just another human, being
It had been a year and a half since I left my job and life in New York to start over from scratch in India. Over a year since I miraculously got into the world-renowned Kalakshetra Foundation to study dance. Two months since I got back from summer vacations to start the second year of studies at the Institute.
But my bags were still to be unpacked. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I looked at them everyday before heading to class wondering what to do.
Stay and continue beating to the rhythm of the dance that was feeding my soul or leave and honour my body acknowledging the toll it was taking? Stay and pursue a passion I had finally found after years of studying and working in engineering or leave and trust that this also wasn’t meant to be? Stay and work through the heaviness of my body and the racing of my heart that my body couldn’t seem to contain or leave and feel like a quitter?
I was more alive than ever, in a culture, tradition, way of life and form of art that truly fed my soul. I belonged to a community. I was an artist.
I was moving my body everyday to a rhythm and sound that felt like home. I fell asleep to the sound of the ocean, woke up gently to the sweet melodies of talented vocal students doing their early morning practice and walked to class with other dancers wearing a colourful dance sari that would soon be swishing, spreading and holding our core as we spun, sat in aramandi and kept up the beat our feet to the beat of the Thattu Kali.
That beat was relentless. My body kept up purely from the fire in my heart. My mind geared up for that daily test from the minute my eyes opened.
Everyday saw me sprawled out under the fan after class with little energy to walk the 5 minutes to the dining hall for lunch. Everyday I wondered what was wrong with my body. Everyday I also wondered, if I didn’t long to be Sita in the next Ramayana, then what did I want?
Dance was the one thing that slowly started to surface from within to ease me out of shyness towards the end of high school and it became a clear answer by the time I quit my job in New York city. I went for it with everything I had because the answer was that clear.
And now it wasn’t anymore. So the bags were there, staring back at me, asking me what I had decided. I debated it in my head, went back and forth and felt confused and unsettled every day. Finally, I decided to quit the program.
It is a moment I want to reflect on. We all have choice moments in life.
Too often when faced with a decision, the pros and cons created by the strong, conscious, logical centre of our minds, conditioned and strengthened through years of education, pulls us into confusion and leaves us too paralysed to make any changes. We delay the decision. We ask for second opinions. We try to understand, rationalise, and “sort it all out” in our minds. I tried all that.
But the truth is in the uncomfortable feelings, if we choose to stay with them long enough to find out. I chose to leave because there was a deeper truth that stared back at me in the form of unpacked bags two months into the start of that second year. As much as I wanted to deny it, those bags told me that a change had to happen. As much as I enjoyed, appreciated, grew, connected, belonged, etc, I was also dissatisfied. The practice was too aggressive for my body. And I think maybe a little voice inside (call it intuition, the unconscious, instinct or whatever) was telling me that this wasn’t quite IT. Despite everything.
I didn’t quite understand it. I didn’t need to. I just needed to act.
So I did.
I am not ending the story with how I discovered later that it truly wasn’t my calling. I am not ending it saying that I understand why things happened the way they did. I am not ending saying I know for sure that I made the right decision that day.
I am saying there is no “right” decision or “wrong” decision. I am saying it doesn’t really matter if I understand it at all, even today. What matters is that I slowed down enough to listen to the small voice inside and followed it with all the courage and faith that I had. Because that soft voice holds deep truths that are easy to ignore in favour of the part of the mind that we are more familiar with, the part that we can fool to our convenience with our rationalisations.
I am ending it with “happily ever after” not because it was the “right” decision, because I “know” exactly why or because things “worked out”, but simply because it is. Happiness comes from the realization that there are larger forces at play and all we need to do is slow down and be happy moment-to-moment. Despite everything.
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