnt to dance. I found my reason to dance. So yeah, I learn dance. 

To be able to dance at this age and stage of my life is something that I never take for granted. Don’t know what tomorrow holds but I am thankful with every fiber in my being that my life has been touched by the art form all my life.

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Gratitude

Creativity

Gratitude for an evening of odissi, bharathanatyam, storytelling, and poetry, all rolled into one. A treat for the senses. A treat for the soul. A blessing to be at the receiving end of creativity.

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Memories, Milestones, N40

Me, myself and my dance

Life beckons and I have to heed to it. Yet, I linger, wanting to soak in the sudden emptiness that I am feeling. For the past six months, dance has ranked high in my list of priorities. For the past six weeks, dance has been the center of my life. The critic in me chides me for not doing more, for not trying harder, for not making the most of the opportunity.  Yet, the pragmatic in me acknowledges that while there is always room to do more and be better, I did the best I could on any given day. Some days my best was good enough and on other days it was not.  And that’s part of being a human.

I have given my bare minimum to my family for the past several months. Dance is to me what sports is to Hari. In that we share a connection. A connection that is born out of setting your heart at something, working on it, feeling jubilant on some days, feeling disappointed on other days, and knowing that true strength lies in picking ourselves up every time we fall. Hari has shielded me with his pep talks, “Just imagine Ram and I waving at you amma if you get the jitters.”  He has held down the fort stepping up to be there for his little brother in my absence. And Ram what can I say about this little one, our very own Krishna? Dance has given us the gift of new bonding experience. I just love to sing “Avani rohini ashtami yele aradhajama nerathile avadharithaya” as I give a cheek rub to him, a rush of love washing over me. Da has been the pillar of support I have leaned on. Where do I even begin? Suffice to say that he walked the talk and did so wholeheartedly, doing all the heavy lifting, and making sure that the kids do not get shortchanged. I don’t think I would have been as unwavering in my support for him if I were in his shoes, so not for a second I take his support for granted. I am especially thankful to him for nailing the big picture in my head – it’s rare to get an opportunity to do something like this, outside of the commitments that life thrusts on us, at this stage of our lives and I should remember to derive positive energy from it and not get distracted with the noises. 

Over the past six weeks my dance mates and I have spent close to 30 hours per week in dance practices. I would love to say that all that time was spent dancing, but that’s not how it works. You wait a lot, then you practice some. Going after your passion may sound like pure bliss and all lofty. But the truth is even for pursuits of your choice, they come with their share of baggage. We were preparing for a 3-day dance event, one that we knew was going to be a labor of love. Taking care of the practical aspects was the easier part. It was the emotional part that involved a ton of hard work. To stay focused, to push oneself harder, to not get lost in the stories we tell ourselves, and to practice self compassion.

Some days were more challenging than others and a little TLC went a long way in building that resilience muscle. One of the best parts about the dance camp was the support group we developed and the plethora of opportunities we had to get to know each other as individuals. We rooted, helped, inspired, provided constructive feedback, showed appreciation, and hugged each other. On the day of the performance, we complimented each other on how we looked. I think it had less to do with makeup and costumes and more to do with how fond we had grown of each other. They say friends come into our lives for a reason, season or a lifetime. Only time will tell what path our friendships will take. One thing is for certain; the summer of this year will go down in the books of our lives as a time that weaved us all together in a shared experience, and from knowing  that we all gave it our all no matter what else was going in our lives.

I feel immensely thankful to my teacher for her bold vision and audacious dreams for her milestone production, and getting all of us pumped up about it. I am deeply grateful she introduced us to one of the finest teachers and choreographers, who we fondly address as Thiru anna. One who believes that everyone is capable, that imperfections are part of being a human, and that mistakes are ok but to remember to never lose the happiness one derives from dancing. It was a blessing to be part of anna’s creative process and seeing first hand how even a small act can be elevated to a higher level with willingness, creativity and effort. Such a precious and rewarding experience. 

If you had asked me last week, I would have told you that I can’t wait for this week to come. What I expected to feel was relief at being able to move on with other aspects of my life. What I am feeling instead is an emptiness that comes from having to let go something that gave an intense sense of purpose and pushed us beyond our comfort zones. I don’t want this emptiness to end, so I prolong. Checking whatsapp messages, refreshing facebook page, and going through the motions of the past six weeks, and itching to do more. 

Dance means different things to different people. To me, bharathanatyam is my Zen. It helps me discover more about myself,  be accepting of my strengths and weaknesses, quench my thirst to learn and grow as a person.  And for that I am eternally grateful and incredibly blessed. 

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Me

Bharathanatyam

Bharatanatyam has been part of my life since second grade. I have taken many breaks (board exams, hostel stay, wedding, and child birth) but have managed to find my way back to dancing. I am not the kind that starts swaying to music or intuitively taps to the beats of a song.  I work very hard at my dance.  I practice an item several times before it becomes muscle memory. Only then do I understand the music and the beats that go along with it. It used to bother me before, but now I just accept that that’s how I learn dance and that’s ok.

I have learnt a lot about myself through my dance. It has taught me the power of practice and the beauty of being in control. Through dance, I experience different emotions at a much deeper level, be it motherhood or devotion. Dance exposes me to music that I would not have known otherwise. Through my dance class and workshops, I get to see first hand how art is made. I get to interact with folks that live and breathe this art form. I get to do things that I never knew I could. How cool is that?

For the longest time, I tried to understand why the pull to dance? Is it the comradeship? Does it quench my thirst to learn and get better at something? Has dance just become a matter of habit? Why all these years? Then I decided that the reasons don’t matter. All that matters is, I get the opportunity to dance. I dance. And for that I am thankful from the depths of my being. 

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Family, Life, Uncategorized

All in a day’s work

It’s about 10:40 now. Da and the boys have drifted to glorious sleep. The focus lights in the living room is blinding.  I can hear the hum of the dishwasher. The mango that I just ate was simply delicious, almost close in taste to banganapalli from back home, leaving me sated and happy. The window sill is lined with Ram’s toys – army men, dinosaurs, and  a little wind up mouse. Seeing his toys reminds me of Ram. He has been very supportive tonight, thumbing through his books, coloring his coloring pages, eating pasta, and really entertaining himself for three full hours in my dance class without a whimper of discontent. Thinking of Ram makes me think of Hari. After two weeks of adventure hopping, the child is relieved to putter around the house, indulging in nothingness. This week is an intensive week in our house. Da’s work week is condensed. He is working 40 hours over four days and I am attending a dance workshop in the evenings. My first time ever participating in Kalakshetra style of dance, loving every minute of it. My mind has been indulging in some wishful thinking.  I wish I had the time and will to practice more. I wish I learnt faster in class. I take a deep breath. Breathe in – acknowledge, breathe out – let go, just like how a friend had advised in her post.  And just like how Lord Siva calmly holds the restless Ganges in his hair and helps her find her ground; my breath, gradually helps me find my ground reminding me to focus within and to just be. The rest will follow. 

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Little Moments, Milestones

Varnam

In all my years of learning bharatanatyam, I have never learnt varnam. Prior to learning this dance item, I have known it to be the central and the most complicated piece in an arangetram. It can run anywhere between 25 mins to an hour and for this reason it can sometimes tire the rasikaas. The theme is usually around love or devotion, and if I have observed it right, the narrator typically is the subject,  meaning it’s about her love or devotion to someone, usually, a hindu deity.

This term in my dance class, we are learning Rama Neevu, a varnam item. It has been such a joy, and it has opened me to so many nuances underlying this dance item. It gives the dancer the luxury of time. There is no rush or pressure to dazzle the audience with speed. It starts with footwork, the tempo is slowly built, and is interspersed with strings of adavus with varying speeds. For the abhinaya, the dancer warms up by portraying the literal meaning of the lyrics word by word and then improvises by giving context or performing to its implicit meaning. Varnam is storytelling at it’s core.

Mostly, I have come to realize that this is probably one item where the dancer derives much joy from dancing than the rasikaas watching her perform. Soul nourishing bliss!