Children make an indelible impact

IT WAS not merely a display of skilful movements and impeccable coordination at the Narada Gana Sabha, a couple of days ago. The prowess of the child performers apart, the show itself seemed to make one look inward, introspect ... The impact it had was strong and the insight it gave was tremendous.

Here, we are aping the art and dance of alien lands, all the while missing out on the cornucopia of varied arts that ought to be part of our lives. Yet, organisations such as the ASEEMA Trust that strive to serve the cause of arts education, see to it that we remember our cultural roots and heritage - the programme, Rhythms and Movements was proof enough.

The group of children had just returned from a successful six-week performing tour of The Netherlands and Belgium and after taking part in the World Children's Festival. Coming from the remote villages of Jamin Kodangipatti, near Madurai, and from Chavakkad, in Kerala, these are children who hardly know anything about city life in our country, leave alone the foreign soil. But they conducted themselves with admirable dignity and discipline, said V. R. Devika, driving force behind the ASEEMA Trust.

It was a short and crisp show that presented glimpses of the aesthetic movements and art forms of Tamil Nadu and Kerala — Ottanthullal, Kalaripayattu, Devarattam, Oyilattam, Tappattam and Kolattam — which they had presented abroad. Seventeen of them, including the percussionists and performers in the age group 10-16, who had just returned from the trip that morning, presented the show. There was not a trace of fatigue as they swirled around on stage with genuine joy and enthusiasm. Even in the short time, the ancient martial art of Kerala, Kalari had its breathtaking moments as the children swashed their swords and shields in gay abandon to the rhythmic percussion beats. A slight slip, a mild momentary distraction could turn things awry, but the children were absolutely at ease as they danced pointing weapons at one another.

V. R. Devika said that during one such performance, one of the boys, the calm and composed Agil, was hit on the thumb again and again, but the boy had neither complained nor fumbled till the sequence was over. In fact, after a little first aid, he was ready to go back on stage once again. Such was the dedication and enthusiasm. Be it Oyilattam, Kolattam or Kalari, the agility of the children, the flexibility of their physique and the intensity of the training imparted to them made the show a visual treat. And to top it all was the synchrony of the movements that left you awestruck.

Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, guest of honour, said that he was amazed at the ability of the children. So were the others. And when Devika joyously stated that she was proud of the children, one felt that the group as a whole had done the country proud.


Picture by. K. Gajendran

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