REMEMBERED

ALAKA RAY, LONDON, U.K. Teaching is finding what one loves and then doing it. The venue of teaching is also a place of high drama- and the teacher does not always know what to expect, what he has delivered to the hundreds that come and go or has failed or denied them. A sensitive teacher can also tell if he has reached his pupils or alienated them. It is all psychology. It is chemistry.

It is animal instinct. I was summing up my thoughts that came to my mind about “teaching” as a profession and the Teacher” as a professional when I, suddenly, realised that my thoughts had developed while I recalled my long association with someone who had arrived coincidentally in my life both as a teacher and a spiritual mentor and a genuine well wisher.

My mind had focused on such a person- the late Shri Dayanidhi Das. I am recalling him from my memories of decades ago! My descriptions of people and the places, events and venues would, therefore, be floating about but they will be centering around this one person- the late Shri Das.

They will be somewhat anecdotal too. I was a pupil in the lower Primary standard at the Utkal Vidyapith of Kharagpur- the only Oriya School in west Bengal at that time. As a child I had always been attracted to the various forms of ‘performing arts’ viz. Dance, drama and the depiction of mythological stories that I used to experience while watching the ‘yatras’ which, invariably, used to transport me to an indescribable region as if in a trance and on returning home, and still remaining under their influence for days afterwards, I used to perform my ‘role’ imitating the movements of my ‘characters’ and expressing myself through dancing in front of a large mirror! It was during one such private sessions of my own where the mirror had played the vital role￾conducted by some invisible director.

it had become my guide, my critic and my audience, all in one. I had remained totally absorbed; performing, repeating, approving or disapproving, repeating once more until satisfied and then, at last achieving what I wanted to do. I was too oblivious, on that occasion, of the fact that I was being watched from a distance by Dayanidhi “Sir” who, in the meanwhile, had become a close friend of my father and even stayed in our house as a temporary lodger! ‘Sir’ expressed his desire that he would like to train me as a ‘pupil’ and would like to take me through a whole array of dance styles ranging from Kathak, Odissi and Manipuri because he wasconvinced that he had espied someone with a huge potential!

That was sheer instinct of a ‘gifted’ teacher! Dayanidhi Das had arrived at the Utkal Vidyapith- the only Oriya School in West Bengal at that time. As he settled in, it became abundantly clear that he was a multi-talented teacher with a deep sense of dedication and sympathy for his students and one who could teach from his heart. Although he was teaching in the Senior School and was handling the General Subjects viz. Geography, Oriya and at times extending to English;

his presence was perceptible through his participation in a range of extra-curricular activities by his unrivalled proficiency in ‘Dance’. Such was the impact of his teaching that the Vidyapith flourished beyond all expectations and its name began to appear at various venues in Bengal and Orissa hosting cultural events, Competitions and winning Trophies! Although I was amongst the youngest in his Group I had, by then, become his chosen one! My fulfilment and joy knew no bounds and its effects

permeated through to my other studies which progressed alongside unhindered. I had, in fact, begun to realise that therapeutic aspect of ‘dancing’- its discipline that benefits the mental frame of a student and aids to enhance concentration, almost like ‘meditation’. So, I progressed through the school quite normally and my preparation for the exams.

remained undisturbed. ‘Sir’ had taught me the ways to organise my ‘time’ between home and school and to find a balance between the academic and the extra-curricular activities. I enjoyed both on experiencing how the ‘one’ complimented the ‘other’! What an inspiring teacher Dayanidhi ‘Sir’ was! He was a severe critic who could also strike a soft chord while dealing with his pupils. Later, he had also taught at the Secondary Board School, Cuttack and as always contributed significantly to the extra-curricular pursuits especially ‘dance’ alongside teaching the General Subjects as earlier mentioned. By that time I had begun travelling with him to the distant venues of Orissa and Bengal wherever he had entered his ‘troupe’ for competitions. While travelling, I had learnt about the trauma and the frustrations that some parents suffer whenever their children failed to achieve their own high expectations of their wards; and so incensed they would become that they took it out on their children in the most insensitive and undignified manner without realising the harm that such behaviour might cause. I have also seen how blessed they feel when they are warmly received and congratulated by their parents who are prepared to celebrate any little achievement, may be simply through taking part in such big competitions! This was all possible due to the foresight of a progressive teacher.Finally, I recall an occasion, on a very large venue at the Annual Function of the Radhanath Training College. I was a student of Class V of the practising Girls’ School of the same institution where ‘Sir’ had also studied. There, I had the most overwhelming experience of performing on a very large stage in front of what seemed to me to be a ‘sea of people’ with the dignitaries of the State seated in the front row and other guests. I was probably one of the smallest of the performers and must have looked even smaller while doing a ‘Solo’! It was a performance of a ‘Kathak’ dance and being accompanied by ‘Sir’ on the ‘drum’ .

He was an accomplished exponent of ‘Tabala’ and ‘Mrudangam’ and accompanied my dances. I have already mentioned how multi-talented he was and during his accompaniment one could see him at his best! The infusion of energy while he played displayed a sense of spirituality which culminated through the duration of the performance. The sound of the accolade that burst forth at the end of that number still reverberates in my heart when I am able to recall that magical moment after all these years. I can remember how I was picked up with warm affection by the head teacher of our School! Since then, the years have rolled by and much water has flowed under the bridge. My own life has progressed through trying circumstances in a distant land coupled with the bareness of such cultural pursuits that used to sustain me while in India. And although my dreams of furthering my own achievements have withered without any urging, encouragement or scope, my thoughts remain warm and full of gratitude towards the person who had come in my life in the formative years and made it richer in many ways.

So, in conclusion I say; Dayanidhi ‘Sir’ “Remembrance oft may pursue thee” A TRIBUTE TO GURUJI Mrs. Rajalaxmi Ratha Mrs. Subhalaxmi Misra Our dance school “Nrityana” in Cuttack in the small lane opposite Kanika Rajbati was for us no less that “God’s own abode”. The reverence with which we held our teacher, Guru Dayanidhi Das, was rather common those days but the love and affection showered on us, the young dancers by Guruma and their family of smaller children, than overwhelming. We actually were in awe of the whole family. Most of us came from good backgrounds with bigh houses, cars, servants etc. But our Guru’s little rented house never appeared small to us. It was our temple. Our slippers were always kept neatly outside the verandah so that our Guru would never step on it by mistake. What respect our Guru commanded ! Wednesdays and Saturdays were days where the new little dancers got together.

The everning moment school got over we were back home promptly, had a quick wash, grabbed a bite and waited on the verandah for the private rickshaw from our dance school. We never forgot our dance school. We never forgot our dance notebook and the ‘ghungroo’. After dance school got over we coaxed the rickshaw puller to drop us last as we had lovely time dropping off other friends who were staying a little far away. Readers can now understand why Guruji and his dance school was so special for us. The rickety gate which let us in after the rickshaw put us down, creaked and opened only sixty degrees to let us in.

Our demeanor changed the moment we entered this gate. All the laughter, loud talk on the way to the dance school came to an abrupt halt and we changed into responsible and dedicated students, it is difficult to put into words, the exact change and the great feeling. Our Guru was a slim, tall man of brownish complexion, but had a commanding personality. We took to learning dance with great dedication and each one of the six friends travelling in the private rickshaw became good dancers.

Only the younger one of us was slow in picking up the steps as her ‘two left’ feet prevented her from reaching the same standard. But the softness with which Guruji dealt with the problem still remains etched in our minds. His patient and understanding nature improved matters and the result was quite a few shows in school andelsewhere. The traditional setting at home did not allow us to pursue dance as a career and few of us regret it till data.

The care that Guruji took to instill in us the perfection in ‘taal’ and posture would have made quite a handful of us dancers of repute. The small stick in his hands, which helped him in the beats of the dance, never landed on anyone’s leg, even when anybody committed a mistake. It would beat harder in quick succession on the floor and we immediately understood our mistake. The dedication of both ‘Guru’ and ‘Sishya’ was unmatched. Once his daughter,

a baby was very unwell with high temperature. We students landed up on a wednesday evening as usual. There was silence on the verandah and some were murmuring that classes will not be held. At the dot of six o’clock, Guruji emerged and took our classess with the same care and attention. What dedication Guruji had towards his passion of dancing. Saraswati Puja in the months of January-February was celebrated with great pomp and show. We landed up early in our new dresses and ribbons and helped in decorating the deity and the small pandal. Flowers, paper flags, mango leaves, coloured rangoli, ‘Chitta’ in rice paste, made ‘Maa Saraswati’ look respledent. The ‘aarti’ was done by the local pandit and our Guruji sat on a small rug near the idol of the Goddess, offering flowers to the chanting of the mantras and slokas by the pundit. After the worship and ‘pushpanjali’ came the assembling for the ‘prasad’. It was indeed deliciously made with love and affection by our Guruma. The tastes of it is still remembered by all of us. These were some of the memories with which we lived and grew up, until the day we got a call from Bijayaxmi, Guruji’s daughter who has assiduously tried to keep the memories of her great father (our Guruji) to us. We were caught up with our family commitments and time flew by. He is no more amongst us today, is something hard to believe. Life and death are the truths that cannot be escaped. He may be gone from this world but still lives large in our hearts forever