Last year on Navami at the Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore, fifty thousand devotees rose in divine delirium and joined the chorus as Padma Shri Ananda Shankar Jayant and her troupe danced to the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram. The atmosphere reverberated with ecstasy and was surcharged with drama and emotion as the ensemble choreographed by Dr Ananda was performed at the sanctum sanctorum where Navaratri Pujas had taken place. To my mind this is the place where Shiva (the auspicious) performs. Shiva performs the Tandava, a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. In a way it mirrored the life of the protagonist. I marveled at the thought that this was a rambunctious performance by a colleague who conquered mammary cancer and was perhaps in the midst of what can be termed as a concert of a lifetime. I have not been afraid to take risks and I have not been afraid to follow a dream. That is the essence of who I am, once remarked Ananda. Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant, believes in freeing the mind and spreading the wings to achieve what is not possible. She invests a lot in the power of the mind to think positively and being grateful and counting our blessings. To her it is imperative to transmit positive signals to the universe so that in return, the cosmos bestows us with abundance. The cycle is incomplete if we are not grateful. So the trajectory is, Law of Attraction , followed by Law of Gratefulness. All this leads to a spiraling effect which Daren Hardy terms The Compound Effect. Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant, an Indian Railway Traffic Service Officer learnt dance under the tutelage of Rukmini Devi Arundale when only 11 at Kalakshetra. Ananda is a multi-faceted personality, donning several hats- prolific dancer, choreographer, leading a talented ensemble, Artistic Director of Shankarand Kalakshetra, poet, writer, championing women's issues, inspiring figure for youth and students, delivering lectures to the corporate world and a TED talker. She is a post graduate in Ancient Indian History, an MPhil in Art History and holds a doctorate in tourism. Her body of work in Kuchipudi and BharatNatyam, earned her the Padma Shri. She is also a recipient of the much acclaimed Sangeet Natak Akademi Puruskar. But then, strange are the vicissitudes of life. It is packed with peaks and valleys. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2008. But for her, cancer was merely a zodiac sign and not a serious malady. For a performer, such an affliction may seem to be the end of the road, an abyss .The mind gets clogged by negativity and fear. Fear to her was one of the Navarasas to be portrayed in a show and not something to live with. The malignant lump became a part of her physical and mental self. The Bold and Beautiful overnight transformed into Beautiful and Bald. An affable personality became enfeebled by pain and agony and the mental chatter was depression. But she was a woman of substance who was mentally strong to combat the challenge. In such a scenario only faith can perform miracles. Faith is confidence or trust in a person. She trusted husband Jayant (her pillar of strength), chemotherapy and dance talent. This was the imagery to overcome the crisis of lifetime. Martin Luther King writes, Faith is the taking first step even when you do not see the whole staircase. From dancing three hours at a stretch, Ananda could barely climb a flight of steps. Such was the debilitating impact of the disease. By her own admission, she believes in the power of positive thinking and has used it not only to overcome the disease but opened new avenues in form of writing and inspirational talks. Statistics reveal that 1 in 22 urban Indian women suffer from this malady. Through her motivational TED talks the danseuse is spreading awareness about the affliction and encouraging people not to be subsumed by the illness but be proactive in life and focus on positive aspects of life.
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