By Nidhi Kumari
You have won one of the most coveted awards honouring Indians across the globe, Times Now ICICI Bank NRI of the Year Award 2016. How does this feel?
Indeed, it is a great honour to receive this award and I am grateful to Times Now and ICICI bank for choosing me as one of the awardees this year. It is an amazing feeling that I am recognized for my work, from home country. It gives me the awareness that I am doing the right thing when I am away from India. Now I feel even more responsible to represent India and popularize her rich, vibrant and incomparable culture with utmost devotion and determination.
What has been your inspiration?
As a child, I was extremely fortunate and blessed to witness many enchanting performances of exponents and pioneers in the Indian classical dance field, which inspired me to take up dance as my career. I would wonder how the dancers used the hand gestures to portray various things. Their movements were perfect and they transformed into several characters. Initially it was the colourful costumes, the captivating music, vivacious expressions that attracted me. I was not aware of the body of knowledge or the hardships involved over many years of practice.
I enjoy dancing as I sense that dance unfolds what I understand is the truth within and which I believe is the fundamental requisite for any action. I dance in order to acquire rational, emotive and spiritual expression. Emotions and thoughts are allied to transcendence and I believe that dance can relate to both the mortal physical self and the immortal spiritual self.
How would you explain your journey in the world of dance?
I showed interest in dance in early childhood and my commitment towards it matured as I grew, not thinking about all the inconveniences involved, like getting up early for dance classes, attending school, and participating in rehearsals at odd times, often requiring late lunches and dinners. By some means my genes survived the challenging discipline. I was taught to stand straight, walk gracefully, and hold my hands properly in dance. Gurus (teachers) corrected the stances, bent elbows, and postures and so forth. Learning the technique improves the knowledge of the body and acting brings life to the movement.
Apart from performing the movement vocabulary, I learned about love, compassion, respect, the right values, confidence, discipline, aesthetics and history. Indian classical dance, though it is primarily connected with Hindu mythologies and practices, also teaches self-perception, presenting opportunities to explore personal ideas, to affirm individuality and to communicate and observe.
My journey started with learning Indian classical dance forms of Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi. I enjoyed even more when performing with different styles of classical dance, which allowed me to push the frontiers of conventional performance and create a challenging presentation with western classical ballet for my Doctoral degree. Any kind of dance may not be spiritual. I believe that a dancer’s intension will be reconnecting to the self and living in the moment. It also takes the prepared viewer to a deeper level of perception. My effort in a performance will not only be entertainment or education but also enrichment and attainment of eternal bliss.
Being a woman and winning accolades is commendable. You have inspired many. What is your message to all those women out there?
I believe that it is a privilege to be a woman. I never look at it as creditable just for being a woman. World has a history of strong women who played marvelous role in shaping the society and working against injustice. What we do not realise is that we can multi-task at a time. Believing in yourself and focusing towards your goal is more important. We do not have to look at those successful women as aliens, we are one like them who can make changes to begin from our own homes. After all society starts from each home. Looking at the present day scenario, there is a lack of spiritual growth. For me spirituality is beyond religion, it is the way of life. In bringing perfection, dedication and creativity in each one’s discipline, we can attain the expression of the spirit. You will become a better person, a sensitive person and a responsible citizen. We need to be aware of the world around us and contribute to the society. Mothers, please teach your daughters to be strong and do their duty and also teach your boys to respect women.