Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Aug 25, 2015

CHENNAI COLORS IV: Inculcate passionate-curiosity to write about art - Dr. Anita Ratnam

 Colour of Chennai is somewhere between red and orange...
(This series is about amazing and creative people of Chennai....)

A refreshing early morning chat with Dr. Anita Ratnam, a highly respected performer, writer, speaker and arts entrepreneur and culture mentor, set the tone of this edition of Chennai Colors, as she picked the color ‘Arakk-Munjal’ – a hue somewhere between ‘Vermillion and Mango Orange’ as the color of Chennai. The spiritual significance of turmeric and vermillion as auspicious, full of reverence and passion is the color of Chennai and I couldn’t agree more as having witnessed, first hand for 2 decades the beautiful temple festivals, the month long Marghazhi cultural events and the fan frenzy for music, theater and movie stars.
It was a pleasure to talk to her, arranged by Ms. Pallavi Gandhi of “Apparao Gallery” which is presenting a lovely series of lectures on “Writing For The Arts”. The series have been conceptualized with an objective to create a group of writers who will support the art, culture and heritage of the country in writing platforms available currently.

The first lecture on the series is by Dr Anita Ratnam on ‘Writing to Promote, Present and Market the Arts’.

Date and Time: 29th Aug, 2015 from 2PM to 5PM
Venue: Apparao Gallery, KNK Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai.
Registration Required to attend
Email: or )
A Brief Note...
Anita Ratnam - Classical and contemporary dancer and choreographer

Dr Anita R Ratnam, based in Chennai (Madras), India, is highly respected as a performer, writer, speaker and arts entrepreneur and culture mentor.  She has been described as an "intersectionist", whose work weaves the many disciplines of dance, theatre, spoken word, ritual, archaeology, dramaturgy and women's issues. For over 40 years, her distinguished career has witnessed over 1300 performances in 37 countries. Her formal training in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam and Kathakali has given Dr Ratnam a distinctive movement vocabulary that she has named NEO BHARATAM - a contemporary Indian kinetic situated on a mature body. Using voice, singing, Vedic hymns, drumming, contemporary mythology and devised movements, her acclaimed choreographies include GAJAANANA, DAUGHTERS OF THE OCEAN, SEVEN GRACES, MA3KA, A MILLION SITAS and NEELAM.

Dr Ratnam's  background as a television producer in New York City (1980 to 1990) as well as her educational qualifications in Dance, History, Theatre and Women's Studies  (MA and Phd) have made her a popular speaker for diverse audiences.
Curtsy: Anita Ratnam, To read more, please click here…

…and our discussion started with talking about her lecture and the present scenario of writing about Arts. She began with the basic theme of her lecture is writing about the Arts in general, focusing on visual aspect of art in terms of new writers.

“As a society, we do things that are told to us by peers, parents and guru’s. We lack deep engagement with performances that we go to, which do not help. We are groomed in the era of impossible youth and beauty through Movies, Shows and events etc. and do not go beyond that.” – Dr. Anita Ratnam
She says that it’s mostly the looks or what one is wearing impresses the novice in the field. But this ‘Body part syndrome’ as she called the fixation, does not help when we are watching an artist perform. We should go prepared for a performance. One should do a little homework on the background of the artist, the art and the particular performance to understand and appreciate it. In the age of Information and Google, it’s does not even take more than few minutes to do this. Some of the performances do not have the usual entertainment quotient of mega shows and film and star based events, so to do justice to such performances and the performing artists as well as to our own time, we need to have awareness about the art.
“The most important factor in writing about the Art, one has to have a ‘passionate-curiosity” – Dr. Anita Ratnam
For the new artists, performers, writers Dr. Ratnam feels that it is required that we understand our cultural heritage, our roots to understand the nuances of any performing arts and more importantly to enrich our lives. Her own formal training in classical dance forms has helped to bring in new dimension, flow and energy into her productions and performances.

She feels that the new writer should read, read a lot. Get in touch with our heritage and culture as it stretches our imagination. The blockbuster Movies like Bahubali has taken their inspirations from heritage; epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana will never fail to fire up your imaginations. Even Jataka tales, Amar Chitra Katha will give you something to ponder and think about, to work on, to perform. The sense of humor is one aspect that is missing from stage performances and one can very well find it in these stories and be inspired.

Image @
Another source of learning and inspiration cultural reviews and reports on the dance performances, by important foreign publications, see how they are expressed and what makes them beautiful and great in the reviewer’s opinion.

As we moved on to talk about the way people in the western countries discus and promote artists through documentaries, movies etc., she felt that the Artist in India has to become human first. Most of the people show and want to show their perfect side not the ‘chipped – nail – polish’ side. An artist has to expose their vulnerable side to make a worthwhile film or documentary, which does not happen in India. Secondly there is no market for these types of projects in India, so only few do it on their own, which is not sustainable.

“There are no movies or documentaries but hagiographies in India. There are great artists in India but lot of mediocrity too”. – Dr. Anita Ratnam

And then there is the other side, e.g. places like Chennai, which is home to excellent artists but only handful infrastructure available for performing arts in the city. Most of them do not even have necessary or sufficient equipments for a modern production.

This needs to change. Probably the lectures like the one I am going to give at Apparao Gallery, will get more and more people to start writing or talking about the artists and their performances, which will help to bring in the change.

Finally I leave you with an amazing performance from her latest production 'A Million Sitas', from youtube, curtsy Chella Vaithinathan.

Hope you have enjoyed this series of Chennai Colors, please do join in to hear her lecture at Apparao Gallery if you are in Chennai on 29th Aug, 2015.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Anita Guha                                                          Chithra Madhavan

Aug 10, 2015

STILL LIFE: The Other Side...

In the early nineties, I stayed in the middle of a deep forest in Nepal, on my first job as site engineer, making a bridge across a river. Those years, spent in the lap of nature, pushed me towards a fascinating lifelong journey of wildlife appreciation. In that period most of my evenings were spent looking for the birds up on the trees and wild life on the ground and this passion lingered on. So, whenever I am in Delhi, its become a kind of ritual to a take time out from work and visit the bird sanctuary across the Noida Highway from my house in Mayur Vihar and try to spot kingfishers, Duck bills, pond herons and Nilgais etc. On the way back from one such visit, I happen to pass along a small construction labourers settlement on the banks of Yamuna River, as the beautiful Sun prepared to 'set' on the high-rise modern Delhi. 

THE OTHER SIDE the story of the joy and hope, these families with little possessions and limited needs, are able to bring into their own life . How the happiness is not a fallout of wealth but about the contentment of being loved by family, friends and community. How the beauty of life is not in the expensive clothes that you wear, the fancy food that you eat in high class restaurants or the villa you live in, but it is all around us, in nature, in the wild flower or in the child that's playing in the dirt, only if we are able to stop for a while and close all the chaos of day to day living and open our minds to see the beauty of being simple and aware.

As we stopped near the settlement, took out my camera to capture the sunset, there was enquiring looks from the families around us. I was surprised to feel that even as total strangers, me and my friend were not looked upon suspiciously by those children and their family... 

...but as a welcome break into their life as the kids happily played around and the elders engaged me in a discussion about their ways of life. This is their story and mine as the sun set down to watch over their happiness, with few glasses of hot tea, thrown in. 

So here is 'The Other Side' of life.. through some of the images I captured on an evening, exploring happiness.

The cluster of make shift homes, with a community cooking in middle
And the usual life that goes on, in and around the place...

But then if you look closely... you will find beauty all around. This small tributary to Yamuna river, though people call it with different names and has not much respect because of the thousands of sewers that drown its toxic waste in the river. It is hard to believe this river has been loved by Krishna since eons. Just next to this settlement, there's a boat moored among lush green foliage and a tree, that has little altar of goods Durga. The area feels like a little grove of fun, giving simple pleasure to the kids of the settlement.

Such simple joys are hard to come by in the concrete jungle that we live in all the time, mired by the day to day toxic waste of worries, survival and needs...

However, having said that, there are of course challenges to overcome and get out of the poverty line and join in to those shining Delhi Development Authority JJ Colonies etc. But does it really makes a difference to one's life if there are no needs beyond simplicity and within our means and little aspirations?

So why not enjoy what we have and what we can. Share moments of fun with Best Friends Forever, as this girl and the boys requested me to take their picture with their friends.

Because at the end of the day, a beautiful life is not made by needs, desires and daydreams but by togetherness, love and family.

I enjoyed what these hours by being alive to the beauty of life around me, had an amazing sunset, a great time with kids and memories that will last a life time...

...and as the all the kids said in one voice and jumped... Hip, Hip Hurray!

Hope you enjoyed the life on 'The Other Side' as much as I did.... It will be a pleasure to hear your thoughts about it, please do leave me a message.
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Krishna's Vrindavan                                   My Journey of Re-afirmation

Aug 4, 2015

HAIKU MASTER: Yamaguchi Sodō (1642 -1716)

Haiku Master Series IV
A series on discussing Haiku Masters and their poetry….

Yamaguchi Sodō (1642 – 1716)
 A friend of Bashō, Sodō wrote one of the most famous Haiku of all time.

me ni wa aoba / yama hotogisu / hatsugatsou

A view of greenery,
a wild cuckoo,
the first bonito

It’s one the finest haiku where the seasonal word Kigo is beautifully used. Usually the classical Haiku has one seasonal word (Kigo) but this one has three, which talks about summer enjoyments for eye, ear and tongue. The small tuna fish, Bonito, is a delicacy as it appears first in summers, as well as the most famous of bird of summer, Hotogisu (discussed in the Haiku Master Series III) as the green pasture appears.

yado no haru / nani mo naki koso / nani mo are

In my hut this spring,
There is nothing –
There is everything!

A beautiful example of paradox, where you say something seemingly absurd e.g. in the haiku, you say you have nothing still you have everything. Here Sodō seems to enjoy his spiritual contentment over the poverty of the things in his hut, which has everything that he / his soul needs in his joy of spring.

ume no kaze / haikai koko ni / sakan nari

A plum scented wind
In the land of haikai
Blows triumphant.

Sodō, during a Renga session with his friend Bashō, who wrote this in reply to his 7-7 link

Kochitozure mo / kono toki no naru

Even for the likes of us
This is the spring of the age.

Celebrating the joy of the haiku poetry writing at the time.

Hope you have enjoyed this series, the next H M Series IV will talk about the most celebrated Haiku Master Bashō, please do check out.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Aug 3, 2015

35th Edition of Shadow Dancing With Mind

It feels great that Shadow Dancing With Mind has been awarded the “Top Spiritual Blog of India” and with Half Million hits I am so happy that all my friends have enjoyed what I have shared through the blog posts and specially 34 previous editions. So here you are with the 35th Edition, which has a new section Chennai Colors, showcasing amazing talent we have here. But the most interesting stuff this time is the History Of Philosophy  and my thought about…

As "Darwinism" became widely accepted in the 1870s, caricatures of Charles Darwin with an ape or monkey body symbolized evolution. For quite sometime, I have been thinking about the Darwinism - The theory of Evolution, as it has put some serious question mark to the idea of GOD, and this post is the result. (Read More...)

HAIKU MASTERS SERIES: On Classical Haiku Masters

A series on discussing Haiku Masters and their poetry…. This discusses the very popular and prolific Haiku Masters who aimed to move away from the serious 'Bookishness' popular in Japanese poetry in the 17th century. Sōin founded the Danrin school of Haikai poetry, whereas Saikaku created the 'Floating World' genre... (Read More...)

CHENNAI COLORS: Some interesting, creative and amazing people of Chennai… 
Creating music with only Drum Sticks...

During the course of our interaction, Music Director Paul Jacob invited me to a Drum fight at the Alliance Françoise, which he was coordinating. They call themselves Drum Fighters and could use anything like beer bottles, tennis ball etc. to create great music. (Read More…)

My friend Praveen is one such enthusiast, who got me to know there is much more to wine than drinking. (Read More…)

Noted Dance Director, Choreographer and leading Bharatnatyam exponent Smt. Anitha Guha. (ReadMore…)

READER: A Section where I share most important thoughts from the books that I read
What is the sound of one hand (clapping)?
It is probably one of the most famous Koan of Zen thoughts, written by Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768). If you think about it, it might take you a lifetime to know but if you let it seep into you, while you go about your day-to-day activity, with unattached mindfulness, it might give you a sudden clap of enlightenment, what is known as 'Satori' in Zen school of thoughts. (Read More…)

I have been reading various books on Philosophy, trying to get the big picture out of the multitudes of volumes I have had come across. After decades of trying to catch up with Philosophy, now I feel that I have a little idea of what is the history, back ground, ideas of Philosophy and its progress through the history of mankind, but "The Philosophy Book" is one of the best one to ‘Explain The Big Idea Simply

Hope you have enjoyed this edition, look forward to your comments. Please do share...
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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34th Edition                                      36th Edition

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