Like many kids, I also pursued dance as a hobby.
Since the age of three, I’ve learned and participated in various Western and fusion dance forms. My mom suggested also learning Indian classical dance, but I wasn’t really attracted to even try it.
Through the years, as I traveled within my own country, my appreciation for traditional arts and culture grew, and I decided to explore the world of Indian classical dance.
India is an immensely diverse country with multiple diverse cultures, so there was a lot to choose from. I considered kathak, a gentle, fluid dance form from north India, but I was drawn toward the robust yet graceful South Indian classical dance, Bharatnatyam. It is quite different in that it has sharp movements and storytelling solely through expressions and gestures.
I joined a classical dance school near my house—the Samarpan Kala Kendra. It is an Indian classical dance and music institute, established in 2015, and affiliated with Prayag Sangeet Samiti. My teacher, Falguni is excellent and has furthered my passion even more. Through my dedication and her guidance, I advanced in my learning rapidly. I decided I wanted to make my Bharatnatyam learning formal and not just a hobby. I prepared and passed the written exam as well. I am now working toward getting a formal degree in this classical dance form. It includes learning traditional Sanskrit shlokas, in which the stories are traditionally narrated.
Before the pandemic, I had explored various Western dance forms including hip-hop, Zumba, and contemporary among others. I even earned various certificates and performed on stage. However, my major focus was on academics, so I never stuck with any one dance form. Often studying for 16 hours a day and not sleeping enough, I was getting burnt out.
Bharatnatyam has been a lifesaver for me during the pandemic, especially this past year. It is essential for mental as well as physical health—to engage my mind in something other than academic learning, to refresh and recharge it—to relax and take a timeout. Bharatnatyam has precisely been that for me.
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It has had other effects too. I have been more and more fascinated by South India and its culture and history.
Growing up in a big, cosmopolitan city as international as any major city in the world, and in an interconnected world through technology, media, and travel, I was exposed to Western culture more than the diverse cultures within my own country. India is unique in its diversity, which extends beyond obvious cultural differences—with vastly different languages, food, ways of life, ethnicities, history, art forms, and traditions.
I had missed out on experiencing my own country.
I am now making up for it. Being from the north, I have had limited exposure to the rich heritage of the south. Bharatnatyam has been an enriching doorway for my journey to explore more. As I work toward pursuing higher studies abroad, I feel it is even more important for me to be more connected with my Indian roots.
Recently, I have had the chance to explore a few cities in South India as part of my book launch tour across India. Last month, my first book, The Adventures of Captain Glucose, was published, and I am enjoying the post-publishing process as much as I enjoyed creating it.
The things that I had read about the history and traditions in South India while learning Bharatnatyam, I saw firsthand as I traveled across South India. It was quite nice to experience in real life.
Bharatnatyam is not just a physical dance form; it is an art that extends beyond movement, using gestures, facial expressions, and eye movement to tell a story. Language is not a barrier to enjoying this unique art of storytelling.
Regularly practicing Bharatnatyam has also been a blessing for my Type 1 Diabetes management. It is an excellent way to get in regular exercise, not too high intensity—just right to maintain my blood sugar readings stably.
Overall, it has helped me to balance my life and regulate my physical and mental well-being. Medical school will be rigorous combined with living abroad away from family, so I plan to continue pursuing this art form.
It brings me joy and respite.