This page is dedicated to the senior leaders in my life, Elders, who continue to provide guidance in my thinking and ideas for my artistry, or Ancestors, who have evolved beyond this life and who continue to inspire and revive my love for the knowledge gifts and blessings they showered on me throughout our time together.
Jaya Doraiswamy was the matriarch of the family. Herself a lonely eldest daughter who lost her mother at age 5, she and her siblings were introduced to ashram life at a tender age, where she fell in love with ancient Indian arts and sacred dance. Like descriptions in ancient texts, she was the ultimate female artist, well-versed in many of the 72 divine arts from cooking to flower-garland making, from playing the veena, the harmonium and singing to dancing Bharata Natyam, from storytelling to folk medicine. Ammamma, as she was fondly known by the thousands of people whose lives she touched, left an impression of love, beauty and simplicity whereever she went.
It was Ammamma's desire that her daughter become an accomplished dancer and travel internationally, which Vidya's mother has been doing from the time she took her tiniest steps. Ammamma also brought many young dancers into the fold, teaching them solid fundamentals so they could swiftly advance in technique. Vidya was one of these artists, who was raised by Ammamma from the 7th day, being sung to and moving arms and feet to the rhythms, so she could grow up understanding the beauty of sacred dance.
Ammamma has been evolved to ancestor since 2008, after the birth of her eldest great-grandson, Vishwa Chandra Srinivasan. Her journey to the other side of the veil has left an imprint of her impact on all of us, which will find its way into future generations of dancers from this tradition here and overseas.
(Mom with Judith and James above)
Judith Semark was an angel. An amazing soul who taught by example how adventurous and expansive life can be... I knew her since I was 4, and she has been part of my family as long as I have known what family is. I was so fortunate to live with her and James, while sorting out who I wanted to become. I know all her seeking has led her to merging with the universal force, but I also know that I miss her. She leads me on the next phase of my Buddhist path, where now I learn the lesson of impermanence... not without accepting our human vulnerabilities, tears and sadness.
As a Bharata Natyam artiste, Judith was extremely emotive and beautiful in her renditions of Todaya Mangalam, Kavuthvams, Sankarabharnam Varnam and Natanam Aadinaar. In the 70's and 80's many of our dance students even received instruction with her where you would hear her sweetly singing Natanam Aadinaar in perfect tune and rhythm with just a cute little accent. As a yoga teacher, she excelled in helping us extend ourselves gently in and out of poses in Kripalu style practice. And in her home, in her kitchen, my health was vastly improved. There are so many contradictions I have lived, while trying to embrace my soul within, but Judith patiently listened and offered simple suggestions to handle confusing situations that I had to go through. She explored many roads as she followed her heart to seek the truth, the creator. Her love, her patience, her talent, her softness... these were blessings we all had as we lived in the presence of a real angelic being. But she was also very human.
Judith, I miss you. Please know that you have really been a positive influence in this world. I will strive to bring peace, love and energy to everyone I meet as you did.
But the key point to my sharing all of this is: Don't lose time. Weigh what is important. Think about what you will miss, what you will regret, and really weigh your priorities. I would do anything to go back in time and snatch more all-night sessions with Judith and James and Mom where we'd sit and drink tea, play iching and talk about so many uplifting and mind-stretching topics. Do stretch yourself. Do it now. Stand up and stretch.. now walk over and hug a loved one. Don't wait. Time is passing.
Life is impermanent.
Update, 2011. James has also passed on to join our ancestors. He will always be in our hearts. His work still survives on the internet -- http://www.thebookbeat.com/backroom/2011/04/ chronicles a reading held in his memory in Michigan. He was featured in amazing posters by Gary Grimshaw in the late 60's when he performed with now classic rock artists. He is terribly missed in all our dance events, as he was a regular face in the audience and had excellent feedback on each item afterward. He was a sage, an astrology and iching master, daddy for 2 amazing llasa apso dogs in the 90's and a great father figure.