Delhi

Veteran danseuse and teacher lives on charity

Veteran dancer Tara Balgopal at her residence in Rajouri Garden in West Delhi.- Photo: Meeta Ahlawat

Veteran dancer Tara Balgopal at her residence in Rajouri Garden in West Delhi.- Photo: Meeta Ahlawat  

Meet Tara Balgopal, India’s veteran danseuse, who at 80 is a picture of apathy of various government departments, banks and even insurance firms.

She was a favourite with the Nehru-Gandhi family, especially with Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira Gandhi and Nayantara Sahgal were her close friends. With Mahatma Gandhi she used to have a competition in charkha weaving and family friend, Lord Mountbatten, used to address her as ‘tulip’.

But now alone and ailing, she survives on charity. Meet Tara Balgopal, India’s veteran danseuse, who at 80 is a picture of apathy of various government departments, banks and even insurance firms. What adds to her misery is her neighbours’ indifference towards a ‘Madrasi’ woman living in a ‘Punjabi area’ in V-13, Rajouri Garden.

An accomplished Kathak, Kathakali and Bharatanatyam dancer, she has lost count of medals she has won. Presidents from S. Radhakrishnan to R. Venkataraman, and Prime Ministers from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi have honoured her. The numerous pictures taken with the who’s who of political and musical world, lie strewn around the room, decaying, yellowed with time and smudged with dust.

Indicating at a photograph of a postage stamp kept in a stack, dedicated to her in 1962, she says: “It was released after I performed in the Parliament in 1960.”

Ms. Balgopal was also a Reader in English at Rajdhani College. She figures in the college’s ‘Hall of Fame’ list and was the Assistant Director at the Department of Correspondence courses.

She is also the first Indian teacher to broadcast undergraduate course over weekends on All India Radio in 1963 from Delhi University. But after retirement in 1968, Ms. Balgopal has not been paid her dues by the university for which she has been fighting a case. The university has apparently lost her file!

“They owe me Rs.2 crore as they paid me the dues of a Lecturer while I was a Reader. Now they tell me that I was never there,” said the veteran adding, “I got a call from my lawyer a few days back saying that I have lost the case. I have lost all my money in the case. My husband (a chartered accountant) used to fight the case on my behalf. He died three-and-a-half-years ago. I was given a lawyer from the National Woman’s Council. The Council pays him his fee but people tell me he doesn’t go to the court.”

Not only the Delhi University, Ms. Balgopal also blames banks and insurance companies for her financial plight. “I had kept my jewellery in the Kirti Nagar branch of a nationalised bank, but now they refuse to give it back to me saying my account has not been operative for four years since my husband died. He used to maintain that account. I also have something in the Employees’ State Insurance but they too don’t entertain me. Another nationalised bank at Rajouri Garden took away Rs.10,000 from my husband’s account and I had to beg from people to perform the ‘ visarjan ’ (immersion) of my husband’s ashes in Triveni (Allahabad).”

She claims two other banks where she holds accounts also withheld her money.

The veteran teacher is obviously waiting for the government to come to her aid and help resolve her financial issues.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:03:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/veteran-danseuse-and-teacher-tara-balgopal-lives-on-charity/article6382269.ece

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