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 Introspection, Little Moments, Me, Uncategorized

The blues

I was puttering around the kitchen, our morning routine at its peak. Hot water with elachi, ginger, and mint simmering on one burner for our morning tea, another set of boiling water with salt and olive oil getting ready for pasta, the third burner with the dosai that was turning crispy, the chopping of veggies for the dinner happening simultaneously, the usual morning juggling act in motion. However, a cloud of doom was hanging over my head. I knew that all it needed was a small prick and the cloud would burst open with a torrential rain of words.

Da came down, and posed his standard question – did you sleep well? I did but I am kind of feeling down, I replied curtly. Then came the first born – “Good moring ma, how are you doing with the post birthday blues ma?” he asked me teasingly. And that cracked me up unexpectedly in a good way. I knew I was feeling down but I was not labeling it right. I was feeling the blues, blues of all shades and hues – the monthly hormonal imbalance blues, the post birthday blues, the monday morning blues, you name it and I was feeling it. And what was great about labeling it? If you name it, if you identity it, it has less power over you. By calling it blues, it freed me from the other emotions (PMS inflicted inadequacies, the pangs from know that a year has passed by, the urge to be productive and in high power mode during the work week etc.) that imprisoned me. More importantly, a tone of empathy when Hari said, feeling the blues? It was not something that only I went through. It is normal. It is acceptable. And you accept the blues for what they are – passing clouds, nothing more. I just need to let them drift away. 

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Little Moments, Ram Leela

Primal

With a throbbing headache and incessant coughing, the child woke up feeling miserable. “Amma, take my temperature. I know I have a fever.” I placed my hand on his forehead and then his neck, and knew that he did not have a temperature. “You are feeling feverish kanna, but you don’t have a fever,” I tried to convince Ram.

We did the usual things that we do when we have a coughing child at home – two pillows stacked on top of each other, the third one resting on the two so the child can sleep in elevated position, and a mug and a bottle of water next to his bed for possible throwing up scenario. “Amma, can you sleep next to me?” the child asked. Of course, anything to make you feel better, I responded and settled down on his twin bed.

The child while still coughing, relaxed a bit.  His head resting on my chest, as I wrapped my hand against his body. My belly rising and falling, his hand rising and falling with it. His breathing in synch with mine, we slipped into a rhythm, and the child drifted off to sleep. This is what primal feels like.

Posted in Experiments, Kids, Little Moments

Game on!

Remember I had mentioned about Destination Imagination a few months back? It’s a  team based competition that encourages problem solving and critical thinking in young learners and have them work towards a grand challenge. The best part about this extra curricular activity is the policy of non-interference from parents.There are strict rules around what parents can and cannot do, and interference of any kind would result in the team being disqualified or penalized.  

Ram participated in this challenge with five other first and second graders. The team was managed by Da and another parent. The team opted to compete in the category called “Game on”. They chose Monopoly as the game based on which other elements of the challenge would rest on. They had to come up with a story that had two points of view, weaving in some research about the game, making up a song, building a gizmo and props that should fit in a container. And the thing is, the kids had to build all of the elements from scratch on their own, be it writing the script of the story, lyrics of the song or building the 10 by 8 feet monopoly game that would fit in a “container”.

The team was formed in November, and the challenge took place last week. It took a good couple of months for the kids to warm up to each other, understand the challenge, and brainstorm ideas. Until about the winter break in second week of February, it was all abstract with progress made here and there.  An amazon box was used as a container, with the four sides painted with different scenes, that would serve as a backdrop. The song would explain the monopoly game to the princess who was lost in the woods and had to win the game to get out of jail and escape the witch. The story was told in Princess’ viewpoint and the witch’s view point.

Although play based, the kids worked very hard, thinking actively, drawing enthusiastically, and improvising constantly. When the weather got colder and it was difficult to get together in person, they worked on their dialogues on Google Hangout. They reminded each other’s dialogues, filled in when there was a gap, and went berserk over snack time.

They were one of the youngest teams in the competition and they secured the third place. Prize or not, we could not have been prouder of them. They totally owned it! Go team DInausaur!

Gold start to Da, it was as much a delight to watch him (and his co-manager) run the show as much as it was to see the kids in action.

Posted in Experiences, Gratitude, Life, Little Moments, Memories, Wishes

Whats on my mind

The impulse to write ebbs and flows but my practice of writing seems to only ebb. When the impulse strikes, the mundaness of life takes over. And when the mundaness of life takes a break, the impulse also takes a break. 

So what thoughts are swirling in my head on this Saturday morning? 

  • All my social media feeds were filled with Women’s day wishes. I will confess that I felt like an impostor, suffered from survivor’s guilt, and thought of myself as undeserving of these wishes. I mean people are celebrating certain kind of women – the ones that have shattered glass ceilings, that have succeeded against all odds, and that have shown immense strength, courage and resilience. All of which are excellent reasons to celebrate. But instead of naming days like Woman’s Day or Mother’s Day, in my not so humble opinion, I think we should have days like the Day of Resilience, Day of Nurturers, Day of Courage etc. I mean why should just being a woman be a cause for celebration? Why are men of courage and strength left out? Let ordinary women have the honor of wishing the extraordinary, women or men, in their lives.
  • After a long long hiatus, Ram and I are reading together again. We are currently reading Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan. This has been a pleasure at so many levels. Ram’s class is “collecting words” so we were collecting some “un” words in the chapter – unnoticed, unobserved, unfortunate, undoing… and few more that tickled us in the moment but that I have long forgotten. Other than Calvin and Garfield, Ram now has found a new hero in Swami. Ha, the world through the eyes of Swami is so delightful and relatable.  And for me, the writing reminded me so much of how my thatha used to write. You know the kind that starts with “Seeking the blessing of Lord Rama” , with fine lanugage, immpecable grammar, no strikeouts, just the words seamlessly flowing on paper. 
  • Hari has registered for his High School courses. Yes, yes, this baby of ours that we dropped in preschool yesterday is going to high school tomorrow. I went through all emotions. On curriculum day, I justed wanted to turn around and go home. Then I agonized over whether he was taking up too much workload. Then I started doubting if he was taking courses that matched his potential. Then all that back and forth discussion between the three of us, and then with the counselors. It’s not as much about the process being hard as it is about being new to us. After going through all that, I feel a sense of calm, readiness, and even excitement for this child of ours…!!
  • My workplace went through a significant milestone and I am in the midst of humungus changes. It is not fun but one that is needed for me to shake my inertia and pay attention to my career path. Between work related changes, and my other passions taking a back seat, I do get restless and feel like I am in a slump on some days. Thankfully, the sense that I should take ownership for making things happen propels me from that state.

That’s some unsolicited peek into my life this morning. Have a good weekend folks!

Posted in Humor, Kids, Little Moments, Uncategorized

Kiddie Tales

The house is quiet. Ram is drifting to sleep. Hari has texted me saying that he and Da will be home in another 30 mins after his Sunday evening cricket practice. Ha, thinking of the kids make my heart leap with joy and makes me relive some of the little moments with fondness. 

Ram is Hari’s Fitbit sidekick. When Hari is falling short on his steps count, he ties the gadget around Ram’s wrist, which makes him responsible for moving the needle on the Fitbit. Ram, who has no gadget of his own, is thrilled to bits and is happy to parade around the house to help out his brother in his mission. Lately, he has figured out that he doesn’t have to walk to add the steps, all he needs to do is shake his wrist. This evening, Ram has been dutifully multi-tasking with the flipping of Asterix book on one hand, and shaking his wrist on the other hand.

I am also reminded of  the conversation that we were having on our way to Sunday school this morning. Hari was generally mocking us (his parents) for our reaction to his grades. “You only got 90 out of 100? What happened to the 10 marks Hari, is what you guys would ask. But when I didn’t do as well on one challenging math test, you were ok with it. That’s my life Ram!”, he proclaimed in a melodramatic fashion that only a teen can. Listening intently to this, Ram grandly concludes, “Hari, I think it is better if we just get lower marks then.”

Da and I were having an argument over something. Hari came upto me and said it was uncomfortable to be a witness to the argument. “Sorry babes, but I have all these emotions and feelings that needed an outlet,” I explained in an attempt to keep it real. “Amma may be you can have a Screaming Day. On Screaming Day, go to a quiet place, and give it a rip I say.” “But Hari that will be no fun because nobody else other than me will be miserable,” I retort and both of us start giggling imagining the whole scenario. A few seconds later  Hari says, “By the way on Screaming Day, I would like to come with you too. I have a thing or two to scream about you see.”