[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How this mother-daughter duo broke stereotypes and bonded with Kathak
There are multiple dynamics to a mother-daughter relationship—friendship, teachers, partners in crime, and confidants. Anjana Gupta and Shruthi Gupta are no different, and yet, there is a unique symbiotic element to their relationship—Kathak.
Today, they are Founder and Creative Director of SpACE Academy for Kathak, but Anjana and Shruthi’s Kathak journey was different. Unlike most people trained in Indian classical dances, Anjana did not start at a young age. Her interest in Kathak was piqued when she was looking for classes to train her daughter, Shruthi.
Anjana used to take her to the classes and wait outside for the hours to end. In the meantime, she would read books and magazines. “One fine day, I wondered how long I would sit here and read. Should I also get inside the class? That was the starting point,” she says.
Then, Anjana thought that if age wasn’t a bar, perhaps she too could learn Kathak. The instructor encouraged her to join, and since then, there has been no looking back. The relationship between the mother and the daughter evolved with them having a healthy competition during dance practices.
When Anjana started learning Kathak, she was the oldest in class—which briefly gave rise to some inhibitions. “But when I entered the class, I forgot that I was the mother of a six-year-old. All those identities dissolved in that one hour.”
Since she comes from a conservative family, many raised eyebrows at her dancing. But Anjana felt that Kathak was greater and was truly her calling.
Shruthi describes her relationship with Kathak as ‘intriguing’. “My mother and father took me to performance as a child. The lights and the costumes I saw are still fresh in my mind. I looked up Kathak after that, and told my dad that I wanted to learn it.”
She took a break from dancing when she worked as a content writer for a year-and-a-half, but she didn’t like it much. During this time, the relationship between Shruthi and Anjana intertwined with Kathak.
Anjana’s Kathak academy focuses on creating a nurturing space for students, with an
interest in the dance form. “Kathak brought a very different me altogether. I started SpAce by teaching just two students when I started the classes. I went from being an introvert to today taking 120 students and interacting with parents.”
Advising women leaders, Anjana says there should be a focus on the three Ps—plan, prioritise and persevere. “Plan and make a choice—what you want to do, what you don't want to do—prioritise things which take you into your expansiveness, and persevere; come what may, things will fall in place, the way you want to lead and inspire the next generation.”
Adding to this, Shruthi says,
“It wasn't easy for me to put out Kathak videos because I was overcoming my own fears about doing a classical art form—'will my peers accept me?’ They have never watched any of my performances, but now it's an open page, and everybody is going to watch me do kathak—that was one thing. The second thing was that I never thought of creating content for my audience, I was doing things for myself, I was being myself, and that really worked for me. I was happy with it, and I realised that what I do, however, I do it, and it is unique. I have to accept first that what I do, nobody else can do it like me. Maybe you can do it better but you can't do it like me. So, be unique and trust that uniqueness that is in you because that is what makes you a woman today.”
Edited by Kanishk Singh