As kids, bro and I used to love dancing. Maa would tune in to a radio channel or a music channel on tv and as the song played, both of us would dance to its tunes. The laughter that ensued used to be so care-free that it still brings a smile to my face. 

Maa is not a dancer. I had the making of one. And brother was too shy to dance in front of anyone but us. To say that I used to love dancing is an understatement. I wanted to be a performer. I used to imagine that there is a huge audience cheering for me every time I used to dance in my room/living room. Expressions and matching steps to the tunes came naturally to me. I had to simply switch my mind and behave as if no one is watching yet imagine that an audience is cheering for me. Stupid yet true, this how I used to think.

I was really happy when Maa enrolled me into a dancing class. I had no clue about Bharat Natyam except that Hema Malini used to look beautiful performing. We had three classes a week and I used to look forward to them. They were grueling. Bharat Natyam covers a lot of theory including the mudras and postures. Its practice sessions used to leave me with bad backaches and sore knees. My shoulder muscles used to be stiff but heart used to be super happy. In few months, I passed my first level with good grades and Guruamma wanted me to continue. However, I couldn't. I don't remember the reason though. Given a chance, I would go back to Bharat Natyam in a beat.

Maa didn't stop here. She knew my love for dancing and wished for me to learn a new style. And I did. Our society had a lot of Gujaratis. And Navratra used to be a big celebration. We used to have a live old school style band. First, there would be a Puja to please the Goddess. Then the older ladies would play Garba in praise of the Goddess. Slowly, the younger girls and ladies would join them. And later the men. Maa would push me to join them. And as a kid it was easy because you don't care if people are laughing when you do the steps wrong. Well, anything that kids do looks cute and that helped me. For years, I would play Garba with the Gujaratis and later in my teens, Dandiya. Over the years, those nine days taught me those two styles so well that today when people see me play Garba, they mistake me for a Gujarati. And when Maa sees me play, I can see the pride in her eyes. Garba gives me so much joy that even today if I hear a band playing during Navratri, my feet will automatically take me there and I will dance like there is no tomorrow. 

The last time, I took to stage was six years ago for an inter college dance competition. The days have gone but the high remains. I still crave the thrill, the adrenaline rush, the giddy numbness, and the leaping heart beats that comes along with the performance. Stage does that to me. Be it dancing or speaking, I have a love-hate relationship with the stage. And it all started with an elocution competition in my 8th grade. 

For the first time, I was picked to represent my school in an inter school elocution competition. I still wonder why, because I was a really shy kid in school. I never opened my mouth, used to stick to my bench, hardly raise my hand for anything, eat, play, learn, go home, and repeat. That day changed it all. I had to go in front of 40 kids from 13 other schools and speak for two whole mins. Imagine my horror! I can't speak in front of my class without stammering and here I am going to be laughed at by students from other schools. I prayed for a miracle and wished that the Earth would open and swallow me. However unlike Hindi films, no miracle happened to me. I didn't strut to the stage, nor did I speak like I have been doing it for ages. I just went there, clutched my paper hard, squeaked my name, and ran back to my place. Well, if an earthquake had to hit my place then, I would have gladly welcomed it over the prospect of going to the school next day.

The only good thing that came out of that disastrous performance of mine was no one bothered me with elocution competitions anymore. The down side was that I hated being bad at something. And hence when I made it into the junior college, I made sure that I take liking to that stage and speak. Speak till I no longer fear the stage. I left my shy days wrapped with stage fright back in school. Junior college saw me opening up and talking - on and off the stage. It was then, I realized that if I put my mind to something I can excel in it. 

I still remember the first subject I got an A+ grade in. In my fourth grade, I got it in drawing. I used to never pay attention to it as it was something I used to enjoy. I would mindlessly doodle while studying, sitting in the class, on benches, and even on exam question papers after I was done writing my exams and had to wait for the examiner to grant me leave. In my listless school life, I skipped taking the Elementary exams. And in 9th grade, I wanted to directly take Intermediate. Dad wasn't up for it because there is no career in drawing so we won't waste our time. Once again, Maa came to rescue. With a month to go, I managed my pre-boards, sports, boring science practicals and yet practiced drawing every day. If this was a movie, I would have passed with highest grades because off course mere pass Maa hai but in real life, I managed to pass when everyone was sure I would fail. That's like squeezing out victory while facing a lion. And the cherry on the top is that my inclination towards art still breathes life in my life. 

Maa used to tell me that if I put my mind to something there was nothing I couldn't do. And if you see my list of 'What I want to be when I grow up' you'd realize that I took her advice very seriously. I wanted to be a dancer, a model, a badminton player, an artist, a runner, a teacher, an astronaut, and a boss (because they have their own cabin and my dad was one). 

I got into advertising and am loving every minute of it.  However, I have stopped dreaming like I used to as a child. Just because I have the job I love, it doesn't mean that I can't have more than one life. What happened to wanting to be an artist? Or learning a new life basic like driving? Or taking up belly dancing that I have been contemplating about for ages? Or taking a month off and traveling? Saving up and buying that god damn camera so that I don't wait for someone else's camera to be free to plan a trip? Or take up that offer for teaching and share some of my knowledge? Or move to a new place and start with a clean slate? 

It takes me back to the care-free laughter that I used to share with Maa and brother. We used to do what we loved and it used to give us immense happiness. As I grew up, 'doing things because they make me happy' mantra got diluted because after all it is a tough world. But what if it is? It was not easy when I was doodling as a kid, or learning a new dance style, or battling that stage fright. Then why does it seem like a mountain to climb today? It all boils down to putting my mind to it and excelling in it. I need to give it a chance or I would never know what awaits me on the other side. Or the other country.



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