Thought Box



by Aparajita Krishna May 9 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 26 mins, 12 secs

Aparajita Krishna has this power-packed conversation with Neliima Azeem - she calls her ‘a very consummate and individualistic artist-woman.

Neliima Azeem of beautiful physical carriage, danseuse-actor repute, has a familial and professional lineage and grounding that makes her stand-out along with her very well-known actor-sons, Shahid Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter. To add to it all she is a grandmother too!

Amidst her busy workshop-schedule, travels, this very consummate and individualistic artist-woman sent me her voice-messages via WhatsApp. The tenor tinged with little base in Neliima’s voice is captivating.  

I was COVID afflicted when Neliima’s voice reached me. Typing out her narration also worked as a therapy to value-add to my indoor-bound-patient-time.

This article is a mini-biography-gist of what should be a full-fledged biography of Neliima Azeem: child, girl, woman, dancer, actor, guru and mother to two very talented and successful actors: Shahid Kapoor and Ishan Khatter. Her talk has the grace of her performances. It carries wonderful vocal-notations on her dance-passion. There is honesty and dignity in her sharing of relationships, marriage. To quote her self-appraisal at this time in life, ‘Good Job Neliima!’

To first state the obvious, I have been deeply admiring of your professional and personal journey. At this stage how would you summarize and assess your life?

When I look back at my life, I see a very long journey. I had to grow up fast. By 15 I was a popular, much in demand soloist kathak dancer, and an actress on stage. Later so much of respect, admiration, international fame, came my way.

Personally, I have had a rocky journey with lots of pitfalls (laughter). The good thing is that I have had to never give up, always rise and march on. This inherently is a part of my personality. One of the major reasons is, I come from a family of wonderful thinkers, philosophers and achievers with a great set of values. More importantly, it is because I learnt dance from Pandit Birju Maharaj from the mere age of 11. He always taught us that work comes first and one must always immerse oneself so much in one’s art that if there are any unfortunate experiences in our personal life, when we are let down, it is our art that will never let us down. That keeps resonating in my mind. Most importantly, both my sons are not only doing very well as successful actors, but are very respected actors. I admire them for what they have gone through in their journeys with me in life and come through shining like this.  

So, Appy I am in a good place today and very proud of my sons. Shahid is a wonderful human being. I am fortunate that he is my elder son. He takes care of me and of Ishaan. He is clean-hearted, noble, and is marching ahead in his work. A very fine actor and dancer! Dancing genes has come from me. I am overjoyed watch his dance. Recently he danced at the Zee Awards. What a show of 11 minutes he gave! He was so kind when I told him that I was his biggest fan. He is deep, sensitive, poignant. I see poetry in him. Post Farzi (web-series 2023), we are more excited about his wonderful journey as an actor.

Ishaan has brought a lot of joy to our family. He is 15 years younger to Sasha (Shahid Kapoor). I want to give him a lot of love. He has been rock-solid. In his own carefree, unassuming manner he has taken care of me. Ishaan is a dynamic boy, very out of the box. His mind is extremely exploratory. He tells me, ‘Mom I always want to see you happy. Whatever gives you happiness, whether dancing or a person in your life, I just want to now see you living your life full.’ 

Ishaan is just now shooting abroad with this wonderful director Susanne Bier. He is working with actors like Nicole Kidman in Netflix’s The Perfect Couple! Ishaan is very close friends with Meera (my daughter-in-law, Shahid’s wife). Both are a little mischievous, but mazedaar. Shahid and I have these very philosophical conversations about life. My happiness with them has brought so much of enthusiasm in me to work. It took me time to understand that I don’t have to work for money anymore. Now only for satisfaction! I feel like a kid again. And with Shahid’s children there is such joy.

Now my whole focus is on my family: my children Shahid, Ishaan, Meera and my grandchildren. Today I get the feeling of divine gratitude.

I started in theatre at the age of 10 with Mr. Habib Tanveer. Later I did ballets and very interesting experimental and traditional pieces of choreography by my guru Pt. Birju Maharaj. Then I broke out into being a soloist dancer from the mere age of 15. Thereafter I went back to theatre and between age 17-20 I did a lot of theatre as a lead with great stalwarts of stage. I returned to dancing when my first marriage broke. I was very young with a small child (Shahid Kapoor). I did films, television and played the pivotal characters and the second lead.

I came to Bombay thirty-two years ago with Rs 4500/- of my own earning, from a film, Interview, that I had done for CPC Delhi. Thanks to my fortitude and good fortune I never had to go back to Delhi, or, ask for help from anybody. Here I am today in front of you.

Amidst the very rocky personal journey of mine with heart-breaks and break-ups, I would also say that I have been very blessed. I was a very romantic, idealistic, artistic person. I loved films like Guide, Roman Holiday. I loved dance! I was that girl who had her head in the clouds. I must also say that I have no regrets, no apologies for the life I have led. I am happy with myself today. I feel like patting my back and saying ‘Good Job Neliima!’ (laughs).

Let’s begin in the present-future, before we revert to the beginnings and thereafter. What work presently occupies you, or, you are ideating? You are an actor of select films-serials-web-series, a very noted classical dancer and a writer. You are now Guru Neeliima Azeem and your Roots Academy conducts Kathak workshops for beginners, intermediates and advanced. Tell us.

I am back to work after a long sabbatical of almost 18 years. There were long phases where I was not working, but focusing on my personal life. My relationship with my children, their well-being, our togetherness, after having come through all that we did, it mattered. I have some freelance work as an actress. Now I am floating my own work and working on my academy. Also writing some wonderful stuff which we hope to unfold soon.

Dancing for me is not work. When I am dancing, I feel I am on a playground, having fun, flying kites, and taking off into the clouds. Once I performed for an open-air 4-hour show at Sundar Nagar. So vigorous was my dance that the black mark on the tabla came out. Once that happens the tabla can burst. My musicians conveyed that it is about to burst. (laughs). Else I would have danced even more. The audience would cheer me as ‘Pari’, ‘Apsara’.

I have seen a very beautiful dance journey from the interiors of India to huge international shows and to the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow where I had danced along with 500 dancers. I pirouetted and danced across the whole big stage. My left foot swelled up. My brother-in-law had to carry me off from behind the wings. 

There is much to do in my exploration towards excellence. There have been lots of gaps and people wondered why I have not been working. I am very happy to say that whether it is dancing, writing, acting now in films, I am back to work in a multifaceted way. Toh ab tasveer ko tabeer deni hai aur bass ussi pe lage hue hain. (Now I have to give interpretation to my dream). I am very excited.

Your grandchildren, Misha and Zain, must be adoring such a beautiful grandmother indulging them and pirouetting around on delicate kathak moves. Your sons Shahid Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter have made admirable professional space as actors. Shahid is well established. Ishaan has a promising future. Your daughter-in-law Mira Rajput and you seem to share a very special bond. Share with us your sentiments.

Nothing could be better, more golden! I have immense gratitude for all that has come to me. My children have, jal jal ke sone se kundan banne hain, meri tarah.

I was a young mother and Shahid a darling child. People loved him and would pinch his red-cheeks. They would turn redder. He would get irritated. Now the same happens with my grandson. My son was very fair. I would call him ‘My white little rabbit’. He got nick-named Sasha. He is my very dear son. With my younger son Ishaan too, my relationship is beautiful.

It is most important to know how you feel as you tread into your old age. I do not think of it as old age. I am a dancer and have learnt abhinaya from Pt. Birju Maharaj-ji. So, there is a heart, which is very young, hopes are very high and dreams alive.

A brief recall of your parental family and early years informs that your mother Khadija Azeem and father Anwar Azeem were part of the progressive writers’ group and Left politics oriented. You come from a family of writers, poets, journalists who were radical, secular and politically-culturally passionate citizens. You were born in Moscow and lived there till age 4. Your mother was related to K. A. Abbas. Your grand-aunt Zoya Zaidi’s post on Facebook informs that Khadija Azeem was unconventional and a fire-brand, like her sisters. She dropped Pardah on 25th August 1947, freeing herself of all conventional bondages. Like the rest of her family, she opted to stay in India. She was just seventeen. Secular to the core, she and her siblings, Zahida and Shahida, took out a black flag march, in AMU as students, to protest against invitation to GB Pant, clear-cut right-winger, to attend the AMU convocation, as the chief guest. She courted arrest, broke her front tooth in the lathi charge and life-long carried it as a trophy of her ideology. As a journalist she edited the Sputnik magazine for TAAS, (Soviet news agency). She was a translator of Russian to English and Urdu. Your father was in Bombay the editor of Urdu Blitz. You have a brother. Tell us of your background.

I come from the background of great writers, poets, educationalists, philosophers, multifaceted talents. Zoya has been an influence on me from the age of 3. My parents had a great leaning towards the Indian Left. In their last years, they were pretty disappointed. They were liberal thinkers. As was my nana, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas. I have had my own journey. My father would say, ‘Proletariat family mein ek bourgeoise paida ho gayi.’ (laughs). I got my mettle and character from my background.

I was exposed from a very young age to cinema. My brother and I saw the best concerts nationally and internationally. We were introduced to classical music, Russian ballet, greatest violinists, singers, dance, theatre, from age 10 onwards. Then television. Since my father was also a footballer and a champion of carrom-board, I would watch football matches. This kind of exposure has given me a long marathon-run and a baton in my hand.

My father belonged to a very reputed zamindar family of Bodh Gaya. He broke out from that kind of oppressing life and started his independent work at the age of 18. The world knew Mr. Anwar Azeem for his flashing smiles, wit, a very philosophical bent of extremely creative mind. He was a great orator. He educated many through letters, great novels, short stories, plays that he wrote. His earning was as a journalist. In Bombay he was the first editor of the Urdu Blitz along with Mr. B K Karanjia. They formatted this brilliant paper of its times. My mother also worked for it. He was called Fire Azeem in the Progressive Writers league where he would be the youngest. That fire is in my veins and I can proudly say that I am my father’s daughter.

Later in life I learnt a lot from my mother, Khadija Azeem, and from her beautiful, generous sacrifices too. We received her talent, wit and beauty. She was the youngest of 4 sisters. Though glorious to look at, she was very humble. She was very intelligent, progressive, and a great homemaker. She lived with me and had an active hand in bringing up my sons. I unfortunately lost her 3 years ago.

I had an amalgamation of deep Indian and western influences along with many international influences. That was my schooling of a kind. I studied in the wonderful All Saint’s School in Nainital. Here my physical training got highly developed. We had socials, western music, carols and the influence of St Peter’s Church. I became a horse-rider, swimmer, rock climber, sprinter for 800 meters. Like a star my mother had an audience amid the girls waiting to have a glimpse of her.

Later I passed out from Mater Dei Convent in Delhi. As an artist, I started out as a 10-11year old with Habib Tanvir Saheb in his Chhattisgarhi theatre.

My brother Mr. A N Anwer (pet-name Pasha) is one of the finest minds. I have learnt so much about the arts, culture, literature and values from him. He is a very compassionate, loving man. An alumnus of St. Stephen’s College (Delhi) he became a very young English literature lecturer there. He had that ‘To Sir with Love’ encompassing love and admiration. In the children’s film Hamara Ghar he played the main role of a cobbler’s son. Pasha was also a very good-looking boy. My brother is my hero!

I have great memories of my life as a child (age 5-7) in Bombay, of Besant Montessori school and of spending time with my grand-uncle (Nana), Mr. Khwaja Ahmed Abbas. Wo Ammi ke mamu theh. Abbas Saheb, besides being a wonderful literary writer, also wrote great films for Mr. Raj Kapoor and directed socially relevant films. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan was given his break in Saat Hindustani by him. Another influence was Mr. K G Sayed Aian Saheb, secretary to the Ministry of Education. I have memory of Kaifi Saheb, Shaukat Khala (we called her Moti Khala), Baba, Shabana Azmi, who would spend a lot of time with my brother Pasha.

My childhood saw great writers, scriptwriters, literature, films being talked about. My cousins, aunts, were very well-known poetesses in Aligarh University. Aunt Zaheeda Zaidi had a hand in grooming fine names like Muzaffar Ali. She facilitated Naseeruddin Shah’s admission into the National School of Drama. She spoke to Alkazi Saheb, director of NSD, her close friend. He was a great friend of my father’s and very fond of me and my brother.

My cousin Saba Zaidi, a big name as stage-director-actor, did wonderful work for Doordarshan. In her telefilm, Titli, I did a role and gave one of my finest performances. It was based on Chekov’s Grasshopper. It had M K Raina. Rahi Masoom Raza Saheb (Rahi Chacha) used to call me at 11 at night to come over. He would say, ‘Aa jao. Tumhari chahakti awaaz mein main bahut achaha likhta hoon. Tumhare liye maine ye banwaya,’ I would go over. There are wonderful memories of listening to Ali Sardar Jafri recite his poetry, holding my little hand. Ismat Chugtai would call me ‘Hungama Bachchi’. Quratulain Haider (Aini Aapa) loved me. I grew up with the finest writers and poets around.

I moved into dancing and stage at a very early age. I was very passionate about dancing. In fact now, my passion is more, not less.

You learnt Bharat Natyam and Kathak from the age of 4. Was it a natural body-call or your parents initiated you into it?

As a small baby in Moscow, I was roly-poly and could hardly stand-up and walk. Because of this amalgamation of Russian, Urdu, English and other languages, I was slow to talk and made-up a language of my own. Strangely enough there used to be Kathak-bols in it. As an infant I started to react to the sound and movement of Kathak. My parents discovered that. Back in India I started expressing my attraction to dancing and in Bombay learnt a bit of Bharat Natyam and Kathak.

My natural inclination was towards Kathak. I performed at the age of 4 for the first time in Bombay. I was learning from Satyanarainji and his wife. Bharat Natyam is stylized and very set in its form. Kathak, as a flowing style, gives you scope for great exploration and improvisation. It was in the Lucknow culture I was born in. I was much influenced by the Radha-Krishna theme and the Lucknow culture, a huge part of kathak. Krishna’s love for Radha is an ongoing saga of the kind of love we all romanticize. It’s beyond the physical embodiment. Kathak runs in my blood.  

You emerged to be a very fine kathak danseuse under the training of great Pandit Birju Maharaj at Kathak Kendra, Delhi, and Munna Shuklaji. Do summarize your learning from Maharaj-ji. He greatly contributed to Kathak and added dimensions to it. He must have sensed your natural talent. At 14 you featured on a stamp as a kathak girl.

I did my masters in kathak, affiliated to Delhi University, and under Sangeet Natak Academy in Delhi. I also learnt Kathak from Guru Munna Shukla, Srimati Reva Vidyarthi, Pundit Devilalji, at Shrimati Uma Sharmaji’s school. I learnt singing from Ustad Munnawar Ali Khan Saheb. I also learnt for a while from Sidheshwari Devi.

Phir ghont ke jo seekha hai wo Birju Maharaj-ji se. It was a 50-year journey with him. Till his very end I kept learning from Maharaj-ji. Munnaji made me a kathak-soloist-dancer at the age of 15. It got me fame, positioning. Yes, at the age of 14½ I appeared on the stamp. I recall Maharaj-ji doing my make-up for it. I would watch many styles of kathak. I did a 2-minute piece with Anna Pavlova at Kamani. I also danced with the great Spanish dancer Antonio. There used to be a constant exchange of arts with other countries through the ICCR. I performed all over the world.

Birju Maharaj-ji’s contribution is the greatest to modern kathak. He would say, ‘Jab tak nritya aapse ishq na kar le tab tak aapki shuruaat bhi nahi hui hai. Toh aisa naachein doob kar aur aise andaaz se uss-se ishq kariye ki uss-e aap se ishq ho jaye.’ It is your beloved, mehboob. In today’s world it may seem high idealism and be laughed at. I was blessed to immerse myself in the ocean of dance, acting, music.

Rudolf Nureyev, the greatest Bolshoi male dancer and choreographer from Russia, visited our class. He remarked, ‘Your guru Pundit Birju Maharaj-ji came to Russia, stayed back, and the genius that he is, he picked up parts of the Russian ballet!’. When he returned to India, he started a series of amazingly directed ballets. As a very young girl I started performing in his ballets. Before the performances he would put a tika behind my ear-lobes. He called me Neelam Pari and would say ‘Kathak pariyon ka naach hai.’ He would finally call me ‘Meri Achchi’.

Maharaj-ji changed kathak and gave it a new grammar. From geometrical straight lines, he constructed a tomb-like visual architecture of kathak. There is golai in it, naturality, and the ang is very subtle. He brought in beautiful musical, poetical expression of abhinaya that was very close to life. Maharaj-ji created the Taj Mahal in kathak! Haseen embroidery! He also brought into kathak amazing content and wrote so many thumris with notations. His dance-form is like a series of moving-paintings. If you see his old videos, you cannot believe that a human being is dancing. I had first seen him dance at the Purana Qila. Like an angel, avatar of dance, he had descended from heaven. I learnt from him at Kathak Kendra for 10 years, and over the years at his workshops. He would teach like a friend, with unending love and generosity. A genius teacher! At that time there were no videos. Like sponges we absorbed. Great dancers took birth and shape under his tutelage. Till his very end I would whisper in his ears, ‘my angel of dance.’ When he departed, I felt I have lost my second father. I follow his wonderful life teachings in a complete manner.

At Kathak Kendra our directors were Mr. Keshav Kothari and Ms. Kapila Vatsayan. Other amazing persons were Dr. Mohan, Dr. Saxena, Mr. Jeevan Pani, Mr. Sunil Kothari. Intellectuals! With Kumudini Lakhiyaji, Maharaj-ji started very interesting work.

My favourite dancers among Maharaj-ji’s array of dancers are Bharati Gupta and Saswati Sen. Saswati Sen devoted her whole life to Maharaj-ji’s work and care-taking. She is a great lady. I loved Roshan Kumari also. Pundit Durga Lalji was also an influence. Films Division had made a documentary on Maharaj-ji. A biopic ought to be made on him and I hope I could be a part of that journey.

We students of the Kathak Kendra are a family of soul-sisters and brothers. Between Maharaj-ji’s children and us there exists a strong bond. My own dance-partner, Pundit Ram Mohan Maharaj, is Pundit Shambhu Maharaj-ji’s younger son and Birju Maharaj-ji’s first cousin. He is the finest representative now after Maharaj-ji of the Lucknow gharana. We are called the dynamic duo. We hope to do a lot with kathak here in Mumbai.

During Kathak Kendra days itself, at age 20, you got married to actor Pankaj Kapoor. You became a very young mother to Shahid Kapoor. To quote you, ‘I think I married my best friend.’ Tell us what you would want to.

This marriage was a long time ago, like in another lifetime. All I can say is that I am blessed to have a son from this marriage and that’s all. I wish everyone who crossed my life the very best. As of now with Shahid and Ishaan I am blessed. I have a lovely family and I am full of gratitude for that. The rest I’ve buried a long, long time ago.

Acting beckoned you. Lekh Tandon’s TV serial Phir Wahi Talash, (DD, 1989) saw you debut as an actor. It has great recall value. You took to acting like a duck takes to water and continued acting on stage and then television, films.

Phir Wahi Talash was part of very fine serials being made at that time, like Hum Log, Buniyaad, etc. It gave me my role of Shehnaz, thanks to Mr. Revati Saran Sharma and Mr. Lekh Tandon. I became a star overnight and beloved of the nation. ‘Chote parde ki Sridevi!’ I got hailed as an actress. Then Titli followed. Herein I played a much more complex, layered character. I acted along with M K Raina. It was directed by Saba Zaidi. Irfaan Khan, one of my absolute favourite actors, started his television career with me in Titli. Later I did another very good series, Muqamil, with him.

I did serial Talash with Mr. Hrishikesh Mukherjee and learnt a lot from Hrishida. He lovingly called me Neeli Beti. Raj Babbar and I were very popular stage-actors. We did Nadir Shah with Sheela Bhatia and other plays. I did a play with Naseeruddin Shah, Maati-Mataal. I was awarded the best actress. I even tutored him for Chau dance. He was immensely proud of me because he had been a student of my aunt Zaheeda Zaidi Sahiba. After that Naseeruddin Shah made history. I was fortunate that good work came to me.

Sometimes I felt I am on a roller-coaster. I had two children and television was not easy. Long hours of work and those dialogue sheets! Luckily, I can memorize dialogues at the first read itself. I did 15-years of continuous television. In the serial Kagar, I had originally done the story, which was later made into film, Chandni Bar. I had done Tabu’s role and learnt the typical Bambaiya Marathi language from Shahid. Back then he had just started with Shaimak Davar. By the time I did a daily soap, Gharana, I was tired. I had to also limit the films coming my way.

I debuted in films with Salim Landge Pe Mat Ro (1989) and had a very joyous journey with it. Saeed Mirza Saab is one of the most wonderful persons I have come across in Bombay. It was a very beautiful film. Then I did Sadak (1991). It was a huge platinum-jubilee-hit. Mahesh Bhatt Saheb is one of the finest directors to work with. He told me, ‘To be honest, it is not the heroine’s role, but the second heroine’s role.’ I said ‘Bhatt Saab, you are one of the directors I have short-listed (laughs), and always wanted to work with.’ That is how Chanda cropped up. Deepak Tijori and my song ‘Tak dhin dhin tak’ became very popular. People would dance on it. Audience chavani-athani fekte theh. Deepak and I became very successful. On the other side Pavan Malhotra and my pair in Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro got immensely liked.

I did not complete the film Drishti (1990) because I fell out with Govind Nihalani. I had shot quite a bit. He merrily chucked me out, not because my performance was weak. Later Mita Vashisht did that role. Then I did the film Karmyoddha (1992), directed by Dayal Nihalani, starring Raj Babbar, Dimple Kapadia. Ken Ghosh’s Ishq Vishk was also lovely.

My roles brought me great popularity. Many film-directors and producers wanted to give me lead roles, but asked me to stop doing television. It was a huge dharam-sankat. Back then films would take 3-4 years to complete. Cheques would stop coming. I was in huge patches as a single parent. I may have re-married, but unfortunately, I was at that time the bread-winner. I needed to have that monthly cheque to bring-up my first child and later my second child. Then very soon Shahid became independent.

In films I also went through the unfairness of directors cutting off my roles because I was looking better than the heroines. The casting couch was also a problem. My talent was not well used by the film industry. I was a looker, dancer, actress and had great diction! I must have also made some mistakes and messed up in my own way. We were very idealistic.

In the film Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (2020), starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar, you have done, to quote from somewhere, ‘A sterling cameo by Neelima Azeem also explores one of Alankrita's favourite themes; older women who want to be free of everyone's expectations and judgment.’ You play Dolly’s mother. Tell us about it.

Director Alankrita Shrivastava offered me a cameo as Dolly’s mother. She said she wanted a very strong actress. I had great fun doing it and working with Konkana Sen Sharma under Alankrita’s intelligent direction. That one sequence gave me so much of appreciation, applause, including from my own children. A very layered scene. Thank you, Alankrita!

Any other significant work that you would want to mention?

I did Mom & Co. (2019) for Zoom Studios. My character received a lot of love. In a short film I played a role closer to life…Guru of Belarusian girl learning Kathak. It was screened at the 2017 Berlin Short Film Festival. There is a very interesting web-series offer lined up. It is a powerful lead role, with strong shades of grey. Saale Ashiq will release this year.

Your work as dance-acting guru and mentor continues…

I have taken acting classes with students and also taught Kathak. Bhavna Pani, my student, deserves a special mention as a fine actress and dancer. Payal Shetty of Sakuntalam, the first Sanskrit film, has done me proud. Disha Patel also did one workshop with me. So did Aayush Sharma, Salman Khan Saheb’s brother-in-law. Janhvi Kapoor learnt from me. I am very proud of these children. Deepika, who is now managing Rani Mukherjee’s work at Yash Raj, got groomed by me. All who were with me as their teacher, life-guide, are doing very well. Chandan Roy Sanyal is one of them. He just now came to me with a lovely film-role offer. I will be dancing.

At this stage of life, is there a partnership, or you choose to be single?

I am not single out of choice. I have always believed in love. It is lovely to be a couple. But frankly speaking, after it happened to me thrice, somewhere I was, ‘I am done with all this.’ If something is fated it will happen. A companionship at the age of 80 is also fine by me. I am a very out-of-the box person and my own best friend. My children are also my friends. More than anything else my granddaughter Misha is my best friend. My grandson Zehn is adorable. When they feel more love, they call me Daadijaan, else Dadi. I am re-visiting my childhood with them.

I had a great journey as a dancer and actress. Now is my fourth inning in life. I am coming back to float my own projects. I have a huge commitment to my guru and to the kathak baradari to take it forward and do something wonderful with my kathak partner Pundit Ram Mohan Maharaj. We are planning to do classes, shows here in Mumbai as an academy. In Mumbai I am aligning my work with Mrs. Preeti Agarwal, Kathak exponent and very senior disciple of Pt. Birju Maharaj. Ram Mohanji will be coming as a visiting professor. Ms. Saswati Sen will be an active, senior visiting guru.

My divine gratitude for having my sons. How much more can a mother ask for? My gratitude to my parents and guru. A big thank-you to my brother Pasha. I am very proud to be his sister. Also, very proud of my niece Megha and very happy with my Bhabhi, Pamela Anwar. A special mention of Najmul Zehra, Zoya, Saba. I have no complaints in life. I feel young, energetic to start my new innings. 

And, I chanced upon a quote from Neliima, ‘I am the perennial jack in the box. I pop back (in life)’. More power to her. It strengthens us all.  

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.

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