Archives for category: Journal

The Festival of Navaratri

The October heat in the afternoons is on the rise. The village woman grinds freshly plucked henna leaves from the garden into a smooth paste. I am full of curiosity & wonder, as she takes my hands into hers. She lovingly envelops the tips of my fingers, and my toes with the thick green paste of henna. Its perfect consistency is achieved by adding to it the juice of a few lemons from her garden. She is gifted at weaving conversations. She keeps me patiently engaged with colourful folklores around henna, and it’s magical benefits upon the well-being of a woman. I receive her love. I receive her joy. I receive her blessing.

To allow the henna to reveal its gifts, I am forced to halt all activity. Unable to dance, or to read, or to paint, or to listen to music, I surrender to laying down upon the floor beneath me. She directs me to rest at a spot on the floor where a wonderful breeze blows directly upon me, speeding the drying up of the henna paste. Unable to move, I recollect and hum to myself beautiful padams – dance compositions. It is a joy to sing aloud to the vast spaciousness around me. I have forgotten the pleasure of leisurely laying on the ground, just staring aimlessly at the ceiling. A childlike playful excitement bubbles through my body. I can sense the light orange of the henna darken into a deeper red, with the slow passage of time. The aroma is giddying and delightful. A few hours later, the leaves dry upon my skin. She helps take it all off with a wide & content smile. The darkened orangish-red colour is to her satisfaction. Her joy is contagious. I am overflowing with love and deep gratitude for our sisterhood. I am waiting for dawn to dance in celebration of the joy that henna awakens in me.

Wishing all of you a blessed, joyful and nurturing Navaratri in celebration of the Mother Nature and all Her beautiful forms. 🙏🏽

A few weeks back, an endearing young woman, expressed her desire to learn Indian classical dance from me. Her strong desire and my openness to step into sharing what I know, aligned right away. “Yes. Let us begin this evening”, I said. She lit up with excitement. I sensed a familiar unfounded joy ignite between both of us. We parted momentarily to get ourselves ready for the evening lesson. Every ticking second, unfurled a storm of butterflies in my stomach. By and by, the heat of the afternoon sun softened. As the slanting rays of twilight fell upon the sacred altar, we joined our hands in prayer. Paying homage to all the divine forces, we touched the earth upon which we stood with folded hands, and took Her blessings. The two of us stood face to face. In full faith, we opened ourselves up to give and to receive the dance of life, through our body and breath.

The next day, she brought another young woman along, whose burning desire to dance Bharatanatyam was keenly palpable. I heard a whisper say, “More the merrier.” So now, we were a circle of three. Every day, at an opportune moment, we practiced the classical dance form. I led the instructions. Often, I too danced with them. We were like three tribal women, meeting at a communal dance circle. Our dancing had a raw beauty, joy, and spontaneity to it. The body began to awaken to the power of its life force. Our five senses grew attentive. The tensed tight limbs began to welcome the muscle pain. The resilience, the determination, the staying power to transcend this pain began to grow.

I let go of all previous impressions. I let go of all judgment. I let go of the how, why and when. I allowed the not-knowing. I allowed an unlearning. I allowed faltering. I allowed playfulness. I allowed the joy and fun of dance to take centre stage. Together, we began to remember. I heard words of wisdom resounding in the air around us, ‘All learning is a remembering.’ We reawakened to that which is alive in the memory of each cell, vein, artery, and heartbeat inside our physical body. The thrill of rhythm, and the calm inside stillness, slowly unveiled before us.

We began to purge blocked energies. Streams of energy began to move in and out of our pores. Sweat streams cooled off our heated bodies. As if bathed in the cooling drops of the first rain, our racing heartbeat began to recognise its innate rhythm. The staying power began to grow stronger. Devoid of external mirrors, we began to know our body and its classical proportions from the inside. The inner eye began to reflect back the body’s own sacred geometry. We moved inside out into the horizontals, the verticals, the diagonals, and touched the circumference of our inner/outer circles. We began to sense the density of space. We began to move through the vacuum and the void. We began to extend ourselves into infinity. We began to taste the peace, the calm and the balance, when seated upon the golden throne of our body’s sacred mandala. Our spine elongated. Our shoulders rolled back. The legs bent into a square. Our pelvic bone opened to receive the downpour of energy. The vertical shaft of light began to break an inner cocoon. The butterfly began to birth out of the chrysalis. The women circle began to facilitate their rebirth. Together, they allowed the mad and divine to enter. They began to remember what they already know.

 

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Each one of us is a unique flower blooming to embrace eternity. Each one unfurls her own fragrance. Each one of us is complete in her form. Together, we allow our full blossoming, unhindered, unafraid. When the night falls, our bodies spread restfully like the wide green leaves of a lotus, and lay afloat meditatively upon clear waters. Our roots grow deep into muddy waters. Our stems extend far and wide. When the light, the temperature, and the sensory perceptions align, we bloom open like beautiful, vibrant lotuses. Some bloom at night to the coolness of the silvery moon (कुमुदिनी – Kumudini). Some bloom to the warmth of the morning sun (पंकजम – Pankajam). We are Kumudinis dancing in celebration of the kiss by the Silvery Moon. We are Pankajams in celebration of the life force streaming into us from the Golden Sun.

So it is.

तथास्तु – Tathasthu.

{Please note: The Sanskrit word ‘तथास्तु -Tathasthu’, has been translated by most scholars as, ‘So be it’. I would like to acknowledge that on the morning I penned this post, I received a letter from my dearest friend, Hema A Bharadwaj. It was Hema, who helped me see, that the actual translation of ‘Tathasthu’ aught to be, ‘SO IT IS’. Her lucid insight opened a spaciousness inside of me, & directly influenced the title of this post. I am deeply grateful for our friendship, which has been a healing & transformative force throughout my life. Our sacred friendship has also been the driving force behind, Artisdates.com, this common blog between Hema, Kaarthikeyan & myself, since May 2012. }

Resting in stillness. Watching pigeons in flight. Listening to the melodies of the sensuous ocean waves. Bobbing wooden boats carry curious explorers into the Arabian Sea. There is such heightened poetry in these pregnant monsoon skies !

Photo Courtesy: Kamakshi Kaarthikeyan

 

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चंद्रभागा 🌙 Chandrabhaga

 

She is monsoons, spring, autumn,

and a quiet snowfall …

She is beauty, passion, compassion

with moist, clear, playful,

and sparkling eyes …

 

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7th September 2018

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29th August 2018

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20th August 2018

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20th August 2018

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19th August 2018

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7th August 2018

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7th August 2018

Monsoon hill climbs in Maharashtra, gift unexpected encounters with beautiful mountain people, and inspire me to sketch and paint. This sketch is of ‘Chandrabhaga’. A shepherdess who I chanced upon on my afternoon walks on a hill under the shade of grey monsoon clouds, while vast fields of tender green grass and unexpected pools of water, lured me with their colours and shimmers. She embodies the spirit of a river in full swell ~ untamed, yet calm, curious and vivacious, free spirited and attentive. She moves through the green pastures with poise, grace, and elegance. She gave me permission to film her. I went ballistic with my camera, trying to catch her spirit in a photograph. She softly asked me with curious and clear eyes, “What do you do with these photos?” I responded, “I want to capture this moment in my memory, and sometimes I make paintings too. If I make one, I’ll bring it along to show it to you.” She smiled. We conversed for a long time in the noon hours. She told me about her daily routine. Her long climbs with her herd of goats, without a water bottle/phone/hat, just her long wooden stick, and her thick woollen blanket. She spoke about her goats, their behaviour, her life under the wide open skies, her community, and their campsite at the base of these hills …
Its been more than a week, since she plays on my mind. Today, was a day when my being fills with peace and inspiration. I feel the same delight ignite my entire being. And little by little, my beautiful Chandrabhaga, converses with me. I meet her in these pigments, in the brush strokes, in the light shower of rain that touches my skin, when the winds get more frisky, and words form sentences and express feeling on this page.
{journal entry, 7th August 2018}
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SKETCH, 7th August 2018

A RECITAL SPACE FOR THE CLASSICAL ARTS

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Hidden in the center of an ancient mystical banyan grove is a sacred Nrithya Mandappam. Arriving through the thicket of trees and vines, two ornate wooden pillars with jasmine and marigold flowers, flank the mandappam entrance. A sensuous sandalwood fragrance fills the air. The faint strum of the tanpura drops all in a state of trance. A light breeze weaves in and out of the room making the orange flames from the glowing oil lamps dance coyly. A deep violet blue hue radiates out of the Pooja room, on the opposite side of which seat the musicians in a dark crimson enclave. A pool of yellowish golden light awaits to celebrate the temple dancer. The rasikas witnessing this evenings recital are already seated in the deep red shadow opposite this glowing yellow light. A buzz of excitement enlivens the air. Veiled inside this healing greenery, everyone awaits prayerfully to be transported into the ethereal world of music, dance inside a meditative silence …

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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…

 


I observe the ocean waters play with these sands strewn upon the shore. Swallowing without a trace. Both quiet and roaring aloud at the same time. In the serenity away from maddening crowds, alive with busy, silent crabs prancing about in their bizarre horizontal gait. Tunnelling into sandy homes, that are washed cyclically with salty waters, they remain unperturbed. I find myself pondering about our work upon this earth in this lifetime. All of nature is saying to me- Life is to be lived in utter ease and surrender. Life, a celebration of strangers waiting to be met, adventurous journeys to ancient cities, river banks, beaches, monuments, forests, civilisations and much much more.

A few days ago, I saw the recital of an Odissi dancer from Bangalore, Vandana Supriya. She is beautifully present, and emotive in her sensuous movements. Carefree, well endowed with a voluptuousness, her fish-like languid eyes, are quiet in appearance. The moment she enters on stage, she draws me in. There is an inwardness to Vandana. Her dance is free of a deliberate studiousness. Her moves await none. Her being is free of cues from the words that the singer sang, free of synchronising with the pauses in between two phrases. Vandana is like a flowing river. Her dance, a continuous weave. A quality vital to the classical tradition of which I too am a student.


Is this something one is endowed with? 

Is it a journey of rigorous practice, for as long as it takes, to arrive at this fluidity? 

Is it both? 

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

Astad Deboo, a magician, a sorcerer, a poet, a muse!

It is an evening buzzing with life, breath, and humid dew, before the unveiling of the unseen, unheard, the unfathomable. I am drawn to drape in vibrant, vermillion, and white muslin silk, fired up from within, after a meal with the artist, a day earlier. I am led to take a center seat, an uninterrupted view, of the dimly lit stage. A soft, golden glow illumines the compassionate face of Rukmini Devi alongside idols of the Devi and Nataraja. Well-groomed students of dance, sit cross-legged on the floor ahead of me. I drop inward. Feeling the energy around me, and within.

At the scheduled hour, the bells begin to toll, and in the silence and resonance, a row of sculpturesque, bodies shimmer, in a haze of soft light. The bells toll at an interval, laying me gently inside a trance. Some begin to move forward, while the central figure is cloaked in flowing streams of fluid fabric, holding a fulcrum of silent energy. He moves into the center of the large, riverbed. There is orderliness in the rippling waves of life around him. The blooming, the blossoming, is tender, is unpredictable, is beauty in motion and rhythm. I feel inspired. I feel open. I feel a tingling sensation of life and dance, mirrored in my body and breath.

The river-scape is flowing, ever changing, thinning into an expanse of nothingness. Dropping me into an endless void of peace and tranquility, only to be jolted awake to receive the throb of one thundering heartbeat, multiplying into several. I break open further, the reverberating beats reveal delightful lily pads, crawling with crocodiles, digesting life with ease, rising and ebbing waves of energy, liquid and splashing, making me wet inside out, outside in. I close my eyes, reveling the wetness. The silence, returns. From the dark void, now appears, an indigo-blue being, with a shimmering, ornate, blood moon delicately woven on the back, illumining the dark night ocean. This being is quiet, playful, mysterious, alluring, with silken streams, swirling from the limbs. She dances, He celebrates, He beckons inward, She reveals her scrolls of calligraphic poetry. I listen to their music and movement, as He and She swirl, entwined in the love. For a brief moment, their veil lifts, blinding these eyes by their dazzling, silver skin. I gasp! I return to the sparkling space of magic and wonder, recollecting the poem of a Sufi Mystic, Rumi,  ‘To my eyes, lovers touching are folded wings in a beautiful prayer.’


They arrive. Luminous symbols in their hands, with vibrant, red, woolen tails. The red tails and gold symbols swirl and spin, like dancing leaves twirling down in autumn. A being now appears in sunset orange, quick witted, with a penetrating gaze, glancing at the minutest details, in all those who dare look into those hazy eyes. The rhythms, movements, and swirls, gather momentum with an orange sunrise, as mountain goats and rice fields of the East, meet the wild, dark, mendicants from far away lands. Eastern, delicate sinuous, yellow mountain men, meet the music of the dark skinned, muscled, meat eating, loud men, from the land of the wild beasts and great hunts!

Enters into this, a being, like a dark tornado, with gilded edges. This tornado is steady in its gait, its fierceness tamed, commanding worship. The delicate, mountain men offer their spirals into those darkening, swelling and ebbing edges of the towering tornado, and then disappear back into their homes with humility. With the last man gone, the winds halt unexpectedly, revealing the ugly face of Satan screaming aloud in his Jaguar tongue.


Into the void, is a halting, an unsettling scratching, of the otherworldly sort.

From this emptying, appears a being dressed in virgin white, holding two, ivory conch shells to his mouth. His deep breath enters into the conch, enveloping us with a circular sound, neutralizing the resonance of the Jaguar tongue, and allowing clouds of milk-white light to float down the serpentine river bend. A soft mist of clouds, crackle upon the golden dry riverbed. Moistening it slowly. Allowing tiny beads of dew to unite with others. These droplets quench the thirsty, invisible life, running through the unseen depths of parched riverbeds.

And a brook begins its joyful gurgle ~ ~ ~