A tribute to the Anaikatti camp and all things beautiful.

Anaikatti.The word rings with a familiar sweetness, spreads a reminiscent
fragrance… A little gulmohar, lot of open spaces and fresh air, and
maybe I smell some magic too.
Listen and smell but also look into my words to find what I want to
show you – A beautiful place and community, locked in a beautiful
time.

The Annual summer camp of our dance school brought with it a fresh
intensity and renewed magic. For 10 days I thought that “living” dance
meant the rigourous three-hours dance and theory session but there was
more in store. This sank in after I soared through those three days at
Vidya Vanam – good times fly, but through better ones I soar.

To give a box type time table or a minute to minute schedule would be
to rob you of the (over)flowing beauty of our sojourn. The essence of
it was a certain flow of instincts that were given space to lilt with
the beauty that upheld the atmosphere – whether it was in the form of
a gentle poetry appreciation session or an enthusiastic, charged adavu
session. No doubt this entailed freedom of mind and space for
everybody. A freedom that should not be mistaken for confused chaos –
instead, it was like the philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthi said, “Right
freedom is always accompanied by order”. There was no need for
imposing discipline or motivating by rewards – order came from within.
This beautiful space was what Akka and Paati pictured when they saw
through their collaborated vision.

A lot of these naturally nice things were a result of the little
community that had formed. Senior students were supposed to take care
of the little ones but sweetly enough, it was the little ones who had
more love to give. Living with teachers in a space outside dance class
and while eating, doing yoga and laughing did a great deal in building
a student-teacher rapport that blurred fear and distance and sprinkled
some love onto the relationship.

But perhaps our greatest mistake, and joy, was in dancing with the
Anaikatti students. First, we wrongly prided ourselves in being able
to give 10 talented students of Vidya Vanam School the opportunities
availed by the students of Coimbatore – but instead, we were humbled
by how much we had to learn from them. The world may shake their heads
and pitifully call them the lesser fortunate – but, the irony! We, who
claim to be advanced and blessed, have not an ounce of the spirit for
life that those beautiful children possess. In the end it was us
thanking God for being able to learn from them.

Rukmini Athai had this to say: “I feel that the divine spirit that is behind all these arts is one. You cannot say that music is an art that should be heard only at a concert, nor is dancing an art that is meant only for the stage. All these arts cannot be real unless they become part of Life.” A unified and holistic approach of bringing ‘living the arts’ that Athai speaks of was experienced at the dance camp – not
only in the aforementioned abstract ways but also in the activities that took place – from yoga in the morning, nature treks and biosphere visits, salangai and garland making, ‘abhinaya’ dumbsharades, new (and swift!) dance-piece learning sessions.. to washing plates after eating, sitting on the floor and doing everything as a united community.

We cannot be grateful enough to Paati for giving us such an
opportunity. If she sees this, she’d only smile her big smile and say
“I’d love to have you over, anytime!” and then laugh her big laugh.
Through all the hospitality and help from her part come the waves of
strength present in her vision for Vidya Vanam school and her love not
only for the children of Anaikatti, but for the children of humanity.
Paati, if you’re reading this, thank you so much. Again and again.

Finally, I suppose our only regret is that we did not have more time
at Vidya Vanam. But with the little time we had, a lot of memories
were created to be carried back with us. (In addition to photographs
and memoirs by hidden inspired writers from amongst us 😉 ) Now, back
in class, I see a renewed intensity and a fresh beauty that wasn’t
there before; also the instincts swaying towards the beauty and
quietly asking, “Which  beautiful experience next?”

~~~

This article, with more corrections, is going to be published in Sruti magazine sometime soon!

~~~

All photographs by Aarooran Ramaswamy. Use it if you want, but please let us know.

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