Photo by Peter H Copeland

I genuinely believe that this is Mother Nature’s way of teaching us to be mindful of all the people and things around us. Consequently, I also believe this is an opportunity to reflect on many things, forgive yourself for past mistakes, and rebuild broken relationships in the process. 

Initially, when the talks about isolation commenced, I didn’t take it seriously and rather rolled my eyes, thinking that this was yet more fake news in an attempt to instill fear in people’s minds. However, fast forward to lockdown being confirmed and news slowly starting to trickle in regarding cancelled shows and classes, I was in a different space mentally, and it was not a good feeling at all, to be honest. I felt all the negative emotions and pain in one go. I felt lost and, in one instance, even forgot to return my mother’s phone call because I was sat in silence, and everything was at a standstill. An entire day in denial! Suddenly, I felt like I was cut up into pieces akin to a 1000-piece puzzle and had to figure a way to put myself together. 

However, I had to do something about this otherwise, isolation was going to eat me alive. So I gathered myself together decided I was going to find ways to be productive with what feels like unlimited time you have. I think, as humans, we either complain or comply, so I chose the latter!

As much as I started thinking negatively about this pandemic initially, my hope and faith in God superseded. I felt a strange sense of strength and positivity, and I took my book and wrote down my goals for this period of lockdown:

Get back to my basics of Kathak: I wanted to take it from scratch and look at Kathak with a different and fresh perspective. No matter how good a dancer one is, mistakes and learnings are part of the process, so I wanted to embrace it.

Dust out all the past performance pieces: This felt most painful as I felt this huge sense of guilt for not remembering all the movements thoroughly. On a positive note, I began to choreograph my ideas within these pieces, and the music brought back lovely memories. 

Try to do more research and understand the entirety of Vishnu Sahasranamam and Lalitha Sahasranamam that are believed to cleanse the mind and remove obstacles: Two extremely popular Stotras (prayers) which describe the 1008 names of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lalitha. I distinctly remember my late grandmother when I was about ten years old, making me sit down every day at 6 pm on the dot to teach me how to recite Vishnu Sahasranamam, which was written in Sanskrit. Being fluent in Tamil, I found Sanskrit extremely difficult to recite and memorise. She didn’t give up on me, though, and I slowly began to learn and recite this Stotra. 

It took me two months to memorise and recite it with a book in fact, and a whole year to recite from memory. I have always wanted to understand every couplet, so this period of isolation gave me the time to do that, slowly but steadily. I found this helped me connect more to the Supreme power and, at the same time, reminisce about the teachings of my grandparents.

Find more time to connect with my family in India: Despite the time difference, I knew they would be available for a chat.

More home cooking: Food plays a vital part in my life. I’ve made so many classic dishes from handwritten cookbooks passed down by my grandma and my mom during this time. I genuinely believe what you eat is really what you are. Healthy and hearty. I thoroughly enjoy cooking, and since I’ve been cooking from a tender age, I feel extremely confident to handle the kitchen with ease. Also, it’s a form of destressing for me. It makes me completely in sync with focus and love. I have been exposed to all sorts of cooking/prepping methods right from the traditional, painstaking solid-stone grinding and pounding of various fresh spices and dosa batter with stones (pic below). It’s a strenuous process, but on the plus side, it gives you stronger and chiselled arms. Long gone are those days that are now replaced with electric grinders that work with a press of a button. I cook with love regardless of whatever my mindset is, and thankfully it has tasted good thus far. My family, most importantly, my daughter vouches that I’m the best cook. Nothing makes me happier. 

Blogs in Isolation

Reconnecting with friends: As human beings, we are bound to hold grudges, and those who say they don’t hold any are probably not telling the full truth. During this time, I have managed to reconnect with friends whom I have not spoken to in a long time. It just takes a phone call or a message to sort things, especially with your true friends, and it’s been a great way to restart positive relationships. I’ve learned that ego will not let you grow but only consume you. 

Learn to be less judgmental: This is a work in progress.

Connecting and sharing through Yoga and Dance: My daughter is a certified little yogini who can teach a complete beginner. I’ve been learning Yoga from her. And although it’s all baby steps for the moment, I feel rejuvenated after a session. As a thank you, I teach her Kathak. It’s a lovely way to bond and connect with self and loved ones. It’s a priceless feeling.

Maintaining a dialogue with my students while in isolation: Teaching and connecting with my students virtually during this time has been productive. I usually don’t prefer teaching online as I like to be present physically and correct my students as they dance. Virtually, I feel a bit disjointed sometimes. This has been a challenging time, and I’ve had to think of practical ways to teach myself the means of teaching effectively online.  

Getting my driving licence: I’ve been refreshing the driving lessons that I’ve learned before this isolation period with practice sessions on alternate days with my husband, who has been extremely encouraging and patient. 

Planning: As much as I’d like to plan the rest of the year, I believe I should take it one day at a time, with patience and perseverance. I’ve been finding creative ways of keeping my mind occupied with meaningful ideas. Finally, I’ve been continuing to write down my life’s aspirations as a constant reminder never to give up.

Isolation did start as a punishment, but I was able to delve deeper into healing and cleansing my mind. I know we can’t turn back time, but I feel we can use this time to turn back our lives positively. I don’t know what the future holds, but I will continue to wake up every day with hope and sincerity. For now, I’m grateful to be able to spend this time with my family. 

Abirami Eswar

Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art