|The Mystery Machine|
We began the morning with an early start and the 12 of us piled into the "Mystery Machine" as I like to call it. The name has yet to catch on, but I persevere to the annoyance of some.
We set off through the streets of Chennai (we have mostly acclimated ourselves to the unique driving practices) and in a half an hour arrived in a place so quiet, so green, so unlike the hustle and flow of the city that it seemed as if we were on another planet. We found ourselves within an artist's compound known as the Kalakshetra Foundation.
Kalakshetra, literally translated means "A Holy place of the Arts", and that it was.
From www.kalakshetra.in. "A vital centre of training and performance, the institution has produced and molded generations of acclaimed artists in a distinctive style. Since its establishment in the early 20th century, Kalakshetra has had stalwart musicians and dancers on its faculty. It provides a holistic education in arts amidst a serene and inspiring natural environment cultivating a spirit of reverence. The faculty comprises of many experts who have studied here and cherish the ideals of this institution. Some of India's most revered artistes are among its alumni."
We sat quietly in the back as about 200 young men and women from all races filed onto the reed mats wearing traditional kurtas and salwars and took their places beneath a sacred, sprawling, century old banyan tree. A rag and tal began their hum and the students sang softly and in unison Kalakshetra's morning prayer. The gentle song poured from every student and the quiet amplified the beauty of the place. The devotion of every student to his or her work was utterly apparent and inspiring.
Kalekshetra focuses not only on dance, but on the visual arts as well, teaching both traditional Indian styles and modern computerized techniques as well. We found ourselves lost in the place and the impression it left on us was one of absolute balance.
If you find that one such GSE team member should not return, rest assured he has enrolled at Kalekshetra to re-discover the long since shadowed roots of his art.