June 09, 2022
Namaste and Welcome to Week 3!
Empathy. Putting oneself in anothers’ shoes. What a beautiful concept. A powerful emotion (or a powerful mix of emotions?). A powerful tide that can sweep people off their feet. An overwhelming sense that can wreak havoc when absent. Personally, I think empathy is more essential than sympathy at times. A very confusing duo.
Empathy is fuel. Fuel for many actions. Why someone might become a vet, a doctor, a lawyer, an artiste. And here, I think about how empathy is connected to an artist. Art, in any form, lies on the foundation of perception besides its respective grammar. And perception depends on two variables - self awareness and observation. (Don’t you think we leave a piece of ourselves in every bit of art we create?) Observation requires the right amount of empathy with intrigue. To wonder what a character we are depicting would feel in a particular situation. To wonder how the character would react. To wonder what the character would do in an alternate reality. To wonder why the character did what they did or said what they said. And this character could be a role in theatre or dance, a sketch, the composer of a musical piece, and anything more.
We find a plethora of diverse characters in our Puranas. Taking a select few, we are about to explore Ganesha’s thoughts, Shoorpanakha, and a modern day Krishna. Thus, we bring to you, ‘What If?’.
I welcome you to Week 3 of Shrinkala. I am excited to present what we, my dancemates and I, have in store for you this week!
Happy reading! Happy pondering!
Research Intern, Computational Neuroscience
I love to dance. It's a way I breathe life into myself.
The stage, the dance floor, is my playground.
June 11, 2022
The story of Ganesha being known as the Elephant-headed God is an interesting one. We hear of the rage of Shiva that transforms to repentance as he learns the truth and tries to make amends. We hear of the love of a mother, Parvathi, that can be fierce and tender, all at the same time. Amidst that, Ganesha undergoes a transformation as soon as he is brought to life...
As a child, I often wondered if our Puranas had any truth to it. After all, what kid doesn’t want to believe that magic exists in this world? Now, I believe that each Purana is a parable. We can choose to learn valuable lessons from them or toss them aside as myths. I chose the former and one of my favourite stories was that of Lord Ganesha.
It was enthralling to me that a woman holds such power that she created life by breathing into an idol. I first heard the story from my Ammamma and she called him the destroyer of obstacles and the wielder of immense power, and as Stan Lee popularized – with great power comes great responsibility.
It was now his responsibility to stop anyone from entering the household as Devi Parvati finished her bath. I often wondered what he would have done had he been aware that Lord Shiva was his father. I immediately put myself in his shoes and decided that I would have handled things more sophisticatedly. But in all fairness, I would have cried my eyes out had I woken to find a trunk in the place of my nose and a half broken tusk to go with it. I was convinced that he too was devastated and now all the kids in his school would make fun of him. He would have to use his trunk to drink water, eat his food and to bathe just like an elephant. According to the thoughts racing in my head, he would be considered an animal and would never make friends because kids would be scared of him. I pictured him sitting alone under a tree eating a lot of Modaks and his only friend was his mouse. There was no consoling me. I went running to Ammamma and she laughed when I told her of my troubles,
and said he must also have the appetite of an elephant and that would make you best friends. I was very excited and went about my day thinking that I have something in common with who is now my most favourite God. In just a moment, I went from being sad to ecstatic.
The moral I chose from this story is that there is always a way to be optimistic in any situation. It is said that his trunk represents OM, the universal sound that whisks away one’s
stress and worries. One rendition of the broken tusk story is that Ganesha broke it himself to continue writing the tale of Mahabharatham that Sage Vyasa dictated non-stop.
The stories of Lord Ganesha teach us to look for solutions during difficult situations rightly earning him the name Vighnaharta. So now, I choose to believe that when Lord Ganesha woke up to find his face replaced by that of an elephant’s, he definitely would have thought “I will figure this out”.
As we all know already, Ganesha was a little boy moulded by Parvati from sandalwood. He was told by his mother to guard the chamber while she bathed. As a loyal son and a person who had just been brought to life a few minutes ago, he did not allow anyone to enter her chambers when his mother asked him to guard it. My perspective of Ganesha's feelings when his head was replaced by that of an elephant’s is that he must have felt very uneasy in the beginning because it was his apparent father who cut his head off. Talking about the more scientific side of it, the boy had literally acquired a new brain. But as many stories tell us, it didn't take long for Ganesha to get comfortable in his new head.
Snigdha N K
As a dancer, we can express so many emotions so easily, and I think that is very beautiful. It is one of the many reasons why I love to dance.
Research Associate, Aurobindo
I love to dance as it makes me forget all my worries and shows me the importance of being
present in the moment to completely enjoy it.
June 13, 2022
Imagine if you were Krishna. You are in his shoes and are living in this century. How would you have modified your routine during the pandemic? How would you have managed with home quarantine? How would you have tried to help the society as Krishna?
In his last message to us in the Gita, Krishna himself said that he will only intervene when there is ‘Adharma’ or injustice at play. Was the pandemic really an episode of Adharma? Or an injustice in the world? Or – is the pandemic a test for humanity? Testing our comfort zones, our smugness with our lives as it is and our assumption of continuity.
Yes, the pandemic took many human lives, caused suffering, and brought a big change in the way we lived by slowing us all down. But is all of this bad?
No, I don’t think so. Many feel we were going too fast in the first place. Perhaps, we needed a pause - a speed bump - in our journey towards “progress”.
I think Krishna did well to ‘withhold’ sending forth the Sudarshan Chakra that could have felled the corona virus, so people could not go back to their comfort zones. I think Krishna did well to allow the ‘Vastrapaharan’ to happen – pulling the wool from across the eyes of so many of us ‘Dhritarashtras’, so we can get a different drishti. I think Krishna did well to allow some ‘Karnas’ and ‘Vikarnas’ to fade and wane, so new versions of a better reality can take root.
I think this is the best help Krishna could have done for society. It is because of the pandemic that our routines were upended; change was thrust upon us; work, schooling, learning – all had new modes and channels. Restrictions that we never expected were forced on us, and for a while we lived as if in self-imposed exiles.
But also, it is because of the lockdown that we suddenly had more time – for ourselves, our families, neighbours and friends. Simple acts of kindness, that otherwise may have not surfaced, came up in each of us. We shared lockdown experiences, helping the needy, the old, or sharing chores with neighbours. Our moments within our home turned to hours, days, weeks and months amongst us, making the family a better environment. All of us found the opportunity to do more, learn new, experiment, and make meaningful use of our time. We just need to learn not to confuse motion with progress…
So did Krishna need to intervene, or did he give us an experience to make us more mindful? I think Krishna wanted the latter to happen so he did not intervene.
I love dance because it allows me to craft beautiful and mindful moments with movements, music, and abhinaya, that make me feel free, spirited and upbeat.
Krishna. The first thing that would come to our minds would be his little pranks, his disobedience. He was the playful, mischievous, and troublesome kid no one could ever control. He caused inconvenience in levels people didn’t know were possible. Wouldn’t it be a task to have him caged in his house? He was Krishna. But on the other hand, he was Krishna. Krishna was a man of simplicity. He enjoyed the simplest pleasures in life - like playing the flute, eating butter, and his relationships. Those were what mattered to him. He didn’t have many needs. He was able to deal with any situation he was put into; he was able to do everything anyone could possibly imagine. Would adapting to something as simple as staying at home even be a task to him?
Krishna is a saviour. Lord Krishna will protect us in times of need, in times of war. We were at war. We were at war with the coronavirus. Did he come to save us? In my mind, he did.
Krishna, the one who could see the past, the present and the future. He would’ve known what was coming, the consequences, the result, and everything. After all, he was Krishna. He assured everyone that everything will happen as it should. He said so himself in the Bhagavad Gita - to live in the present. He said, the past was good, the future will be good and the present is good. He asked us to not worry about the future because whatever it will be, it will be good. But that seemed a little silly to believe when millions simply died from a virus. It was hard to have any faith that everything will be okay. Economic crisis, poverty, death, being jailed in our houses. How was that fair? I questioned Krishna. How could he just leave a bold assumption as such and expect us to believe it. Albeit, he wouldn’t have had us go through this unless it had a purpose. He had all the means to end it. But he chose not to, and to that, I believe was a greater significance. I believe that we came out of war as stronger people. Better people. We as a community, as individuals, understand more about each other and ourselves better than we have ever done before. I believe that everyone became kinder, more loving, more empathetic. I believe that behind everything was Krishna. I believe that in all of us is Krishna.
But let’s look at it a little differently too. How would Krishna have dealt with quarantine? In my opinion, he would’ve had a harder time than any of us would’ve. He spent all his time outside. Maintaining his herd, playing with his friends, playing his flute, enticing gopis, but most important of all, being his troublesome self. It seems quite ironic how impossible a task as simple as staying home seems for the great Krishna who could accomplish anything. How would he have led his day while on lockdown? In my head, he’s been eating excessive butter to make up for the boredom of sitting in his house. He gets restless every now and then and starts to play his flute. And to make up for not being able to meet up with his friends, they video call each other to keep each other company. Krishna has countless skills and with all the free time he had, he must’ve also learnt new things while at home. But he was still Krishna, so I think for all the people that needed the help, he went around and helped them in any way they would’ve needed it.
Dance is the language I communicate in.
June 15, 2022
Surpanakha was known as the ugly, monstrous rakshasi, the sister of Ravana. That aside, she was still a woman who yearned for love. Upon pondering, questions arise. Was she wrong? Was it her approach? Her appearance? Then, what was her true appearance within?
According to the tales we have grown up with, we have always depicted the Asuras as ugly and emotion- less. One such rakshasi known for her monstrous behavior was Surpanaka, the sister of the demon King Ravana. Though she was born in the clan of Asuras, she was still a woman and she did have her feelings. As a woman, she yearned for love, affection and attention like each and every other being. She was a captivating woman and very adventurous as she did try to seek the brother’s attention during the Vanavasa period in the Ramayana. Without hesitating, like any other woman, she had the courage to step up and share her feelings with Lord Rama even though she was alone against 3 other people; Lakshmana, the aggressive brother, Rama’s wife Sita and Lord Rama himself. Being rejected by Rama and his brother hurt her the most. Naturally, as a woman, she would have felt very heartbroken when her proposal of love was rejected and would have experienced deep pain when her nose was cut off by Lakshmana according to the texts. However, she managed to be valiant (Bold), fearless and resisted the damage that had embarked her.
Another characteristic that I could personally interpret would be her interminable character because she never thought of stepping back while approaching Rama or even while she wanted to convey anything to her brother. For instance, the time she wanted to question her brother for making her a widow. I would agree she was not as pure and good like other rakshasis who had helped and been kind to Sita, like Trijata. But she was the one who had been evil and by doing so, kept the story going and preserved the value the text contains.
As a dominating person, she was very daring and was a significant character in the Ramayana on the whole. She was the reason to trigger the capturing of Sita, and the occurrence of the vigorous battle which happened that set the motion to make sure that the Dharma (Good always wins over Evil) of the world was kept intact. Overall, she displayed a character that set an example of both how a woman should be and should not be in the generations to come.
I love dancing as it gives me the freedom to express myself. I tend to be relaxed physically and mentally whenever I step onto the floor to dance and it allows me to exhibit my innermost feelings.
Dance brings out who I really am.
When puranas just seemed fine justifying the royal men having more than one wife, why would a woman yearning for love be sketched as being insensitive?
My perspective of Surpanaka, a royal of the asura clan, sister of Ravana, and my affinity towards Rama are different. Well, there are two sides to a coin and so is my take on this.
Though distinguishing herself as Sita to get close to Rama was wrong, according to me, I feel she didn't feel her best given her demoness body. Well, in the earlier days, the men chose only the beautiful ladies, which might (in my opinion) have brought in an inhibition in all the other women (and so for Surpanakha as well) who were not up to the “standards”. These stereotypes were and are still present in the society. Men/Society fail to understand that beauty is from within.
The second part being - Lakshmana chopping off Surpanaka’s nose just because she came closer to Sita. Lakshmana must have thought cutting off Surpanaka’s nose would keep her away from Rama, but we know the consequences. Personally, I feel portrayals like these have also played a part in crime these days against girls when it comes to relationships; acid attacks, blackmailing, and whatnot.
A man/woman has all the right to like someone and express it and to reciprocate that affinity totally depends on the other person. But being harsh, using derogatory comments, body shaming, using status, religion are not entertained and just shows poorly about the other person.
According to me, these women should work hard and make the one who rejected them feel awful to have done so, and to me, that is the achievement you have made.
“Work hard till you show the World who you are and what you are capable of.”
Never let yourself down. Here, Surpanakha is seen running off to her brother for help. No , trying to stand for oneself is a step forward to winning and just because someone told you that you are not worth it, prove them you are worth more than that and show the world that though you might have been destroyed by the incident, you have built the empire. That, to me, is the real success.
I take delight in the movement itself.
It keeps me moving forward.