For the daughter of classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai (and space scientist Vikram Sarabhai), one would assume Mallika was born to dance. An acclaimed dancer in her own right today, she never aspired to be one. She went to IIM, but remembers waking up one morning and realising: “All I want is to dance.” ‘In Free Fall’, however, is not a story about her dance, it is a story about her experiments with living — experiments worth telling, dance being an integral part.
A plump child, Mallika was the youngest in an extended family of 10 cousins. Teased “mercilessly” about what she ate, when she ate and what she ate it with, she was okay with how she looked. But puberty did something to her. Suddenly, she didn’t want to be plump. Thus began her journey of exploration of her body. The book is a summary of her long and arduous passage to realisation of her own self, trying out umpteen diets and finally getting to know what worked for her.
Today, she says her body is treating her with respect and she is treating her body as her friend. But this balance was achieved after 30 years of subjecting herself to regimens one could well call torturous. She began with controlling calories and graduated to Atkins diet. Next was diet replacement food that made her retch, macrobiotic diet (brown rice for breakfast, lunch, dinner), binging and then puking it to vent guilt (a condition now known as bulimia)... Looking back, Mallika realises she wanted to be thin even at a time when she was thin!
Dance, coupled with yoga, has been a constant in her life, along with homeopathy, mud therapy, chromotherapy, non-violent communication, etc — topics she elaborates upon as experienced by her from time to time. All this while, however, there were physical ailments to battle — a tumour that wasn’t, hepatitis during her first pregnancy (this was also a time when she had landed the biggest role of her life: Draupadi in Peter Brook’s ‘The Mahabharata’) and recently chikungunya that left her in extreme pain for more than a year.
Grief went together with illness. Her mother passed away, son left to live with his father and daughter severed all ties. Still, she coped — sometimes on her own, sometimes with help from others. One may or may not agree with all that Mallika experimented with, but one could read and glean own lessons from the memoir that seems like an honest retelling of a tough life.
All about health and fitness, the book is also a peek into the Sarabhais, once known as the first family of Ahmedabad, their commitment to science, arts and the freedom struggle of India. A more elaborate account would be welcome, anytime.
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