- Ileana Citaristi, Bhubaneswar
September 27, 2010
I was rehearsing for my new production 'Karuna' inspired by Mother Teresa's life when the phone rang on the 2nd of August: “Ile, mother has left us one hour ago.” My brother's voice was choked; the phone fell from my hands. She had been sick for the last few months. I had visited her thrice in the hospital, last time in July, along with the members of my troupe. She had been looking forward to our July program in Bergamo, my home town. We had been talking about it over the phone, making plans about where the artistes would stay and which items we should do, until that fatal brain hemorrhage happened in February, after which she had been silent, closed in her own world, but still alive, still listening to our tales, giving a few signs of recognizing us like the tears which dropped from her eyes when I first visited her in the hospital in March.
She was not a dancer or a musician or an artist of any sort; she has been a devoted wife all through her life. I used to envy my father and at times be jealous of him. Even during the few days I would return home, I rarely could have her all by myself. I always thought it was my right perhaps because during my childhood, I had been deprived of her presence and attentions since, being a headmistress, she used to leave home every day in the morning and come back only late in the afternoons.
I will never know if this greedy feeling from my side provoked any guilty complex in her; we never had a very open and frank relationship. I was a rebel and my first rebellion had been against my parents, actually against my father, his overwhelming authoritarian attitude. She often happened to be a mediator between us but not enough on my side; at least this is what I thought during those years. Then I found what I was searching for, and my rebellious spirit gave space to a total submission at the feet of my guru in a land miles and miles away from home.
Somehow the distance did the magic. The relationship with my parents improved and became more focused. I left for India in 1979 and I did not return to Italy even once before 1985. They came here, saw my change, and accepted my choice. Not only that, but my mother improvised herself as a sort of 'manager' and started to take charge of many aspects of my tours, coordinating dates, following up proposals with unending phone calls, pursuing the possibilities, taking care of printing materials, posting and so on. Organizers never had dealt with anybody as gentle and polite like her; she was a very unusual “agent,” a mother trying to get back her daughter even if for a short period. She became acquainted with some terminology of the Odissi repertoire and could even explain some of the intricacies of the style. Her favorite dance number was the Sita Haran piece; she would see it again and again and relish the story each time. I would often follow her advice in choosing the items to present in Italy since she reflected the taste of the layman.
There was always something extra in the parcels she used to ship from Italy; apart from the 'spaghetti' (Italian noodles) or the 'panettone' (Christmas cake), I would find some chocolates, cookies, walnuts, spread here and there. With both daughters living in faraway lands, she became an expert in overseas expeditions. She had lost her younger daughter in a plane accident a few years ago, and now I am sure, she has finally found her once again. For me, the loss is still too recent for fully realizing what life means without her.
Mayurbhanj Chhau and Odissi dancer/teacher/choreographer, Ileana Citaristi is the Artistic Director of Art Vision. Ileana has been living in Orissa since 1979 in close contact with the people, their language and culture. She wrote 'Making of a Guru' on her mentor in the Odissi dance style, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
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