Wednesday 16 December 2009

Mothers by daughters - Remembering Indrani: September 19, 1930 - February 5, 1999 - Sukanya Rahman

Indrani began to dance before she could walk. My mother made her stage debut at age five, performing the role of Maricha, the golden deer, in an episode of the Ramayana with her mother Ragini Devi and the dancer Gopinath.

For centuries the tradition of classical dance in India was passed down from mother to daughter through generations of dedicated devadasis or temple dancers, and nurtured in the sanctums of the great Hindu temples. This ancient art traced its origins to the rituals of the sacred Vedas, and its ancestry to the celestial exponents of the dance, the apsaras or heavenly nymphs and to the gods themselves.

Oddly, this dance tradition - which had fallen into decline and disrepute during British colonial rule - was helped out of obscurity and placed on the world stage by a daring young woman from the American Midwest. Born Esther Luella Sherman, in Petoskey Michigan in 1893, Esther was convinced she had been a Hindu in a previous incarnation and her mission in life was to dedicate her life to Indian dance. 

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Thursday 10 September 2009

Mothers by daughters - Amma: My inspiration - Roja Kannan

In life, you have to be 'somebody' and not a 'nobody.'
This is Amma's favorite quote...
She instilled this in us (my sister Meena and I) constantly, ever gently coaxing us into the innumerable activities we pursued in our young days like dance, music, acting and studying in that order.

Born in Badagara, a remote town in North Malabar, in Kerala, as the younger of the two daughters of a leading Barrister at Law, Amma was the apple of my grandfather Narayana Iyer's eye. She was spoilt, so to say, to a great extent because her older sister, Thangam, was older to her by almost 10 years. So Amma was the baby of the house where all her wishes were the family's command.

Even in that remote town where there was not much exposure to even a radio, she nurtured a passion for the fine arts, especially dance and an old Ravi Varma oil on canvas where Radha and Krishna were shown playing Raasa Leela was her favorite, in front of which she used to dance secretly trying out various movements and moves, to the haunting melody of P Susheela's "Gangai Karai Thottam Kanni Pengal Kootam Kannan Naduvinilay..." 

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Wednesday 5 August 2009

Mothers by daughters - Rukku: My mother - Chitra Visweswaran

She never looked at the half-empty cup, only the half-full...gentle, soft-spoken, dignified, she was an epitome of inner strength and spirituality. The half-empty - half-full cup formula only applied to life with all its vagaries and not to any of my activities, be it dance, music, poetry, painting or writing.

My sternest critic, she was also my inspiration, my guide and my dearest friend. She gently encouraged me at what I was good at and firmly wooed me away from what would never become a strength with me. I remember the gentle smile, I remember the mischievous twinkle, I remember the uncompromising, firm gaze, I remember that look... at times pensive, at times deeply inscrutable, looking inwards... a look that I came to understand only as I grew older.

She was born the youngest in a family of eight children. Her father, TS Sankara Iyer was a leading luminary of South Indian society in pre-independence Delhi, the first Indian to become Financial Commissioner of Indian Railways, a visionary, a social reformer and a great patron of the arts. Her mother Seethalakshmi, a nine-yard clad Brahmin lady who supported her husband in all his social reforms, wrote songs, played badminton and was commented upon as being one of the most intelligent conversationalists by the then Viceroy of British occupied India. 

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Saturday 4 July 2009

Mothers by daughters - Eternal inspiration - Vasumathi Badrinathan

Some memories live forever. They remain by you – silent shadows of the past, they grow with you. Her memory dwells in my subconscious like a protective canopy. For, she was one such person whom it is not easy to forget. She was around all the time, her wonderful personality spreading everywhere; she still is always around now. Her presence exuded warmth and made the house into a perfect home.

She shaped my life. She very deftly manipulated the reins she held and took me unfailingly towards my destination. She became the master craftsman of my life and executed her travail effortlessly, tastefully and beautifully. She held my hands all through, lest I stumbled over the thorny paths of life. She had understood what was best for me and led me assertively to achieve my goals. She was my perennial source of encouragement, urging me all the time to perform better. Sad, that the best things came when she wasn’t there to see her efforts bearing fruit – it was ordained to be that way. 

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Saturday 6 June 2009

Mothers by daughters - God could not be everywhere so he created Mothers - Meenakshi Chittaranjan

My mother Savithri Sabanayagam belonged to an era when girls had to live by the rules and norms dictated by society – she obeyed her parents implicitly – got married and the story of her husband and children became her life. She did not deem it a great sacrifice but derived great pleasure and pride in losing her identity and living her life through them.

Born into an aristocratic family – the eldest granddaughter of the Zaminder of Chunampet and the eldest daughter of SS Rajan, landlord of Madurai - she was brought up loved and protected. She was well educated and completed her graduate studies from Presidency College. She was married to my father Mr. P Sabanayagam IAS who rose to high levels of power and eminence in his civil service career. This opened a whole new world to my mother. From a much cocooned atmosphere she was thrown open to the outside world and her adventure to all the good things in life began.

She made the best use of this exposure. She became a very confident, articulate and a people's person and made her presence and impact be felt wherever she went. She developed an exquisite taste for sarees, jewellery, painting, and artifacts and her greatest pleasure was shopping for her loved ones. 

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