Wet days in September
Raindrops fallin’ tender
As I stare outside my window
And I see the clouds are passin’ by.…
Sang the famous Pussycats in 1978.
It was one my favourite songs during those youthful days at college. I now recall this as suddenly rains cooled Delhi and the change in season ushered in the season where cultural activities rained and reigned. Every evening there was a dance or music programme. It was either Kathak sisters being felicitated by Kumud Mohan foundation at the Kathak Kendra or Meera Das’ Gunjan presenting their new work Bindu ru Sindhu, which was a take off again on subject of water, raindrops and waves of ocean beautifully depicted.
Or there were book launches galore. Like the one at IIC by Shubhi where assortment of authors under the overall baton of Sharon Lowen had put together a colourful assembly of shrinagara rasa, the king among rasas. Or attenDance 2022 yearbook, guest edited by Ranee Kumar. A good documentary was shown on the 23 year journey of attenDance, how Zohra Segal launched it and Subbudu the critic and Astad Deboo and Shanta Serbjeet Singh did the honours. All gone now. No copy left either of first 10 years of attendance.
Do you know how many books are published on dance in India in a year. Five, if it is a good year. Maybe 7, if one is lucky. And five out of seven are from Shubhi publishers, Gurgaon.
Which is why a meaningful launch is important these days. Earlier, there were none. A book traveled on its merit but in last decade book launches have become critical to book sales. Not on the day of the launch itself but ripple effect. Institutions buy or can be induced to. Libraries. Tourists and locals.
In this age of facebook who reads books? Some still do. And who writes? Very few qualified writers are left who are pan Indian. Odiya knowing person who knows Odishi will write on that and a Kerala person on Kerala. Gone are the days when there were true scholars who were pan Indian. They had authority, knowledge and information. Much more the internet age!
Then came the age of the generalist. Anyone could write generally. Mostly glowing terms like a voyeur, with no critical assessment or reference. They could write on design or dance in same general terms as they could on finance or food. They used standard, set words like scintillating performance. Melodious music. Awesome gathering.
Cut to today, the age of sms lingo. Osum, OMG and emoticons. Language is the first casualty, followed by prose and poetry. Structure is sacrificed for hits and substance for likes. It has become a game to thus churn out fast drafts. I remember my father held up one book for 10 years, the publishers died then father himself died and I had to complete it. All because father felt one chapter (in 333 pages with 400 photos) was not okay. He was not happy with it. Imagine, what perfectionists. They wanted it right. Today, most think that’s a turn on road while driving!
I’ve given this preamble to say how meaningful and happy making it was thus to attend a dance book launch where each speaker was fulsome with knowledge and experience; content and context.
Sonal shone! She was the most articulate panelist on board of launch of Shringara, the raja-rasa. As is known, and Sonal Mansingh too emphasised that rasa has no equivalent English word. The meaning, the essence is lost in translation. From one of her “guides” Lokesh Chandra’s explanation of Shringara as alankar combined with the ultimate shringa/top state of bliss, to the indepth analysis of various rasas, Sonal Mansingh proved what a brilliant mind she is too. With command of language, backed with command of mythology, indology and Sanskrit, she had the audience enraptured.
Dr Karan Singh continues to guide and mentor with his wisdom and Shovana Narain is an all-rounder. A good evening was had by all and IIC be thanked for that. Just prior to this, in Mt Abu was the Global Summit 2022. “India the Harbinger of world peace” September 10-14, held at Brahma Kumaris Shantivan.
Kathak by Delhi sisters, Nalini Kamalini was presented to spiritually strengthen and transform the world through the Divine Father, God Shiva… Nalini Kamalini sisters presented Anadi Shiva composition specially choreographed by Shiva devotee guru Jitendra Maharaj, whose layakari is amazing.
In Khajuraho many years ago, 1994 or so, he scolded me when my eyes didn’t focus on his. Dhyan. Bandho! he thundered. Summ pe. Then I realised this guru lived Kathak. No wonder he trained two diamonds which are shining now and recently got the Padma Shri, for which they were felicitated by many but most memorable was in Kathak Kendra by Kumud Mohan Foundation.
At Mt Abu the duo presented on 9/11 (as the date is often called) glorifying Shiva and his manifestation in a unique way. There was LED being played with appropriate glimpse that added more celestial ambience and the jam-packed Brahma Kumaris and devotees were enthralled and realised magic through dance.
Odissi exponent from Cuttack Meera Das
dancing Bindu ru Sindhu
Dancing Bindu ru Sindhu was Meera Das from Cuttack. She is among the younger lot of Kelubabu (Kelucharan Mohapatra) disciples and living in Cuttack has maintained the purity of form, its laliiya ang that’s so missing of late, where one sees only fast and furious delivery like a hurtling Shatabdi.
Bharatanatyam exponent Navtej Singh Johar
performing during attenDance launch
Then there was the mother of all homage – SarojaMohanam– to my mother (MK Saroja) by dancers of Delhi and a memorial to my father (Mohan Khokar), also the father figure of Indian dance history. Now, do I platform my own parents here in my own column or should I abstain? Let the readers decide. If I get public call I should then maybe in the next column or best you just do a word search on SarojaMohanam and read what others have written. Much has been. Many an eye went numb at the SarojaMohanam homage, proving once again wet days in September.
Ashish Mohan Khokar is a reputed authority on Indian arts and culture, with 40 years
of exemplary work in the field. He is also hailed as the gold standard of art journalism.
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