Archives for the month of: August, 2015
 National Congress, 1931

National Congress, 1931

After a few seconds of silence Kitappa’s fingers stroked the sides of the instrument and it spoke to her. Sowmya saw the spin­ning of the wheel, a lone flag fluttering in the wind. She saw the entire dance shine behind her lids, and it was new and she suddenly understood what Ruth St. Denis was doing. She had invested the song with a brand new feeling, patrio­tism. To make it concrete in her dance she would express a little bravado, a little piety, and some kind of joy or affection.

“It has to be that kind of a thing, as if you are the child and the mother at the same time,” Mallika said.

Sowmya found a man named Farid at Amarjothi Tai­lors, at the corner of East Mada Street who agreed to make the tricolor flag for her. She found him some silky and slippery material that would unfurl as required. He kept the project inside his house and worked on it at night. She would meet him at his shop after his work was done, and he would take her to his house and show her how he would piece the parts of the spinning wheel together in the center and embroider around it. She was pleased.


            On the day of the dance the lawn at the congress office was covered with white sheets. The program started in the late afternoon with a welcoming ceremony and several speeches. So the stage was set up and ready when Sow­mya arrived with the musicians. The lawn was now dotted with people who had gathered among the long shadows.

Sowmya began the program in the traditional way, with an invocation to Ganapathi. Nervous about how it would be received, she had planned the new item for the final piece just before a short and sharp concluding hymn.

When the time came for the dance the stage lights dimmed. Somu played a dirge like beat on the mridangam. The flute came on, and then Kitappa and Neelam’s voice rose in unison.

*This land of a thousand years,

shaped by a thousand thoughts . . .

my mother’s playground,

where she learnt her first sounds,

and danced in this moonlit night,

frolicked in these rivers,

made sweet music with my father,

this land of my mother.

Sowmya raised the standard and pulled the string. The flag dropped down, and she leaped around the stage to the beat of the refrain, the flag unfurling:

Would I not adore it in my heart, and cry out in joy

Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!

Even before the dance came to its conclusion, people rose to their feet, cheeks wet. Sowmya found her eyes filling over with tears when she finally stood waving the flag.

— From Desire of the Moth

*Poem of Subramanya Bharati translated by author.

Latest Review for Desire of the Moth


A beautiful story teller! Thoroughly enjoyed the book and it’s nuances. The tale weaves together a poignant picture of practices of the time when widowhood ostracized women from mainstream life as well as brings out the strength and courage of women who chose different paths. In particular, it has a special significance for dancers today to understand that there was a time when dance was not socially accepted as an art form and frowned upon. Towards the end, the book captures intuitively a spiritual path that comes from the practice of dance – one that unites a person with oneself.

Involvement of large numbers of women in the nationalist movement began with the Rowlatt Act of 1919 by the British Govt., Known commonly as the Seditious Meeting Act, it was an attempt to extend wartime restrictions on civil rights into peacetime allowing detention without trials for possession of  tracts officially declared seditious.   Massive protests were organized and Gandhi emerged as a national leader of a non-violent resistance movement and encouraged women to join and court arrest by distributing banned literature.  Women organized hartals, work stoppage.  Martial law was declared and the brutal tragedy at Amritsar occurred when General Dyer ordered his troops to fire into an unarmed crowd of men and women gathered for a peaceful meeting within the walled space of Jallianwala Bagh. Villages were bombed.

Women freedommovement

The women who got organized behind the civil disobedience movement Satyagraha in 1920-1921 had among them migrant workers and middle-class housewives. They hawked khadi (handloomed cloth) and charkhas (spinningwheels) on the streets to raise funds, held bonfires of imported cloth, and picketed liquor shops. They were delegates at Congress Party sessions, presided over committee sessions.  They were activists at the Flag Satyagraha against the British Government that levied punitive taxes on basic necessities such as salt, and banned the Congress activists flag which displayed the charkha (spinning wheel) as a national symbol.

The Poet Subramanya Bharati composed poems exhorting women towards not only national freedom but also their own liberation from sexist traditions.  He escaped arrest and fled to French occupied territories at Pondicheri.

Poet, Bharathi

Poet, Bharathi


Source: The History of Doing by Radha Kumar

Latest Review for Desire of the Moth


This book is a journey of the human spirit.
A tenacious young woman from India defies cultural norms, traditions, and expectations to go off, following her heart . Her tenacious spirit directs her, guides her, and leads her through traumatic family alienation.
The writing is clear, and Champa Bilwakesh is brilliant in conveying the heroine’s turmoil while truly following her heart.
The cultural and political references at times were difficult for me to follow, but again, it was the basic theme of the human spirit and humanity which prevails within this family unit. I loved the book. I was drawn in within the first 30 pages. Champa made simple, quick, thought provoking statements which had me stopping mid-read to revisit what I just read. I love books that draw me in, but more importantly, I love books that celebrate an internal victory. Well done Champa! I couldn’t put it down.

India’s women organize for Freedom

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Debut _ Listen to an excerpt read by the author 

Lethal love arrows, like pouring rain.

Your sweet lips, the Divine Face.

Lord of Lords, the Presence, Unfathomable,

embrace me. Now!


Sowmya surrendered to the longing. She did not notice

that her costume, damp with sweat, was sticking to her

legs, or that a bell from her anklets had torn off and flung

out on the floor. She only saw the sound, only heard the

dance: the leap she would make, the pause for a fraction of

the beat before landing with the elegance of the antelope.

There was nothing else in her vision. She summoned to

her face all that was needed to communicate the agony, the

bliss, the sacred story, the mystical moment. It will cleanse

your audience, redeem! Her feet, weightless, flew over the


Kita-thaka-dharikitathom! Kita-thaka-dharikitathom!