Come December each year, and ballet troupes across this country stage performances of the holiday favorite, Nutcracker. For many Americans, this is their first, and possibly only, encounter with ballet. I think that is a great pity. The Nutcracker, dare I say, is one of the worst examples of this exquisite dance form. I have seen it performed by Chicago’s Joffrey and Moscow’s Kirov — some of the best dancers in the world — and failed to be impressed.
I have loved the ballet since the age of 4. That is when the Royal Bolshoi Ballet came from Russia to Calcutta, and my father stood in line all night long to purchase tickets to the Swan Lake. I remember being mesmerized by the slender forms, dressed like the fairies of my imagination, floating with ethereal grace across the stage. That feeling never quite left me. To this day, Swan Lake remains my favorite classical ballet.
I suspect that a lot of Calcuttans’ obsession with ballet date from that week. Indeed, I did not have another opportunity to go to the ballet for the next 16 years.
Another amusing engineering T-shirt…
Two weeks ago, a few days after the election, I published a post that put out a tiny tendril of unsubstantiated hope. I said that we liberals have to move on and give Trump a chance.
I stand corrected.
I did actually expect Trump to extinguish my hopes. I just didn’t know he would do that so promptly, even before he took office. I reeled with shock and horror as he announced his first set of appointees. Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist, white supremacist and leader of the alt-right. Jeff Sessions, Attorney-General, denied federal judgeship for racism. Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor, Islamophobe and supporter of torture.
Another post in my monthly Throwback Thursday series — the re-publication of my personal favorite posts.
I like to tell people my earliest memory is from when I was three or four. It features two little homeless children, about the same size as me, on a garbage dump. They were fighting feral dogs for a few scraps of food. I say that memory has marked my actions forever, and it has. But it is not my earliest memory — I have one from just before that.
I was probably two years old. We lived, at that time, in an apartment where all the rooms were inter-connected, so that you could walk in a circle inside our home. I must have just taken a bath. A bucket bath would have been the norm, and I’m guessing my mother might have been teaching me to bathe myself. I don’t quite remember those details. What endures in vivid technicolor is a naughty little girl, stark naked, running as fast as her little legs will carry her, holding a blue plastic mug. My mother, too thin, draped in a sari, is running after me as I lead her a merry chase, going round in circles through the apartment.
I don’t talk about this memory to acquaintances. I tried once, and things quickly became awkward. But that led me to consider why this particular memory had endured. The sheer pleasure of that freedom! I had escaped all bonds — my mother’s arms, my pesky clothes. I was braver in those days, as all children are. They have, after all, not yet learnt the pain of failure or disappointment. They may fall down a lot, but they haven’t yet learnt to fear the falling.
Decades later, I have started to fling off my bonds and run again. I’m reaching for my blue plastic mug!
This is my second departure from the normal tone of my posts (the first is here). There will be nothing here of the search for happiness or the quest to understand, no descriptions of exotic places or lyrical flights of fancy. Just some practical advice for the independent traveler planning to take his or her first cruise (using my experience on a 5-day party cruise from Florida to Jamaica).
This was the week when the United States was to have joined countries like India, Pakistan, U.K. and Germany by electing its first woman leader. Millions were heartbroken and horrified when the electorate voted otherwise. Millions more were euphoric. And since Tuesday night, the conversation in this country has been about the chasm between the two Americas. About how the elitist and out-of-touch Democrats never saw this coming.