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

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.


The after-RV-life.

Not exactly, but it’s been a year since RV. A year that, took me as far away from RV as it did bring me closer.

It started out with grimness – what else, when you are requested to leave a place you love. A lot like being dumped. I tried to start again, but that’s hardly easy when a hundred ties to the past refuse to let you go …when you refuse to let go.

They gave me a new room and a phone but I still wanted my messy First room and tactfully acquired phone chits.
They gave me amazing food (such a winning point after DH ka khaana!) but I still wanted to cook my lousy maggi and eat it with.my.hands. And clear up all evidence of having done so.
They gave me superiority – but I kept harping about equality of students and not wanting the evil Captain badge.
They gave me freedom, love and so many choices… but I still longed for RV.

There was only so much I could sulk and cry – eventually they did lure me out and away from my RV Prejudice. There began a fresh insight into my past. Amazingly enough, I got over RV. I got over that lover who had dumped me and moved on without me – and just like the fresh-lease-of-life movie scene, that longing, pain and pessimism turned into a new core of ideas, values, a way of life, within me.

I began to carry RV with me.
– (Thank you, Mallika and John for repetition of this profound truth.) – because it ceased to be an exclusive set of physical entities and ideas attached to them – for example, Asthachal in the valley, folkie and all the illegal stuff – and transcended to what all those things represent – the beauty of silence and nature, community and experiences that go beyond established rules, respectively.

I dug out the experiences and unearthed just the essence of everything that RV is made of. Stripping all else that has been hiding and changing that essence – and what’s left is unlimited by space and time. If and when an ex – RV-ite finds this dawning realization, I believe that he or she has understood RV. And if he or she can carry that essence and sprinkle it on their conditions, then they have found RV.

I am still terribly attached to the place and people but I’ve found ways to channel RV into everything – twenty minutes of silence every evening, taking turns doing the chores and questioning everything – I have found my RV.

*              *             *             *            *             *

This piece was published as the first written contribution on The RV Storybook! Aravind, as *ahem* editor called the author a ‘maverick unschooler’ and boy, I llllike the sound of that.

The RV Storybook was conceived out of desire to record and share the beautiful things that RV stands for. Thanks to Atravind, it turned from a dream to a lovely little blog where all people associated with RV can come and rejoice in nostalgia. You can join us our blog or follow us on Facebook. We’re only too happy to share RV with you.