My conversation with dancer and Thirupaavai Upanyasam expert Zakir Hussain for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here. ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan
“Being myself is happiness to me”
There’s an endearing quality about Zakir Hussain. He doesn’t mince his words. And he’s clear about who he is and what he does. “Being myself is happiness to me,” he says as we sit down for this conversation at the legendary Krishna Gana Sabha. He was born and raised a Muslim, he went to a Christian Mission school and he devoured Andal’s Thirupaavai out of sheer passion. So, who then is the real Zakir? “My bliss is to inspire audiences to soak in the beauty of Andal’s Life and the message of Vaishnavism while promoting secularism. I am blessed that my profession and my passion blend to give me boundless inner joy,” explains Zakir.
Even so, I wonder how he manages the pressure and challenges of being a Muslim, a male Bharatanatyam dancer and also one who is a Thirupaavai Upanyasam expert. “Every moment, you are facing and overcoming challenges. So, I don’t single out my identity and calling to conjure up a special challenge there. Yes, what I do may appear to be unusual. But I am doing it to spread harmony, to inspire people to be happy being who they are. I don’t see anything wrong. If someone has a problem with it, I just let them be. I don’t see any need to justify anything. Discretion is the key to happiness,” he says.
Zakir adds that living your Life in full public view means that critique and criticism are unavoidable. “When people’s remarks hurt me, I sleep over them to douse my anger. Silence is a good weapon. No one can fight anyone’s silence,” he points out, laughing heartily.
But why exactly does he dance or spread Andal’s message through his Upanyasams? “I am convinced that I am able to be in communion with the divine. You must live in this real world and experience divinity here, in the now. That’s what happens to me when I dance or when I deliver Upanyasams. I see myself as offering my mind, body and soul to the divine. I become that,” avers Zakir.
As a parting line, he reiterates that he is not unique: “I truly believe that we can all learn to be happy and content with who we are, with what we have, when we carry in us the constant awareness of our impending, unavoidable, death.”
That truth about Life is like Zakir himself is – unputdownable!