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‘My Journey: A Tale of Two Births’ by Ileana Citaristi
- Nita Vidyarthi

December 14, 2015
Acclaimed Odissi dancer Ileana Citaristi’s third book My Journey: A Tale of Two Births is a gripping piece of literary work where she elaborates her mountain stream like journey to success. Though termed an autobiography, her lucid style and recounting of her life has a fictional hue that interests and tends to push the reader to complete the book at one go. The writing is an honest account and candid outpour of emotions and feelings with a cluster of images that reveal the strength of character of the dancer-writer.

The first part of the book that is redolent with the beautiful land of her birth, where she grew up and spent her early years, does not shrivel her account of her quest for a meaningful life in an alien Indian atmosphere, as a matter of fact Odisha and the Odias with whom she has had the closest harmony. The details of the Bohemian, reckless and aimless colour of her lifestyle devoid of social scaffoldings (punctuated with personal loss of dear ones), stimulate the reader’s curiosity to run to chapter 6, ‘The second beginning’ when she landed at Mumbai airport.

Subsequently Chapters 7, 8 and 9 are interesting accounts of her tryst with Indian classical dance Chhau and Odissi. Then learning experience in Cuttack with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Guruji, the man, the Guru and his teaching methods, her co-learners, her own training process and adapting to his household, Guruma, coping up with the Odia culture, the language and tribulations of daily life, and her friends, matching with that of the most exalted mystical experience. Humorous anecdotes lend vividness to the imagery. Chapter 10, ‘Creative Endeavours’ unfurls a hit with her first full-fledged choreography that was a very special experience for her.  The courage to face and overcome the criticism and disapproval of the stalwarts of Odissi stemmed from her Guru’s words of appreciation, “Choreographic Masterpiece” that echoed in her mind and kept her going.

‘The target achieved and dreams fulfilled’ in Chapter 11 narrates the beginning of a fairytale of  a series of successes like chances of working with a virtuoso like Chandralekha, working and choreographing in films with celebrities. This chapter apart from her personal activities, reveals a canvas of the performing arts and its interrelation with the life and culture, myths and realities liturgical and secular activities that not only made her learning in Odisha a unique experience but in the process acquainted the reader with the mundane details of the common man and their lives of the city where she “lived” and survived. Chapter 13 is her fond memory of the process involved in building her lovely house on the Bindusagar.

Chapter 14 is all about her choreographic works, formation of her own organisation Art Vision, details of productions and her annual festivals. There is a touching epilogue and an equally intense concluding paragraph to this passionate work which would be fascinating to classify as a “prose-tale” of a strong, self confident, hard-working dancer from Italy who made Odisha her home.

The book is well illustrated with photographs and is a must read for all, dancers, non-dancers, young and old not only to relish and learn from the multi-dimensional experience and perception of life and the ability of a person to cope up with its stress and challenges, but to be acquainted with the social structure of Odisha, the insight into the attitude and training methods of gurus and especially to know about Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra as a person.

Manohar Publishers
282 pages, Hard Bound
ISBN: 9789350980873
Price:  Rs.950

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a critic of performing arts, specialising in dance, dance theatre and expressions and is a regular contributor to The Hindu, and the Statesman Kolkata in dance, vocal music and theatre. She is trained in Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Manipuri as well as vocal, semi-classical music and Rabindra Sangeet.

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