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Friday, September 20, 2013

Oii Gata… Belo dia para Capoeira

It’s what I tell myself every day. Capoeira has been my passion since June 2010. Before that, it was a hazy blip of something exotic I wanted to explore under the category of ‘hobby’ that was to go well with my just new life after a messy break-up. Well break-up in tow. A friend was to come along with me to the 1st demo class but bailed last minute. As much as this sounds mundane, at the time it was HUGE for me to go by myself, enter the class, and watch the demo. “What’s the worst that can happen!?!” is what I convinced myself and meekly crawled into Raheja Classique Clubhouse complex.

The rest is a 3.5yr history. Though not as long as many who have dedicated longer or far more, for me it’s a big deal. I have done the song and dance routine, the whole basketball phase, the acting and prose phase, the stage, the direction, spotlights, narration, story writing. I was a very restless kid with a powerfully imaginative mind that just HAD to be put to use. But nothing gave me back like Capoeira did. Hence the determination and the major milestones that have affected me most with this art form. I was sold from the 1st class: Baba was this handsome man with a non-Indian descent commanding a god-complex like presence; Macaco at the time was a quiet 1 and I assumed (like many others) that he might be from Brazil, and lastly Dancerinha (Arunima) who was my 1st and remains my most treasured friend in CDO. I was convinced of the authenticity of the art form and its practitioners. It was important to me that I wasn’t in any wannabe or copy-cat group and this fit was anything but.

I took to Capoeira naturally – actually, my body did thanks to years of sports, yoga and dance. I basked under the attention of being the quiet beginner who picked up well and used it to motivate myself to come back every class and do better. Up till the 1st 3 months, I was nervous every class I came. I was invariably late, struggling to get out of work early from a job I routinely left at 11pm from the worst possible location – MIDC Andheri E. I felt like I didn’t fit in mostly because of the self + imposed exile of no activities or friends beyond the relationship I was in. But each class I adjusted and found a sense of strength and confidence with the group and the art form. The roda still petrified me at month 4. Anything in a group, in a line, in partner work etc was fine. Roda felt like a spotlight was on me and I had to ‘perform’ to prove a point. Baba’s confidence and friendliness with me made me warm up. I did avoid all social events, parties, house warmings etc just strictly adhering to a class schedule. I look back and wonder now what made me be/do so. Guess I can’t explain what or how I felt way back then.

Batizado 2010 exposed my senses to a whole new world and new possibilities of the just 7 mnth old world I was in. I loved Capoeira and it had become a regular, unmistakable event of my life. It was still NOT my life at this juncture, a significant part though. With each class I learnt its depth and history. Mostly my homework and the rest gathered from class and people and online forums. I found myself relating to the struggles of the slaves. My condition wasn’t as bad as the slaves and the extremity of their ordeal that gave birth to such beautiful expression of pain, subtle rebellion, suppression and all that can be categorized as slavery in its ugliest form. I guess we all are in a race for survival. Each day is. Our ordeals are about work, money, future, trust, friendship, human connections, commitments etc. These things seem to make up the magnitude of our psyche and affect us now more than ever given how ‘beautifully’ we have all evolved. Everyday stresses are turning into killer diseases; hence, they do command some severity in parallel to the African slaves. Every student will tell you 1 thing, “When they enter class and exit post 30mins to an undefined time later, their mind and world seems different.” Me included. I designed myself to always remain busy and physically occupied. Without it I enter a dark place. In doing so I have on occasion burned myself out even if my exhausted body and mind were screaming for a break and I was literally yawning in the midst of an Au (cartwheel).

Today’s class is a much evolved space than the 1 I entered in. There is a beginners, intermediate and advance batch. There are more seniors and many more ‘teachers’ and ‘instructors’. The latter is funny cuz after a week of Capoeira even a beginner begins to see his/her future as a capoeira instructor and starts playing the part ASAP. Before attempting to even complete 500 basic kicks over a chair – a rampant fodder for jokes between the older lot of us. We bask in the stage that we entered this art form, have our own stories and version of stories and games. There is deep history and a lot of dreams and sacrifices that went into building CDO India. Every member forms a pivotal or guest-appearance like role into the building and continuity of the center and the dreams attached to Baba.

My feelings and movement in Capoeira have swayed, waxed and waned over the last »4yrs. There are times when I have a week of complete confidence, where the body and mind have married in perfect harmony and I’ve wowed myself the most (a factor more important to me). There are weeks that seem mundane and regular or at worst – stressed and strained. Workweeks that have mentally drained me to reconsider how the last few hours of the day would I sustain. These are weeks where the body refuses to reconcile with the mind; refuses to consider that there is possibility for a relationship after all. Then there are these surprises where suddenly there is a shutdown often accompanied by an ailment or injury. The mind and body are divorced and refuse to connect even a spark to recreate magic. I guess this is the way to keep the motivation up. There is no one to compete with or prove anything to anyone in Capoeira. Not even yourself. It’s art and expression of the body in its most natural form. The slaves back in the day expressed their culture marinated in a lot of suppressed aggression. They weren’t worried about how their last street roda fared or who did an acrobatic move with more flare and ease than the other. Maybe a little awe and friendly competition but not as under the spotlight as it has come to become now. I guess that’s what our marination is all about – the wow factor.

Salonee (Bombom) and I (Gata) playing chocolate!

I have driven myself over the edge with Capoeira. Because it has given me so much I expect and leech more from it. I got my social projects here. I got my dance and music and found my voice here. I found love, jealousy, hatred, passion, innocence, insecurity and pride here. But most importantly I found the strength to come back to my corner of class everyday of every week of every year despite everything. I travelled and met people; did silly things and stupid things. Never regretted them. I relaxed A LOT. I let go of my mind and body from an uptight moral-brigade and let my indiscretions be just moments I had to have to develop into the woman I am today. I learnt not to take a kick in the face or take down so personally. Unlike many who wow another game to tackle their opponent, I just refused to replay them. This was the naïve younger Capoeirista in me. Now I take down and be taken down and laugh it off. I learnt that my lessons were someone else’s lessons too. The younger Capoeira students especially girls learn from other girls. We wow at the boys but we learn from the girls. We also laugh and snicker students in our lil groups and moments. Not out of spite. More out of the familiarity we witness from our own experiences before. I too thought nothing of many things. It was always a lot from little somethings. Patience and objectivity were keys to being a good instructor. You can’t grow if you are biased by your feelings towards people. Instructors pass on the knowledge of Capoeira; NOT their feelings to students and human beings. Those come through the rodas and lessons. I have yet to master this in its complete form. Impartial objectivity.

1 of the most important lessons I learnt in Capoeira is balance. Balance of mind, body, heart and soul. Balance of inside the class and outside. Balance of Priyankka vs Gata. We get so possessed that we forget there is or was a world out there that we have clearly separated and disconnected and thrown out. All festivals, family gatherings and even dating was sacrificed for class schedule. I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt; just dedication to do my class and leave satisfied. I didn’t think of the people who wanted my time and attention and who I deprived that chance because I was too blinded by my drive to be the best. I forgot I can be the best without hurting myself or burning myself out 7x365x24 hrs. I think back to the times I could’ve done many things but skipped because Capoeira was too important. Here is another balance: Capoeira vs class. What is it that drives you to class? Is the class or is Capoeira? It has been 1 or the other or both for me at various times. You see some classes I just didn’t wanna lift a hand or a leg; but I wanted to see my teacher and my friends and my alternate family and forget the day or the week below the 4th floor of SS Sahney Centre for CDO India. Maybe watch and learn and not focus on how high I could fly or how low I could bend and twist and turn. Those days even Baba is surprised at my mischief or lack of focus. Majority days I am there for Capoeira. I can do a whole class without socializing and still leave content. Many days I HAD to do class. It could be any element but it had to be in the presence of Capoeira. I understand now why many who have watched from a distance or have tasted it and left call it a ‘cult’. It is a cult in many ways. I would be offended thinking these people just wanted to label us. But we capoeiristas we breathe together. That makes us a cult a family.

This year love found me. I say this because I refused to acknowledge it or even accept that I was in love. I thought it was a phase I was going through. But when it hits you it leaves a hue, a scent and a feeling you can’t shake off at will. Like Capoeira did to me. I may not be in class right now. But I do think about it every day. Right now from box seats called disdain and insecurity for Round II. Yes, I do feel insecure. About my injury and my mental and physical ability to get back in the game. But this time I will go back with a new relationship and balance. Abeer. He has taken top spot alongside Capoeira for me and, will in the future, occasionally bump Capoeira and take over like an F1 race going neck to neck. I realize 1st hand the effect of giving enough time and importance to your relationship – not kick it in the face with “accept me as and who I am”. I am guilty of that arrogance. When something or someone loves you back and gives you happiness, you have to balance it with loving the fact that they love you. This time when I go back and resume where I left off, I will put my interests, my time, my body, my health and my love just as high and equal as I did Capoeira. Anything in excess isn’t good. I find that I will excel and move forward when I balance all other elements around me instead of burning and smoking and screeching with Capoeira like an engine with no water in the carburetor.

Mestre Cueca asked the instructors a very important question on our 1st lesson late at night, “What have YOU given back to Capoeira?” I think a healthier happier me is also a way of giving back because that’s where I will fulfill my duties and dreams as a Capoeirista and as a human being. A girl very much in love with too much.