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An evening with the celestial enchantress
- Nanditha Prabhu, Chennai

January 15, 2012

It was January 5th and I was excited as I was having a date with the celestial enchantress! Everything had magically fallen in place. All the routine chores for the evening were taken care of and the evening was all mine. I opened my wardrobe, trying to make up my mind on what to wear for this special evening. I finally decided on an off white Bengal cotton sari with an orange and zari border. After all, this was my first evening this season, an evening with the celestial enchantress. I was all prepared to be on the receiving end, all ready to be enchanted. As I left my home and drove through the busy Chennai traffic, the hopes of experiencing the contagious energy of the evening and of being in company of my love lifted my spirits and kept the frustration of driving on the crazy road at a peak hour in check. As I reached my destination, I prayed for a parking space. Hurray! It was my day indeed. I got a good parking space. Everything seemed perfect this evening.

I switched my cell phone to the silent mode making my way through the dark passage trying to spot the right place from where I could have the privilege of savouring the evening. The space was already filled with music and rhythm that was infectious. As I sat down on my chosen spot, suddenly all the lights came on revealing the emptiness of the space. To my utter disappointment the whole space looked deserted and all the castles in the air that I had crafted for the evening seemed to melt in a second. I could barely count a handful of people scattered in the hall and I was one among them. Where was the colour that had oft invited me to such sessions, where were the friendly hellos, the pleasant pats, warm exchanges of like - minded rasikas... Where have all disappeared? It was about time for the celestial damsel to arrive and I could feel the empty chairs whining for companionship.

Lights off ....My ears yearned to hear whispers and comments from all directions, but in vain. The sound of the temple percussion reverberated in the atmosphere elevating us from the mundane. As the damsel made her entry with her elegant gait dancing to the various "vaitharies" / chollus and intricate rhythms and as she unwound the various latent emotions and retold stories and recreated life, her purpose was achieved; she led us gradually and subtly to a different level.
As I sat there immersed in the temple rhythms of Kerala, a lone spectator to the unfolding of this special occasion I couldn't stop thinking about the star of the evening. She was indeed a star from the heavens, twinkling yet unnoticed. How many of these stars shine and go unnoticed, I thought. Why was she so unwelcome in this cultural hub? When people throng the hall to grasp a view of other stars, why this discrimination? Was it her language, gestures, attire? Or was it just an outcome of a self-centred existence? As I too spoke this very language, wore the very attire and often transformed into a dancer who danced the dance of the celestial enchantress, this day's evening hurt me.

Why this loud noise about being all embarrassing and open? Why no encouragement for creating rasikas, who can not only applaud their genre of dance, but also appreciate and accept other genres? It is high time that art lovers give this a serious thought and while dancers put on various costumes to enact various roles, the rasikas and art lovers should learn to shed their prejudices and attitudes and be ready to receive. As I returned home after this special evening, I was disturbed. I couldn't help thinking of a rasika, Catherine, who once suggested, "If you have true passion for the art, you will find joy in dancing every day in your own garage. Why do you need big auditoriums and a hundred people to applaud?"

Nanditha Prabhu is a Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam dancer trained under her mother Kalamandalam Suganthi and Padma Subrahmanyam respectively. She runs her dance school Mythri Art Academy in Chennai.

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