Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We had a most gracious group of faculty members from Wooster College visiting Kalakshetra on 26th. I had the honour of organising the visit. Leela Samson, the director of Kalakashetra was her most gracious self and explained the history and technique of Kalakshetra style of dancing with Haripadman and Sarita demonstrating in the most beautiful surroundings of Kalakshetra in the prayer hall. Then we went to Madras Institute for Development Studies (MIDS) to listen to Dr.A.R.Venkatachalapathy, wrap up most beautifully, the background history of political movement in Tamilnadu. Vijay Shankar, the associate editor of Frontline, a communist party sympathiser, took the opposite line wanting to have a word duel with Communist party and the Dravidian movement which must have certainly gone above the heads of the visiting academics as for them Ramakrishna Hegde or Devegowda are just names. For me and the aseema team of Vasantha and Aswini however , it was very interesting.

The most poignant moment for me on 26th May was Kumudha sitting there calmly as Dr.Aiswarya Rao narrated how 8 years ago, Kumudha had been detected to have HIV virus in her blood just before she gave birth to her baby. No doctor was willing to touch her and no one wanted to help her in her delivery. She was asked to cut her own umbelical cord and take her own placenta, go outside the hospital, dig a hole in the ground and bury it. This was because even the doctors had very little awareness then that HIV virus is not infectious and that it need not result in the carrier getting AIDS. She does not know how she got the virus. It could be through her husband who may have had other sexual partners or through some infected syringe. But in our society, the man having several partners before and after marriage is condoned but the woman is blamed for this. Sex is a taboo subject. So women are subjected to all kinds of abuse and when discovered, only the woman is blamed. The media is talking about character assassination of Arushi, the young girl who was murdered and her servant. What did you expect? leaving a young teenager and her 45 year old servant together in a large house? Expected them to do nothing? His having been married and having children and being respectable has nothing to do with his child sexual abuse. How can this be related to Arushi's character? The great traditionalists and conservatives of this country say dont talk about sex in school. . This lack of space for talking about sex is what leads to child sexual abuse. The perpetrator knows the girl will not be able to talk about it and is she does, only she will be blamed. Traditionalists say sex education has no place in our tradition. Traditionally, teenagers were already married in our society. Today's teenager is bombarded with sexual imagery and sexuality from all sides in all media, has to deal with her / his desire, changes in the body, yet remain silent on the issue. This is what leads to experimentation and the fear of not talking about it when abused by an elder relative. Ashraya, our sister organisation, dealing with child sexual abuse, gets hundreds of letters from school girls in all social categories talking about sex abuse from an elder relative which she can not talk about in the family. This also leads to HIV virus transmission.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Chennai is sizzling. Even sitting under the fan is getting difficult. Should one save on energy and not switch on the AC? the dilemma is ever on. I had a group of 12 faculty members from Woosteer College in Ohio coming in from Delhi yesterday. Doing the Dakshinachitra round was in totally drenched bodies who had flown in from Delhi in the morning and had come in to Dakshinachitra at 3 pm. 3 to 5 pm is the worst time to be in the sun. They told me Delhi was having rains and was quite cool. But my talk on Gandhi got them all so responsive that Gandhi the man and myth fascinates me more. I get goose pimples as I show the visuals I have on my topic "Creating a Sahridaya - Gandhi's communication - issues and perspectives" I am applying the performance theories of Natyashastra to Gandhi's modes of communication through Angika (bodily communication), Vachika (communication through words and music), Aaharya ( through costume, symbols and decor) Satwika ( through inner understanding). I am more than happy that a group of tired, sweating senior American academics were so very responsive to Gandhi. Gandhi goes on and on. Godse did the greatest service to Gandhi by killing him the way he did at the right time and right place. He made sure Gandhi lives on forever.