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GRACE IN FULL PLAY Malavika Sarukkai samples a different `gourmet' fare New Delhi
GRACE IN FULL PLAY Malavika Sarukkai samples a different `gourmet' fare New Delhi

Food and dance? There is a rather intimate bond, says dancer Malavika Sarukkai

She arrives half an hour late. And is in a hurry to leave. Even as the dance connoisseurs have not yet got over her stylistic accomplishment of bringing S.H. Raza's legendary `bindu' from the canvas to the stage she has yet another performance, "a private one", lined up for the evening.Flaunting a gorgeous blue-brown sari, sporting a graceful smile and an ample-sized bindi Sarukkai is, simply, a head-turner. And as she gets into conversation, you see she knows how to hold her own. But give Sarukkai a little time, and she comes across as someone who knows how to lighten up too. Quickly settling down for a very French-y name, Crepe de jardine, as her main course she comments, "I am not a very fusion person. So at restaurants, I go by the menu card and prefer not to head for the buffet. One should enjoy one thing at a time." Even in dance, she is a votary of the pure form, she adds. Sarukkai is a vegetarian. So her dishis a pancakefilled with vegetables and served with tomato and cheese sauce. Though the chef requests her to choose something for starters, she only names bottled water. Soaring in typical Indian hospitality, the chef though rolls out adds some garlic bread, and an interesting dish called kurkuri idli chaat (with fried mini idlis), as starters for the guest. He even names a few dishes from the menu, which are quite popular with the diners, say, the YBR chicken, Bangkok chicken curry and Bull's eye dessert. Soon, over morsels of Crepe de jardine, Sarukkai explains why she is a vegetarian. "I used to eat non-vegetarian food but gradually stopped because to dance, you need a light body. The ideal is satvik food." Having travelled across 25 countries, she has always stuck to curd rice. "Once after a performance at Reunion Island, we headed for dinner. It was a lavish buffet. L. Subramanium was also there. We were at adjacent tables. Looking over, I saw that like me, he too had taken a serving of steamed rice and curd. All artistes think the same when it comes to food." Relating another incident about how most organisers make lavish arrangements for artistes, she says, once before a performance in Delhi, the organisers sent a dozen samosas to the green room. "I had to tell him that after having those heavy samosas, I would need rest and couldn't perform." Though with meagre needs for food, that wasn't the reason why she never took up cooking. "I somehow never developed a liking for cooking. But I learnt dancing, where I am extraordinary," she smiles, rolling her pretty eyes. Sarukkai learnt Bharatanatyam at the age of seven, on her mother's insistence. "I still remember the moment so vividly. I was sitting at the dining table and my mother casually asked me, `Would you like to learn dance?' I said no, but she said, `Try it, you might like it.' I gradually got drawn into it and then there came a time when I decided that this is the only thing I want to do," she recounts. Years later, it was Sarukkai , who, after reading an article on Raza's concept of `bindu' sometime ago, told her mother that "this is dance". Explaining, she says, "The style of Bharatanatyam is as geometric in design as his bindu." With the main course over shegoes for the tiramisu. And Sarukkai signs off with a spoonful of you know which one of them! SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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