Yoga, bhoga and roga!

 Yoga, bhoga and roga!

So, ABC…kithhe gayi si? This was a ditty we heard as children growing up in Punj land (that’s most of Delhi and above! till Kashmir. As a language and culture, it dominates).

A for Arangetram too. That’s very Madrasi or South Indian. Having had this for mother’s tongue literally (Tamil), we were also exposed to Thiruvalluvar and Tripurarisundaris!

B for Bianca, no not Castofoire, my favourite character from TinTin comics but Radhakrishnan, who is a young cultured dancer of this land – karNATAKA! – we have made home after living in North, South India and born in the West (Baroda- Bombay) before visiting and working in the real West (Italy, Sweden, USA, France and more).

C for centred. Yoga does that. Centering. Body, mind, soul.

D for dance too.

E for enough about riddles and let me share the month that was and forms the cultural palette of my life scape. Hence this culture column.

Arangetram of Sanjana Srinidhi for which I returned from Delhi all the way as I had committed to be in attendance some three months ago, was an eye opener what young India is capable of when given the right chance to dance in life.

Young India needs role models and direction; then they can fly. The problem is old India, which doesn’t give up either position or power brims with monopolisation and insecurities. So, youngsters like Bianca Radhakrishna are our calling cards. They are very focused. They are themselves qualified in their field and still sharing art by teaching. I’d not become a teacher at 30 as those are the best dancing years but there are so many dancers and where are paying platforms? Teaching, thus becomes an important tool to reach out, have a captive audience and fan club: the hooting, a la college function at the end of the evening showed that! And if the first student of Bianca was anything to see at her debut, (that’s what an Arangetram means) the future is bright for both the teacher and the taught. They were both the centre of attraction. The teacher’s facial expression while conducting on stage showed all the Navarasas!

Centered is the word for this plain Jane. She doesn’t have a striking stage personality or reaches even the podium. Short and diminutive, she stood tall in art. Just 15! I couldn’t believe she is just one year younger than me to my birthday being a leap year one, so I’d be sweet 16 next. So, this Sanjana Srinidhi was amazing because she didn’t huff and puff as dancers normally do because of yoga too. It teaches you breathing. 35-minute-long Varnam, after one hour of other items, followed by another hour of most unusual Hanuman Chalisa seen for the first time in Bharatanatyam (the jatis were a no, no breaking the mood and the flow and in other items too Sanjana falters at end when still poses happen. It is but natural for body in motion not to stop suddenly and she will achieve this with more experience. She is just a child after all. 15) then snake dance a la Kamala (and Bianca’s guru sitting next to me – the most loved Bharatanatyam dance teacher of Bangalore guru Radha Shridhar – said the same – Kamala! Pambu Natyam, we used to refer her dance as) concluding with a rather tame Tillana, made the evening amazing for three things: her stamina, her complete control over all aspects of performance and her near perfect abhinaya. For someone so young, she is exceptional. All department of art meet seamlessly.

The musicians headed by DS Srivatsa singing like a saint; Jana Rao’s able mridangam, touching flute by Narsimhan Murthy and soulful Veena by Srigopal enhanced the evening, well introduced and conducted by Bangalore’s best compere in Kannada Sri Sugganahally Shadakshari. One chief guest sang paens to both the teacher Bianca and student Sanjana, another blessed and the third cheered.

Sanjana Srinidhi

Cherry blossoms, chinar trees and Kashmir. I take you next to Ishwar Ashram of Jammu and Srinagar. May 9th was not just the birthday of Rabindranath Tagore but Swami Lakshman Joo (Raina) too. Known also as Lal Sahib, his disciples and family had put together a book on him and his ashram. No less a persona than a former JNU VC Sudhir Sopory was in attendance to do the honours and his brother Suresh had put together the book with others. They simply called themselves COMPILERS. The Bong announcer was atrocious with basic pronunciation (now, I bhelcom ye fora coppa tee) marred by the peculiarities of Bong murder of English anyway (not that the Punj or Tamils are far behind or Gujus and Odias. Each part is India has its own English but in public, on stage best and basic should be allowed) but the bhakti of devotees made up for the minor lacunas of the launch. The atmosphere was like being in an ashram itself, everyone looked pious and peaceful. I was very low that afternoon having discovered I had lost my favourite childhood possession, an emerald ring the day before at a show in Kamani, Delhi and looking at this photo of the saint (Swami Lakshman Joo) being compared to Shiva himself I challenged the saintly picture looking at me: ‘If you exist, prove it by getting my ring back for me!’ Within one hour I got a message that someone had found the ring on the stage and handed to the organiser who kept it safely and I could take it whenever it suited. My 45-year-old ring was returned, and it also showed honesty of Delhi people/stage/artistes. And in whose safe custody was my ring? Diva MP Sonal Mansingh!

Sonal Mansingh’s magnum opus Shashwat Bharat with 170 artistes on stage: Three days of non-state sponsored shows featuring the best of folk forms and classical, this was a feast. India’s heart lies with folk dancers. See the joy on their face when they dance. Sonal Mansingh herself opened the festival with Meera. I’ve not seen a more dignified and deeper and complete Meera production. The beauty was Delhi is so jaded with faded artistes that anything that shines can only be called gold. That’s what Sonal means. Here is a link to the magnum opus. And who was the chief guest sitting three days in centre of Kamani hall: Kamakhya Devi (Assam).

Sanjana Srinidhi

Assam next. Majuli the largest inlet island, of Brahmaputra river, the largest in India (by volume. By length it is the Ganga) is where the last two mask makers that adorn Bhoana dance, of Sattras, exist. Trust the IGNCA under visionary head Sachchidanand Joshi, who through its North East regional centre got a film made and what a beautiful film! Like a PAINTING. Soft, still, deep. That’s Utpal Borpujari, the film maker. He represents old culture of Assam meeting new. The film is langurous and lilting. It lets the subject speak and the simplicity of life of mask maker Goswami family comes through. India exists in small villages. Metro and city India is not India. Bharat lives in peaceful villages. Where bamboo grooves abound and snakes too.

Meaning to meet the snake charmer of South, yes, the guru who can hypnotise snakes (his autobiography by Arundhati Subramanian alluded to that) and humans with equal ease of charm or knowledge ; yoga and bhoga that take away roga, mental or dental; physical or meta-physical, it was nice to see his new space slowly becoming a tourist attraction. And so it goes. Culture with tourism; dance with music!

Ashish Khokar loves and serves Indian arts and culture selflessly, by writing, documenting, filming, archiving, celebrating and awarding. 45+books, over 5000 articles, work with 10 inter/national organisations
make his work the gold standard of the field. More details on


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