I said, ‘I am a Dancer’. Not ‘will be’, Not ‘was’, But ‘I am’.
I remember how a few years ago, I first discovered the joy of writing. Every trivial piece I wrote brought me a great sense of fulfillment and that continues to be. I perhaps stumbled then, in my own little way, on the voice of My heart. This book, in every way, reinforced my interest in keeping this “voice” forever active and alive.
It would be unfair to talk about this book as if it were just a summary of the life of a renowned classical dancer. It is much more than just that. It is in fact, a perfect summary of anyone’s life. It talks vividly about the intricacies of a family and relations and parallelly talks about passion and how much work actually goes into perfecting an art. Through the life of Mrs. Sarabhai, we see glimpses of history and we get to briefly, but impactfully, meet some the most influential minds of all time and maybe even get a glance of their ideas.
Visitors came frequently. Jean Erdmann, the celebrated American dancer
and her scholar husband, Joseph Campbell, whose books had always
fascinated me. He was very disappointed with India and the way most
people imitated the west instead of seeking the marvellous heritage of
their own culture.
Through the ideas of Vikram and Mrinalini, we get to understand how similar art and science inherently, are. This is the most fascinating and delightful idea for me as I always believed that the human need to probe, question and find answers is evident in both Science and Art, though one is considered ‘rational’ and the other ‘abstract’.
Vikram often remarked and talked of the
marvellous universe beyond the Milky Way, and both of us, lying on our
cots on the veranda of our bedroom, gazed at the stars differently, yet
united in a shared experience of wonder.
This is perhaps how very different thoughts also show stark underlying similarities. This reinforced my belief that human aspiration is somehow unified.
Art and science both explore our invisible world.
Once Vikram wrote, ‘The important aspect is to be able to make
abstractions in art, in dancing, in astronomy or in physics and mathematics.
We observe a little but from there onwards we take wings in a way and
project ourselves onto a new plane – it satisfies a need to soar.’
The most striking part of the book for me is the one which talks about the process of creation of art. I was recently introduced to the idea that creativity descends from a higher plane and an artist is merely a tool, using which, the Divine communicates with the mundane through art. For me, this idea resonated throughout the book reminding me of how the divinity in a mortal human existence can only be cultured through disciplined and passionate involvement in excellence, be it in art or science.
These lines from a letter written to Mrinalini, by a journalist friend of hers- Nikhil Chakravarty, aptly captures the spirit of the book, and maybe even human life, for me:
There is so much of violence all around, so much of deceit,
so much of dirt, stink, the sordid. I watch them all, I try to
understand why such things are happening. Why human beings
who are so noble could debase themselves, become so lowly. I
do not get an answer, but I know within me that all this dross
and dreg do not constitute the totality of life. Beyond and above
some supernatural power is moving, us – and out of all this evil
shall come the good and the noble…’
The book opened my mind yet again, not just to art but also to the essential understanding that human life cannot be isolated from an engagement of the spirit in a constant search for inclusion and love.
In the words of Mrs. Sarabhai-
May the echoes of life dance forever in the universe as the waves
of the sea lash the shore in everlasting rhythms!