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God could not be everywhere so he created Mothers
- Meenakshi Chittaranjan, Chennai

June 6, 2009

My mother Savithri Sabanayagam belonged to an era when girls had to live by the rules and norms dictated by society - she obeyed her parents implicitly - got married and the story of her husband and children became her life. She did not deem it a great sacrifice but derived great pleasure and pride in losing her identity and living her life through them.

Born into an aristocratic family - the eldest granddaughter of the Zaminder of Chunampet and the eldest daughter of SS Rajan, landlord of Madurai - she was brought up loved and protected. She was well educated and completed her graduate studies from Presidency College. She was married to my father Mr. P Sabanayagam IAS who rose to high levels of power and eminence in his civil service career. This opened a whole new world to my mother. From a much cocooned atmosphere she was thrown open to the outside world and her adventure to all the good things in life began.

She made the best use of this exposure. She became a very confident, articulate and a people's person and made her presence and impact be felt wherever she went. She developed an exquisite taste for sarees, jewellery, painting, and artifacts and her greatest pleasure was shopping for her loved ones.

As a young girl my mother loved games, music and dance. Games and music was permitted and encouraged but dance was taboo. This bottled up craving for dance erupted in full force when she was blessed with a daughter. As soon as I could walk, I was enrolled in the dance school run by the illustrious Pandanallur gurus. Thus started my journey into the wonderful world of movement and mime - Bharatanatyam. From the age of four I went through the rigorous training and had my arangetram when I was nine. I then continued my learning and performing all over India and an occasional foreign trip. Both my parents worked for my progress in this demanding field. Organizing shows, arranging the orchestra, managing their tantrums and keeping them in good spirits, booking their travel arrangements, handling invitees and the press, taking care of costumes, jewellery and make up (she insisted on real jewellery and fresh flowers) was all taken care of. Today when I have to do all this myself, I truly appreciate their efforts!!

All I had to do was just dance. No stress, no tension just the joy of dancing. If I did well she was excited and thrilled and if something went wrong she was upset and disappointed. When somebody feels so much for you - you don't need to feel so much yourself. So I was always the calm person not given to highs and lows, excitements and disappointments. Actually after a 2-hour performance by me, my mother used to collapse tired and exhausted and demand a cold coke, so much was her mental and physical involvement in my dance!

Other than dance she made sure my brothers and I were exposed to a variety of activities - Tennis lessons, swimming coaching, Sanskrit and sloka classes, yoga, public speaking. This healthy level of push and pressure at that precious age called youth helped us develop self confidence, an aggressive and competitive spirit to excel and evolve into well rounded personalities. Today's personality building courses and management developing skills can take a leaf out of her book.

My only regret was when I was awarded the Padma Shri by the Govt of India in January 2008, she had died just a month before. I know she made it happen from the heavens above but I would give anything to have seen the pure ecstasy on her face at the announcement. I don't think the earth would have borne that 'Ananda.'

Meenakshi Chittaranjan is based in Chennai where she runs her Bharatanatyam school Kaladiksha.

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