This September, I was in my ancestral town (Tirunelveli) for my maiden solo dance performance. It was during the `Dussera' festival and evenings were marked by performances of various classical dances as an offering to Goddess Durga. That day was the culmination of years of consistent effort. I remembered my Guru's (teacher's) words on stage, "You have no second chance, you must make every movement count".
The hustle around me must have been a funny sight for any onlooker: my father, apprehensive about my energy levels for a strenuous performance was frantically pouring Gatorade down my throat and my three affectionate aunts were sandwiching me in their hugs to wish me luck, all at the same time. The only sanity in this chaos was the sight of my mother- sitting calmly with the sound engineer to handle the music. I positioned myself at the right wing, ready to enter.
The awaited moment finally arrived. The lights were blinding. Though I could hear my heartbeat and feel my hands trembling, I felt a comforting familiarity when the music commenced. As I danced, the nagging pain in my shin, or the heat from lights piercing my skin did not matter. The joy and freedom that I encountered had the ability to transcend the physical. I felt a sense of belonging in this space and it was just the music and my dance. As I performed one of my favourite compositions (Taraana), I felt like a feather, moving with grace and ease. Is this what they call `bliss'? I was in a world that I had created. The vociferous applause indicated the end of the show and brought me back to my senses.
Let me take you back in time.
When I was 9, my art loving parents proposed I pursue one of three Indian classical dance forms - Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Odissi. Movement has always stimulated me, and the intensity and twirls of Kathak captivated me the first time I saw it.
However, as a child, I did not foresee the demanding path I would have to traverse.
For many years, dance was uninteresting. The unvarying footwork (tatkaar) would occasionally be broken by small pieces of movement (tukda), but my teacher would make me recite it umtill it fit a specific time cycle, which was not too much fun either. She would always say, "The more tatkaar you do, the better dancer you will be". Upon questioning, I would always hear the humdrum lines - "you have to climb many steps to get to the 100th". I danced with a sense of detachment. There were phases of boredom and lack of interest, but with unremitting support from my parents and sustained motivation from my teacher, learning continued and I stayed the course. My parents would always say, "You are such a good dancer, just give it time".
I don't remember the exact point I started to rejoice in dance. Was it when I first enacted my favourite mythological story- Lord Krishna's triumph over the evil snake Kalinga or was it the fun rehearsals with my peers? Was it my love for those colourful costumes or was it the applause that is now addictive? Along the way, exposure to renowned artists in the field inspired me, and perhaps what made me stay was my growing ability to understand Kathak in all its richness and glory.
Looking back, my connection with dance required perseverance and tenacity. Through my diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, dance was my solace. Whether I am gloomy, cheerful or indecisive, every situation is a better one to be in when I dance. I find a deep-connection with my inner self.
That performance in Tirunelveli was my destination. As the applause resonated within me, I realised that it takes years of work to experience moments of elation.
It has indeed been a rewarding journey of joy and self-discovery!
Diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2008, I struggled to accept this new life. However, I soon started a nonprofit to create a community of people with T1d in my hometown in India. I finished high school in May 2014 and have been on a gap year since. I will be attending college this year and am very excited about my transition. In my free time, I read and study an Indian classical dance called Kathak.