Why do I hear a cacophony in surround sound, on the occasion of Birju Maharaj's death? The last choreography, of his funeral,where hundreds of his students chanted the 'bols' of Kathak, had barely reached its 'sam', when two distinct sound tracks became identifiable- with both the tracks playing a different tune. While the dominant track sound sung loudly, and in chorus, about the golden artistry, the quieter, more disturbing, multiple voices, but rendered singly, were about darker actions.
Does death free one of bonds and bondages, bags and baggage? Does death reinforce fear, or fearlessness? Does death make one face oneself, as did the thirty birds, with each representing a human fault, in Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar's Persian poem the "Conference of the Birds"? Or does death cause erasure, losing both life and its lesson?
The quieter voices that are speaking today, having broken their silence, are fearless voices- excavating excruciating, and often long buried memories. But they are voices of courage to go against the flow of the celebration of a 'revered' artiste, which the feminist and humanist from the dance work, scholar and professor of dance, and choreographer of social justice themes, Ananya Chatterjea has called in her Facebook post, "the deep-seated hypocrisy covering over the pain of violences".
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