Friday, September 25, 2009


Two nights ago I was invited to see a dancer perform a traditional temple dance done by women. This dance form is called nangiar kootu. Kapila Venu, the dancer has the most amazing muscle control over those tiny muscles that mostly we don't even notice. She has great ability for stillness. Thanks to Archana Ramaswamy for inviting me - and the great bike ride through Chennai!

Putna dp289

the world can be lost or made in the blinking of an eye
so Kapila Venu tells us in her nangiar koothu a dance
of moments of moments between moments
in the lift of an eyebrow disaster brews
her hand moves each move telling a story
there are more stories in between
a Russian doll of gestures
Putna’s tale is not a pretty one
she’s been asked to kill every boy in the land
by King Kamsa in an echo of that other king
never the maternal type Putna
goes about her task until
until she comes upon Krsna
that playful god who in his baby form
strings her along
nearby a cow suckles her calf
and Putna contemplates the unthinkable
to feed this child instead of killing him
fear fills her fear of King Kamsa
not known for feelings of generosity
more likely to lop her head if she does this
she pauses she watches the cow
indecision wracks her
you can see it in the twinging muscles of her face
each one separated out
her eyes moving from compassion to fear
fear to overwhelming love
she has the audience mesmerised
still and listening to the muscles move
will she won’t she will love win or hatred
poor Putna gives her hand to love
there’s a moment of complete exhilaration
but women in epic and in opera die young
Putna for all her consuming hatred
is killed in her moment of love
by a baby
her milk her life sucked from her by Krsna
her end agonising
Krsna meantime grows up to play with his brother

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