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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 Movements

There 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
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