Sunday, 24 November 2013


The chattering in the hall came down immediately when the centre stage light came on. I shifted in my seat to look at the bearded man next to me. Salin, my guide in this foreign country, gave me a small smile. I returned my gaze back to the stage. The music was yet to play, but the dancer was already in her position. She was seated gracefully on the floor in a dance position, her face looking down. I was close enough to the stage to pick out every detail. The thickly eye-lined eyes were shut as if in meditation. Her traditional white sari’s folds lay fanner across her thighs.  Mohiniyattam literally translates to the dance of the enchantress, Salin told me. The music was yet to start. The crowd was getting restless, the indications starting with shuffling of the feet, or subtle whispers. I didn’t mind the wait. It gave me time to look at the still girl under the limelight. Jasmine flowers adored her hair and I fantasized being able to smell them.  Salin pointed out the Ghungroo, the dancing bells, that the dancer wore on her legs.

              I was about to ask him more about the attire but the music began, playing a song in a language I couldn’t decipher. But I didn’t need the lyrics. Her expressions alone told the story.  I have watched many ballets that have left me at the edge of the seat. The strength in the ballet dancers that romanticized everything.  Here I was witnessing something wholly different. How do I describe the feeling without using any wrong words? The movement of the leaves swaying in the spring breeze, the stillness in the backwaters of the land, the petrichor- I saw it all in her dance. As if nature had channeled her flow into the dancer. The jingle of the dancing bells gave off a unique effect to her steps. I felt myself being drawn to the whole beauty of it. The dancer was a female fatale, only she was not leading me to my doom but rather a union with something bigger than us.  Her eyes truly were reflection of emotions, named and nameless, swirling inside fragile human hearts. The expressions were tantalizing, edging us to find answers for the mysteries of the world.  I was experiencing benevolence for the world and for me. What benediction was this?

                    Salin later explained to me the classical ballet was on the story of Lord Krishna, told through the eyes of his lover Radha.  But I had already grasped the concept of the story through the Mohiniyattam. The lover’s ecstasy, her worship for the one she loved,  her struggle, her pain, her loss – it had all been in the eyes. The human  eye isn’t complete without its eye brows, and this dance form  clutches onto that reality.

            When the dance ended, the hall erupted into applause that was defending. But I remained seated in my place, not wanting to break the communication I felt between the world and me.  My heart was swaying to the echos of the music of the dance I had just witnessed. It reminded me that my white skin wasn’t out of place here, but just another part of the existence. I had been immersed and brought out of something I couldn’t completely comprehend. Right then, that moment, the world felt alright.

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