Rhythms of life

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By Sharmila Biswas and husband Swapan have discovered the perfect mantra behind a successful marriage As told to Paula Ray Photograph by Subhendu Chaki
  • Published 23.04.05
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Sharmila Biswas is an Odissi dancer who started dancing at the age of eight. When she was 16, she decided to specialise in Odissi and started training under Muralidharan Majhi. Later, she trained under Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She has performed at all the top festivals from Elephanta to Khajuraho and Konark as well as in countries like the UK, the USA, Germany, Russia, Dubai and Bangladesh. In the last 18 years, she?s earned awards like the junior and senior fellowships under Sangeet Natak Academy and received the Best Choreography Award from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for her production Sampurna based on the devdasis of Puri.

Sharmila married Swapan Kumar Biswas in 1987. Biswas is a doctor who specialises in health management. At present, he is associated with the conceptualising, developing and running of Apollo Gleneagles Clinic and the 270-bed Duncan Goenka Hospital in Calcutta. He has also worked on prestigious projects like the B.P. Poddar Hospital.

They live with their 12-year-old son Shoumik who is a student at Calcutta?s La Martiniere for Boys School.

SHARMILA ON SWAPAN

I had an arranged marriage. We were rehearsing for the Indian Festival of Russia and I came back from Cuttack after my training when my husband to-be and I met once. Then, I came back home just two days before the wedding. Just five days after our wedding, I went off to Russia for two months to perform at the festival. When my marriage was being arranged, my in-laws were informed about my commitment and so it was not an issue when I left so soon after my wedding. Or else, we would have had to postpone the wedding by six months, which neither of the families wanted.

I remember Swapan had come to meet me for the first time with his nephew. I was quite confused because he was giving me this indulgent smile which made me think the nephew was the groom.

The understanding between my husband and me developed much later. It begins when you start sharing the day-to-day chores. There are certain things that you appreciate as you grow old in a relationship. Such as my husband?s sense of humour and his complete maturity in understanding my career. My husband supports me without spoiling me. If he were the kind to fuss all over and pamper me, then it would have been a burden on me. I would have felt that I am not doing enough in return. On the contrary, he keeps a distance and gives me that space. I am grateful that he has given me all the privacy without making a fuss over it.

But there?s one thing that I dislike in him and that is he never exercises. Also, he doesn?t have the insight to judge people. He thinks everybody around him is nice and helpful. That?s actually good for me because otherwise he would have found innumerable faults in me!

In an arranged marriage there?re no expectations. It is a continuous process of discovering each other. Over the years, we?ve changed our dislikes into acceptance. In fact, if he changes what I dislike in him, he?d be a completely different person and I would not like the new person.

There are frictions in our day to day lives, but if we get too critical of them and decide to move on and get into other relationships, even that may not work. You need to have the wisdom to judge what is important and what is not, and work on it likewise. That I think is the mantra behind a successful marriage.

I have learnt to rejoice in what Swapan has given me and not regret what he hasn?t. Never delve into the unpleasantness in life because both happiness and unhappiness is unlimited. It all depends on how you visualise your life. And I would like to see my cup as half full.

SWAPAN ON SHARMILA

It was a case of a chronic bachelor bowing down to peer pressure and getting married. It took just eight weeks from meeting Sharmila to marrying her. Then she left for Russia and I was left wondering whether I was married or not.

One thing we have really appreciated over the years is that we don?t get into each other?s hair. Both of us are creative people, but both have a degree in a subject very different from our profession. She is a graduate in anthropology but took up dancing and I am a graduate in medicine and saw opportunity in health management.

I really admire Sharmila?s commitment and dedication to her family and her work. She manages the household smoothly and also runs her dance school well. But, to be honest, at times her long rehearsals and dance trips become a bit irritating. But you realise that it?s her profession and learn to accept it.

When we got married, I had no clue what classical dance was all about or what commitment towards her profession meant. It took me almost two years to appreciate her vocation. But she was very patient and influenced me to think of this change in my job. She motivated me to be creative and analytical. Her support gave me courage to make a career shift.

Both of us have long hours at work. But whatever little time we spend together is quality time. In fact, it would?ve been a problem had she been a housewife. She?d have expected me to spend more time with her and that would?ve been tough for me.

I am very proud of her celebrity status. That was never a problem between us. I?ve seen her struggle and this recognition is like a reward for her. She is getting what she deserves. Over the years I?ve also learnt that publicity is part of her process of delivering her product.