With Love, From Russia and Beyond

No one and nothing comes to your rescue like your own breath does,” says Dr Yashoda Thakore as she speaks about Yoga and Dance. “It’s just a matter of knowing your own breath.” 

A lot can be taken back from Dr Yashoda Thakore’s talk on the 10th of November, and even more can be appreciated from her awe-inspiring performance. She talked about the philosophy of Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvara Pranidhana (Act, Introspect and Surrender) and how it helps us attain our goals. She explains, “Patanjali, the father of Yoga, was a kind man. He didn’t expect you to performs wonders, not even begin to. Instead he said that even if you have even considered beginning tomorrow, you’re one step closer to your goals. And sooner than later you will find yourself beyond your final goal.”

Her love for dance is made obvious by her understanding of its nuances; perhaps it is only equalled by her love for teaching. Some of her students – Monica, Vishnupriya, Binu- gave scintillating performances of Kuchipudi . 

“Some of them started learning dance from me after they came to college. In two years, they’ve improved a lot despite coming to class for two times a week, just for an hour. But when I see them get that movement or that expression right, it really makes my day.” Dr Yashoda has been dancing for 35 years and teaching since ‘97. In fact, not many know that she has been teaching dance to students of BPHC from its very inception.

“I have seen this college grow since when it was only barren land.” 

She talks about the three gunas- Sattvas, Rajas and Tapas (Peace, Aggression and Inertia) and about shifting between these states when the situation demands it. She explains it through dance, “Sometimes you need to pull off characters you do not relate to, but you need to become the character himself and put your thoughts, and beliefs aside.” She performs a passionate rendition of Lakshmi Devi waiting for her husband, Lord Vishnu. Her footwork, her expressions and her graceful movements hint at an impeccable story:

“Whenever I hear his footsteps, I think of him, I wait for him. I think of the sweet nothings we shared; I miss him.”

She may disagree with the character of a possessive, dependent housewife who thinks that her life is nothing when her husband isn’t by her side, but she performs unto perfection. And in those few moments of her performance one can see her expressions flitting between unwavering hope and quick disappointment. How can one possibly look away? 

“Forgive me, I keep coming back to the topic of dance,” she adds sheepishly, after her performance.

She was accompanied by two of her Russian students- Elena and Barbara- and their tryst with our Indian dance form is an interesting one. Barbara says that when she was 15, India had just completed 50 years of its independence. The Indian celebrations were aired on television and that’s when she saw an Indian classical dance performance for the first time. She decided that she had to learn this dance form. That was ten years ago. She has visited India four times since then and she thinks that India is a beautiful country. 

Dr Yashoda adds, “People weep while watching a classical performance in Russia. It’s heart-warming. They don’t know our language. You wouldn’t expect them to even understand!” She has been to many countries- Greece, America, Russia, France, Dhaka- and she finds the love she receives immensely satisfying. 

Elena has two daughters and she says that they want to learn Indian classical dance too. Barbara’s son wants to learn a more energetic dance form; he prefers Bharatanatyam. 

Quite accurately, Dr Yashoda describes the current state of affairs, “You see, the arts survive only when the stomach is full. But eventually it does come back.” Swaranjali, the classical music and dance club of our campus, is giving us an opportunity to rediscover the magic in our culture, accommodating the ‘coming back’ of beautiful art forms. If only we can give it a chance!

Meghana Yerabati

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