It seems the yearning to write hits me only after 12:00. AM that is. Eyes droopy. Eyelids weighing a ton ... sleep beckoneth, crooneth, and wooeth. This post though, is not about me. And it is that, that is keeping the nidraadhineta* at bay.
Sometime in September or late August, I had spoken with Padmasree Guru Gangadhar Pradhan - the legend amongst Odissi exponents, and Guru par excellence. Wanting to be part of the 2011 Konark Dance festival, I had called, written to them asking for details, email-IDs, whatever it was that they could give me, about the fest.
When I dialed for the first time, an old voice answered the phone. Old yes, but I could tell that it hadn't lost all of its vigour. There was still that timbre of energy in there. I rattled off statements and questions - where I was calling from, who I was, and what it was that I was calling for. The Voice heard all my queries, and said that he'd have to ask his son to get back to me.
I would not say that time stopped, or that I was awash with the feeling of being hit head-on by a truck of magnanimous proportions, no I wouldn't say that. But I did pause. It had sunk in that this was no clerical persona I was talking to, no sir. It was THE Man himself. The Founder, ladies and gentlemen of the Konark Dance Festival.
There are times in life when you feel about as small as the Qutub Minar, and as gigantic as a fire-ant, all in the space of one tiny moment. That moment, was then.
Awed, humbled, 'acutely-aware-that-my-eyebrows-had-left-my-face-and-were-in-my-hair' and the realization that if I did not say something other than 'Oh', and 'OOOOh' soon, I would pity myself very much indeed - all of this was happening in that teeny-tiny time frame.
I offered my respectful namaskaaras to him as best as I could over the cellphone (- sometimes all the technology in the world is not enough eh?). When I told him about myself, Guruji explained how solo dancers might not work on the huge stage of the Konark Dance Festival ... explained how applications had to be received well in advance ... and somewhere down the line he went into a 'Yes, ... Gangadhar Pradhan is a dreamer ... he is a doer ... that is why he started this festival .... that is why he has put his life into it ... but I'm old now ... others are managing it well ... '; and I quote verbatim. Our conversation lasted for probably 7-10 minutes.
When I put the phone down .... it was with mixed feelings. I knew I couldn't apply as a solo artist for the KDF, but on the other hand, I had spoken to an artist ... and not just any artist ... one of the best there ever was. And somehow in this gargantuan expanse of space that we all occupy, intertwined with consciousness that is both universal and personal - I heard a fistful of heartfelt sentences spoken by a great master.
Today I read that he had passed away recently. A twinge of sadness tempered with a keen sense of 'of the many many people that he met and spoke with, I was there too ... if only was a couple of minutes' - these permeate my thoughts right now.
The Mahabharata says that an individual stays in heaven as long as someone on earth remembers them and their good deeds. Once, the memory of that person's deeds fades away, the said individual takes birth again, and another cycle begins.
What can I say Guruji - you are going to be in heaven for a VERY long time.
To dream and to do. You've taught me this. May dance always be with you. Namaskaaram.
*Nidraadhineta - The deity who presides over sleep. A reference to this may be found in the Chandi Saptasati - a treatise dedicated to the Goddess Durga, which praises Her as the Cause of all activities in the universe, including NidrA or sleep.