Life can change in a split second. Mine certainly did. I was studying Russian language and literature, preparing for a career in academia or international politics. But after seeing Birju Maharaj dance in 1963, I made an about-face. At that time he was called "Maharaj-ji" by all. The honorific "Pandit-ji" came later. Yet there was never a question in my mind, that whatever he was called, Maharaj-ji was a charismatic performer and compelling communicator, and I would study Kathak with him.
Trained in Western flute and piano for thirteen years starting at age five, I had been entranced by the musicality of a few lines of poetry composed by the 19th century Russian writer Pushkin. The subject was love, of course. Ya vas lyubul... "I loved you and perhaps this love has not yet died..." The sound of the words, the musicality of a language whose verb and noun endings could create unforced rhymes, the still-living tradition of memorizing and reciting poetry as a natural extension of human speech - I loved it all.
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