September 10, 2001

it’s not just about song and dance

i was her worst student.

the six-year unpleasant tryst with dance in my childhood has taught me *not* to force an art down a kid’s throat, especially when you cannot explain what it can do for him/her.

i call it unpleasant because i used to dread 3:00 pm in the afternoon, sometimes 6:00 pm, when my dancemami would come home, spread out her little mat on the floor to lessen the cold from the tiled floor, where she tapped with her wooden rod chanting “tayya tai, tayya tai” to a rhythmic 16-taal beat.

i was about 6, and she taught me bharatanatyam. along with me were aruna and sandhya, also of the same age, neighbours. one wrong step, and the wooden rod would land on our feet, causing a blue-green sore on whichever toe it fell.

i wouldn’t blame her —
a) my parents wanted me to learn dance whether i liked it or not,
b) she was an ageing teacher fast losing patience; interested in earning a little money for her talent
c) i was a restless kid who only loved to wear the ghungroos because of the many bells it had on it, and the music my feet created everytime i moved them —
but well, like most kids would find it difficult to erase a painful memory out of their young lives, i haven’t forgotten my sore toes either.

i also have not forgotten the surprise chocolate treats, which were extra sweet because she rescued me everytime my mom was in a bad mood, and i was often at the receiving end… the most memorable one being that afternoon, when amma punished me severely by locking me up in the bathroom. i was screaming my lungs out and it was time for dance class. (okay, it was my fault in the first place… my sister and i were having one of our then-turning-regular fist-fights, but the bathroom? if it was not so tragic for me as it was then, it would have been hilarious, as it is for me now ;-)) well, so there was no class that day. dancemami was the hero of the day and she bribed me with a huge 5-star bar to keep my eyes from popping out due to all the crying (and the attention) i was enjoying by now.

i’ll also never forget her warm embrace one morning when my mom had to be hospitalised suddenly and i was too young to understand what it was all about. i must have been 8 or 9 year-old then.

two or three years later, we shifted our residence, and i switched from dance to classical music. again, it’s every parent’s desire that their child should be good at something right?

so that was that. i now dreaded 11:00 am when she would unfailingly arrive at our doorstep with her little harmonium. fifteen minutes into the session and i would doze off (sitting right in front of her!) so easily, while she continued to slap her hand on her knee singing sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa…

tch tch. i surely was her worst student.

gradually, as my schoolbag became heavier, tutions increased, and hours in the school and college library grew longer, i saw less of our dance teacher (i learnt that she had moved to madras). i also understood the importance of art in life… bharatanatyam and music remained topmost in my wish-i-had-learnt-to-do list. now i know why my parents pressed me so much years ago.

this morning, as my father was driving me to the passport office at thane, i noticed a very old yet familiar face in the crowd. i did not know whose face it was, but it made me jump out of the car even before it stopped, run about 50 yards before i finally caught up with the figure and tap her on her shoulder so i could see her more clearly. panting, half unsure, i asked her if she recognised me.

a long 2.5-second-look later, she asked me back in fluent tamil: “and how am i supposed to recognise you?”
behind her thick soda-glasses, i noticed the same unmistakable little twinkle reach her 60-percent-cataract-covered eyes, and both of us smiled.

oh dancemami, i really missed you.

ps: no i will not force my child to sing or dance. i think it’s simple…
– the first thing children learn, even as infants, is to observe and imitate their parents.
– the environment you create for your child plays an important role too, throughout his or her life.
– and thirdly, one unwritten rule of life says its never too late to learn yourself.

as for me, i cannot wait to get back to my violin classes 🙂
umm, perhaps by january, right praveen?

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.