By Suchismita Pai
As a new year unfolds, it’s time to leave behind the excesses of the holiday season and focus on a newer, healthier beginning. Pune resident Uma Badve is not your regular young and restless twenty-something, who follows the ‘work hard, party harder’ mantra with a vengeance. Quitting a high profile job in Delhi and moving back to Pune was just the first step she took last year to gain greater control of her life. This year, it’s going to be a slower pace of work and greater attention to health for the committed professional.
Vipassana, an ancient technique of meditation practiced in Buddhism, is high on her wellness agenda. She says with a smile and a touch of philosophy, “I’ve discovered that Vipassana is the best way to learn how to act instead of reacting.” Her mind sorted, Badve has an ambitious fitness goal as well. The youngster wants to shed some of the extra kilos that have been weighing her down for some time now and has recently discovered a fun way to do it – spinning, a relatively new group workout introduced in health clubs and studios across town, involves putting in a few fun hours on the exercise bike every week, in the company of racy music, psychedelic lights and, yes, other eager fitness enthusiasts.
On the work front, Badve has decided to adopt a stress free approach. Having given up a high pressure job she is now happy to be part of a start-up that designs and implements sports and fitness curriculum in local schools. “Slowing down and savouring all that is around is my mantra for this year,” she states.
Wellness is set to take on a whole new meaning for 39-year-old Ashish Nene as well. Though badminton, cycling and regular Thai massages have always been part of his physical fitness routine, now this young man, soon to be a father, plans to explore his spiritual side by joining a Viapssana course. “Ours is a spiritual family. As a young boy I had asked my mother what the purpose of our life was. I believe Vipassana will take me a step closer to the right answer. I want to do this before the baby comes along,” he reveals.
Of course, not everyone is looking to sort out their “inner engineering” – to borrow the phrase from well-know spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev. There are some for whom a good massage is the straight route to attaining a Nirvana-like state of mind. And there’s no denying the added health benefit it brings.
The newest therapy in town is the ‘car commuter special’ massage package available at well known facilities like the Four Fountains Spa. Specially created for today’s fast track life, where people spend a great deal of their time in cars, this package pays singular attention to the neck, back and other areas of the body that get stressed from driving. “It is sheer bliss,” sighs Pune girl Anokhi Seth, adding, “This is a definite part of my new year things to follow. I plan to make it a regular part of my wellness routine. It is a god sent answer to commuter fatigue.”
There are many like Seth who have already booked appointments for their favourite therapies at their nearest wellness centre. Reveals Anita Rao, proprietor of Nagarjuna Ayurvedic Treatment Centre, “January is one of the busiest months for us. During the New Year rush we get a number of overseas visitors clients as well. I feel winter is anyway the perfect time to pamper one’s body even with something as basic, yet soothing, as an oil massage.”
Facials and body massages are in great demand during the New Year even at Chash of India, a premier salon and spa, which provides high quality Ayurveda treatments. Reveals Chashmum Khan, the owner, who adapts her family’s ancient beauty and wellness secrets deep-rooted in the hakim and Unani herbal traditions, in her state-of-the-art spa/wellness centre, “Body steam scrubs are very popular at our spa. They are a great way to detoxify the system – whether or not you have partied hard.”
Dipali W.’s idea of well-being is having the confidence to stand up to the minute scrutiny of the people around her. “When I look my best, I feel great,” says this fifty plus woman. But putting her best face forward means undergoing some cosmetic procedures – they could be anything from microdermabrasion facials and derma rollers for stimulating cell renewal to Botox fillers.
She discovered these procedures six years ago when she first visited Dr Bipin Deshpande, a cosmetologist, for a rather alarming patch of pigmentation on her face. “Wellness comes from within and if you are depressed about how you look, you cannot be a 100 per cent healthy,” says Dr Deshpande, who runs a successful practice. These ‘lunch time procedures’, as they are called, require no hospital time and they are topping the popularity charts, even with people in their thirties breezing in and out of the numerous clinics that have mushroomed. Soon Dipali will be ready to face the world with yet another newly administered treatment to her face.
For all those people who are looking to kick start their year with the help of “skin deep” treatments or intense spiritual therapy, there are an equal number who wants to gain by developing better life skills. Art of Living Foundation’s ART Excel course for children between 8 and 13 years promises to help them realise their natural potential and the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!), a dynamic and fun programme that challenges teenagers to take responsibility for their lives, are among the popular courses this season.
Inner strength or external gloss; relaxation or life altering activities, every year brings with it the promise of a fresh start and the hope that the best is yet to be. And good health can only mean good times ahead!
(Women’s Feature Service)
Sarabhai and Sombart make dance and music together
If music be the food of love play on, or so wrote Shakespeare all those years ago. For Swiss pianist Elizabeth Sombart, it is love that makes her play her music – a love for all the “assassinated” women of the world, whose memory she wants to honour with her work. As she plays she asks her listeners to “come light a star in the memory of a woman or girl you know who was killed. Give her name and we shall together build a celestial memorial for her”.
Sombart is as good as her word. A humanist project she founded in 2010, Women with Broken Wings, has set up a website meant as a celestial memorial for ‘assassinated’ women – with a star to commemorate each one of them. Says Sombart who was in India, “There are so many war memorials the world over. All of them are for men. There’s no space to commemorate the billions of women whose lives are snuffed out, who are raped or are victims of other kinds of gender violence. Our memorial joins them together to raise global consciousness about crimes against women. It is to give love to women who have been pushed into oblivion, whose wings are broken. With this simple action, we shall help remember and make change.” Incidentally, to visit this celestial memorial, you can go to www.womenwithbrokenwings.org.
Many are the stories that Sombart can relate of women with broken wings. She remembered, for instance, a Lebanese teenager, who in a discussion about this website, which took place four years earlier in rural Lebanon, was very elated at the thought that she would be remembered after she had died. Ironically, a month later, she became a victim of honour killing by her brother.
Today, as India remains incensed over the gang rape of a young student on a Delhi bus, Sombart’s collaborative ballet with renowned Indian danseuse, Mallika Sarabhai, director of the Ahmedabad-based Darpana Dance Academy, has taken on a new resonance. Entitled Women With Broken Wings – which premiered on December 30 at Ahmedabad – the ballet dwelt upon the unspeakable pain of all women with broken wings. The work had premiered at the Zermatt Summit in Switzerland in June last year.
Says Sarabhai, talking about this collaboration, “My work during the past three decades has convinced me that there can be no leveler better than cultural programmes. People refuse to listen to serious talk. It is high time violence on women was stopped.”
Women With Broken Wings portrays 11 states of mind of the assaulted woman, which are performed by Sarabhai, while Sombart’s renders pieces from the true greats of western classical music, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin and Bela Bartok, in the background. The 11 phases depicted are birth; discovery and exploration; the inner and outer worlds; unknown fears and self-discovery; betrayal and breakdown; lament; fleeing and failing; the soul’s cry; the march of the martyrs; consolation and, finally, the way forward. As Sarabhai danced each phase in sync with Sombert’s piano, the impact was heart rending.
Choreographed by Yadavan Chandran and Mallika Sarabhai, the work had the audience sitting in the open air theatre of Natrani, in Ahmedabad, on a moonlit night, empathising with women all over the world who have suffered grievous violence. One vignette, of Sarabhai going through the motions of a child playing hopscotch, reminiscent of carefree girlhood, was particularly poignant.
Sombart’s rendering of Beethoven’s Sonata number 17 op.31 number 2 , The tempest, was the perfect selection for the section Unknown Fears and Self Discovery. Her interpretation of Chopin for both Betrayal and Breakdown and Lament, was truly extraordinary. The March of the Martyrs section was followed by silence as a mark of respect to them. The performance ended on a positive note. The last section – The Way Forward – had an air of hope about it.
At a time when renowned playwright and actor Eve Ensler’s international campaign against violence, One Billion Rising (OBR), was unfolding, ‘Women With Broken Wings’ found the perfect niche. As Sarabhai put it, “Our common interest got us to collaborate and participate in the OBR campaign.” In fact, Sarabhai is now planning to have 20,000 people, including children, dance the garba together to mark the final day of rising for the OBR campaign, slated for February 14, which is also Valentine’s Day – the international day of love.
Said Sarabhai, “Since the OBR call is to dance against violence, garba is the most relevant in Gujarat, and artists will compose songs for us. Every woman here dances it during the nine nights of Navratri. Gujarat is a State where hundreds of rapes take place, where innumerable women are burnt because of dowry, and where violence on women is rapidly increasing. This is also a state where lots of villages are without girls because of sex selective abortions being rampant. We need to end this genocide and gendercide urgently, and we are using our abilities and art to do this.”
Women with Broken Wings was staged in Delhi on January 7, along with Ensler’s dramatic, dynamic rendering of vignettes from her play, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, at a special event hosted by Sangat, which is coordinating OBR’s South Asia campaign. After Delhi, the ballet travelled to Chandigarh (Punjab) and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala).
This ballet would not have happened if Sarabhai had not met Sombart’s husband, Christopher, at a conference, where they had discussed their common concern over violence on women. Today, Sombart is delighted with the partnership and emphasised that there is no place for ego in music. She said, “I was born in sound and have internalised it. I dedicate every note to each woman who has suffered violence, and there are at least 100,000 notes in a ballet like this. So I believe I am honouring 100,000 women each time I play it.”
(Women’s Feature Service)