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Padmashri Ananda Shankar Jayant – Part 2

25 August 2011 2 Comments

Hi All,

Continuing the part 1 of the interview with Padmashree Ananda Shankar Jayant, today we have the part 2 of the interview.

Please find the TED Video of Mrs. Jayant here.


Me: Sundar Rajan G S
ASJ: Ananda Shankar Jayant – Padshree Awardee – Contribution to Arts


Me: You mentioned that you teach adults as well.. What should a “late beginner” seek to get out of the art..?

ASJ: Students can join me from the age of 7 years. However I also have students who come to me who say when they are 25 years .. after they have a job! That’s ok as long as the student is willing to work hard on a recalcitrant body which is going to ache a lot more than if he/she started learning at 7years! The need is for the elder student to supplement the dance class with other body training such as yoga, running etc to overcome the pain barrier that comes with taking up a physical art late

Me: Art for the sake of learning art is indeed a very noble intention.. What about the livelihood.. what is your advice for people taking up arts professionally..?

ASJ: Yes in today’s world art is still a difficult livelihood proposition. My advise would be for youngsters, to find a good job that will put the bread on the table, and then also pursue art as a dual career.. It only needs extraordinary time management skills and organizational acumen.. But it is possible !

Me: In Indian art, and to some extent, eastern culture.. art forms are taught by replicating a certain method or grammar.. but in the west.. art form is more free.. where every artist.. “finds his or her own style”.. what your thoughts and views on the methods of teaching and learning arts such as dance..?

ASJ: I think each art form derives from the geographical, historical, and sociological situation that it is placed in. Both have their merits. Having said that, in the eastern arts, there is as much improvisation possible too. Every musician does this at every programme in the form of neraval or kalpana swaram! Dancers too, learn the grammar and idiom, as taught, and then by making it their own they carve their own self into the art.

Me: How did you react to the news of cancer.. I dont know what question to ask you here.. Can you share your entire experience… your initial reaction.. how did you cope with it.. the struggles.. the challenges.. the support.. and coming back to normal health.. what does it even mean to go through all these.. reaction & sympathy from people.. self pity.. physical problems.. hair loss.. The “Why should it happen to me” feeling.. how did you get over all these.. ?

ASJ: After feeling a small lump in my left breast on the very eve of going to USA for a Kuchipudi Conference, I went immediately to get a mammogram done, and left the following evening to USA. On my return after 2 weeks, my husband met me in Mumbai, and slowly told me that the biopsy was malignant. He had fixed up my appointment with the Doctor the very same evening, of my return.

Like all others, initially it did upset me when quite suddenly, I was diagnosed with cancer of the breast. But then, it was really for a brief spell. I decided not to allow something as transient as an illness to takeover me and my mind.

The very same evening I came home and told myself and my family 3 things
a) I will ride this out, and I won’t allow the cancer to ride me
b) I will not say Why me? I will not ask God or anyone , if I was being punished for something
c) This is only one page of my life and I will not allow this to impact the rest of my life

Further, I unburdened myself from the secrecy associated with it. I myself told the world about it. This way , whoever came to see me came with cheerful faces and not with tears! I told myself, that It has got to be handled like any other disease. It is not so insurmountable that I succumb to it and give way to pessimism. This thought entered my mind and I got ready for the surgery like I go about staging a new choreographed piece.

It is this very positive outlook that helped me come out of a major surgery and within 3 weeks , I conducted and presented a five-day Sangeeta Natak Akademi national dance festival on one hand, while rehearsing with my students on the other.

Actually I was less worried about the therapy rather than the gap it was likely to create in my scheme of things. And that is because of the long-drawn process of treatment. My husband Jayant had something really nice to say at this point. That I should take this period as a holiday.. I did precisely this. Even during chemo therapy my husband’s advise, of ‘Think of it as Amrutam”, really helped. I have been giving full-fledged dance performances soon after surgery, during chemo therapy and during radiation also. I also conducted regular dance classes at my institution Shankaranda Kalakshetra


Readers, hope you enjoyed this part of the interview. Stay tuned for the last and final part where Mrs. Jayant talks about the way she overcame cancer.

Please find the previous interview Mr. Guruprasad – Collector of Rare photographs here – Part 1 & Part 2. . All interviews on CWS can be found here.

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