In Hindu philosophy Moksha (deliverance from the cycle of birth and death) is the ultimate aim of life for those evolved. In dance like Odissi, there’s even an item in end called Moksha. Means, the end.

For those still interested in artha ( material world or things) or kaam ( life -force for procreation or pleasure) lobha (greed for more) moha ( attachment) then a few more births help, perhaps. There are 84,000 births to go through, anyway, as per shastras. Who computed it, when, must be Brahma himself or at least a brahmagyani. Often we think and talk of culture as living. What of death?

The news of a young (45+) dancer Probal Gupta’s sudden death shocked many in the a so-called high-tech city called Bangalore, also called the silicon valley of India. No more the garden city. Today, good or bad, news travels faster than KBC’s  fastest fingers first , so the digital space was erupting with how did he die, why and what to do with his mortal remains? Within hours, all information was on social media. Allegedly, he had no family or had been disowned by his family for dancing (one of those stories/ or his story that become urban myth with no real base, factual or otherwise) and how he was of royal zamindar stock but penniless. Whatever the truth be, he suffered in end hours, alone in a hospital , except for his landlord family helping him through hospitals and handling of the remains  (shows how kind landlords in this high-tech metro  can be also), in which the dance do-gooder at large guru Veena Murthy (WDA) took charge of logistical issues. She created a whatsapp group to update all. Imran Khan, another do-gooder, settled in Bangalore thanks to his IT brother and Odissi dancer-wife Madhulita Mohapatra, took care of the remains and dealt with police and all logistics.

Probal Gupta

Probal was in a hurry. Maybe he had a sixth sense he might go so early. He didn’t get the SNA junior award and that for him remained a sad point that despite being so active and visible, he got no recognition. Swaraj is my birthright all dancers think these days when it comes to government patronage or the SNA award, junior or senior. What’s the impact of the work in field, real reputation, outreach NATIONALLY (not only locally or regionally) no one thinks. SNA must get hundreds of names in each category, how to select ONE! A thankless job.

Probal was  possessed. Self-interested, self-motivated, self-absorbed most artists can be — especially today — when there is so much competition and there are one too many in most forms (or anyone who had had a debut thinks they gave arrived and society owes them much even if for their own indulgence), so he realised he had to stand out and do only stree vesham (male dressed up as female characters, which is the tradition in Kathakali anyway so Probal did nothing new) as being part of a Kathakali troupe maybe was not his scene. It is also economically not viable to maintain a troupe, unless some sponsor there, government or private. He came to Bangalore a decade plus ago from Bengal via Kerala and had made it home. Through his art, he tried hard to conquer.

Kaveri Amma

Conquer she did – with her kindness. I’m talking of second death the same Diwali week, of 92-year-old Kaveri Amma,  who worked at Andhra Mahila Sabha in Chennai for years, helping destitute and disabled kids so much so she secretly shared her own lunch with some who she thought weren’t getting enough nutrition. Till the end she remained a care giver, full of warmth and love, and whenever we met her, she blessed us with her goodness of heart for art and artistes. She walked without help till her end, gave doctors some challenges but went with a smile and loved by a large circle of friends and family. She will be missed for long for her genial personality and smile.

Third death was of art historian, author  and most suave pedagogist Dr BN Goswamy. Dressed like a Britisher – double-breasted and all – he made a poor ad for kurta sales! A college mate of ex-PM Singh, he never dined out of that link. He was bequeathed both the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards for his work and research in art. The Pahari school of painting led him to even learn the Pahari script and decipher how family lineages worked in that style (Kangra- Guler -Basholi) just like add in music gharanas. He became a mascot for Chandigarh too, like Corbusier before him and Nek Chand. Internationally too, he was the most read and visible art historian. He was much sought after speaker and member of many committees. I recall him as an uncle our father sent to in our Chandigarh days. His art college or the Punjab University’s Art college was walking distance from our home in Sector 10A, so we would just drop in on him. He was indulgent and never got angry or upset at two pesky kids who had just dropped by to see latest book or art work. He asked us questions at our level , never intimidated us with his knowledge. I loved touching his moustache and asked when I would have one! Another uncle would join us often at lunch called Balwant (Gargi), who we thought did some drama work. We didn’t realise he was a giant in the field. Having grown with such names, both in North and South and East and West, no wonder we are not today afraid of authority or easily impressed by lighter names that abound and are self- styled icons on social media, not real. Growing up in Delhi and access to Punjab, Baroda-Bombay and South India (and add London Paris Rome and New York) our pallette has been colourful and vast and am I lucky for it, especially when I’m working in the cultural field? God has been very kind and given much opportunities to see the best and meet the best.

Dr BN Goswamy

I reserve the best for the end of this column. Three weddings and a funeral stands reversed in this column and there is one  wedding to relish.

RadhikArshu wedding is coming up soon and that’s a cause for celebration. Here is Tata Nagar meeting Computer City! Radhika Chachra is a grandchild of Partition of India and very sorted young lady and Arsh Gupta, is the sweetest young entrepreneur of under 30 we have seen. Good values, intelligent and helpful. His biggest asset is his affectionate nature. A genuine fellow. Mother Veena and father Amit have reasons to be happy. Acche din aye hain! We can only sing and dance with joy! Like this Ganesha here.

Gold standard of art writing, documentation and dance history comes from sustained work in the field for almost 50 years; 47 books, 5000 articles, 3 monthly columns for decades and one yearbook -attenDance. Add cultural administration from 1980s onwards; teaching at universities dance modules, 85 such for UGC E-PATHSHALA and advisor to NEEMRANA group and IGNCA. On board of several institutions, organisations and NGOs make him a truly cultural icon of young India that bridges tradition with old Bharat. Ashish Khokar truly loves and serves Indian arts and culture selflessly.


News, Lifestyle & Entertainment stories - all at one place

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: