It gives me immense pleasure to share that I have been invited by Musee Guimet, Paris to perform a Mohiniyattam recital with my team of accompanying artists. And there is a story that needs to be shared on how it all happened.
First of all, I didn’t have to market myself in France like I have to beseech for a performance opportunity in sabha-s or in tourism departments or with cultural organisations within India.
Milena ji, the Mandapa Director, witnessed my first day's performance and she immediately came up to me and said she will do what best she can to promote me. She kept her word by video recording my second day’s performance at Mandapa. Copies of my performance were sent to cultural organisations in France. Based on her recommendation, the curator of a prestigious cultural organisation, Musee Guimet, confirmed my performance in Oct. But there is more to the story than all this...
Bureaucrazy is important, and it supersedes everywhere, in everything. But sadly, idealistic values that blossoms out of art gets worst hit when hidden agenda-s take precedence. Confirmation of my performance got entangled on the diplomatic table, suffering a shipwreck: rocking back and forth as if caught in the middle of the terrible storm.
End of May…
When I got back from Paris, I was offered two date for performance in place of a cancellation by the curator of the Museum.
First week of June...
Upon hearing their confirmation, I went ahead and booked my flight tickets for my accompanists.
But in the meantime, certain diplomatic reshuffling had to be accommodated because of which many Indian performances were declared null and cancelled including mine.
At this juncture, I had already made my travel plans, and I would be incurring a good amount of loss if I had to cancel those bookings.
I had stopped thinking of making money a long time ago when I decided on how I wanted to carry myself ie as a traditional artist and not merely be a classical dancer. Although, at this moment, my only worries were, how can I stop myself from not scraping into my daughter’s college funds that my husband has been saving to propel my own professional choice. Such moments are so cruel, emotionally painful and mentally stressing. Such moments teases my endurance and it tries so hard to fail me: asking me to compromise on my principles. The alter ego inside my brain will even propose asking me to quit this battle against vanity suggesting me to get back to my schooling job. Whether I compromised on my principles or quit art, both ways the evil would have its victorious moment.
On top of that, the ego in my head with take over and it will be ruthless to point out that everything was always based on choices that “I” made. Oh God - the forbidden "I"... Quite rightly, I chose art over regular income. It's my choice that I will not compromise myself or my art in forwarding myself professionally. And just when not needed, the ego will logically reason out - ‘from when did the road less travelled will be a easy path to walk?’
In India, it is easy to grow as an artist if you had a bureaucratic backing or if you were already coming from a lineage of artists or if you had somebody with loads of money to blow. But, I have none. I think the only thing that gets me going at those times are when I feel thankful that I am still so much more better off than so many like me who do not have an Ilango to give an opportunity and who do not have Milena to fight for. That feeling along with the sacrifices that my daughter and husband have made for me, gives me great deal of strength to bounce back that generally restores my faith in myself and also humanity. Phew!
Milena ji and some of her friends fought for me. She stood against a certain injustice that would happen to an artist if I be denied the opportunity/confirmation. She responded to my emails with quick replies. And she even followed up her replies with a phone call from time to time. How often would you come across people like her that too in the dance world?
Firstly, who is Deepa Chakravarthy to Milena? <I don't even know her last name :-p> Nobody! Other than an ICCR empanelment and a Doordarshan grade, other than the good reviews that critics have given her, Deepa Chakravarthy is still a nobody as a “brand”. Yet, Milena ji did not see her as a nobody. She saw Deepa as an artist, she saw her as a representative of a regional culture, she saw her as a human being. It is the new who always need friends, and Milena ji offered to be that friend for me. I feel a certain connection with her that I do not know how to explain. Is this what they call as karma? Oh crap! Whatever it may be - she is a hero for me and I share this story with just a few people who believe in connections.
As an artist, I am always in love with ‘space’, but as a person, I have realised that ‘time’ romances with me. It has privileged me by introducing some exemplary fine people of character who can shine as a ray of hope for others to just believe.
Milena ji and some of the members of the wrecked ship chose to save the ship putting themselves at risk. As a result, 11 years after Dr. Neena Prasad, Mohiniyattam will be presented in Musee Guimet.
This is a story I wrote because Art chose to triumph against all odds. And how often does that happen in today’s world?