Mainstream, VOL LIV No 6 New Delhi January 30, 2016
Tribute to Mrinalini Sarabhai
Saturday 30 January 2016
On January 21, 2016 eminent danseuse Mrinalini Sarabhai passed away in Ahmedabad at the age of 97 due to age-related ailments.
Condoling her death President Pranab Mukherjee, in a message to her daughter Mallika, wrote:
“Smt Mrinalini Sarabhai left an indelible mark on Indian classical dance as an eminent danseuse, choreographer and teacher. Educated at Shantiniketan and a disciple of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Smt Mrinalini Sarabhai was trained in Bharatnatyam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattom. Dance was her life, passion and existence. Smt Mrinalini Sarabhai believed that the power of dance, music, arts and literature must be experienced by the common man. She was a poet and author as well as a dedicated activist who fought against dowry deaths, suppression of women and child labour.
“Smt Sarabhai exemplified the fighting spirit of her mother and freedom fighter, Ammu Swaminathan, and her sister Lakshmi Sehgal, who was Commander-in-Chief of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s ‘Rani of Jhansi Regiment’ of the Indian National Army. She was also of inspiration and support to her husband, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space programme.
“In recognition of her invaluable contribution to Indian classical dance and arts, Smt Sarabhai was honoured by the nation with several awards, including Padma Shri in 1965 and Padma Bhushan in 1992. Her death leaves a void in the world of creativity and performing arts which will be difficult to fill. Her tireless efforts to spread Indian classical dance around the world will be always remembered.”
Paying her own tribute to Mrinalini’s memory renowned exponent of Bharata Natyam Geeta Chandran observed:
“A polymath in the true sense of that word, Mrinalini Sarabhai worked in classical dance, in choreography, in publishing, in creative writing, in passionately saving craft and textile traditions, in representing the best of Indian thought, philosophy and culture. Seemingly, there was nothing she could not do.”
Mrinalini was quite close to N.C. and in direct communication with him till his passing in 1998. Here we offer our homage to her by reproducing her following poem that appeared in Mainstream Annual Number 1993. We also send our deepest sympathies to Mallika and Mrinalini’s son, Kartikeya, on this sad occasion.
Thought MovementsThere have been crowds_ Ovations overwhelmed me_ I rejoice_ Yet in my secret space_ Alone I dance_ To the gaze of the unseen.Dreams are fleeting_ Across the mirror_ Of my soul_ Awake, their shadows_ Trouble me.Upon my heart_ A song resounds_ Alas I cannot capture_ The haunting tune.Thoughlessly man_ Axed the tall tree_ He knew not_ That he split my heart_ Asunder.There is darkness_ Upon the earth_ I search in vain_ For a spark.The voice lingers_ He whom I loved_ left me_ his song.Nostalgia shakes me_ As I gaze_ Upon the quivering_ leaves_ Of the peepful tree.The dark clouds_ Cling to the storm_ Moments before_ They are shattered.In the whirlpool_ Of Dance_ I find my_ Still centre.My love_ Between us_ Only silence_ Speaks.Yesterday’s memories_ Gift me_ the promises of_ Tomorrow.Sadly I say goodbye_ To the cool breeze_ of winter_ And turn to find_ The first fragrance_ of Spring.Mrinalini Sarabhai