Shayar bhi hoon, Gayak bhi hoon
I doubt if there is anyone, outside the family circle who knows that your great grandfather used to write beautiful shayari, and he could play the harmonium very well and sing equally well. But trust me to know this better than anyone within the family too….poocho kyun!
Well it goes like this……One day Mummy saw me dancing away to glory, Indian filmi style, to some song that was playing on the radio. I had taken a dupatta of hers and pinned it over my head and I was so engrossed in my swirling and twirling, I didn’t realize I had an audience. It was only when she couldn’t suppress her laughter any longer and it burst out loudly, that I came to an abrupt halt and boy, did I feel embarrassed or what! The whole world would get to know. Joy who could always be found playing Cowboys and Red Indians or Cops and Robbers with the boys; the catty-toting Joy was dancing like a sissy! I knew I had a few fights on my hands to re-establish my reputation of a tough girl. Especially since at seven, I still managed to hold my ground, with our group of boys most of whom, were older than I.
That evening when Daddy came back from work this was the ‘Breaking News.’ Ah! Once again, bless him! Daddy was overjoyed and full of praise. No joking, no teasing…..and to everyone’s surprise he declared that now he’d have to buy me a pair of ghungroos! Mummy was flabbergasted. I was stumped. Ghungroos, for me! My reputation was gone.
Later, after dinner, I sat in his lap and told him he didn’t have to buy me ghungroos. He replied that it helped to keep the beat. I countered that I could maintain the rhythm and beats without them. He insisted. I desisted. He realized there was something else on my mind. I blurted it out.
“Everyone will laugh at me.”
“We won’t tell anyone.”
“Jasper and Mummy will.”
“I will tell them not to.”
“Then it’s ok.”
One Sunday, in the early afternoon, Daddy called me. He was sitting in the drawing-room with the harmonium and beside it on the table lay the bells dancers used to tie around their ankles. He told me to get a dupatta and a few minutes later, with the odhni on my head and ghungroos around my ankles, I was dancing with gay abandon as Daddy played the harmonium and sang with a spirit that matched my own.
What can you say about such a man, who understood not only the latent love of music, rhythm and dance but also the spirit that longed to be free in the heart of his little girl, and gave her these precious moments. “Panchchi banun udhti phirun mast gagan mein, aaj main aazaad hoon duniya ke chaman mein.”Always nurture the talents you have. Give in to the creative urges of your faculty.
Later on, at the age of nine, I did join Kuchipudi classes in Delhi, and although I couldn’t continue with it for various reasons, I developed a sort of grace in my movements and gestures which has been one of my assets as a woman and as a teacher.
shayar.......a poet who writes couplets ( shayari) in Urdu
Gayak........one who sings
Dupatta, Odhni........a piece of cloth used to cover the head. Usually made of a fine, thin material.
Ghoongroo.......small bells made of brass, attached in rows on a thick cloth band which is strapped onto the ankles of a dancer.
Poocho kyun......Hindi for "ask why."
Panchchi banun, udhti phiroon mast gagan mein.....duniya ke chaman mein"......let me be a bird and fly with gay abandon in the sky. Today I'm free in the garden of the world.
Catty.....abbreviation for catapult
Kuchipudi......an Indian classical dance form