Friday, April 29, 2011

World Dance Day....

Since we enjoyed 'World Puppetry Day' so much, I find myself being instinctively drawn towards any similar sounding celebration related to the arts! Well today, ie 29th April is World Dance Day and there are number of exciting dance performances around the city of Bangalore to which we are not going. ' then what's the excitement about?' you'd say, throwing up your arms, well, what we have is our tri-weekly dance class (actually the kids are going for it but I am as excited as they are)and we have practiced a lot since the last class which was on Monday. In the western dance segment 5 steps have been taught and the Brat is also learning Bharatnatyam for which she has been taught 2 steps. I have always had a soft corner for dance, the first time I learnt dance was when I was about my mite's age in Calcutta. The class was not very far from the house and sometimes Baba took me for the class and he always treated me to a lollypop on the way back. In those days there used to be those 'chine badam wallas' (roasted groundnut sellers) at street corners who would be stirring vigorously at a mound of groundnuts on a layer of sand in a kadai placed on a makeshift stove...I can still smell the roasting groundnuts and taste them.....Anyhow, getting back to dance. Our teacher was Minoti miss. She was very tall and well built (atleast she appeared so to me) and she taught us Indian dance, not anything classical but a mixture of many styles. Minoti ma'am was organising a dance drama on the story of Ali baba and the forty thieves and she gave us (the youngest group in her school) a chance to perform at Rabindra Sadan by fitting us in as little fairies or hoors in her narrative. That was the only chance that I got to perform at the rabindra Sadan. A beautiful satin ghgra and choli was made for me for the performance it was red in colour (red is my favourite colour) and I spent many happy hours in the afternoon wearing the costume and practicing before the mirror. Thereafter we shifted to Delhi and in class II I joined Odissi classes under Sri Mayadhar Raut. The classes were held at Bharatiya Kala Kendra and was quite a distance from our Mandir Marg home. Amma (my grandmom ) used to go with me in the car and Sachindro dada our resident driver used to take us there. I learnt for a year and got good marks in the exam but I had to discontinue after I was seriously ill with typhiod. Our Guruji was a hard task master and he would always have a cane in his hand and would keep the taal by hitting it on the dias in front of him. Sometimes he would walk about among the dancers and an misplaced foot would get a rap with the cane! Odisi is a very difficult dance form because you have to always be in a half sitting position with your two feet facing in the opposite directions. It was fun, though, and I made friends in dance class. My next stint with dance was when I joined 'Dakhini' after Baba got transferred to Calcutta. I was in class V. At Dakshini which was run by Shubho Guhathakurta a stalwart in the cultural scene, girls were not allowed to attend class in a salwaar kameez because the gentleman considered it to be a dress of an alien (Muslim?) culture!! I remember the first time I went there I was in my favourite salwaar kameez, he points at me as says 'aei shob dress ekhane cholbena' although frocks, skirt blouse were allowed! Since when did skirt blouse and frock become Indian dresses? I wanted to ask grandpa Shubho....but one has to accept such things when one is small and insignificant. In Dakshini I learnt a lot of manipuri dance along with Bharatnatyam. The dance form adopted for dances on rabindrasngeet was an amalgamation of the two forms. Manipuri has two distinct styles one meant for the dancer depicting females and the tandav style for dancers who represent males. The narratives always have tales of Radha and Krishna in it. the costume of the females and males are equally elaborate and distinct.
At school we were taught dance by Mr Bose who was a kind and patient teacher. In class VI I had my first and only opportunity at a stage appearance at school when we were made deers in a performance of a dance drama on Buddha. Thereafter I could not participate too much at school whicjh entailed staying back at school after class.
At about this time the Ladies of the Calcutta Prt trust ( where my father worked on deputation) became very active culturally and I participated in a number of functions organised by them. Dipu auntie was our teacher and the first and most memorable performance we did was on the lawns of one of the bungalows in Prtland park on the day of holi. Most of the dancers were first timers but Dipu auntie did a great job with us. For the first time I had a solo performance. Dipu auntie made me perform twice more, one of which was a solo performance and then there was a big performance in Mahajati Sadan in Chetla. The thrill of being on stage was tremendous and I enjoyed myself most in the group dance performances because the thrill in coordinating the movements is something else altogether. When I got to class IX I did not have time for this hobby because of the pressure of studies. I have not learnt dance since then....During my BEd days I got another chance to learn a dance. In our Bed class we were encouraged to participate in every kind of extra curriculars. On the occassion of Republic day we performed folk dances of the different states and I was part of a dance from Kerala. It was an enjoyable experience and brought back all the fond memories of dance.
When I was working at Hindi High school Girl's Section after BEd I got a chance to choreograph the girls for their annual day function. This group of girls had chosen a slow anand Shanker music piece and were to perform with lighted diyas in their hands. They thought their dance was very bad and their music was terrible, the group which had got a fast beat Rajasthani number was their favourite. I had to convince them that dance does not mean merely leaping about at a fast pace you can have a slow dance which can hold the audience's attention. The girls did a fine job and held their own amidst the fast paced numbers. On the day before the final performance there was panic as one of the dancers had lost her grandfather and hence could not come. There were several dance formations in the routine which would go awry if a dancer was missing. I was called back from home after school hours and the girls and I addressed the crisis. " Ma'am, you take her place" said one, but tempting though the offer was, I declined. I adjusted the formations so that only one girl (the partner of the one that was missing) had to change her steps a bit. Our Pincipal said that she could not make out taht someone was missing at the final performance. I thanked the girls and was very proud of them and I thought of all my teachers of dance who had prepared me for that small crisis that day.
As I look back at all my encounters with dance, I have a smile on my face...the cheerful banter at practice sessions, the thrill of the stage, the happiness in performing, it has been a great experience. I hope my kids have a good relationship with dance too. They do not have to be oustanding performers or great exponents as long as they enjoy themselves and have some happy memories to cherish, I am content. For the moment we are happy and excited about the class this evening, so we have started off on the right foot, haven't we?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Inspiration MM: How to un-Mall the kids!

The Mad Momma has done a great service for the busy parents of today by listing a few places where they can go with their kids and enjoy themselves without exposing them to the 'plastic' world of the convenient Malls all the time. Off and on, for the past few years I have been trying to recount our adventures in different places in and around Bangalore but all the information is hopelessly scattered in the blog archieve. However if I make a compilation of all our outings in my mind, I do always vividly remember the joys of the other places than of the Mall visits and so shall the kids for sure. That is simply because there are infinitely more interesting. Having said that, I must admit that I spent the last two Sundays in Malls, heh heh.... after all they are the lazy parents' haven! However one of these Mall outings was quite a delightful experience as an African drum performance was is progress and all the kiddies (except mine, humph) were shaking a leg! After the performance the kids were allowed to tap at the drums to get a feel of the instrument. I have en rolled the kids in a dance class to ensure that they do not let go of any other such opportunity! After going to the Mall we also visited the fabulous Meenakshi temple which looked heavenly, bathed in the bright moonlight. We had dinner at our favourite shack restaurant and finished off the meal with delicious fruit ice cream sitting on the steps of the ice-cream parlour on the footpath....sigh...we also had good company- our young neighbours who treated us to the ice cream! Ahem...without digressing any further let me concentrate on the Bangalore list ( of places other than Malls where you can enjoy with kids)----
1 The first on the list has to be Lal Bagh the botanical garden at the heart of the city. We lived near it previously so we headed for it at the drop of a hat. Evenings at the Lal Bagh lake with monkeys on the trees and ducks in the water can transport you to another world altogether and scarcely will you remember that a bustling city is at the gates! We have spent many a pleasant evening at lal Bagh and the band stand holds a performance evry Saturday but who needs music to enjoy nature?
2 Ulsoor Lake is marvellous for boating and watching birds.
3 The Shankey Lake -for lolling and watching gigantic bats traverse the lake from one end to the other to their trees.
4 Cubbon Park- which houses the aquarium and also has a Band Stand. There are some rides for the chidren and lots and lots of greens to explore.
5 Tipu's Palace and ruins of the fort- this place is near the hustle and bustle of the city market area and the summer palace lawns are well kept. The fort wall ruin is also an interesting place to snoop around in.
6 The Bangalore Palace is also worth a watch, the royals still live in a part of it. It looks more lived in than the museum like Mysore palace.
7 The Visvesvaraya Industriial and Technological museum is also very exciting we have spent many happy hours on the floor which has scientific instruments that can be worked by the children including a mirror trick that makes it appear as if your head has been cut and served on a platter!
8 Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat on Kumara Krupa road - every year the Chitra Shanthe festival is held here where artists young and old, professional and novice display their art on a one kilometer stretch of the road. We have not been able to attend this annual event yet but we did catch a yakshagana performance by kids and a painting exhibition.
9 The Venkatappa art gallery and the Government Museum one can spend an entire day exploring these two places which are side by side.
10 The Nehru Planetarium- this is an excellect place to take kids to. The Bangalore planetarium has a shop where science toys and experiments are sold and a garden with scientific games along with regular slides and swings. A sound and light show is also held in the lawns nearby.
11 Ranga Shankara theatre holds various children's festivals. Recently we went for the celebration of World Puppetry Day and had a complete blast!! Even now theatre workshops for kids are in progress there.
12 Easylib the online library organizes story telling sessions for kids now and then. They have organised a readathon for kids this year where they'll read as many books as posssible within a given time frame and even write reviews of the books.
13 The Bannerghatta National park which has a zoo, a butterfly park and a safari option.
14 The Bull Temple and adjacent park which has swings and slides and the largest population of bats that I have ever seen on the tall trees!
15 We also visit the nearby BTM lake there is a lakeside garden and swings for the kids and it is a great place to spend the evenings.
16 In Bidadi just outside the city is the Innovative filmcity which has a hefty entry fee but lots of pleasureable pavillions including the wax museum, the 4-D theatre and the Mirror Maze.
17 Chennapatna is about 1 and a half hour car ride on the magnificient Mysore road, it is the hub of wooden toys. the next town down the same road is Ramanagaram the place where the film Sholay was shot.
18 Nandi hills the summer retreat of Tipu sultan is a two hour bus ride from bangalore it is a delightful hillock where the kids and the parents can enjoy a day picnic you can also stay at the government guest houses there. We have spent many hours sitting on the hilltop observing the view down below.
19 Bangalore is the city of gardens and lakes...just pop over to a lake near your house and lay back and watch the birds and the trees stretching their massive branches into the sky. We have a lake nearby which we have to explore...holimavu lake but we get a glimpse of the inmates everyday. Every evening flock upon flock of white water birds (egrets?) fly over our neighbourhood, possibly the birds hunt at the holimavu lake and stay at the BTM layout lake, but its a lovely sight. Often we are so eager to give our children the perfect learning experience that we forget to look out of our own window! While walking to the Brat's music class we have seen several species of birds including a kingfisher and a wide variety of insects and garden lizards. Often we have stopped walking and stood wide eyed, staring at a rare black bird, or a green beetle.
20 I also enjoy gallivanting about the local marketplaces with the kids in tow. Chikpet is the equivalent of Delhi's Chadni Chowk and the kids and I have skipped about in every nook and crany from the silk saari shops at Jama Masjid lane to the wholesale toy shops at Mamunpet.
I have read in the papers of other exciting places too, like a farm house which allows guests to mingle with their animals and take care of them, somewhere on the city outskirts, and an enterprise which gives you bamboo contraptions which attract there is still a lot more to discover and learn. So parents, happy un-Malling!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Of Letting the Kids Go...

Yesterday in the newspapers there was a horrific tale of a 14 year old boy drowning at his summer swimming classes which got me into a tizzy and I declined the Brat's request to send her to a pool with her friend. Now, I was wondering how far we should go in the 'holding the kids back department' to ally our fears. The Brat argued long and hard, asking me again and again why I am not letting her go (approaching teens beckon), I told her that she did not know swinmming properly and it would be a risk for her friend's parents who would have to keep an eye on both their daughter ( who is learning swimming) and her. Moreover, it will be an unfamiliar pool where the shallow and deep side will be unknown to her. She tried to assure me that she will not go to the deep side, she just wanted to splash about a bit...after a long arguement, I had to tell her, what I didn't want to at first- the story of the young boy drowning. She kept quiet after that, and did not ask to go again, however I was left wondering whether I had instilled some kind of fear in her young mind which will not allow her to enjoy swimming in later life, or worst still, prevent her from learning swimming.
I was raised on such an atmosphere of parental fears, rather grandparental fears ( for my grandmom was the main worrier in the family followed by my father). Amma was very fearful of any tragedy that might befall me and also her other grand children. I remember she warned my Didi, my aunt's daughter, not to walk near cars, because she had heard of some horrific cases of kidnapping of girls by goons in cars!! This fear has become a nightmarish reality now in Delhi which has thrown up several cases of this sort. I was not allowed to go to friends' houses or to school picnics for fear that some misfortune would befall me. Needless to say, I resented this very much. I know that Amma could not shelter me from my share of bad experiences I battled eve teasers and gropers, I fell of the bus once and scraped my palm ( it could have been much worse because it was a busy Delhi road) and all this happened pretty much under her nose, near our home ( I did not tell anyone about my fall from the bus for fear that they won't let me go to college from the next day!)...but the point is that you cannot shield your child from accidents but you can pray like hell that they are none the worse for them. You can try to warn them, that these accidents may happen and hope that they will remember your words when the time comes. However, I also want my child to enjoy her life. I remember the first time she went for a school picnic she must have been 2years old (or less),I died a thousand deaths all day wondering what she was upto, but I sent her all the same. My parents in law did not want her to be sent, but I stood firm. Her teacher Bindu madam was a pillar of strength, she said, "dodn't worry, she will be ok and she will have a lot of fun..." The whole day I had spine chilling visions, from seeing my baby's hand caught in the slamming bus door to seeing her drown in the picnic the end of the three hours I was a nervous wreck...I went off to fetch her half an hour before the stipulated time and stood in front of her school gate gnawing at my nails till the picnic bus arrived with the happy children and their was a great relief! This successful endeavour put a rest to my fears and I sent her to all school outings, thereafter. Later, I made sure that she attended all the birthday parties she was invited to even if the event was far from home, I dropped her there and brought her back with unfailing regularity. When it was the mite's turn, I was considerably more rational, I ofcorse warned him to keep his hand away from the hinges of the bus door and told him never to stray out of sight of his ma'am and never to go near a water body, but I was thinking of other things besides the mite and his picnic throughout the day. I think I have conquered the urge to constantly shelter the kids and never let them out of my sight...however, I have tried to warn them of the dangers the world outside holds. Now I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can a Gandhian movement find success in these times??

I have been following Anna Hazare's movement with bated breath. To my delight it has gained momentum and the attention of the powers that be. However, promises of another 'committee'is the initial response of the government. Will this movement succeed? What will success mean? An enquiry committee or the actual passing of the Bill or the actual implimentation of the law?? How many people can be brought to justice?? Are we not all corrupt? Is not corruption an accepted practice in our society today? How many times have we given in and accepted to pay a bribe to get our work done?? Who will bring us to book, or will our small 'corruptions' be overshadowed by larger corruptions involving larger sums? A sea of questions overwhelm me, but at least it is a start, a step towards the right direction. I wish all the luck to Anna and his followers. I thank them for rallying the support of the young, I hope something concrete comes out of this....

Black Swan: Still Reeling From its effect!

The other day the Mr and I watched Black Swan and my stomach is still churning!! The story might be unique and the message stark but the treatment and the performances were, to my mind, far from what I expected it to be. Firstly, there was hardly a character which was shown to be 'normal' without any obsession. The dancer obsessed with perfection, her mother obssessed with the daughter, the dance director obssessed with his lead dancers, the friend obssessed with having a good time, the ousted dancer obssessed about her dance the end of it, it was difficult to ascertain which obssession the film was dealing with. Natalie Portman had one studied expression throughout, both before and after she goes completely berserk. She is a stunning beauty and the story, on paper, is intriguing but the director has made a hash of it. The sexually explicit scenes can only serve as titilation and nothing more, although, they signify a sort of rebellion by the young ballerina to her mother's oppressive love and possessiveness. The dance master, too had the same expression and it isn't clear what he is thinking or what it is that he is after. all in all it was a dark film with actors not having a clue about how they are supposed to react to what was happenening and it leaves you with a bad feeling in the mouth. Can anyone tell me why it was such a hit with everyone else??

Sunday, April 3, 2011

True Grit, Determination and a Great Reward!!

So, the cricket world cup has come to India at last!! Thanks to the studied efforts of dhoni and his men. The Delhi boys Kohli and Gambhir have proved that they can carry a match on their shoulders even after Sachin gets out and Sehwag makes a duck!! Their young nerves held on and they managed to ressurect the hopes of an expectant nation. How lucky I am to witness this great victory! In 1983, I was in Class VIII, we had a black and white TV and we had watched the final of the world cup on its blurry screen. In the last few overs the light went off and we followed the match on radio. The thrill of it all!!! There were no fireworks then, celebrating a win with crackers started in the '90s. Thereafter the West Indies came on an India tour and beat us hollow both in the test and one day series!! I was witness to that, we watched the matches held at the Eden Gardens. They extracted 'sweet revenge' proving that our victory was a fluke, a chance triumph of the underdog as a friend pointed out. Not so now!! This time there is no doubt that India is the best team. No one person is responsible for our victory, everybody chipped in.This is what I had wanted to see, a team coming into its own, both skill wise and temperamentally. Hail to the new improved team India...let the celebrations begin!!