Dance Into My Dreams
Dance Into My Dreams15 mins 243 15 mins 243
Ramesh kept staring at the dais, mesmerized by the dance that had just concluded.
Everyone in the auditorium stood up and a crescendo of applause and claps continued long after his daughter left the stage.
‘They are clapping for my Chitra, my daughter,’ he thought. His heart swelled up with pride. He never knew that his daughter was so talented!
‘Shame on me! I always discouraged her, without understanding her desires, her dreams,’ he chided himself.
It began about two years ago.
Chitra ran home from school, all excited.
‘Mummy! Guess what? The teacher has selected me to take part in a dance program,’ she shouted.
‘Dance? Why is there a dance in your school?’ Meena asked with trepidation.
‘Our teacher has been giving us practice for the past 10 days. It is a flower dance for the annual day function. I did not mention it as I was not sure I will be selected. I prayed to Goddess every day and today my prayers are answered. Only 9 girls are selected.
I am so happy!’ Chitra told, hugging and dancing around her mummy.
Meena, her mother, heard Chitra and her excitement. She did not have the heart to dampen her happiness.
‘It is a school function being held in the school in two weeks. I don’t think anyone will object,’ Meena told herself, though she knew her husband would be the first to object.
‘We will not be attending the function, so he will not know about it,’ she thought and allowed her daughter to take part.
She had watched Chitra from childhood, prancing in the house. She had nimble feet and her baby steps had a rhythm and beauty. Meena would watch with pride, but her husband, Ramesh, would admonish and stop the child from dancing.
After a few days, Chitra came home happy. At the dinner table, she announced, ‘I am selected to dance in the centre of the group!’
‘What dance? What group?’ Ramesh asked.
‘Mummy did not tell you? I am taking part in a dance program for our school's annual day function next week!’ Chitra continued, oblivious of her mummy, trying to stop her.
‘No dance! How many times I have to repeat, no one will dance in this house!’ Ramesh roared in anger.
‘Daddy, it is a function in school, not at home,’ Chitra began.
‘When I say No, means NO!’ he angrily retorted.
‘But Daddy, I am already selected!’ Chitra said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
‘You will not take part in anything connected to dance!’ Ramesh shouted, pushing his plate and walking out of the room, fuming in anger.
‘Why can’t I take part in dance? Chitra asked.
Meena was wondering how to explain to this young innocent 9-year-old girl why her husband was so against dance.
She tried to comfort Chitra.
‘The school will ask for money for the purchase of a dress and other items required for the dance. You know, we cannot afford all these luxuries. Your father is the only one earning. Your brother, Satya, has asthma and we have to spend a lot of money on his medicines etc.,’ she told.
‘Yes, the teacher asked for Rs 250/- for renting a dress for the dance,’ Chitra said. ‘But Mummy, daddy did not talk of money at all. He only said, no one will dance in our house. Why did he say that?’
‘Your Dad does not like dancing. He knows the school will ask for money. So, he refused,’ Meena replied.
Chitra was pensive. She was mature for her age. She knew her parents struggled to bring food to the table and the money spent on her brother’s medicines.
‘I know Rs 250/- is a big sum. I was hoping daddy will give me that money, knowing how much I love dancing,’ she thought.
The next day, she informed the teacher that she cannot take part in the dance as she could not afford to pay for the dress.
The teacher was disappointed. Chitra was the best dancer in the group and they chose her to be in the centre of the stage and the group. But she could not accommodate her if she did not pay for the dress. Reluctantly, she chose another girl to replace Chitra.
Chitra would wistfully watch all the girls practice.
A day before the annual day function, one girl had Dengue and could not take part. The teacher immediately asked Chitra to take her place. Chitra was thrilled but was sceptic.
‘Madam, I can’t pay Rs 250/- so I cannot join,’ Chitra replied tearfully.
‘The dresses have already arrived. You can wear that girl’s dress. I am sure it will fit you,’ the teacher responded. The teacher was happy, Chitra- the best dancer, can participate. ‘I will speak to her parents to allow you to wear her dress.’
That evening, a thrilled Chitra announced to her parents that she was participating in the dance.
Ramesh was about to explode in anger. Meena pulled him to another room and told him.
‘Let her participate. Don’t you see? This is a God send opportunity for her. We refused and our sweet child dropped out even though her heart was crying. But her friend fell sick just a day before and the teacher asked Chitra to take her place. This is truly divine intervention.’
Holding his hand, Meena comforted him. ‘I know why you are against dance and I support your views but the poor child does not know. I told her to drop out as we can’t pay for the dress. Now that excuse does not hold. Moreover, it is a school function that will get over tomorrow. Please, Ramesh. Allow her to participate this one time!’ Meena pleaded
Ramesh did not reply.
The next day, Chitra participated in the dance program. Their recital was much appreciated and declared the best program.
For days thereafter, Chitra would keep dancing some steps in the home. Meena tried to curb her enthusiasm before Ramesh returned from the office.
One day, as Meena was returning from the market, a stranger accosted her near her home.
‘Madam, I am Ganesh. I attended the annual day at Saraswati school and saw your daughter’s dance. She has the talent; I am a dance teacher. Can I discuss..…’
Meena cut his sentence and said brusquely, ’we are not interested in teaching her dance. Please excuse us,’ and hurried in.
Running behind her, the stranger continued, ‘Madam, please listen to me. I will train her for free. Believe me, she has talent. She can win prizes in dance contests. May I speak to your husband?’
‘I told you, we are not interested. Stop pestering. I forbid you to come to my home or talk to my husband,’ she warned him and rushed into her home.
Chitra watched the scene from the balcony.
‘Mummy, what was that uncle talking to you?’ she asked as Meena entered her home.
‘Nothing. He was asking for directions,’ she lied.
A few months later, the pandemic struck the world and the entire country faced a lockdown. Chitra’s school was closed and they promoted all the students to the next class. They promoted Chitra to class 5.
With the Covid pandemic not showing any signs of abating, the schools opened to online classes.
Chitra attended online classes using her mother’s mobile phone. During the class breaks, she chatted with her friends. In one of these conversations, her friend, Maya, informed her she was attending online coaching for a dance competition.
‘What competition? Is it free? Can I join?’ she asked her friend.
‘I will talk to my teacher and if he agrees, I will send you the link. Then you can join,’ Maya replied.
A few days later, Maya connected Chitra to her teacher. Seeing Chitra, the teacher recognised her and told her he had approached her mother, who had refused.
‘Sir, if you are teaching free, can I join and learn?’ she hesitatingly asked.
‘Sure! I am teaching all these children for free. My videos are online, so anyone can learn,’
That evening Chitra pondered. I can watch the videos and learn some steps. I am sure daddy will not object to my learning from videos,’ her innocent mind decided.
She asked Maya to give her the link to the videos. She began watching the videos after her class was over. Watching the videos, she practised the various moves and steps. It became a daily routine and soon turned into an obsession.
Her mummy wondered sometimes why Chitra was spending so much time on the mobile. Chitra would give some evasive answers and continued with her lessons.
Her parents were busy. The pandemic had thrown their budget topsy-turvy. With a cut in his salary, Ramesh tried to manage their house budget. Meena spent the whole day running the kitchen and her home single-handedly.
A year went by. Chitra had online exams for her 6th class and passed with good marks. It was summer vacation but because of Covid, everyone remained at home. The only entertainment and pastime were watching games, entertainment etc. online and on TV.
Chitra happily devoted her time to watching the videos. The dance teacher was aware of her interest, but he did not want her to join his classes against her parent’s wishes. He, however, began sending her special videos to learn different styles of dances. Chitra would practice these steps in front of the mirror. Her only audience was her brother.
One day her daddy walked into the room and noticed her watching the video and practicing some steps.
‘What are you doing? How many times I have forbidden you? Why are you disobeying me?’ he thundered.
‘Daddy, I am watching a video and trying some steps,’ Chitra replied meekly.
Hearing a commotion, Meena came running into the room.
‘What happened?’ she asked.
‘What happened? Your darling daughter is wasting her time watching silly videos and imitating them?’ he shouted.
‘Is it? What video are you watching?’ Meena asked Chitra.
‘So, you don’t even know what your children are doing? What a good mother you are!’ Ramesh scoffed in anger.
‘Instead of studying, she is watching silly videos and wasting time’ he shouted.
‘Daddy. I came 2nd in class. Next year, I will try to come first in class. But now it is vacation, so no studies,’ Chitra softly replied.
‘Don’t back answer me! Why do you disobey me?’ he thundered.
‘Sorry, Daddy.’ Chitra replied, crying.
‘Is it so difficult to follow just one of my rules? Have I stopped you from doing anything? other than dance?’ He asked.
Chitra did not understand why her father was so upset. She was just watching videos during summer vacation.
That night, she heard her parents discussing her. She heard her mummy saying that she will explain to Chitra after a year or two.
‘Explain what?’ Chitra wondered.
‘What is it you will explain to me after two years? Why can’t tell me now?’ she asked her mummy the next day.
‘Your father does not like dance for a special reason. It is something traumatic, and I will explain later. Now just understand that your daddy is saying no for a good reason and you should not disobey him,’ Meena explained.
Chitra did not understand. She noticed her dad upset and so did not probe further.
The next day, Ramesh walked into Ganesh’s studio.
‘I will complain to the police!’ he shouted.
‘Sir, who are you? What have I done? ‘Ganesh asked.
‘You are spoiling young girls by teaching them vulgar dance steps,’ Ramesh shouted.
‘I am not teaching anything vulgar. Who are you? Is your daughter attending my class? Ganesh asked.
‘My daughter and her friends watch your videos and get spoiled!’ Ramesh shouted at the top of his voice. Everyone in the studio left their work and watched Ramesh ranting.
‘May I know your daughter’s name, Sir? And your name?’ Ganesh spoke in a firm tone.
‘That is not relevant! Just stop selling your vulgar videos. Else, I will complain to the police,’ Ramesh warned.
‘Sir, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who your daughter is. But I don’t make or sell vulgar videos. I am a dance choreographer and I teach children various dance formats. Please stop shouting or I will complain to the police that you have come to my studio and harassed me,’ Ganesh spoke.
Seeing a crowd gather, Ramesh walked out of the studio and returned home.
Ganesh made enquiries and learnt that Ramesh was Chitra’s father. He could not fathom why he hated dance so much.
After a few days, Ramesh’s mother, Laxmi, paid a surprise visit.
‘Amma! is it you? How did you come? How do you know my address?’ Ramesh cried in surprise.
‘I wish you informed me, I would have picked you up!’ he continued, shocked to see his mother after so many years.
‘It is OK. A friend was coming this way, so I came along,’ she replied.
Meena greeted Laxmi warmly and introduced the children.
It surprised Chitra to meet her granny for the first time. She knew she had a granny who lived in a far-off village but she had never met her.
After she had settled and the children went out to play, Laxmi asked Ramesh.
‘I heard you created a scene in the market a few days back!’
Ramesh asked sarcastically, ‘who told you? Sitting in the village, who is supplying you all the news.’
‘Not all the news. Only the news of my son and his family,’ she answered softly, adding, ‘you have not answered my question, son.’
Ramesh could not avoid her gaze, so he told her about his heated arguments with Ganesh.
‘Son, tell me, what is his fault? What is our Chitra’s fault if she is watching videos he is uploading on YouTube?’
Ramesh did not wish to upset his mother, so he did not reply.
Stroking his hair, Laxmi said, ‘I know Ganesh’s father. He was my guru. Ganesh learnt from his father. But he wanted to branch out into films. He also tried fusion forms of dance. He wanted some help and support that I gave him. Do you know, that I have also taught a few steps through his videos? He keeps me updated about his activities.’
‘You told him to teach dance to our Chitra?’ Ramesh asked. ‘Amma, how could you? You know how much pain and suffering this has brought to our family and still you…’
‘No. I did not tell him to teach Chitra. I will never do that without your consent. Ganesh visited me two days back and he mentioned your argument. He also told me about Chitra and her talent that he had noticed in a school program. I realised he was talking about you and my granddaughter. He is not aware of our relationship. I then came to visit you.’
It surprised Chitra when her granny asked her to show her some of the dance steps she knew. She danced before her. Her granny also showed her a few poses.
‘Granny, how do you know about dancing? Did you also watch YouTube?’ Chitra asked.
Laxmi laughed. ‘There were no videos during our times. Students learnt to dance from the teachers, who were called gurus.’
‘You learnt to dance?’ Chitra asked and immediately apologized. ‘Sorry, Granny! I should not ask you such a question.’
‘It is OK, my child. Let me see what else you have learnt,’ she said.
After a week, Laxmi called her son and family and announced that she wished to enrol Chitra for a talent show that was being conducted by a TV channel in Chennai.
‘Amma! What are you saying? ‘Ramesh shouted.
‘Yes. I have watched Chitra for the past few days. And I am certain she has the talent to take part in this competition and even win prizes,’ Laxmi answered.
Chitra heard her granny and sat shell-shocked. She realised her granny knew a little about dance, but hearing her praise, she was overwhelmed. She ran to hug her granny.
‘Amma! You and I have gone through so much pain and trauma because of this dance. I don’t want it to give any more pain to my family and not my daughter,’ Ramesh emotionally responded.
‘I know the pain and trauma you bore with me, but let us not punish Chitra for some past wrongdoings. My father and your father were against my dancing. Your father even cut off my toes to prevent me from dancing and sent me away from you and all my family members.’
‘I was hurt but your father could not kill my spirit nor my love for dance.’
‘Dance is in my genes and I am spiritually attached to it. I can see those genes in our dear Chitra!’
‘I want you to be a good father and support Chitra in achieving her dreams. Let her learn to dance.' Laxmi told her son.
‘Ganesh was one of the first students. So, teaching my granddaughter is the Gurudakshina he wishes to give me,’ Laxmi added.
‘Amma, I still get nightmares recollecting the incidents that happened so long back. I could not help you. I could not meet you or even speak about you. People in our neighbourhood and school would laugh and pass comments about you and I could do nothing.’ Ramesh was crying.
‘Hush! Hush, Ramesh. Your father belonged to a traditional and orthodox family. They could not understand that dance can be spiritual. I knew my dance was pure and spiritual. He maimed me but my spirit was not broken. I continued with my love for dance.’
‘Do you know who taught me to dance, despite these feet? It was Ganesh’s father- my Guru. Later Ganesh took my blessings and started his fusion dances for films etc.’ she described her travails.
Ramesh ran and hugged his mother. They both held each other and tearfully relived the horrific incident three decades back when Laxmi was crippled for life.
Later, he pondered how the same incident had such a contrasting impact on both of them. His mother was maimed but continued to love dance and even taught students. While he took such a hatred for dance for what it had done to his Amma.
The next day, Ganesh visited them. Ramesh apologized for his behaviour in his studio.
Chitra was horrified when she heard her granny’s story. Her young mind now understood why her daddy objected to her dancing.
It thrilled her that she will learn dance from her granny and Ganesh Sir.
After three months of grueling practice, Chitra took part in the Little Kids Talent show organised by a renowned TV channel.
Meena had accompanied Chitra to Chennai, where the selection rounds were held. The participants were children with four to five years of learning dance. Chitra had just three months of practice.
However, she did not get disheartened. She practised hard and learnt the various forms of dance through her grit and determination. The teachers in the talent hunt also gave her new tips to project her dance gracefully. With her deft poses and nimble feet, she impressed the judges and the audience.
Every week, Chitra would talk to Ramesh and share her fears of being eliminated. He would assure her. Once the results were announced, she would proudly call him and give him the good news.
Ramesh came out of his reverie.
Meena nudged him from one side, while Amma held his other hand tight.
The judges were announcing the winners.
“The winner of ‘Dance Little Feet Talent, season 2 is 10 years old Chitra Ramesh”
Ramesh jumped with joy! ‘She is my daughter! She is my daughter!’ He shouted proudly.
Chitra came on the stage to accept the trophy. She thanked her teachers, Ganesh Sir, her parents and a special thanks to her granny.
‘From my childhood, every night, I dreamt of dancing and confided to my granny.
She told,’ it is OK to dream but:’
’Dreams are not what you see in sleep. Dreams are things which do not let you sleep.’