Love from Tokyo
Masako Ono — Photo by Manas Das
"I just have to apply an extra layer of eyeliner to make my eyes look big enough for me to appear on stage for an Odissi performance," Masako Ono says with a smile. The moment this Japanese girl, an exponent of Odissi, glides into dance mode, you tend to forget that she is not Indian.
In an interview before her programme in Chandigarh Masako narrated how she made a mess of her make-up for an Odissi show in Tokyo. But she laughs that thankfully not many got to know of the lapse in the land foreign to this art form.
What made her realise that she had a yen for Odissi? "Well, I was interested in dancing from childhood," she smiles, looking every inch a Japani gudiya. Masako started dancing at the age of five under Masako Yokoi, the only Japanese modern dance graduate from the Martha Graham Dance School, USA. She additionally trained in western classical ballet as well as jazz and hip hop in Tokyo.
"And one day I happened to watch a video film of Odissi maestro Kelucharan Mohapatra. The elegant and refined movements of the master had me spellbound and hooked to the dance form. I immediately got in touch with the Indian embassy and soon found myself at Nrityagram in 1996."
She at once felt at home in India as she had the advantage of studying Hindi and Urdu at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. "But I find it difficult to communicate with the light -and-sound boys on stage," she confides.
She underwent rigorous training in Protima Bedi’s Nrityagram and even won a scholarship for her studies. She received coaching in Odissi from Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy and attended classes in yoga, kalaripayattu and mayurbhanj chhau. She also honed her skills also under the able guidance of gurus Kelucharan Mohapatra, Ramani Ranjan Jeena, Bichitrananda Swain, Sujata Mohanty, and Mukti Lata Pal in Orissa.
She learnt that the dance she had come to love is a well-established and codified classical dance form of India, a dance of love, delight and intense passion, lyrical, pure, divine and human all rolled into one.
Today, eight years later, Masako has come a long way. With a number of solo performances to her credit, she is these days based in Bhubaneswar and almost feels like an Indian. "I love eating idlis," she informs.
On how she keeps fit, the tall and lissome lass replies, "I make a living by teaching dance and yoga and choreographing. The occupation keeps me fit and also serves as riyaz for me."
Masako has performed and given lecture-demonstrations and workshops in India, Japan, and Sri Lanka.
Masako Ono has choreographed by Louis Banks in shows involving such musical luminaries as Talat Aziz, Ustad Rashid Khan, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
She is happy with the way her career has shaped up in India and the ensuing publicity that it has generated. "After reading reviews of my work on the Internet, my family in Tokyo excitedly called me and congratulated me for having become a star," she laughs.
Being a foreigner in India gives Masako a slight edge and advantage of being noticed and maybe getting attention. But she says that her nritya and abhinaya along with some tantric and fusion steps that she is trying to imbibe into her presentations should help her get foreign assignments. "At that stage, my nationality becomes somewhat of a hindrance. I hope I get an opportunity to perform at international fora before I turn 65," prays the young and svelte performer.
If it's not education and refinement, it must be some stronger substance that took 43-year-old Parveen Kaur to a peak of social achievement and the satisfaction that she had done her bit. Parveen Kaur completed a full five-year term as a Municipal Corporator from Ward No. 34 in Amritsar district. Ward No. 34 is a cluster of some backward areas, mainly inhibited by daily wage owners and other laborers.
During her term as a Municipal Councillor, she has done more than what a woman in her situation can be expected of.
Water supply or sewerage, street lighting or construction of roads, she has taken care of practically every aspect that her ward was wanting in. She feels thankful to God that He enabled her do some "sewa" to His people.
She says she has never taken any single penny in return of any favour, nor did she ever pay any money to get things done.
Even though her tenure ended in 2002, she is still content serving the people of her ward, frequenting courts and police stations in order to ease their lives. Deprived of even elementary education herself in her childhood, today her greatest endeavour is to get the primary school in her area reconstructed. The school is now running in the two-room civil dispensary after its own building collapsed of rains this year. Besides attend to her family, she wants to join school and learn to read and write.