How hard is it to balance home and career for the upcoming artists? Can one eat the cake and have it too? Is there a secret formula to ensure that both aspects of an artist’s life don’t suffer? Mr. Rajendra Kumar and Mrs. Manjari answer questions for which, a few of us have always searched for answers .
Manjari Rajendra Kumar (nee Chandrasekhar) is the daughter and disciple of Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar, who needs no introduction to the audience of Bharathanatyam. Manjari has been performing for two decades in major festivals in India and abroad. Her works have been well appreciated for their quality and content. Some of her major works are Yashodhara, Ushas, Ahalya,Rati – A journey, Chandrodayam and Pari – the unflinching giver from the pura nanooru. Mr.Rajendra Kumar accompanies Manjari in her artistic voyage, with his resourceful literary inputs, thanks to his love for Music and Tamil literature.
Here is a transcript of the questions they answered/discussed:-
1. How do I know that I am choosing the right kind of girl? (Question from an upcoming male dancer)
Raj: Difficult and easy. Be clear on your expectations and priorities. At some point, you may have to compromise on couple of things. That doesn’t really matter as long as you like the girl. At the same time, there are also certain things you wouldn’t like to compromise.
For example, I was very clear on certain aspects-interest in classical arts, literature etc., and I was not willing to compromise on these at any cost.
Finally, I got a performing artiste..
Ask questions to yourself-
1.What are the things that you feel can be compromised?
2.Which ones are ‘non- negotiable’ ?
3. Which is more important to you-
i.having similar tastes?
Remember, Marriage is not just intellectual company.It goes much beyond that. I feel the ‘personal space’ must be mutually respected.If you feel that you will respect the girl’s ‘space’ and that she in turn will respect yours, then go ahead.
My Best Wishes to You!
2. Is there a way in which the home need not suffer if I need to concentrate on my profession?
Manjari:The home need not suffer if one is clear about one’s priorities. The important thing is to make the household understand your needs and passions. The other thing is not to be too harsh on yourself. Learn time management. One advice that my husband gave me was ‘if you decide to go out and do something, don’t feel guilty about it’, provided you feel it is right.
Raj:It depends on various factors.Gender also plays a very major role here.All said and done, the status of women in the society leaves a lot to be desired. However, there are people who can manage both.
From a man’s perspective, I feel Home is as important as the workplace and there is a link between the two.If the family suffers, the work suffers and vice versa.
3. Am I better off alone?
Manjari: I surely do not think so. It has given me a more comprehensive understanding of everything and to appreciate things from different angles. Don’t we all enjoy roller coaster rides finally, with all their ups and downs. One should also be very clear that things will change with a relationship, the changes may be voluntary or due to the circumstances. One cannot expect the life to continue the same way.
Raj:It depends on your mental make up. You can choose to remain single if you feel that by getting married, your independence and freedom are likely to be affected. On the other hand if you feel the association will help you discover new things in life, help you grow as a person and most importantly it does not make you lose your individuality and you continue to be the ‘real you’, then there is place for the other person.
But what is important is not to have regrets later on…
4. My Guru expects me to be there at any time he/she feels. My family is getting frustrated what do I do?
Manjari: You have to gently make your guru understand that it might not be possible every time. I am sure the teacher will understand. Sometimes you may have to make a difficult choice but you will have to choose what is best for you. One has to cut down on expectations and learn to take disappointments in one’s stride. As long as you are a sincere and a true student, things will even out in the long run.
5. Here is an opinion for discussion- Marriage kids mothering takes away the right time of my life that I could use to establish a foothold?
Manjari: Tricky as it is, it is difficult to decide which is the “RIGHT” time. Marriage, kids and mothering do demand your time and have to be given the time that they deserve. It depends on what kind of role you wish to play in the field. Do you only want to be a top- notch performer? Or do you see yourself as a teacher or both ?Or do you want to specialize in theory or be a critic. You may need to plan your life depending on your choice. It also depends on what kind of support system you have. The balancing act is difficult, but it can be done by different people with varying degrees of success depending on their ability, single mindedness and support system.
Raj:Though the question is indirectly addressed to a woman, as a man I feel ‘yes,it does take away the time’. But let us also understand that this is a phase in one’s(woman’s) life.
Life is a great teacher. Each phase teaches us many important things. Motherhood is no exception especially for a dancer and the dancer can perform better after this phase. A classic example is my wife.
6. How do you manage to run a sane household?
Manjari:You will have to ask the household.
Raj:How do you know it is sane?
Jokes apart, if one enjoys life, anything is possible.
7. Do you have kids?
Manjari:Yes, a son and a daughter.
8. Is dance a fit enough profession at all for middle class girls who come from conservative families? The expectations are for us to run the household and not self- indulgence.
Manjari:This is an outdated question.
Raj: Which profession is fit enough?
Don’t women from the so called ‘conservative families’ go out and work?Now a days, they work even during odd hours.
9. Is it hard to have parents as Gurus?
Manjari: As far as the actual teaching goes, it was fantastic to have parents as gurus. One not just learnt is class but all the time. I was able to see them at work and have graduated from being a passive receiver of information to an active student and now we share a symbiotic relationship.
The other side to it is that if your parents are established professionals in the same field as you, it is very difficult to establish yourself as an individual on your merit. You always remain ‘the famous person’s daughter. If you perform well it is said ‘ oh, big deal, it is in her genes’ and if you do badly ‘oh my god, how can their daughter be so bad’.
10. Is it easier for you to make it because your parents are well established themselves?
Manjari: No, as I said earlier, if I have to say anything, it is more difficult.
11. How would you explain each one as complementing the other?
Manjari:It is difficult to analyse a relationship in words but his deeper knowledge and passion in music and literature opens new avenues in my creative process. His methodical approach to things simple and complex, clears the confusions that I create. Raj: By giving sensible inputs and by not intruding into other’s professional and personal space.
12. Kurunthogai-was it chosen to cater to a secular audience or is there any other reason?
Manjari:While selecting a piece I am guided more by the poetry (its content, mood, intent, beauty etc…) and not its religious or secular implications. Actually till now I have not thought of any piece as religious or non-religious. Also because of my husband, my access and exposure to the beautiful literature in tamizh is an added reason. I have also done some work on some very abstract poetry.
Raj:An artiste-whether it is a musician or a dancer- must enjoy the item/piece being performed and not just do it for the sake of doing it … or because he/she has been conditioned to believe certain things..
Our traditional art forms-music and dance- have lot of excellent compositions. But this must not stop the artistes from exploring new avenues.And this is where our rich literature comes in.The 3000 year old Tamizh literature is a treasure trove and it will be a double treat for the audience if the beautiful verses are performed. They get an opportunity to appreciate poetry as well as the dance/music.