Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ajit Bhaskaran Dass

Ajit is one of my favourite persons...that's one thing Ajit & I share in common as he is his own favourite person....He is the one I refer to as "Miss Diva", a nickname My Cousin & I coined during the time he generously performed for My Cousin's foundation in aid of destitute single mothers. He never fails to take my breath away when I watch him dance.
I first saw Ajit dance in Saayudja, his solo bharatanatyam performance in KL. From the moment I saw him dance, my soul was greatly moved. For no apparent reason at all I started weeping and that was only at the beginning of the dance when nothing remotely tragic was being enacted on stage. My friend who accompanied me was rather puzzled & concerned - thinking that I had obviously missed the plot and was reading things into the dance which was not there. I must have wept from beginning to the end. He is a wonderful dancer but something about him - that je ne sais quoi - struck deep into my soul evoking strong emotions which only surfaces when I am in deep contemplation of my true Beloved. I couldn't believe I could reach that level when I am in a public place, surrounded by people. Sometimes it takes me days of silent contemplation to reach that level. I have watched other Bharatanatyam performances and Odissi, Kuchipudi etc but none of them have evoked this deep spiritual connection that I felt that evening - when I fell in complete trance watching this person I have never met before.
Through the years Ajit & I became friends. Then the Tsunami struck our Northern States and I helped My Cousin on New Year's day (or was it New Year's Eve?) to sort out all the donations people sent to her Foundation. It was after that that I felt I wanted to do something more for the Foundation and sometime that week Ajit was performing in KL. I asked him if he would do a charity show and he said yes. That was the beginning of Echoing Anklets. My Cousin was keen on the idea. Little did I know what I got myself into. I used up all my annual leave and weekends (in 2005) to help the Foundation produce this show. At the end of the day, My Cousin and I felt that it was worth it. It was a magical show - especially the one held in Alor Star. Ajit was brilliant in it, the music hauntingly beautiful and his dancers impeccable. Ajit was nominated for the Boh Cameronian Awards 2005 for Best Costume and Best Choreographer. He didn't win either category but to us who watched him, he is the best.

Why am I writing about him now? Well, I am going to Singapore next week to watch Ajit perform before he goes off on his annual US tour. It is actually Veshnu's show called Tantrashakti. Veshnu did the nattuvangam for Ajit's Echoing Anklets. He has invited Ajit & some of his dancers to perform with him on 4 & 5th August 2006 at the Alliance Francaise de Singapour, 1 Sarkies Road, Singapore. (Any of you who are interested should call the Ticket Hotline 91017476 or google Alliance Francaise Singapore.)

I hope this will lift me from the doldrums I've fallen into recently. I've been really bogged down with work but that's not what put me in this doldrums. It's the total despair & helplessness I feel when I watch the Israelis try to crush Lebanon in their sheer arrogance and to top it off, here in Malaysia, just when I thought our society is maturing to accept open dialogue as a way forward, our Prime Minister has decided to clamp down on the Article 11 forums. I really don't know where we are heading.

For a very long time since I came back from my studies in England, I have never felt like I belong anywhere....with this country, with its people, with the legal fraternity...I have never bothered to hang out with lawyers (in fact I avoided them at all cost) or attend anything organised by the Bar Council (except to sign my name during AGMs). I just felt so isolated, wrapped (or lost) in my own world. The only people I hung out with are my horsey friends as we share a common obsession. We all spend our entire weekends at the riding club. We would be there at the crack of dawn, ride our horses, muck around at the stables, have breakfast, then lunch then ride again in the late afternoon then proceed for dinner....And we wonder why we are exhausted on Monday! Actually Monday morning is our only "lying in" day as we don't wake up until about 8am to go to work. Other mornings we are up before 5 am so that we could ride our horses before work.

Then, one day, during the Raya break, I was back in Alor Star visiting my mum. This was the year Tsunami struck us. I was wandering around my mum's family's burial grounds, placing flowers on my grandparents' graves when I felt this sudden stillness, a beautiful sense of peace as the sunlight streamed through the leaves of the chempaka trees and the fragrant scent of the frangipanis enveloped me. My soul stirred and at that moment, in the beautiful morning stillness, I felt ,at last....I belong. This is where my home is. (Ok ok you must all think I'm some kind of pontianak to feel at home in a cemetary.) No, really I'm not kidding. At that moment, to me, its the most beautiful place in Malaysia. My bond to the land was sealed then. It is Kedah which I feel that I belong to. From that time onwards, my feelings towards Malaysia, its people and even the legal fraternity changed. I became more involved. Slowly coming out of my reclusive shell. Shortly thereafter, I took a week off to spend in Langkawi to meditate by myself. From then on, whenever I am at a loss or in need of strength, I go back to Langkawi or the family mausoleum.

This bond started off my interest in the history of Kedah or Kadaram as it was known in the old days. Which brought me back to search for the history of Merong Mahawangsa and led me to the makam of Sultan Muzaffar Shah and to the temple ruins of Lembah Bujang. More about this another time. Am still doing my research. Sigh, its time to go back to the family mausoleum for rejuvenation and/or Langkawi. Am tempted to give Singapore a miss and head for Kedah instead but Miss Diva will not forgive me....