Dancing through troubles

The state of India's finest danseuse, 80-year-old Tara Balagopal, is appalling. She speaks to DC about living in utter poverty.

By :  sanjay kaw
Update: 2016-09-11 18:36 GMT
Tara Balagopal

Presidents S.  Radhakrishnan and R. Venkata Raman, and PMs Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi have honoured her. In fact, Mrs Gandhi and eminent writer Nayantara Sehgal used to be her close friends. She was also a favourite of the Nehru-Gandhi family, especially Pt. Nehru and Vijaya Laxmi.

Lord Mountbatten called her ‘tulip’ and she used to have charkha-weaving competitions  with Mahatma Gandhi. In 1962, a postage stamp was dedicated to her.

Today, Tara Balagopal, India’s renowned danseuse and her situation is a stark reality of how the government treats its legends. At 80, living alone in her single-storey house in Delhi, the Kathak, Kathakali and Bharatanatyam dancer, is battling for her rights.

Through an online chat with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, she was promised monthly financial assistance. “All I have got so far is Rs 6,500,” she says. Back in the days, Tara was a Reader in English at Delhi’s Rajdhani College. She claims that the college authorities owe her Rs 3 crore in arrears. “Although I have lost the case in court, I haven’t lost hope to get back my money. I will now take my fight to the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” says Balagopal who was the first Indian teacher to broadcast undergraduate courses on the All India Radio in early 1960s.

“Some people on my behalf have filed an online petition with President Pranab Mukherjee. Some send me food and other items, but I have my arrears pending. I do not want to live at the mercy of anyone.”

Tara lost her CA husband three-and-a-half years ago and her father passed away a few years back. When asked about her children, she points towards the veena and sitar, covered with a piece of cloth. “These are my children. Dance is the hidden language of soul,” she says.

Now, a TV set in her bedroom keeps her company but she has a problem with all the channels. “They telecast programmes on classical music and dance only at midnight, when I am fast asleep,” says the veteran.


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