Monday, September 03, 2012

What Akram Khan Taught Me

This evening I realised two things. They are things you realise from time to time, but you either do nothing about them or cannot do anything about them. But the fact that you realise them at least shows you have a mind that is in working condition.

Realisation no. 1: Practice makes a man perfect. Now this is something we all know, but the point is driven into your head like a nail when you watch, for example, a performance by the celebrated dancer Akram Khan. I am not much into dance, except for shaking a leg at the disco whenever I happen to visit one, though in the recent years, ever since I learned my yoga, I am able to appreciate the grace in a dancer's movements. But of Akram Khan I am a huge fan.

I first read about this Bangladeshi-Brit dancer, who has contemporised Kathak, in the Sunday Times of London a few years ago. It was a biggish piece, accompanied with a big picture showing him and a co-dancer in action. He piqued my curiosity. I immediately looked him up on You Tube and found videos that blew my mind. I watched these videos each time my energy levels dropped and I felt too lazy to work out. I also wished -- very badly -- that I could meet him and watch him perform live someday. But then, if you are living in India, it is not everyday that one travels to London, and even if you do, chances are remote that your visit would coincide with his shows.

But to paraphrase Maugham, when you want something badly, the entire universe conspires to make your wish come true. And so Akram Khan came to my doorstep this evening, all the way to Chennai, and I watched him perform with his troupe as I sat in the front row. There are dancers and there are dancers, but Akram Khan takes his art to a level that that can be accessed by only a select few. And with the support of his small but highly talented troupe, he appears almost God-like on stage, capable of movements and precision that most humans can't even dream of.

Yet he is just another human being, who consists of the same flesh and blood that I am made of. We were just 10 feet apart: but he was on stage, under the spotlight; while I remained seated in darkness, among the faceless audience that held its breath while he performed. So what really puts him there? Practice.

Practice is what separates the good from the best. All it requires to shine is to walk that extra mile, to take that extra effort to polish your skills. But very few have the patience to persevere -- and that holds true for any profession, not just dance. As a result, while you often meet the good, you rarely get to meet the best -- to meet them you need to seek an appointment. And when the best walk into a room, you know they are the best because their faces glow with accomplishment, even though you might consider them ugly otherwise.

Akram Khan is certainly not ugly. In fact, he is a beautiful man -- one of the most graceful men you can ever set your eyes on. As I watched him today, I silently resolved that I must resume my yoga practice without delay. I will never be another Akram Khan -- certainly not in this birth -- but I can at least be somewhat like him if I were to practise ashtanga yoga regularly. If nothing else, it will at least bring me good health and enhance my desirability among the opposite sex (who wants to be Akram Khan!).

That brings me to realisation no. 2: How time flies!

The last time I climed onto a treadmill was on October 31 last year, in the hotel I was put up in during a short visit to Hong Kong. That was also the day when I last stepped into a swimming pool.  When I returned to India, on November 2, I plunged myself into the draft of Tamarind City and ever since then -- it's going to be almost a year now -- I haven't had a decent workout!

My iPod is rusting (oh, those racy R.D. Burman numbers) and my Speedos are long lost in the large pile of Jockeys and FCUKs. My sculpted chest seems to be turning into boobs, my arms no longer seem to have the strength they had before, my knees hurt somewhat when I climb the stairs, and my lower back has begun to hurt. All this can be reversed in no time, but only if I have a sense of time. All this while, I've been postponing the resumption of my exercise regime, thinking, "Oh, wasn't it just the other day when I had a gratifying workout at The Mitra in Hong Kong? Why worry, I am still fit."

But the 'other day' is now 300 days old, which effectively means I haven't exercised in almost a year. I am sure it is the intermittent practise of yoga -- including the headstand and the shoulderstand -- that is still keeping me away from the hospital in spite of my highly erratic lifestyle. I only hope this evening -- after watching Akram Khan's magic on stage -- serves as a turning point, so that in the years to come, I can live better, write better, and do many things better. Better than ever before.

Photo:  British Council


Sepiamniac said...

I was at the media launch and he demonstrated a teaser to this event. He danced like flawless poetry. The Taiwanese artiste with him was magical, as well!

Anonymous said...

...inspiration that can coax you to start afresh with things you have lost in the mad rush called that hold you in the moment, ...and while you are locked in this time ... you can take the luxary of looking back.... Such inspirations,such moments in life are ,however, few, rare and so personal...
amazed truly u must have connected with this dance..... inspiring you to take up yoga again... kudos to the inspiring man and all the very best to you,Mr.Ghosh, to be better than ever before always...(However, leaves me wondering how can you write you are the best!!!!!)

Anonymous said...


Deepa Nagaraj said...

Hi BG,
Do not know what to comment for this....but one thing.....unending procrastination of things to be done will lead to regrets later on in our lives....So take up and start doing (for me also) which has been postponed for a long time....because we never know what the fate has in store for us. This makes me narrate from my personal experience...I went to oil painting classes after a lot of thinking and postponing as to when to start. But one day I did & went for some months. Learnt some basics and reached some level. Stopped there. After few months, I learnt that the master was dead. If I had prolonged further, I would never have learnt that art. The painting master always said to me: His dream in life was to keep an exhibition of his paintings. But the dream of his remained a dream as fate had other plans for him!!!
Deepa Nagaraj

Soumya said...

That pic is very nice... the dancers look so elastic!

Zachattack said...

Body talk again:) ..yes physical fitness is one of those things that gets put off forever in that mad rush of life.
But its awfully important as it really does help one enjoy a better quaility of life.
And besides, even though there are certainly more fun ways of getting that endorphin rush--it does give you a rather nice high!!!!

Anonymous said...

'How time flies'... it was only the other day that I got out of the car with a bagful of books... and someone who I had never met before, who would, the next few months become a damn good friend, said hullo and went out for a smoke. It's now been nearly 11 months since that day. And a lot of changes, turns in my life are thanks to that meeting. And I can't even say how grateful I am for it....

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ghosh, a word of unsolicited 'advice': twice a week, just twice a week, do something that takes your heart rate, and maintains it, at 80% of peak-heart-rate, for a minimum of 20 mins each. That's it. Ar kichhu lagbe na.

[Peak heart rate = 220 - current age]

How you attain that, is completely up to you. Nijer shorir-er kheyal na rakhle, boyesh-ke dosh diye ar ki hobe?

~ Krishanu