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If my younger self could see me now she would be incredulous. That I would work in the field of dance or decipher and translate dance for my own comprehension, call it choreography if you wish, would have been unbelievable. In this respect, I am particularly envious of dancers who claim that they were ‘born to dance’, implying that it was clearly laid out for them from the beginning. I must say, I find this assertion dubious; it is rarely that easy. To dance means to struggle—I believe it is the same in any discipline because discipline itself is a struggle. I believe I was not simply born to dance; I was born to live. And now, as the patchwork of my life comes into clearer focus, I can see clear bridges between my life experiences and my work in dance.
In all truth, as a child, I never did want to dance; it was forced upon me by a doting mother and a silent father. My father probably kept his peace to avoid argument. From the beginning my lessons took place under trying conditions, though I believe that the conditions were more trying for my mother than for me. She travelled in local, over-crowded trains to dance class with an unwilling child, tired from a whole day at school. She waited a whole hour in the not-so-clean ante-room of my guru’s house and then endured the same journey back. This was in Bombay, and my first dance lessons were with Guru Sunder Prasad who lived in Chowpatty while we lived in Khar. We took the train, then a bus and then walked, and the whole trip took roughly 45 minutes each way.
Interestingly, it was the film industry that spurred my mother to enrol me in dance classes. When I was seven, we went to see a movie starring Mumtaz Ali, father of the comedian, Mehmood. Ali did a dance number in the film with which I became fascinated. When we arrived home, I began prancing around the house imitating the film actor and my mother, who was quietly watching, was the one who said, ‘Kumudini, you are born to dance.’ Ironically, I have no recollection of this story; it was my mother who saw this innate ability in me. Her belief was so strong that she went through the gruelling exercise of taking me to dance class four days a week without complaint.
However, my childhood education was composed of much more than just dance and academics. I did not live in a vacuum. I was surrounded by life and learnt many of my lessons there, lessons that I still carry with me. I grew up during a volatile era, a time of war, India’s independence movement compounded by World War II in which India played a role in military operations. My father, being an engineer, was called upon to build the cantonment areas first in
Delhi, then in Naini and Allahabad. In Delhi we were allotted a sprawling house on Hardinge Avenue (now Tilak Marg) with Liaquat Ali (later, Prime Minister of Pakistan), as our neighbour. Once his gardener caught me and my brother, Suresh, picking guavas from his tree. He grabbed us by the ear and presented us before the master for punishment. Liaquat Ali not only let us keep the guavas but extended an open invitation to pick the fruits whenever we wished! However, this generous offer was accompanied by the mali’s face which was so horrifying and revengeful that we never went near that garden again. It was one of my first lessons in the games that politicians play.
Father would now have to move to wherever army construction was required. Therefore, when I was nine years old, the decision was made to send me to boarding school. After a lot of arguments, advice, consideration and research on the part of my parents, I was packed off to Queen Mary’s 190 Woven Words
College (school) in Lahore (at that time in India). I had not known a day away from home, but the idea of living with a lot of girls of my age and studying in a fancy school was both exciting and worrisome, as curiosity was mixed with sadness. No more shuffling to and from class, no more over-bearing Guruji.
UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT
1. How did the author feel about her mother’s passion to make her a dancer?
2. What were the lessons of life learnt in her younger days that Kumudini carried into her adult life?
3. How did Kumudini react to her mother’s death?
4. What were the concepts that Kumidini Lakhia represent through Duvidha, Atah Kim and Panch Paras?
5. How does Kumudini Lakhia describe her guru Ramgopal’s influence on her?
TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT
Discuss the following in pairs or in small groups
1. Exceptionally talented people are born so; talent cannot be cultivated.
2. Discipline and a questioning spirit can coexist in an individual.
3. “Before you begin experimenting, you need to perfect the technique with which you experiment.”
4. Kumudini Lakhia’s life is an inspiring illustration of the emancipation of women.
1. The significance of reading an autobiograophy lies in drawing lessons from another life. What is the significance of Kumudini’s account for us as readers?
2. Pick out instances from the passage that reflect the sensitivity of the author.
3. ‘I can see clear bridges between my life experiences and my work in dance.’ How does Kumudini Lakhia weave episodes from the two realms in her account?
Please refer to attached file for NCERT Class 11 English Elective Bridges
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