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Thadhiginathom - Part 17
- Zakir Hussain
English translation: Dushy Gnanapragasam

July 26, 2020

(Reproduced with permission)

Challenge! Surmount!

It is because they faced challenges did living beings develop superior adaptation skills. Singular lives proliferated and became groups of lives because they were able to adapt and overcome changes to their environments and to themselves. The cactus in the dessert is able to conserve the scarcely available water in its leaves and protect them with thorns. Plants that face severe winters sprout, branch out, bloom, and bear fruits in a short summer, then shed leaves and are ready to face the winter again. When the immobile plants are able to adapt in so many ways, there is no limit to the number of ways in which animals and humans have adapted themselves. The houses we build are reflections of our adaptation. A coward becoming a hero, a modest man achieving greatness, and every luxury we enjoy today are the epitomes of that adaptation. But in this continuing change, humans, who evolved from nature destroying that very nature is akin to pouring boiling water on your own roots.

"Napoleon! Quiet. Come inside"
When Mrs. Gomathy Viswanathan called for it in English, the three feet tall, silky orange maned, foreign bred dog stopped its barking and wagged its tail. Half my life that had escaped me was regained with the water given to me by Gomathy amma. Our village had a lot of dogs. They were all local breeds. Like the old ladies who sang for food...if you try to chase them away, they will calmly look at you, unmoving. But the luxury breeds that you find in cities are like over-acting villains. They bark and attack you wantonly. I only like looking at dogs in videos. If faced with them in real life, I scream loud enough to scare the dogs themselves. I only regained composure after Napoleon was secured with a chain. It still kept chuffing and looking at me with loathing.

I was taken inside the house and made to sit on a comfortable sofa. Within five minutes, Mr. Viswanathan (Chairman, Royal Enfield) appeared from upstairs. I stood up and greeted him. At six feet, he had a handsome physique. He was spectacled and was wearing a veshti, a full-sleeved white shirt, and a slim line of holy ash on his forehead.


"Chitra told me about you. Mrs. YGP also recommended you. That's why I asked you to come in person."
His words revealed the friendship between them.
"Thank you, Sir."
"Did you learn dance anywhere else before this?"
"No, Sir." I had learned from experience...

"Alright... can you dance something for me?"
Thinking fate is tempting me again, I said, "I cannot sing, Sir. But I can do something like a solo act."
"Have you finished learning the adavus?"
"No, Sir. I have just completed thattadavu and started nattadavu."

"Alright. What are you going to do in your solo act?"
"The scene where Rama breaks the bow."
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam's 'Ramaya Tubhyam Namaha' came to my rescue. I remember dancing at least fifty percent well.

"Sabash! Your expressions are very good. You will need to work on perfection."
"Thank you very much, Sir."
"But when you dance you look feminine. Therefore, instead of learning from Chitra, learn from Dhananjayan. You will be able to dance with more majesty and masculinity. I will take responsibility for all your expenses."
"I am sorry, Sir. If I learn dance, I will only learn from Chitra akka."
"Do you like Chitra that much?"
"Yes, Sir. I like her more than my own mother."

Mr. Viswanathan was speechless. He arranged for financial assistance to be provided to me through Kala Mandir Trust which he ran. All this information was also immediately conveyed to Chitra akka through telephone by him. I learned he only spoke to me in such a manner to test me. Even then, the thought that Chitra akka was not suitable to teach male students must have wounded her somewhat. She accepted that as a challenge.

When my arangetram was held two years after that day, Mr. Viswanathan attended as the chief guest and said, "I asked Zakir to learn dance from a different teacher because Chitra is adept at teaching female dancers to be beautiful and elegant. He refused. Today, after watching his arangetram, Chitra, I regret saying so on that day. I wholeheartedly accept that you are equally adept at creating male dancers. In Zakir's dance, there is a divinity blended with masculinity. I recant my earlier assumption. I wish you well. Zakir, you will become a very good artiste."

The dedication and perseverance Chitra akka expended day and night to receive these words is what made me excel as an accomplished male dancer to this day.
The beatings I endured to reach this stage....
(July 25, 2020)

To be continued...

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