Last week, we celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi- an important festival in the Hindu tradition marking the birthday of Lord Ganesh. I was thrilled to be invited to give a short performance of traditional Kathak on this occasion. Just a few hours before the programme, my sugar was a soaring 450. As I wondered what had caused this erratic spike, I gave myself insulin and hoped that I would regain my lost energy soon. I was tired and I knew it wasn’t advisable to perform with such high sugars. The stage and lights were set. 200 odd people were expecting me. I couldn’t possibly cancel the show at this point after giving my word.
So I went ahead and performed- definitely not the best decision. I wondered whether pushing myself was really worth the applause and praise I received at the end. It was one of those days where my Diabetes took the best of me and left me so exhausted, physically and mentally.
I made a vow to myself that day- I would never compromise on my health for anything. It dawned on me that taking care of my Diabetes was undoubtedly more important than keeping my word. To respect your body and cater to its needs is not a sign of weakness, but of strength!
It’s been exactly a year since I graduated from High School. When I attended my juniors’ graduation recently, I was filled with nostalgia and memories. Through junior and senior year, I was at a residential school doing the IB Diploma programme. Right from having to make dietary adjustments, adjustments owing to my T1D, fearing that I would be left out and unaccepted by my peers, to being away from home and tackling a rigorous academic programme, I did it all and I did it well. Three years ago, I was terrified.
As I reflect on specific incidents in school, I realize that it is often our inhibitions and fears that are hindrances. As I brought down the walls that I had built, I discovered things about myself that I had never known. I never thought I could act, but I gave it a shot. I never imagined captaining the Girls soccer team, but I was taken by surprise.
The biggest lesson I learned is that it’s important to move out of comfort zones and embrace challenges; it helps us grow. T1D was probably my biggest inhibition, but now I realize that I could do everything just as well, and if not better than everyone else. My initial fear was a creation of my own mind.
All I needed to do was believe in myself!
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!
Hello Everyone! I’m Dhishana from India and I am so thrilled to be a part of the Penpals United community!
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. I’m looking forward to being in a country different from my own and hope that my college experience will have elements of adventure and freshness!
My time after High School has been very enriching and personally gratifying. I’ve been training in an Indian classical dance called Kathak for over eight years, and I was happy to be able to give dance some undivided attention and understand the finer nuances.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2008, and had my share of struggle to accept this condition and regain my confidence. I met many people along the way and drew strength from their experiences. This journey arose a strong inclination to give back the help I received, and I followed started a non-profit organization, ‘Sweet Souls’, to change the attitude that society has towards children with T1D and create a community where resources are shared. I’ve spent my time meeting doctors, broadening my knowledge about T1D, and trying to get a community together through outreach programmes. My biggest learning through these endeavours is that there is always so much to be thankful for!
I enjoy reading in my free time. 1984 and A Thousand Splendid Suns are my favourite books. I’m also a huge philosophy buff and Plato and Rawls are my heroes!
I look forward to making positive contributions to Penpals United, and hope that my learning will help me effectively advance our work at Sweet Souls.
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.