In the Fall of 2014, dancer/choreographer Smt. Ramaa Bharadvaj, along with other directors of Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukul of Kolwan India, completed a 7-week performance tour of the US, sponsored by the Chinmaya Mission West with the blessings of Swami Tejomayananda.
At the special request of BN&WWW, Ramaa narrates some of her extraordinary travel experiences, precious arts encounters and witty insights in her essay “Nava-dvaara – Nine doors to artistry”. It is being published as a five-part serial.
In case you missed, here is the link to:
Door #1 and Door #2.
Nava-dvaara – Doors of Inspiration: The Bean, The Box, and The Cuisineartist!
I N S P I R A T I O N !
Envisioned as a Muse by the Greeks, rendezvous with her is an artist’s fondest dream. It is that moment of spontaneity in discovery that signals her grace. Where does one find her? Surprisingly, it’s not the extraordinary that yields inspiration, but glancing at the ordinary with a slowed down gaze that turns it extraordinary by “inspiring” or breathing into it, new definitions and possibilities for us to discover and stimulating outside the box thinking.
As Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan says, it happens when an artist puts no labels on himself as a dancer, poet or musician but simply becomes “as innocent as a child, ready to learn whatever is taught.” Then he says, “Everything that is seen, above or below, before or behind, right or left, either heavenly or earthly, is communicative.”
Yes! Anything can be inspiring – a Ferris wheel, a drop of mercury, and even spilled cocoa powder. Read on …
– Ramaa Bharadvaj
Door #3: A Box & A Bean …
A BOX: A date with my son Siva in the windy city of Chicago! We had long water-front walks, delicious food, and stimulating conversations. One day, we found ourselves in front of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. I looked up at the cabins that hung swaying on the colossal Wheel and my fingers began forming a shape. The thumbs, middle and ring fingers of both hands joined at the tips to form a circular box while the index and little finger stood straight up becoming the hanging rod. Voila! There was a hand gesture for the Ferris Wheel box. I swayed it back and forth and it resembled the real thing.
It brought to mind a fascinating session at a 2001 Bharatanatyam conference in that very city, in which dancers showed gestures they had been inspired to create – the most captivating of these being a cockroach and a giraffe.
Every object in the visual world is a story waiting to be told, and for every story there are gestures waiting to be created, songs waiting to be written and movements waiting to be choreographed. A dancer never stops dancing.
A BEAN: A visit to the Millenium Park brought Indian pride surging. There stood the work of Mumbai born sculptor Anish Kapoor, enchanting thousands of visitors everyday. ‘Cloud Gate’! This 110-ton elliptical sculpture made of highly polished stainless steel plates, was named so because 3/4th of its external surface reflected the sky as if it were a gate between the sky and the viewer. Here was an example that anything could be a source of inspiration for an artist. Kapoor received his from liquid mercury and it truly resembled a large droplet of mercury weightlessly perched reflecting the Chicago skyline on its seamless body. Nicknamed the Bean by the public (for its legume shape), the sculpture is a complex engineering marvel as well as an artistic one.
The trivia that caught my attention however, was about Kapoor’s contract which states that the sculpture should survive for 1,000 years. There flashed on my mind-screen, the Brihadeeswara Temple of Thanjavur that commemorated its 1000th year in 2010 with 1000 dancers; the shrine for Lalithambika at Tirumiyachoor that has been, without any fanfare, opening its doors to devotees for 2000 years; and numerous other temples that, having crossed the thousand-year mark, stood quietly dotting the landscape of Tamilnadu.
A millennium must have been a fleeting time for the kings who commissioned those masterpieces, and the sculptors who created them. After all, their inspiration came from a different source. Their work was not for human conception, but for celestial occupancy. Their contract was with the Divine.
Door # 4: The Cuisineartist …
“It looks like you love to cook!” I remarked. “Yes. I am training to become a chef,” he declared as he stood atop a step-stool sauteing butternut squash and spices for the soup that he was going to make for me. I looked at him with wonderment.
Sahanav! My niece’s son (and thus in a way my grandson)! And he had just turned 5. The spontaneity with which he had created his own recipe for this exotic soup and the deftness with which he was handling the culinary gadgets, mesmerized me.
My husband’s uncle who was a professional chef, used to say that cooking was a creative art form, a meditative experience and precise science all rolled into one and that only those with both a loving spirit and an imaginative mind can excel in the kitchen. According to him, a chef was the ultimate artist who both nourished the body and healed the soul.
It was however the next morning that I was witness to an inspired moment of creative thinking. As I came to the kitchen, my niece quipped, “This morning Sahanav made chocolate syrup for breakfast. But I had to work for my food. There was cocoa powder all over the floor to clean up.” Sahanav looked up with great seriousness. His eyebrows narrowed, and he said: “No Amma, THAT was not cocoa powder on the floor. THAT was Love!”
We adults have so much to learn from children when it comes to outside the box thinking.
There is a footnote to this story. Sahanav is currently writing a cookbook of his own recipes and it should be ready for publication when he turns 6.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ramaa Bharadvaj is a storyteller – sometimes with movements and sometimes with words. She is an award-winning dancer, movement designer, educator, arts advisor, advocist, and published writer. After 31 years in the USA she returned to India in 2009 and is currently Director-Dance at Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukul for Performing Arts in Kolvan, India.
Ramaa dedicates this essay to Swami Tejomayananda, who recommended that she be part of this US performance tour.