Archives for category: Art

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Nestled Inside The Sliver of a Delicate Crescent Moon, classical dancer, Sujit Vaidya, a kindred spirit, victorious and triumphant like his name. He moves majestically, draped in peacock-hued silk with a playful dash of vibrant pink! Reminiscing his dance recital, on the eve of 10th January, 2015, a resonance of hushed tranquility rests within.

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With much inspiration and quietude…

 

 

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July 14, 2015

The passing of my dear teacher of classical dance, Smt Shyamala, leaves a large vacuum in my being. I met her for the first time two years ago, and it was love at first sight! Her curious, soft eyes and herd gentle, kind smile, melted all hard edges within. Before I found her, I had been learning with gifted teachers, yet a restlessness burned inside of me.

Then, on the 1st of January 2013, I entered Shyamala akka’s quaint little house with a brass plate laden with fruits, flowers, betel nut leaf, and was initiated as her student. The Pandanallur form of dance that I had devoted many years to, was considerably different in Akka’s manner of teaching. There was a palpable softness, grace, and fluidity that lured me in. Though her nature refrained from any impositions upon me, I soon realised that to truly bathe in the essence of her teachings, I had to muster the courage to begin from the beginning. And so my journey resumed from the first lesson of Tatta Adavus! Apart from being an exponent of dance in Smt T. Balasaraswati tradition, Akka had been a teacher of Botany for many years, an adept yoga practitioner under her fathers tutelage, as well as an ardent student of Vastu Shastra under Shri. Ganapathy Sthapathi. These varied backgrounds influenced and coloured her manner of teaching Bharatanatyam, greatly. She was the only daughter, born into a learned family of teachers, who had settled in Sri Lanka for many years. Akka’s father saw the gift of dance in his dear daughter, who was also equally brilliant academically and in sports! Akka was a volleyball champion in her school, a passionate athlete at heart. However, her father’s keen eye for refined art, brought Shyamala Akka along with her mother, to Chennai, at the tender age of thirteen, to continue her classical dance and music studies with Smt. T. Balasaraswati. It was a cultural shock for her to adjust to living in the demanding, disciplined routine from the young age of thirteen, in a new city, quite different culturally, while being away from her larger family and estates in Sri Lanka. But her love and trust in her father, allowed her to surrender to the many years of gruelling practice in this classical dance form, which was a non-refutable, expectation from any student of the doyen of Bharatanatyam, Smt Balasaraswati, loving addressed as Balamma. During this time, she stayed at the home of a Kathakali maestro from Kerala, and hence got exposed to the classical art forms of Mohiniattam as well as Kathakali. A bright student, she was gifted with the ability to shape-shift herself to any form of dance. Though her primary teacher, Balamma, was a strict disciplinarian, she had a keen eye for a genius in a child, and allowed the flowering of each students uniqueness, if another art form complemented the student. So Shyamala akka enjoyed a privileged relationship with her teacher, Balamma. For Akka, Balamma and her family became everything. She remained eternally grateful to every wakeful moment with Balamma and safeguarded each composition learnt under her with more vigilance and care, than any material comforts or worldly manner of wealth.

During my dance lessons with Shyamala Akka, there was not a single day which missed out on some anecdote or nostalgic story from her life with Balamma. Through Shyamala Akka, I, too experienced the grace of this refined classical tradition transform every cell and breath in my body. For the first time in my life, my hunger to look, search and thirst outside of me, disintegrated. I felt quenched and nourished. I could sense an inward and outward transformation metamorphosing my life. I felt my being grow expansive. Many life situations miraculously healed, and grew new, tender, shoots! I knew I had found my teacher. I danced with her morning and evenings, as much as the universe allowed. What I internalised with Shyamala Akka cannot be counted by the number of compositions I learnt under her guidance, or the number of public performances I gave since, or whether I may pass on her teachings to other students in the garb of a teacher of this classical art form. Shyamala Akka breathed life into my brokenness. Shyamala Akka role-modelled devotion, playfulness, and the joy of dance into me. I know not of my future as she reunites today, with our Mother Goddess. I find my tears flowing and ebbing like the tides. I feel her presence, I hear her voice, her laughter, her touch, and sense her blessings pouring out towards me, as I sit stunned inside an unfathomable, dark void.

I pray for you, my dearest Shyamala Akka, as you soar towards Gods light. I pray for your guidance, as I continue on my path as a classical dancer. I love you. My heart brims with gratitude for the gift of knowing you, and learning from you, in this lifetime.

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Jute veils, frame translucent, sheer screens of pale pinks, and ivory hues with gold speckles. These senses delight in the diagonal sweeps of yellows, mustards, oranges, and reds, as she weaves her music and movement, singing aloud the compositions of the bards of Bengal, herself in a crushed drape of quietening, tertiary hues of deep red, and fecund green. She is a woman with milky white skin, almond eyes pooled with innocence, and a full body that celebrates silken fabric, in all its creases and folds!

She tells a story about herself, about you, and about me. Journeying through shades of an inner awareness, she speaks of a mystic, illusory world, dotted with magic, celestial muses, awakening all to a mirage of the sensational and the intangible. Her story begins with three young and beautiful maidens, extending out, connected to me and to you, through an invisible umbilical chord. The first maiden shimmers inside a light, not as bright as day, nor as dull as evening. “In my sky at twilight, you are like a cloud and your form and colour are the way I love them. You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lips and in your life, my infinite dreams live”, says Pablo Neruda. Draped in violet-deep pinks, she dances in wild abandon, flapping her feathery wings like a humming bird. Enraptured by her own reflection in a pool of water, she glimpses an otherworldly, ethereal spark. It beckons her. It lures her with its shape-shifting forms. It entices her into a game of hide and seek with fragrances, sounds, and sensations that both madden and gladden her. Soon the second maiden appears in a blaze of turquoise metallic sheen. Her eyes sparkling with a multitude of questions. She is dainty and delicate with sinuous limbs. She has the agility of a deer, and the curiosity of a cat. Inquisitive, spritely, yet faintly cautious, she tunes in to audible and inaudible frequencies. She boldly dances and plays with sound waves, that would deafen and destroy the less hardy. This mystical give and take with the ethereal, impregnates her with a love child. She births it in time. Once born, she is unable to share its joy and beauty with another. Soon the effusive exuberance of birthing her creative child, alchemises into a haunting emptiness inside her womb. The third maiden now holds the virgin divine child, only to lose it, in the lure of a beautiful deer. She becomes the huntress and the hunted. Exhausted, and disillusioned, all three maidens return to the warmth of their mothers womb, nestled, cradled, and comforted in her lukewarm, compassionate embrace. Their hearts awaken to sensuousness and play as they caress the blue hue of a divine lover, both effusive and playful. Basking in inspiration and laughter, swooning into the contentment of artistic expressions, the lights dims, the waters settle, the ripples quieten, and everything returns to the silence and serenity of the inner journey, into a divine mothers womb. 

{Above: Response inspired by the artistic work, entitled, ANTAR YATRA: Concept, Choreography and Design by Odissi dancer Smt. Sharmila Biswas; Musician Shri. Srijan Chatterjee; Lead Dancers: Amrita Lahiri~Kuchipudi, Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya~Bharatanatyam, and Shashvati Garai Ghosh~Odissi}

Hours of uninterrupted creativity, and then enters the familiar sensation of feeling extremely cooped up in the house. The music, poetry, the passing rows of grey clouds, the drizzling rains, hot cups of tea in the cool monsoon drifts, fill my heart with longing. The trees outside my balcony appear refreshed. The white compound walls are speckled with snails. Peeping down my window, I listen to the splattering rain drops. I see wet, translucent stars, burst about the grooved, cement pavements. I look up into the sky for winged birds, but there is only the grey wash of cottony clouds, drifting with the mist. I have spent the morning, listening to new verses of 15th century, poet-pilgrims. I am envious of their mastery over prose, and the depth of their imaginative inspirations. I marvel at the voice of a contemporary musician sing aloud these ancient texts in lingering melodies. I hunger to rotate each syllable in my mouth. I thirst to gulp every sliver of emotion and meaning, deep into my cells. I enjoy wrapping my being with the rolling words of an ancient language. I ache to free my vocal chords, my breath, the hollows of my skull and bones with music, music and more music. I spend hours writing each syllable and sound in my native tongue. I enjoy feeling the texture of each word chosen by the poet. I enter the expanse of metaphors rising from each sentence. I wonder how these creations came to be. I discover a celestial musician by the name of तुम्बुरु, Tumburu [1]. I am enchanted with his half animal, half human form. My being fills with delight. I repeatedly listen to a select few musical compositions that have fallen upon my ears for the very first time. I am surprised with my voracious appetite for food by noon. I digest it all with ease. I return to the poetical verses and music, but my full belly, takes away attentiveness from the subtle. So, I spend my afternoon entering the world of thrilling fictions. The afternoon sky darkens. It is evening. An unexpected melancholy visits me. Looking outside my window, something within longs for the outdoors. I can hear whispers speak to me of the ocean. I can see inner landscapes of rains shimmering upon its vast body.

IMG_4076I feel the call of misty sprays of the salty waters. I drive out to the beach nearby. Parking my car, I switch off my cellphone. Stepping out, I look out at the humongous veil of grey before me. The sand is wet, and of an intense, yellow ochre color.

IMG_4074The dunes are flattened. The walk to the shoreline is easy, yet heavy footed. There are not too many people outdoors in the rains. Those who linger, appear bitten by the muse of mirth and mischief. Closer to the foaming shoreline, the ocean is dotted with muscular, dark brown, youthful lads, who are rolling in the sands, wrestling with the thickening, emerald-grey, translucent waves.

The waves appear to me like celestial mermaids, splashing waters with their beautiful tails, creating lyrical mists with the passing winds. Metamorphosing their lean bodies, they swell, crash, and mist into a tender foam. The ocean appears as if it were teasing, beckoning, rambunctiously playful, and heartily loud with a roaring, deep bellied, laughter. The rain is at first, a drizzle. I receive its pattering songs. There is an unusual slant to the crashing waves.

The sands near the shore appear raised up to a heightened, smooth platform due to the extreme ebb and flow of the joyful tides. Men lay upon these slants and enticingly await its unpredictable, lukewarm embrace. Women observe their bare bodies, allowing an inward, steady, climb of delight. But the ocean, surprises everybody. In a flash, a thrust of forceful waters, knocks out the timidity of hesitant women, buckling them into the arms of their Beloved. Their shocked bodies rejoice the wetness, awakening hysteria, while allowing men and women to merge in spontaneity into Her sensuous warmth and infinite expanse! I remain by myself, walking along the shoreline in gratitude and wonder. The joy around me is kindling. A stoic women with fine features appears beside me, her calm gaze fixed in a trance like state upon the ocean. She holds an excited toddler in her arms. Both, mother and child are shaded under a giant umbrella by her petite house-helper. I feel amused at the sight.

IMG_4078Suddenly, a powerful wave splashes over me. I am quick to receive its weave of smothering kisses. Compassion and tenderness, flush my entire being. With moistening eyes, I burst into my song. My voice taunts at the boisterous ocean. All around is a celebration of Mother nature’s friskiness. Though, none can out-sing the hearty sound of the vast ocean and the pouring rains. I enjoy my quietude in the crowd. I am singing and dancing with my eyes. Now, in a caressing voice. The booming ocean and the playful crowd share in my madness.

When my song comes to an end, the twilight is welcoming the dark lady of the night. I am soaked and feel nippy as the light around me, softly dims. I feel the call of my warm, dry nest. Turning around, I notice a lilt in my steps. I marvel at the fullness of my being. Cloaked in peace, I return to the warmth of our beautiful home. I switch on my cell phone. Refreshed after a warm meal and bath, I sit on my rocking chair. Our home is cooler due to the pouring rains. I write to Vidhya, my dear friend and gifted classical dancer, living across the seven continents from me. In response to sharing the fine details of my spirited day, she sends me a song in the voice of Shri T. M. Krishna, about a resplendent, benevolent Lord, who reclines on the vast, milky ocean, * सागर शयन विभो, Sagara Shayana Vibho [2] in Raag Bageshree, originally a signature composition of Shri. Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan known as MDR a Carnatic music composer and vocalist from the twentieth century. Sighing in deep contentment, I rest into the night, sparkling inside the exquisiteness of voice, poetry, music, marvelling once again, at an infinite downpour of a creative life-force.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumburu

[2] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bTFtDmFbWIY  

Photography by Kaarthikeyan Kirubhakaran

  

BHIMA

Who is he?

Did he know love?

Is he love?

Is he born again?

Is that birth devoid of might, and raw, open senses?

How are his answers met?

Who is he?

Did he know love?

Was he love?

Who is he?

There are stories within stories. There is love, rage, despair, hunger, obsession, surrender, vitality and death. And through it all weaves a story of great might, about the warrior prince, Bhima, the second of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata. The drums resound. Impulses guide. The eyes, focus. The pulse deepens. The emotions shoot out. The body speaks. The limbs and breath are slaves to his command. He contains. He consumes. He swells. He vomits. He swallows. He gulps. He shreds and tears. He scratches, till blood spills out from these guts. He roars and hammers the thickest boulders to dust. His being crushes all that lies in his way. He lusts. He allows. His senses, rise and ebb, in a visceral dance. He tastes the flesh of a demoness. He receives her nectar. She pours her wet river into his thirsting mouth. He convolutes. He twists and bends. Her passion, he drinks raw and bloody. They are consumed. They are allowing. They hibernate inside this fullness. They bear fruit. The seed is fertile in her red womb. He has to leave. He is commanded to leave. He leaves. She is who she is. She births. She dies. He is tormented. He loves another too. He is passion. He is raw passion. He is unhindered lust. He is love, unconditional, primal, visceral.

He, a spark of ignited flame, untempered, unhindered, involuntary, united with the essence of love!

Bhima, a powerful play infused with energy that is pulled out from every vein and every artery, and throbs with life through the genius of theatre artist, Vivek Vijayakumaran, supported by percussionist, Sachin Gurjale. http://www.ourtheatrearts.com