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Courtesy the author

Ambiguity of Time

Pranita Choudhry has written this piece in response to our call-out for writers.


RENOWNED DANCER AND ARTIST Mythili Prakashji in her interview with Pulse beautifully narrates the ambiguity of time and time travel. It is ‘being physically in one time zone while emotionally in another’, she says when referring to dreams and memories. This is indeed the case in our daily lives, where we are often physically there but mentally either ruminating about the past or busy designing the future (look at the number of books and resources there are on mindfulness and the power of now to be happy!). But the profoundness of this quote struck me deeply when I thought about it’s relevance in dance. I personally am yet to come across another activity that demands our concentration and being in the present as much as dance does. Attention to taal, raag, nuances in the singing to emote, technique, stamina regulation, everything requires our utmost and unparalleled focus. Even the slightest thought here or there and you are bound to miss a beat or an expression, slipping out of character. But what’s interesting is that all of this happens in parallel to a process where the mind needs to travel to a different era, thousands of years ago, to narrate the story of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, the sages, or demonstrating the eternal gods! It’s intriguing how the mind is able to coordinate (or indulge in organised chaos) so beautifully to spur imagination from the past, yet be in the present to execute some extremely intricate choreographies. The process is even more challenging and exciting during group presentations, with the added layer of communicating with another dancer meeting in an ancient time zone mentally, yet synchronising physically through movement and actions in the present.

While there is so much out there encouraging us to be in the present and in the moment as a vital ingredient for happiness, the creative time travel is what helps us remain engaged and excited. In our day to day lives, I believe it’s the nature of time travel that defines our experiences, and to a large extent our well-being. In my own experience, prior to the lockdown, I would often try to be in the moment and experience things in the present. However, with having to be at several places and do several things, rehearsal time was often limited and time travel meant worrying, planning, and zipping. With no time to reflect, things just happened, and they happened fast. However, its nature drastically changed during the lockdown. Working from home, with nowhere to be at and go necessarily, rehearsal time now meant indulging in the creative process, but here time flies in a different sense. It’s no longer just happening to me, it’s rather flowing and engaging, where I get to truly persevere and enjoy the different aspects of time travel thinking about the stories of the gods and characters we portray. This time I travel, but with a sense of meaning and savouring a lasting experience!

Pranita is a UK-based bharatanatyam dancer and social science researcher in the International Development sector working with charities and not-for-profit organisations.