‘Kathak dance is my soul’

Kajal Sharma performing at the 75 birthday celebration of her guru, Padma Vibhushan Pt.Birju Maharaj, at Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi.
Photo credit: Ashwini Chopra

I was introduced to Kathak at a very tender age.  At the tender age of 7 I met Pt.Birju Maharaj in New Delhi where he was teaching his class at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra. I was very fortunate to dance while he played the tabla to please me as the whole class watched me.  My dream was fulfilled when I joined his class in Kathak Kendra. Following that with my association with Sangeet Natak Academy I had many opportunities to perform in many Festivals of India abroad as well as in India.  Being a Top Grade artist from Delhi TV, I had been a part of some of the most beautiful television dance serials, shows and events, receiving many awards from India and abroad. I was enjoying the fruit of success after so many years of my hard work.

I got married and moved to the UK which was a turning point in my life and career.  Later I became the mother of two sons and from 1993 – 2004 I was bringing up my children and soon I realised that it has been over a decade since I had tied my ghoongroos (bells) and performed on stage.  It was like a challenge setting up myself to dance with the same speed, grace, technique and quality after so long.  This was the most difficult time to live up to my expectations, I worked very hard to put myself on to the same level which I had left 12 – 13 years ago in India.

My dream came true in 2004 when I had the opportunity to perform for my guru’s glorious 75th birthday celebration “Vasantotsava” in New Delhi.  My solo Kathak was scheduled on 3rd February and I was delighted to share the stage with a few legends and Maharaj ji himself.  The hall was packed and I was extremely privileged to have Maharaj ji sitting in front along with Mrs Ravi Shanker, Tabla Ustad Hashmat Ali Khan and many other artists.  After my solo performance I had a standing ovation by them and it was totally unbelievable to see Maharaj ji walking towards me to give his blessings and I could feel the love, the affection and see the pride in his eyes.

With a pin drop silence in the hall everything had just became like a dream and that was the moment I will cherish throughout my life.  Later he came on the stage and hugged.

Another highlight was my mom’s (90 years old) presence there and I could feel her strength reaching out to me. She has been the strongest supporter and biggest inspiration in my life. It was the best moment to have my guru and my mom witnessing me performing after so many years in Delhi and praising me and feeling proud of me. I was truly blessed to have both of them around me.  Later during an interview for a documentary made on me, Maharaj ji told me that when I was dancing he had tears in his eyes at one moment when he felt proud of me his eyes were numb.  I cried when I heard this as I was so happy and extremely blessed.

I was also invited to perform in Kolkata in a five day long dance music festival “Yesterday, Today andTomorrow” organised by I.O.S PARIVAR.  Two of my senior students, Krishna Panchmatia (Manchester) and Ankita Kortamarthy (Crewe) joined me in India to perform with me in “Taj Festival” in Agra. I recollect that the first ever Taj Festival was inaugurated 21 years ago by my solo Kathak performance.  We were also invited to perform for Delhi television for 2 shows “National Programme of Dance” and “The Images” the programme on “Celebrity Women of India”.  There was also a documentary made on “Kajal Sharma and her journey” made by WMT Films, New Delhi.  The trip to India became truly memorable and was more like a pilgrimage.  It was a spiritual requirement for me to go and perform in India for my soul as a Kathak artist.

(As told to Asian Lite)

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