Here I am again, talking about the poisons of fanatacism and fundamentalism..You must be wondering how I can go on and on talking about it, without ever tiring of it, giving in, or resigning myself to the fact that fundamentalism, hatred and communal friction are a part of today's reality.
Well, here I am again, anyway. I will never stop talking about it, and I'll never stop criticising it. It's the very least I can do.
Many friends and family have come under attack from fundamentalists in India because of their liberal thoughts. I, myself, have fought with accquaintances and peers, over communalism in India, the Gujarat riots, the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Bombay riots and blasts that followed etc etc. I am nobody. So when I get into arguments and even outrightly fight and shout till the point of tears over issues like this, it doesn't become a big deal. Because, thankfully, I'm just Aranyani.
But people like Shabana Azmi are in the news over this all the time, my father has been in the news over this, and now it's my Guru, Leela Samson.
I came across something in the news online about her, and followed it up, and found myself on the website of the Organiser, the RSS online website.
Before I say anything further, my Guru has dedicated her entire life to Bharatanatyam, which I would see as an Indian art form, but which many do also see as a Hindu art form. She's not a hindu. She's half Christian and half Jewish. But she's definitely Indian - she's from Tamil Nadu and Kerela. But for me, she's the best kind of Hindu you could be. She doesn't perpetrate violence against other religions, or insist on being superior because of a stupid sacred thread. She tells, through her dance and her magical expressions, of hindu gods and goddesses, of hindu myths and stories. She respects and even celebrates the Hindu festivals, as well as Muslim ones and Christian ones. She's a Hindu and a non-Hindu in the best way. She's modern and open minded but in tune with tradition. She's a wonderful teacher and an extremely beautiful and talented dancer.
On this online so-called "news"letter, she has been accused of being "anti-hindu". Now I don't know what the entire story is behind all this nonsense, because I'm still far far away, in Liverpool, safely tucked away from the poisonous snakes that are these fundamentalists. But she's not "anti-hindu". She's secular, she's modern, she's multicultural and pluralistic. And these narrowminded conservatives can't handle that. The fact that she's not a Hindu by birth just makes it easier for them to lash out at her.
She has been accused of stopping prayers at Kalakshetra, her own Guru's institute in which Leela akka herself grew up and which she is rightfully the director of now. If this is true, I know she did it for secular reasons. Not to further some Christian conversion propaganda like these RSS freaks think!
She has been accused of dissing idol worship. That's not anti-hindu either. Many sects of hindus themselves don't agree with idol worship, and idol worship is relatively new to Hinduism, given its ancient history.
She's been quoted as saying "The festival is on Hinduism, so you need not go there." about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's festival. Errrm...right. First of all, I've known my Guru for 16 years, and these people don't know her at all. I can safely say, and you can chop off my left thumb (Bear in mind - I'm left handed!!!) if I am wrong, that she has been misunderstood and misquoted. And secondly, who the hell made Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the epitome of high hindu culture?!
She is also termed as anti-hindu for removing the clothes off the idols in the Kalakshetra campus. Anti-hindu? She's just being an accurate historian by doing that! Hindu gods and goddesses didn't wear clothes!! They walked around adorned in jewellery and flowers, mostly. Temples of Hampi, Belur, Halibedu, Khajuraho, and the temples in Orissa are some of the few places in India which testify to this naked truth about our divine gods and goddesses. Perhaps these ancient temples are considered to be anti-hindu too, and vulgar.
Speaking of vulgar, Leela akka's rendition of the Geetha Govindam is considered to be vulgar by 'the Organiser'. Well, she's only expressing what the poetry says. So they're basically calling Jayadeva a crude and vulgar poet.
Leela akka has a gift to express love, sexuality, pain, fear, hurt, longing, devotion in very real ways without making it "lokadharmi"(Lokadharmi is realistic and literal, as opposed to stylised also called Natyadharmi by some). When you watch her, you can't help but really feel what she's expressing. In my opinion, these fundamentalists are sexually and emotionally repressed and can't handle the reality and intensity of these real emotions that akka has the natural gift of so beautifully portraying.
She's been accused of attempting to demolish a temple in Kalakshetra. Again, I don't know the story. But I know akka. She would never "demolish" a temple. Apparently, she has commented that she is merely restoring the roof but the person who she allegedly spoke to, then went on to say that she is a christian and therefore a liar. Such people make me so angry! No wonder our country isn't progressing forward. It's got pigs...no, pigs are intelligent animals..its got monsters like these people, in it!
And they're making a big deal out of akka's relaxation of rules for boys' and girls' hostels. This made me laugh. Trust akka to do this! I think it's great, though! More open-mindedness!
I think the people who wrote this article seem to have deliberately overlooked the fact that Kalakshetra is an institution that started to promote music and dance, not hinduism. They also overlooked the fact that it was started my Rukmini Devi Arundale, herself a woman who 'broke' tradition by bringing the dance form out of the temples. Moreover, they ignored the fact that Leela akka is one of Rukmini Devi's prime shishyas, knew her well, and was with her, looking after her, throughout her life right upto her death. I think she'd know better than these ignorant fools, how her own 'Attai' would've wanted Kalakshetra to develop, flourish and evolve with the times, in the 21st century.Here's the full article in the Organiser
or Here's another link to the same article
There are some bits in it that are so petty that I didn't think were even worth mentioning, but have a look at the article.
This article, in another website was met with comments like - Kill Leela Samson.
Please tell me that it's ok for my blood to boil over this!
Or tell me that I'm just plain nuts.