Friday, August 19, 2011

You Raksha My World

There are few times in one's life when someone so ground-shakingly inspiring comes along and whisks you away on her electric scooter through the streets of Jayanagar, Bangalore.  This someone, when you meet her, may arrive at the most inconvenient time, say two weeks before you [think you will] leave for another state, and promise classes in traditional dance choreographed for each god in the Hindu religion.  Sometimes, she may arrive at the most opportune moment, two weeks after you discover the reason you came to India [Sunadha] will not dance on the same continent for the next two months.

Today, our young hero meets this woman, Raksha [ meaning "protector" - ah, the symbolism ] at the most opportunely inconvenient time during his journey.

Raksha carries two business cards: one in plain white, displaying her contact information as a "Dental Surgeon" and the second in black and sepia pictures, displaying a woman elegantly dressed in traditional Bharata Natyam clothing, posed in a series of candid performance shots.  This second card bears the title "Artist & Consultant Dental Surgeon."

She NEVER had to make a choice between performing and becoming a doctor.

"As with most Indian parents, mine wanted me to become a doctor.  So I did.  But unlike most Indian parents, mine wanted me to keep my passions alive.  They wanted me to stay in touch with art; art shows how we live, how we feel, how we think, and everything that cannot really be accomplished by our jobs."

Her mom also sits in the living room, and hands our hero a cup of coffee.  "I wanted my daughter to be able to do everything."


Raksha has finished discussing the practice plans for the week with a group of women in their home.  Our hero sits next to her, drinking guava juice and smiling politely, debating about whether or not he should try speaking in Kannada.  Instead, he asks about who she usually teaches.

"I teach anyone who wants me to.  These women, who are almost fifty, have never danced before.  But they want to show some people who are coming from New Zealand at an upcoming festival, so I'll try to teach them something before that.  And there's this dance with sticks, janapada, that I was afraid to teach children because there's a lot of smacking - you're always worried they'll hit each other instead of sticks.  And with the handicapped students at Samarthanam?  They learn by feeling and touching.  You're always surprised at what people are capable of doing."


The couple are hurtling through JP Nagar on Raksha's scooter when a parade of drums, men covered in colored powder, and women smacking sticks together comes into view.  They slow down, and our hero relaxes his grip on Raksha's waist.

"You should meet my husband - he's a technology communications consultant, but he's also very much involved with community service.  In his free time, he organizes fund raisers here and there for non-profits, mostly ones for blood donations.  Actually, right now he's in New Orleans giving a talk to young adults about working for NGOs, because so many young people these days just don't think about giving back to the community as an occupation."

The parade clears, and Raksha speeds off.  Our hero is momentarily caught off guard and imagines what it would be like to fall off the back end and into traffic.  Raksha doesn't miss a beat.

"You can hold on to me now."


Just before dropping him off at the bus stop, Raksha asks our hero why he studied neuroscience AND dance at his school.  He explains how at first, his parents didn't really approve of the dancing thing; being a doctor brought in money, and with money came comfort and luxury they never had.  Which explains the neuroscience.  But with dancing, he continues, he knew what it meant to really be passionate about something.  You know, to lose yourself for a little bit while doing something that makes that fire burn.  If that makes any sense, of course.  Raksha removes the helmet and raises an eyebrow.

"Like I told you, when I was young, my parents wanted me to become a doctor.  And I did want to become a doctor.  But I was also lucky; I had parents who wanted me to pursue my passion.  My dad worked for Pfizer, so he knew what it was like to work from day to day and put bread on the table.  But he always said that if we didn't stay in touch with our passion, if we didn't do what we loved... Well, we'd become stagnant."

It is at that moment [of several] our hero realizes where this electric scooter, this woman, and this year will take him: very, very far from having to make a choice between profession and passion.



  1. ...waaiiitt. Does this mean you're going to be come a dancing doctor?!

  2. I don't know what it means! It just IS. Hearts and hugs to all!