I doubt there’s anyone outside our family circle who knows that Daddy used to write beautiful shayari and that he could play the harmonium very well, and he could sing equally well too. But trust me to know this better than anyone within the family!
Poocho kyun? (ask why?)
Well, it goes like this…
One day, Mummy saw me dancing away to glory, Indian film style, to some Hindi film song playing on the radio. I had taken a dupatta of hers, and I had pinned it on my head. I was so engrossed in swirling and twirling, I didn’t realize I had an #audience. It was only when she couldn’t suppress her laughter any longer and it burst out loud that I knew she had been watching me.
I came to an abrupt halt, and oh! boy, did I feel embarrassed or what! The whole world will get to know! She would make it into a comic headline!
Joy, the girl who played Robbers & Coppers, Cowboys & Red Indians with the boys; the catty-toting Joy was dancing like a “sissy”! It dawned on me that I’d have a few fights on my hands to re-establish my reputation as a tough girl with the band of boys (my brother and his friends) I played with more often than I did with the girls. Especially so because at the age of seven, I still managed to hold my ground with our group of boys, most of whom were older than I was!
That evening, when Daddy came home, this was the #breaking #news. I looked on with trepidation. How would he react? Would he find it hilarious and #laugh out loud? Would he think I was doing something not quite ‘Christian’? That last thought cropped up because of our Sunday School teacher. She thought dancing, especially to film songs, was not a thing ‘good’ girls or boys should do. I didn’t want her to know about this either.
He surprised me.
Ah! Once again, bless him, he was overjoyed and full of praise. No joking, no teasing… and to everyone’s surprise, he announced that now, he’d have to buy me a pair of ghungroos! This was received with mixed reactions.
Mummy was flabbergasted. I was stumped. Ghungroos for me! My reputation was doomed. Later that day, after dinner, Daddy and I had a conversation. I sat in his lap as he relaxed on the couch.
“You don’t have to buy me #ghungroos?”
“Why not? You like to dance, and ghungroos help to keep the beat and rhythm.”
“Oh, but I can keep the beat without them. I have it in my head, Daddy.”
He insisted. I desisted. He saw that there was something else on my mind.
“What is it? What’s troubling you?”
“Everyone will laugh at me,” I blurted.
“We won’t tell anyone.”
“But Jasper and Mummy will.”
“I will tell them not to,” he reassured me.
“Then, it’s ok,” I said happily. Truth is I really wanted to wear ghungroos and dance. I was smitten by the Indian #heroines on screen!
One Sunday, in the afternoon, Daddy called me. He was sitting in the drawing room with the harmonium and beside it, on the table, lay the bells dancers used to tie around their ankles! He told me to get a dupatta. A few minutes later, with the odhni on my head and the bells around my ankles, I was dancing with gay abandon. Daddy played and sang with a spirit that matched my own.
What can I say about such a man who understood not only the latent love of music, rhythm, and dance but also the spirit that longed to be free in the heart of his little girl, and he gave her these #precious #moments.
“Panchchi banun, udti phirun mast gagan mein, aaj main azad hoon duniya ke chaman mein.”
Translation: I’ll be a bird and fly around in the awesome sky. Today I am free in the garden of this world.
Always nurture the talents you have. Give in to the creative urges of your faculty.
Later on, at the age of nine, I joined Mohiniyattam dance classes in Delhi, but unfortunately, I couldn’t continue with it because we moved away to another part of the city. If I had any hopes of continuing with dance classes,, it was all laid to rest with Daddy’s decision to put in his papers and take early retirement and move to his hometown. No chance of dance classes here. This one-horse town didn’t have any classical dance options. It was rural and the only dances one saw were folk dances.
So what could I do?
I took every opportunity, I got in school, to learn the #folk #dance Gidda’ and participated in every cultural performance that was put on stage! It was so much fun. I just loved it.
I owe the joy of this #experience to my father. He showed me the way to accept art, in its pure form and remove the shackles I had placed on my little-girl mind.
shayari…couplets in Urdu
Dupatta, Odhni…a piece of cloth used to cover the head. Usually made of fine, thin material.
Ghoongroo...small bells made of brass, attached in rows on a thick cloth band which is strapped onto the ankles of a dancer.
Catty…abbreviation for catapult
Mohiniyattam…a classical dance from Kerala (a southern state in India)