Spontaneous, yet measured
- Chitra Chandrasekhar Dasarathy
February 27, 2017
A favourite story that my mother likes to tell my children is when during a performance, I as a little girl fell asleep in the wings after dancing a Jatiswaram while she danced the Varnam! She came in and woke me up in time for the Tillana!
My mother Jaya Chandrasekhar, from the time I can remember, balanced her multiple roles and continues to amaze us with her energy for her varied interests. She went out to teach at The Vasanta College for Women at The Krishnamurthi Foundation, Banaras, in the mid-sixties in the last century. She later also taught dance at the Banaras Hindu University. Among my circle of friends in a small town like Banaras, I soon realised that Amma was one of the few women who worked. She managed a home and family not to forget a steady stream of visitors who came to Kashi as pilgrims and she danced! She has always had a perspective which was large and inclusive, she probably inherited it from her father, whose interests ranged between astrology, Tamil classical literature and American politics (he worked for the USIS in New Delhi) and her mother who encouraged her to study and graduate in law, learn to dance and sing! Amma trained in Bharatanatyam and performed for long years. Her fluidity of movements in dance is something I cherish and describe to my students when I teach.
Give space for everyone’s point of view and give them a hearing, is what she always believed and my sister Manjari and I saw this happening within the family and outside even with our domestic help or even now with people who still come to talk with my parents about their journeys in the arts. She has also been the most honest and perceptive critic of all that she sees or reads. The ability to be proud of and yet be objective about the actions and work of even those closest to oneself comes to her without trying hard and I wonder if this ability can be emulated at all. Yet one tries…..
One of Amma’s greatest gifts is her sense of proportion, be it in praise, criticism, buying a gift or even in disciplining a child (She made sure that if we needed to be disciplined, only one of my parents did the ticking off - never both of them together!) or very importantly in her delicious cooking. Because her response to most things is so measured yet spontaneous, I always feel its honesty and hope I can be as objective and honest in my own responses. After one of my performances of Kunti, I wondered if it was the story of the character that elicited responses from the audience. Amma was quick to point out that I shouldn’t discount my ability to create an impact beyond the story!
As I grow older, I hope I can regain the wonder of small things. I watch Amma and Appa analyzing a performance they have seen, discussing details of something they watched together on TV, the snacks they buy for their grandchildren, Amma reading my son’s Harry Potter book with complete absorption while Appa looks amused and above all their devotion to the family-immediate and the extended, not to forget that large community of dancers who they have made their own.
Bharatanatyam dancer Chitra Chandrasekhar Dasarathy is the artistic director of "Antaranga" in Bangalore.
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