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Ram Gopal - memorable encounters
by Chitra Sundaram, London

October 20, 2003

I console myself by thinking that those of us here in London should feel no greater a loss than anyone else at the passing away of Ram Gopal for he truly belonged to the world at large.

Yet I recall being humbled by his coming to Bhavan to see me rehearse in 1982 (as he was not going to be around for the performance itself) because I told him how all my Shiva delineations were inspired by the majesty of his images that I had seen from the time I knew dance and later, his personal withdrawn-ness from the world, for all his celebrity and stature. His warm appreciation and clear input were and still remain a source of encouragement.

There was also another memorable encounter of a different dimension altogether - (I must at least now try and find the couple of photos I shot with a rather poor camera) when I took Kalanidhi Mami to see him here in London, in 1981 I believe. Momentous as the reunion was, I never thought of writing about it.

'Kantu! You are exactly the same!' he exclaimed as he, a tall, larger than life presence, grabbed Mami's small frame into a warm embrace. He hadn't seen her in decades, I understood. But they embraced time itself it seemed for they immediately began to walk down memory lane, hand in hand, like two teenagers, giggling...I left them then- it was too precious and personal to stick around... I picked Mami up after a couple of hours and I didn't have to ask her how it went. She had clearly shed some years that surely there will be some tears, in sorrow surely, but possibly also in some joy at his release into that special 'spirit'ed world he always seemed to be a part of....

As I write, I realize I do miss him already, more than I expected, on a personal level... although he barely recognised me when I spent time with him not too long ago at his new 'home', far out of London and a far cry from the exuberant opulence of his longtime central London home where he had received Mami and me, standing by a towering portrait of himself, as regal as the Prince of Dance that he was. Even so, he wanted to conduct a dance workshop, and he did, sort of, thanks to Mira Kaushik of Akademi, and dancers of every ilk attended including Kathak dancer Rani Khanum who was visiting from India and Mavin Khoo. He could barely walk or talk but driven by his passion for dance he began urging Mira, soon after the workshop, to start a repertory company to tour the world under his direction! 'We can do it,' he assured her, 'I have done it before!'

Now we can erase any saddening memory of his tired body and mind and go back to recalling only his unforgettable majestic self and the wonderful, magical era of dance and discovery that he represented.

A choreographer, performer and commentator, Chitra Sundaram also serves on private and public organisations in advisory and trustee capacities.

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