So, there I was driving to the temple; and before me was mother driving her kid around on a two-wheeler. The kid must’ve been about 10 and her shoes said she was probably returning from a football practice. I was only driving parallel to them for about a minute or less before I sped out in a different direction but I just can’t get that minute out of my head.
Sandwiched between the mother and her 10 year old, was another little girl of 6 or maybe. Her hair had been neatly parted and tied into two ponytails at the sides of her head. She was watching her hands as she moved them in strangely familiar ways. I almost gasped when it struck to me the next second that she was practicing tatta-adavas with her hands.
The sandwiched girl was a Bharatnatyam student!
Of course, it felt familiar.
She was me.
Except for the fact that my hair would be totally askew after practice and hers were perfectly oiled in place. But she was me from 14 years ago…
My teacher was a loud woman, and I was easily intimidated then. She’d be harsh on my mistakes but she always maintained that she did so only because I had a gift for dance that needed to be harnessed. And then in the evening, I would be walking back home – well, more like dancing back home, practicing the gestures and movements that had gotten me severely scolded just ten minutes ago, determined to never get chastised for the same thing again.
Little moments from back then flashed in mind as I entered the temple. The first time I performed on a serious stage; this one time where I painted my hands with red poster paint for an exam and accidentally rubbed my face before the paint had dried; my third year dance exam when the examiner freaked my teacher out by praising me endlessly; all the nights I went to sleeping exhausted in my bones but excited about my arangetram…
Against all this, I tried to remember why I quit. I racked my brains for one sensible reason that made me forsake my art. It’s funny how all my logic from back then feels so insignificant and petty in retrospect. Why did I quit, I asked myself and then to the idols smiling in front of me, to the flowers adorning their structure, to the walls build around us. Why did I give up so easily when I was just getting better at it; my ears sieved through the surging aarti, trying to catch an answer in one of its musical strands. What made me suddenly abandon all those years of grueling rehearsals; my eyes desperately scanned to all the inscriptions carefully carved around the ceiling in hopes of finding a rational answer. And did quitting get me where I wanted to be; I positively searched through every closet, drawer, nook and corner of my mind trying to find an answer.
And the more I sought the answer, the more I realized I should’ve never let the question arise in the first place.
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