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An Artist’s Nirvana


An artist’s life is the perfect canvas to get closer to moksha. The line came to me spontaneously as I closed my eyes to chart the life of my dearest wife. In the current era of single currency [that is money, unlike the days of barter system], priceless  elevated experiences or personal upliftment cannot but get undervalued.
In a world where a software engineer in his twenties earns for his company or self- three hundred dollars per day for writing say less than 300 hundred lines of code, whereas a dancer who has to practice for 300 hundred hours for a 30 minutes performance is probably expected to perform free – the commitment to become a devoted dancer can only be felt and seen to be understood. More so for an ambitious person like Lara with a Masters from one of the leading universities of the world. The decision to take up dancing, over an impactful and luxurious corporate career, says it all.
Lara’s stunning beauty and poise as a dancer which juxtapose to mesmerize, add to the heightened feeling of poetry personified. However, while watching a performance, little does one realize the punishing work ethic that Lara subjects herself to – hungry for perfection in every step and pause.
Like every dancer, Lara loves the moments addiction of a rousing performance. But to live for that moment, she has to tread process of reaching there. The very process of learning dance is a spiritual experience. The deep self-awareness of one self every moment. The cosmic connect when practicing and performing, the devotion to ones guru. The divinity and legend of a classical dance form. All add to the spiritual experience – and like any spiritual experience, it is a mix of bliss and catharsis.
Well not just the process of learning dance, living the life of a dancer is equally transforming. Since that decision to continue to pursue dance post her Masters (almost a decade earlier) till recently, Lara has been either working two full-time professions parallel in the toughest city of the world – New York, or she is in India without an income or an American lifestyle in India and Odisha learning dance. When in New York, she had had to full time to live to perform free. But she could not taking a demanding [read well paid] job, so that she could practice and promote Odissi in New York. The artist’s capital of the world. Morning 5am to evening 9pm, every day for seven years. Jogging to keep fit, practicing to be ready, working to keep the gas burning, teaching to sow the seeds of Odissi. Foregoing all the indulgences of good to look and good to feel during the prime years to buying costumes, books, studio place to teach & practice. That is what passion, devotion – bhakti - is all about.
She has at every step of her tryst with Odissi – which started at a very young age – fought off all the ‘demons’ [as they call in any spiritual journey] which tried to lure here away from her god, her love. Pangs of physical pain, familial discouragement, unfamiliar terrain of Odisha, work ambitions, performers fear, interpersonal dynamics in dance world, stage fear, undemocratic behavioural mores of classical dance world, and sometimes the blatant show of poor value quotient among other things have forced her to think twice multiple times. The added pressure of handling stress adds its own layers of complexes and defences. The dream looks a a little jaded and the real life issues look much larger.
But she has hung on for the joy of expression and for the search for emancipation. Not as a means to an end – but an end in itself. Every dancer has always dreamt stage adulation. But that is just the side story. But even the best of them – know or knew – that the amount of hard work and commitment to just be a serious practitioner is a million times more than leading a comfortable corporate life. The real drive is the connect from the unknown to dance to the cosmic tune. A tryst with Moksha.
The zeal with which Lara, my dearest wife, is committed to fight away the layers of veil and challenge oneself and out stronger every day – is to me a path of self-realisation every moment. The baring of the soul at the altar or art. An Artist’s Nirvana.
Bhubaneshwar
June 30, 2012
[PS: This post is written as a bio feature for Lara’s blog The Artist’s Nirvana, sonalidance.wordpress.com.]

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