“How are you two related to each other?”, he asked me and my friend.
Puneet and I looked at each other bewildered, rather amused and gave him the facts. She is married to a man, who is not me and I am gay, and I didn’t say this to him. We wondered why an administrator of an arts building would ask us this rather ambiguous question. A few moments into this conversation we realised, Puneet before me, while I sit there with eyes longing for his generosity, that he was not willing to give the space to two dancers (how preposterous and queer!). The room was in the basement and heaven forbid we enjoyed ourselves in one of the dark corners feeling and sensing each others bodies. We left the building in haste, not wanting to spend one more moment of our precious time in a kilometre radius of his being. We were excruciatingly busy looking for space to dance and rehearse in the city to make a dance that nobody asked us to create. Who gives a shit about a little bit of creativity and art.
We had by now looked at more than ten very fine spaces in the city but to no avail. Government arts organisations were doing everything other than arts in their spaces and the biggest roughly 800 seat theatre with sprawling gardens, rehearsal rooms and a mini theatre politely refused space to us dancers. No rhyme or reason. Reason being they did not give space to dancers. How absurd and stupid I say. No rhyme or reason.
Many of these people failed to understand what we do. We are contemporary dancers we tell them. But what is that? The response was… I am sorry even I don’t know what contemporary dance is. It’s not something that can be explained but has to be felt I found myself thinking. How presumptuous of me. Dont give a flying…fox.
From private rooms in yoga teachers’ houses to classrooms in universities, to theatres and local celebrity theatre personalities, whom I am still waiting to meet to discuss the dwindling state of the arts in the city, nobody seemed to appreciate what we were about. I won’t go into discussing what the state of affairs in the country are like. Other countries boast of their state of the art facilities while I despaired at the state of the art in my hometown.
Scene shifts to my friend’s house. She has a small , rather cosy studio where she gives regular dance and yoga lessons. We decided that we will have to make do with that space for us to workshop ideas. I couldn’t say no with regular supply of teas and homemade Indian snacks, which just seemed to keep coming and were full of nutrition and health. She is kind, loving and healthy. A few moments into the rehearsal one morning her husband, a remarkably handsome man, decided to playfully wrestle her during one of the movement sequences.
If it wasn’t one of the dark corners in the arts organisation, it was my dancer being smothered with love during rehearsals. I controlled my feelings and asked for an emergency meeting straight after healthy snacks.
I called my father and asked him to call his men. His group of men seem to materialise from nowhere. My father has this uncanny ability to move furniture around and restructure and reorganise spaces without lifting a finger. An architect that never was. Drawing room no longer operational as it didn’t have furniture anymore. You can’t have a lounge without something to lounge on right? The space was quickly transformed into an open space. Kill me if I say studio. December in the north of India can be cruel. While I try and feel the space and my friend investigates how to express and explore the phrase “ meteors burning on the flesh” the winter cold sent a shiver up my balls and my spine.
Next day my friend entered my drawing room to fifteen candles burning to keep the room warm. The warmth made us ignore the carbon in the room. Oh please climate did change in there. Only thing, I left a candle under the glass. It developed a sharp crack and the fault ruptured to dismantle the glass shelf and my Buddha found himself on the floor along with my desires. On another note I was exploring faults and ruptures in my dance. I for one did not expect a demonstration.
This is not OK. This can definitely not be the way forward. The expectation from artists has to go hand in hand with the care the society is willing to give the community of artists. Is it too much to ask an arts organisation that it serves to make artists life easier? There is too much to battle and too much at stake and no amount of bravery or perseverance can win against this horror of a system. We can do better. We need to do better.