‘The Happiness Road’ is a weekly Series on this Blog that appears on Sundays where I share my conversations with people while exploring their idea of happiness!
This Sunday I feature the dancer couple Shanta and V.P.Dhananjayan.
There’s a glint in the eyes of the Dhananjayan couple that you can’t miss. Over the last three decades, I have noticed the glint every time that I have seen them perform or on the few rare occasions that I have spoken to them. Recently, I met them for about an hour at their Shastri Nagar home. And all through the conversation, I couldn’t but help admire that glint. Perhaps, I wondered, the glint reflects their state of inner joy and peace – what you will find in people who love what they are doing and do only what they love!
Almost as if he is reading my mind, Dhananjayan says, “Happiness is just being.” “It is about being satisfied with what you are doing, with how you are living,” adds his wife Shanta.
|Picture by Vaani Anand|
Dhananjayan qualifies his earlier remark saying he feels blessed in many respects to have had the “right influences that impact happiness” at different times in his Life. First, he considers himself fortunate to have been born in a family where his father, a school teacher, instilled in him the value of ‘giving’ and taught him to never cling on to anything material. “He gave away everything he had to his sisters, leaving nothing for his eight children. Yet, all of us grew up happy, even if there was no food to eat at home on some days.” Second, living and learning in a gurukulam, at Kalakshetra, helped him understand that “group energy spreads harmony” – a work model that he has preserved over the years. Third, his companionship with soul-mate and partner Shanta, says Dhananjayan, has contributed immensely to the way he has grown through and evolved in Life. “We share each other’s ideology. Our art brings our hearts together. There’s a great understanding between us…we complete each other.”
|Picture by Vaani Anand|
Dhananjayan believes that when you know what you want from Life, and what makes you happy, you can face any situation, any challenge stoically. Shanta says that when they left Kalakshetra in 1968 they were only in their twenties, but they were already clear that they wanted to dedicate their lives to “putting Bharatanatyam on the world map”. “With the 25 continuous years we have spent conducting our summer gurukulam at Yogaville, Virginia, with the global collaborations we have had with artists from various genres and with the contribution we have been able to make to propagate Bharatiya sanskruti and kala worldwide, I guess we both have had a very fulfilling Life journey.”
But hasn’t there ever been a blemish on the bliss canvas? A challenge that threatened to disturb their inner equilibrium?
“Oh! There have been many,” exclaims Dhananjayan, adding, “But art teaches you humility and gratitude. When you have that attitude you always overcome.” He recounts his 15-year saga to establish Bhaskara, an academy to preserve and nurture the performing arts, in Payyanur in Kerala’s Kannur district. Everyone, from environmentalists to common-folk to a cold bureaucracy to disinterested politicians, came between him and his dream. For years, he soldiered on, investing every available hour and their hard-earned money in the project. Initially Bhaskara was only Dhananjayan’s baby. But when Shanta saw his intent and his passion being challenged by those who were opposing the project, she jumped in too, backing him fully. But “the people who operated the system” queered the pitch every single time. Finally the couple gave up, selling their investment to an educational institution that runs a B-school there now. “I was drained. When people don’t want to understand you, it can be very difficult. Kerala may be God’s own country, but it is also the Devil’s workshop! One day, seeing me frustrated, Shanta pointed out that there was no point in doing anything, even if it is your dream, if your inner peace is going to be disturbed. I saw light in her perspective,” confesses Dhananjayan.
Would he consider the Bhaskara project an epic loss – something that he failed at? “Fortunately, the Bhagavad Gita has taught me to keep my mind steady. Yes, there may be instances when the mind will waver. That’s when my art has helped steady it again. I have realized that there’s no success or failure. I have learnt to deal with both joy and sorrow with acceptance. With acceptance there is only happiness,” explains Dhananjayan.
So, here’s the secret, as I have discovered it, of that glint in Shanta’s and Dhananjayan’s eyes: Do what you believe in and love doing, always be grateful and content, simply accept whatever comes your way and never let anything disturb your inner peace!