Last evening’s performance at Bal Shikshan was a visual treat.
Of course there were things I did not like. I did not like the opening piece or the concluding peace. I found them most peculiar. Yet, there is something about the perfection of classical dance well performed that cannot be compared to anything else.
Vaibhav Arekar and his troupe performed a beautiful collection of dances – united by the theme of Shiv. There were some pieces I’d watched before. There’s one that brings tears to my eyes every time – the story of an untouchable devotee of Shiva who wants a glimpse of the shivalingam inside the temple.
Spurned by the higher castes, Nandan hides, crouches, apologetic about his very existence. When higher caste women see him, they recoil in disgust. He cringes, almost trying to become invisible.
Yet, when everyone else finishes the prescribed rituals and has gone, Nandan goes towards the temple. ‘Inferiority’ is ingrained in him. How can he enter the temple? It’s sacred ground and he – he’s untouchable, profane! But he wants to see Shiva. He wants to see his beloved god. He peers into the temple from outside. He wants to see.
But the shivalingam is far away, and he can’t see it because of the statue of Nandi that is in the way.
He begs Nandi to move.
Nandi does not.
He pleads with Nandi.
He pleads with Shiva to move just a little.
He prays to Nandi.
He prays to Shiva.
He grows angry and asks Shiva what kind of God he is that he does not show himself to his devotee.
He shouts at Nandi, yelling at him to move.
He shouts at Shiva, frustrated and angry.
He is filled with guilt at his behaviour and performs penance.
And gets angry again. And upset again. And begs again. And pleads again.
And then, inch by inch, Nandi turns around.
Nandan becomes mad with ecstasy.
Every time I watch it, the range of emotions – so brilliantly portrayed – moves me to tears.
Yet, this piece was not the one I would write home about. The piece that blew me over was one on Mahishasuramardhini.
Five girls, ten hands. Synchronised perfection.
I don’t think I breathed right through the piece – because when it came to an end, I found myself breathing as quickly as I was clapping. There’s nothing more I can possibly say about it.