Thursday, October 19, 2017

the cheerleader

i'm really tired of being a cheerleader, i want to be cheered for.
i'm tired of sitting in the sidelines, i want to be on the field.
i'm tired of being the wet shoulder, i can't even remember the last time i cried.

i'm tired of doing the right thing all the time when all i see is complete disregard for anyone apart from themselves.
i'm tired of saying no, because i have to care for the children, because my husband is away for work, because i don't have my mother in the same country, because i want to watch my children grow up and hold them in my arms till they get too big for them.
i'm tired of being the bigger person, the nicer person, the person keeping my mouth shut.

i want to scream, yell, throw plates against a brick wall and write letters emails, many many emails to all that have caused me grief.
i want to tell you that you are incredibly selfish
i want to tell you that you really hurt me
i want to tell you that you hurt people too
i want to tell you that if it happens so many times, look in the mirror

look inside
no, really, take a look
tell me, what do you see?

people say i'm lucky
people say that i have it all
people wish they have my life
do you really?

would you give up all of your friday nights?
would you stay up every night for 7 years making sure there is dinner on the table?
would you, could you love someone more than you love yourself?

i've had to compromise too
i now sit in the sidelines
i now cheer for those on the field
i do so with a bitter taste in my mouth

jealousy is a bad feeling
it slowly eats away at your insides
till you're nothing

but no, i need to be the bigger person
i need to grow up
i need to be the grown up
i am the grown up

i have grown up
and i feel like i have done absolutely nothing
and it's killing me

i'm really tired of being a cheerleader, i want to be cheered for.
i'm tired of sitting in the sidelines, i want to be on the field.
i'm tired of being the wet shoulder, i can't even remember the last time i cried.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


swallow your tongue they say. don’t offend him. be the bigger person. no one needs to know.

bite your tongue they say. don’t be petty. take the high road. no one needs to know.

watch your mouth they say. is that a threat? what if I don’t? will you slap me in the face? 

lower your voice they say. don’t yell. the children are sleeping. they shouldn’t hear this.

don’t cry. smile. they can’t know your hurting. smile. everything is great. no one needs to know.

ignore them they say. look past them. look through them. 

the less you say the better, they say. people don’t need to hear about your problems. it’s not always about you.

So tell me this. where does all the hurt go? where do I stuff the pain? how many times do I pave my broken heart before the entire thing just gives in?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

the dance that flows through my veins

twenty four years ago i watched my first odissi performance and before anything else i remember being completely transfixed by the sounds. it always starts the same, three strums of the sitar, followed by the super sexy mellifluous flute and then the mardal, the special odissi drum beat, and if you listen closely you start to hear faint anklebells in the distance, getting louder because the dancer is approaching and then she appears but you only see her back, her silhouette because the light is still low. pure magic, goosebumps, i sit there and hold my breath.

twenty four years on and odissi still does that to me.

after the intoxicating music comes the movement. the tribhangi, the isolation of the rib cage, the slow, sticky movement as if stuck in molasses, every movement sort of flows into the next and you can't really pin point when one movement starts or ends. from the very first performance i watched i remember going home and trying to replicate what i saw. from the jarra, to the distinctive odissi walk, the slow half circle pivot during mangala caranam. i tried it all, i couldn't wait to attend odissi classes every week. i'd go home and practice everything, while buttering toast, stirring milo into boiled milk and even en route to the bathroom. i was always moving, practicing, i could not stop. i could not get enough.

the next thing i needed to work on was my abhinaya (facial expression) but i did not understand the literature so my mother looked for the classics for children, the ramayana, the mahabharata and the bhagavad gita. i looked for books while i was in india too. translated versions of the gita govinda, books on lord shiva, lord vishnu and the terrific goddesses. i was always asked to express more, give more, 'more jan, we need more' and i never really understood what they meant. what did you want from me? how do i move my face? my eyebrows? how? it didn't help that i was a shy, self conscious 8 year old chinese girl in a predominantly indian classroom.

i do remember when it all seemed to fall into place. i was 13 years old and was given an opportunity to dance a solo during a series called 'from alarippu to moksha'. i can't even begin to describe how nervous and stressed i was. i have always had a problem with stamina, i literally feel like i am about to faint by the end of a full dance margam. my legs get wobbly, and i feel very short of breath. nothing has really changed though, i still feel like that when i dance but i force myself to power through and make sure that i am well rehearsed. i found out while i was in my late teens that i actually carry the thalassemia trait, which is a hereditary blood disorder that forms abnormal haemoglobin cells, which leads to anemia. hence the fainting feeling, oxygen isn't flowing through my body fast enough. but it never stopped me. it just makes me highly nervous because i am afraid i won't have enough energy to complete a show.

sorry. i digress. so yes, back to the nerves. it was terrible! i had a fever and needed some reiki done because i was very very stressed out. but the moment my foot stepped onto the lit stage, everything melted away and for the first time i felt like i had come home. i had returned to something that i had done many lifetimes ago and i loved every second of it. my first taste of the spotlight. many years later, someone mentioned to me that the stage was in fact a playground for me. hallowed ground upon which i grew up.

usually people are so shocked when i tell them that i am 32 years old. having started at such a young age, people just feel that i have been around for much longer than that. i used to hate attending shows as part of the audience because i would always get asked, 'are you still dancing?' or 'when are you dancing next?' harmless questions but it always made me feel like a failure. i was always told that the dance leaves you before you even decide to stop dancing so during the period where dance was not a part of my life i felt afraid that the dance had indeed left me and that my best years were behind me. i felt afraid that i would never get the opportunity to dance again. i felt empty. i felt like i did not know who i was. was i only somebody because of dance?

crap...i digressed again! came to me when i let go of my inhibitions. i stopped feeling self-conscious and i tried to tell a story with my heart. i watched my seniors before me. mum brought me to every single performance she read about, all types of genres and i tried to understand why some performers stood out from the others. why were my eyes drawn to her? why did i look out for the same performer again and again? after years of watching and learning and studying and analysing and overanalysing i started applying certain traits to my dance, worked on my strengths and tried to hone my craft and make it my own.

i performed a lot. i went on dance tours, attended dance festivals, taught classes, worked in the administrative department, organised the dance tours, organised dance festivals and literally lived, breathed and slept dance. it was my life. i was only 24 when i reached my 'peak' or so i thought, which i why i was probably so depressed because i thought, 'is this it?' is this where it all ends?

i had no idea what i wanted to do with my life. i did a general degree in mass communication. dance was a part of me since the age of 5. i juggled dance throughout my entire academic life. if i had free time chances were i was dancing. i missed out on most family vacations, weddings, birthday parties, i didn't really hang out with friends, go to malls, watch movies. so what identity was i left with when i left my dance company? what experience did i have as a dancer? i hardly collaborated with anyone, i never had to look for dance opportunites, i never attended an audition, i never participated in a dance competition and to be honest, i was never really guided in any particular direction. i was sitting in a salt water aquarium and once out in the ocean had no idea how to swim.

i spent 6 life changing months in seoul in a dance residency but i came back to malaysia and was officially unemployed and lost. i joined a pr firm and soon met the person who would become husband and father to my children. got married at 26 had babies at 28 and really still didn't know who i was or what i wanted to do with my life. i dove straight into motherhood and after a year got off my ass and started dancing again. my body took a long time before i could dance with the ease that i once had. time, pregnancy and a c-section had changed my body and it was frustrating to feel heavy. it took effort to lift my legs, articulate my feet. 'oh fuck, had i lost it?'

not confident enough to perform full-on odissi technique i stuck to abhinaya and tried to use my time away from dance to add on layers and texture to the art of expression. i picked the final song of jayadev's gita govinda, kuruyadunandan. love has always been a difficult emotion to express mainly because it is so intricate and refined. love in separation was always fun to portray because it is mixed with compassion, sadness, heartbreak, anger but love, pure unadulterated love, is the hardest one, which was why i took it upon myself to commission this piece.

two years after i had spent time dabbling in performances here and there, small short ones but performances nonetheless i felt amazing. i felt like i was growing, evolving as an artist and that i hadn't lost my muse. she was there all along and just needed to be coaxed back. however, i soon found out in early 2016 that i was pregnant with my third child. 'ugh, just when i thought that i could kick into full gear,' i thought to myself but i was blessed with an opportunity to dance while pregnant and those 4 nights on stage will forever stay with me. all those years of soul searching came to an end during 'bloom'.

it has been a long struggle of coming to terms with who i am and who i want to be but i am so so glad that i stuck it through and not only saw the end of the tunnel but have finally come out on the other side and it is so beautiful here. i pray that i can continue doing what i am doing and appease my inner muse for i know now that odissi is not just part of who i used to be, it flows through me and it will never, ever leave me.