Kathak is an ocean – Nikhita Hazari

I don’t think I take enough time out of the day to tell the people I’m thinking about, that I’m thinking about them. I just sit there quietly going over the thoughts in my head, but never actually speak any of them – except for on the rarest of occasions, I suppose. One of the communities that I constantly think about, and owe the biggest “thank you” to is Chhandam. I can’t even begin to describe the lessons that I’ve learned and the opportunities that I have gotten from my 13 years at this institution. I know that no blog post or essay or anything really will be enough to show how much Chhandam has impacted my life, (in a positive light of course!) but I’d really like to share what I’ve taken back from this art form as I’ve grown.

  1. Thank you for helping me connect to my roots.

As I learned this weekend at Chhandam’s annual retreat, “Kathak is an ocean.” With oceanic waters comes immensity, and with immensity comes a vast array of knowledge. It isn’t often that you get the chance to delve deeper into your culture’s history, philosophy, math, and art but at Chhandam, they are simultaneously in action. Being an “American born confident desi” is something that I take great pride in. From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, and the music we listen to, I owe most of my appreciation about my culture and heritage to Chhandam.

  1. Thank you for teaching me about healthy competition.

I’ve never really been the type to enjoy competition, ever. I become afraid of failure, and everyone being so much better than me. What I’ve come to learn though, is, it’s okay to fail. And, it’s okay if people are better than you. There always will be someone that is. The important thing is how you use that failure to self-motivate and become the best version of yourself, possible. One more thing. Healthy competition doesn’t always have to be against your peers. In fact, my favorite way to compete is against myself, because I’m my toughest critic. We can always strive to do better than what we’ve produced thus far, and if we keep going we can create something that we didn’t even know we were capable of. And that right there, is SUCH an awesome feeling. Knowing you’re worth something feels great, and being able to attain it within yourself feels even greater.

  1. Thank you for teaching me that our bodies can take as much as our mind allows it to, and then some.

At the retreat last weekend, I remember Seibi Didi talking about how people generally don’t do enough footwork. She explained that we keep pounding out the sounds until it’s “good enough,” or until we think we’ve exhausted ourselves…but that’s just the beginning! She told us that if we kept going for a couple more cycles, eventually, we would reach a state of fatigue that would essentially numb the pain that we feel. So, we could do footwork for hours on end. This is just one out of the many instances that our bodies can be pushed past a limit we set for ourselves, and succeed. Throughout the years, becoming aware of this has helped me get to where I want to be physically, much more quickly.

  1. Thank you for teaching me about grief, and how to overcome it.

So, this year has been a little rough on all of us. (“Little” is the biggest understatement of the year.) I found this one quote that I felt I really resonated with for a while. It went, “Grief is just the period of time it takes for your brain to accept that someone is gone. Because everything in your body, your mind, your whole being just goes back to the moment they were still alive. It takes a long time for your body to forget that.” That made me feel really, really upset. I felt like I would never not be depressed, not be regretful, of the things that could’ve been. Soon after though, I came across another quote that helped me process things a little more positively. It went, “I believe in the gift of pain. I believe that loss deepens us. I am grateful for God’s graciousness toward me that he would teach me these things. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve found a new gratitude, and it’s gratitude for the way God has redeemed darkness and pain, for the way he brings something beautiful out of something horrible.” This wasn’t the first time I had heard some form of that reasoning. Celine Didi first said to us that Dadaji knew we couldn’t grow as an institution if he was still here. He had given us all the tools we needed, now it was just time to put them to good use. Even though it was that last quote that really helped solidify the idea of “the good in the bad,” it was Chhandam who laid out the foundation for thinking in that positive manner, and for that I will forever be grateful.

And last, but most definitely not the least…

  1. Thank you for teaching me the importance of being a good human being.

Chhandam’s first principle is “Sadvyavhar aur tehzeeb,” meaning attitude and etiquette. We’ve been taught that the way we enter a room, is more important than anything that we produce on the dance floor. We have also been taught that “Mother is the first guru, and father is the second.” Respect, humility, selflessness, and service to others have repeatedly been mentioned not only by Dadaji, but also by every single teacher apart of the Chhandam staff. It is said that once something is repeated enough times, it becomes ingrained in your mind. I am so thankful that from a young age, I have been told to emphasize these values because now, these values are what I think of first when approaching a new situation.

For those of you who were at the retreat this Sunday, you’ll know that this post is a whole lot more than I was able to speak at the last dinner we ate together. I was really at a loss for words, and filled to the top of my emotional capacity. Knowing that kathak has been my stabilizer, and the thing that I always come back to, I felt a pang of sadness. As I embark on my new journey, at college, I know that kathak won’t be as consistent, and that really scared me. As I had time to reflect though, I realized that I would never truly be letting go. Chhandam will always be there for me, as I will always be there for all of the amazing people I have met through it. For those of you still reading, thank you so much for allowing me to share my thoughts with you, and of course I can’t forget, namashkar.

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