Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia
Urging women to surge ahead with their inner strength, Kathak exponent and danseuse Padamshree Shovana Narayan exhorts women for not getting perturbed about the negative vibes from the society. Excerpts from an exclusive interview to Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia:
OneWorld South Asia: On this year’s International women's Day, you were recognised as one of the Women of Pure Wonders. How do you think this kind of an achievement will inspire women?
Shovana Narayan: The circumstance of the last mile woman is probably very different from the circumstances that you might have. But somewhere when she is hearing even a little bit of this sort, something does percolate down to her.
This is an invisible help. It is not literally that you are giving something. But it is an invisible emotional and mental strength that is being imparted.
It might help her to awaken that inner strength in her if she hasn't realized it so far. So, it might help her to awaken an inner strength that if X could do it then how can I be different? Why can't I. I cannot be different. I can also do it.
Indirectly or directly the vibration of awareness reaches a person. You and I, all of us, have grown up listening to this or that story of someone who has made it. So you hear it and you are inspired.
OWSA: What kind of connect can a last-mile-woman see in a celebrity like you?
Narayan: I would say that anybody can find a ‘connect’ with anyone. Generally, there is no difference between me and any other woman. The difference is what kind of strength I have within. Whether I am being submerged by my immediate circumstances or I am able to come out of it.
See, I do not come from a Gharanedaar family of Kathak dancers. Mine was a family of civil servants and freedom fighters with a feudal background. Even though my parents encouraged me for dancing but at the same time the immediate society around was extremely discouraging.
They called you all kinds of names. They tried to imagine the worst and they tried to instill fears of the worst kind. But then if you have the strength in you, you can. Similarly any other woman can come out of the societal clutches.
OWSA: Was it easy becoming a dancer in your times?
Narayan: When I was growing up there was this notion that dancers cannot keep up a happy married life. Then on top of that I have a husband who was the Ambassador of his country in different parts of the world.
People would love to say that my marriage would not last long. As I say, society loves to imagine the worst. But when you look back you realize that it was not impossible to overcome the myopic societal perceptions.
OWSA: How do you look at the role of men behind successful women like you?
Narayan: We women wouldn’t be here without men and men wouldn’t be here without us. Life needs both of us.
First of all I had very supporting family, a very supportive husband and a very supportive son. Imagine a little boy who is studying in Vienna and the mother here is dancing and if I didn’t get his support I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I was lucky to have their support.
But the outside support cannot take you far if you do not have the ‘Inner Jwala’ or flame within yourself.
OWSA: How can classical arts like Kathak lead to women empowerment?
Narayan: The world of classical arts provides you with inner strength or radiation. There are no short cuts in life. One has to perspire to achieve what one dreams.
Even mythology, if you really scratch the surface, talks about women empowerment. What about all the nine aspects of Lord Durga? Where was the man? He was missing. She was standing for herself!
Through various themes like Draupadi's Vastraharan (disrobing), classical dance also talks about providing strength to women and leading them to empowerment.