Today has not been a good day, emotionally. But I realise not all days have to be good.
At first I felt maybe I have extreme mood swings. Even my friends made me believe so. But then I realize that I feel things a little too closely, too deeply and it affected me as such.
I pride myself on being emotionless when I want to, on my face never betraying me. But I realise that in the process of building walls around me, I’ve forgotten that they are made of glass.
The stones thrown are making it crumble and I go on building walls, keeping myself busy, freeing myself from the emotions. I get angry and detached and then I feel no one cares as no one’s coming in, no one brave enough to come through the weak walls I’m pretending to shield myself behind. Then I get angry at myself – maybe I shouldn’t be putting in so much effort to remain aloof.
No one’s caring right now, if I come out a little bit no one would notice and I’d breath in the world. So I told myself. I told myself I’ll only let some people know that yes, I am out and about so I can explore the world in peace but also have company in the process. It is only too late that I realise I’ve made the same mistake again. I’ve trusted the wrong person. The masks are all I see hovering, all the people who’ve betrayed me, sneering at me and laughing, ‘this is your fate.’
I look down my balcony and I see the reds of betrayal slashed through the bushes in my garden. I see the people looming outside the gates asking me to come out. Their voices fading as I go further back in, in the walls I’ve made, the walls I’m now working to make double layered from the inside, making it that much harder for the next person to come through even as I crave in my loneliness for someone to soothe me and tell me it’s okay.
You know the thing about time? It happens. It doesn’t wait for you. You can’t catch up to it.
This is what you’ve heard all your life. What if I told you they are wrong? What if I told you that life doesn’t happen? It is us that happen. It is time that is running ahead at bullet speed and will probably crash way too soon than we want it to, incinerating life, us, in its wake.
We are not trying to catch up to time. We are trying to slow it down, to rein it in a little. Time is like the untamed alpha-wolf. It’ll let you be fooled into thinking that you are the leader, the alpha, until you realize that you are just a beta. By the time you realize that, it’d be too late.
It makes us think, no? That life happens, time happens, we happen. What’s the big deal? What are we doing here? We are all trying to comfort ourselves, fooling ourselves in the process, letting relations describe us. We form close bonds with our cousins, our family, friends, some maybe more than that. But a time comes when you realise that it’s all a farce.
The moment comes when you realize the fastidiousness of life. We are in a doll’s house, long forgotten in the attic, collecting dust as we speak. We play this game of life as we rot away, and ignore that yes, that is what’s happening to you. It’s a wonderful game that we’ve lost ourselves into. We’ve forgotten the attic that’s outside the doll house, the house outside the attic, the street outside the house.
Now we’re slowly rediscovering the world again, barely aware that the attic exists – so full of new things, bits and pieces long forgotten. A chocolate wrapper lying abandoned behind the broken cuckoo clock. The long forgotten dinner set gifted to you on your anniversary. We say we’re discovering a new world. But are we? It was there all along. We were just too dense to acknowledge that fact. Only now you realize how small a world you’ve found yourselves in.
And you realize the time you’ve been granted is too small, too short to discover it whole. But does that mean we don’t attempt at all to discover it? We could climb the walls of the doll house. Someone else will take the same way up and continue ahead. And here is the truth of all as you climb up and take your last breaths. Life is a relay. You just pass on the message of how it goes and walk on the trodden footpath. Most of us choose to walk on that worn-out path. Some have the courage to continue ahead and then the others choose to follow that new path.
But take a moment to consider this. If all of us went out to discover the world outside the doll-house and the attic, wouldn’t we discover the street outside sooner?
Life is like a butterfly. When it opens its wings, you are mesmerized by its beauty.
Half of the the time my life doesn’t make sense and I don’t try to make sense of it. I just end up caught between the tangled web where I am not be able to get the beginning or the end. I think that is how a story ought to be. It should be all tangled up, where there’s neither an end nor a beginning. But, it is upon the author to decide upon the part when it starts and when it ends. Life is such, you don’t know the end or the beginning but you just choose a piece in the middle and start working. Everything else will fall in place.
Mrinalini Sarabhai passed away. When I first heard the news, I immediately went to confirm it. Frankly, I am still reeling from the shock. She died at the age of 97. She dedicated her life to dance such that she was one with dance. World has lost one of its finest gems and it’s already feeling the loss.
I think the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam, was always meant for me. My mom used to watch Doordarshan in those days and one of Amma’s shows was on. Obviously my mom told me this, I don’t remember any of it. I just started copying some of the movements and I felt I was dancing. I wasn’t copying her to the T maybe, but I was dancing. And then I just started copying dance from many songs and such. My mom sometimes used to joke that I learnt to dance before I started walking.
I started to train for dance at the age of 4. No, my parents didn’t send me to classes against my will. Nor did I have to drag them there. We had attended one of the shows of my cousin’s and that confirmed it – that I wanted to learn dance. I met my cousin’s guru, eventually mine too, there. She told me she accepted students from the age of 6. But even then, I still used to go and sit in the corner, watching the elder girls dance. Then after a few weeks, my guru taught me the Namaskar to keep me busy. I went home and perfected it, making my parents sit on the sofa. And then step by step, day after day, I started learning dance.
Of course, it was not always music and rhythm. I sometimes feel grateful to my mother that even when I was feeling down and didn’t want to go to class, she’d leave me there at the gates of the class, still crying and throwing a tantrum. I didn’t realise it then, but I learnt that dance accepted you in all your forms just like you embrace all the forms of dance. I wouldn’t have known Bharatnatyam and met such wonderful people, if Amma hadn’t brought the dance form to the people of Gujarat and taught it to us.
She was living legend. For me, she was always a curiosity. We read about her in history books even as we followed her in the activities column in the newspaper. How many people you could say the same thing about?
I met her when she was 92. Just that once. It was my Arangetram and she was going to be there. Everyone was so excited. My guru, Smt. Kashmira Trivedi, and many of her senior and the junior disciples, were so excited and were equally worried. They worked my partner and I extra hard just to ensure that we didn’t make any mistakes and that our movements were as effortless and flawless as possible.
It is still one of those days in my mind where it feels like it was all a dream and it was the highest reality. She was supposed to be there for just the opening ceremony and stay for maybe half an hour. She ended up staying till the interval and gave a heartfelt speech, appreciating both of my working parents and how they managed to send me to classes regularly to let me fulfil my passion.
Afterwards, she came to meet us in the green room and we talked. Her first comment on seeing me there was, “Oh my, you are tall!” I was in 8th and I was already 5’7″ back then. People I met couldn’t believe me when I said I was just in 8th. And she had that very same reaction. At that moment, I realised, she was just like you and I, like us. We shared our love for dance, but while we choose to run after success and what brings the most money, she followed her heart and made success run after her.
Even with all the popularity she had earned, she was down to earth. She met with all of my senior didis and congratulated them on the job well done in helping me train. My teacher, I remember her in one of those very few instances, had tears in her eyes. She was proud of having us, me and my partner, as her students and she was overwhelmed by meeting Amma in person.
Even when we met her she was so full of energy you wouldn’t even know that she was above 70-75. She walked faster than any of us, her eyes were so full of focus and expressive. It was like she was communicating with you solely when her eyes swept over the room.
This was the only instance where I encountered Amma in person, and it will stay with me forever. There are thousands of other people who were lucky to be taught under her tutelage and have more experiences to share.
I have no more words to say about her except, may you rest in peace, Amma, you will be missed sorely. But now you can finally dance away without the mortal constraints.
Sorrow is the texture of an old jeans. It sounds like the fans in an air conditioner, a constant reminder – always there. It looks like the bark of an old, withering, bitter neem tree. It tastes like curd – sweet and sour in equal measure; and it smells like a red chilli, in its sharpness and bluntness, bringing tears to your eyes.