My early years were spent in our joint-family home among a brood of younger cousins who were mostly boys. I remember being very outdoorsy, playing with marbles and climbing trees in our garden all the time. During the summer holidays I went to my maternal grandparents house in Indore where there was a huge patch of green in front of a sprawling house. The guava trees were most inviting during the season and plucking guavas was one of the greatest pleasures of our lives. We were always hungry and ate hearty yet simple meals of dal-chawal. Occasionally going out for ice creams and chaats was the biggest treat we could think of in those days.
My brother was born when I was 10 years old. I remember being protective towards him when he was a baby but we didnt grow very close to each other till we were much older. After my grandfather died, our joint family broke up. My parents, my brother and I moved to a multi-storeyed building on Sarat Bose Road which was not half as much fun as our bungalow on Rowland Road. I was a teenager trying to come to terms with many things in my life and the severing of family ties made me suffer. I felt lonely as I had always been — and remain till date — very attached to my uncles and aunts.
It was my progressive, free-thinking grandfather who initiated my training in Manipuri dance under Guru Bipin Singh when I was 12 years old. Guruji came to my house to give me lessons. I took to dancing immediately. Studies took a backseat, as I became engrossed in other things. I went to Modern High School where I was involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities. I wasnt too docile a child, often getting into trouble with the teachers. Consequently, I was quite surprised when they made me the school prefect. It may have been my teachers ploy to rein me in!
I dont remember ever being bored as a child. Even though there was neither television nor pizza, we remained busy and well-fed all the time.