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.
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.
So last night I was out with mom. As we were coming back home late night, we saw an old man, playing the flute. His clothes were in tatters, his eyes were down, seeing something, only he can see, with a slight smile on his face. As we passed by him, we realized there were three little children who were about to sleep in the cycle cart under the shade of the neem which stood proud by the side of the road. There was no crowd around him, which stood out to me.
Seeing that I felt happy. Is there a peace greater than that? There he was, not a shelter above his head, probably struggling to keep his children sheltered from the harshness of the life and he was playing the flute so beautifully to lull them to sleep. His children, as I gazed upon them briefly, had a content expression on their faces, their eyes almost drooping. They were not more than 9.
When was the last time you went to sleep content, filled with peace, inside the comfort of your homes? We work so hard all our lives, always worrying about the future. Maybe, every once in a while we need to stop that worrying. We ain’t getting any younger. Spend some time with your family, your friends, go have a long walk along the sea, gaze out at the stars. It’s the little things that matter and learn to appreciate them in your life. When was the last time you surprised your wife by coming home early or on time, instead of making excuses for being late today also? Go out with your friends who’ve been insisting you meet them for a cup of tea and talk. Work can wait. Over long run, it will not be enough. These are the moments you cherish.
We look around us and watch. One of the most common things we see is a guy and a girl fighting. But is it all that there is to it? Or is it something more? Do we peel back the layers and see? Are all girls really saints? Are all guys jerks? Why do we see the world in black and white? No doubt, we are gender-biased.
We forget that we all have our shortcomings as humans. We make mistakes – it’s okay to make mistakes. Don’t we all? Then why this bias? We automatically assume it’s the guy’s fault and he did wrong to her. Sometimes it may be the other way round. Or maybe it’s not even their fault, it’s the circumstances around them.
Maybe it’s time and we see the people as they are – in shades, the shades of grey. Maybe it’s time to forgive. Time to remember that these are also human beings, and they are also struggling with the tides and ebbs of life, just like us. Maybe it’s a facade.
After all, who are we to decide – who among us is the god, who is the demon? We are all alike, whether we like it or not.