This month, Vijaya Nadesan, Academy Principal shares memories from 2002 of a trip to Durban by seven members of the Apsaras Dance Company led by co-founder Neila Sathyalingam. “The first stop was the wide stretch of the beautiful beach. We had a wonderful time strolling along the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It was later that we came to find out that the beach was one of the Golden Mile stretch of beautiful beaches that are separated by piers and offers a great scenic view of the Indian ocean. It gave us a breath-taking view. The next morning, we were busy preparing for a performance in one of their temples. Our final performance was for the closing ceremony of the Tamil Language Conference. As we ended our last item, we had a standing ovation and the atmosphere in the function room filled our hearts with great joy. It was indeed a memorable trip of my life.”
Walking down the memory lane, to the time I was in Durban, I must admit that it was one of the most memorable trip I had in my life. We had many interesting experiences in a city that is famous for its idyllic beaches and scenic mountains.
It was the year 2002, the Durban Tamil society was hosting the annual Tamil Language conference in its city and we were invited by our Singapore Tamil Society to perform in Durban. When Maami told us about the 10 days trip, my heart did a backflip in anticipation as I was unsure how this trip was going to be as we have not travelled that far. But I believe we made the right decision, as I will never forget the hospitality of the strong Indian community who welcomed us whole heartedly and made us feel at home.
It was a very long and tiring trip of over 24 hrs journey with two stop overs. Our Singapore delegates consisting of seven Apsaras Arts Dance members (including our beloved Neila Maami) and afew Tamil enthusiasts such as poets, writers and teachers from the Tamil society embarked on our journey with great excitement.
As we stepped out of Durban’s King Shaka International Airport, I was tricked into thinking that I was in Europe or America. On the contrary we were immediately escorted out of the airport by very stern looking Security Officers with REAL Guns hidden in their Coat pockets. Later we were informed that though Durban looked very modern and safe, unfortunately, the crime rates aren’t low.
That information did not deter our enthusiasm in roaming the city with the trusted security Officers. During the daytime, while the Tamil enthusiasts are busy attending the conference we were given a tour of the scenic Durban City. The first stop was definitely the wide stretch of the beautiful beach located near our 4-star hotel. We had a wonderful time strolling along the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It was later that we came to find out that the beach was one of the Golden Mile stretch of beautiful beaches that are separated by piers and offers a great scenic view of the Indian ocean. It gave us a breathtaking view.
The next day morning we were busy preparing for a performance in one of their temples. At this juncture I must admit that I admire our Neila Maami for her quick decision making attitude, as she always speculate her trip and is always equipped herself with her Plan B mode. As usual we prepared a full 20 minutes Margam for the crowd, as we thought that the temple goers are the ones watching the show. Adorned in our classical costumes and make up we arrived at Shree Siva Subramaniar Temple that night. We were thrilled to see a huge temple for Lord Muruga and came to find out that the prominent Indian residents of Durban have contributed to the erection of both the temple and hall next to it.
As mentioned, our performance took place in that very hall that was built for social functions and celebrations. When we stepped into their dressing room, we realised that we were going to perform for the local Tamil society that has organised a community party in that very hall. Immediately, Maami went into her Plan B mode, in lightning speed she reacted to the situation and took out another cd from her bag that was filled with few of our semi classical and traditional dance sequences. After a quick discussion among we dancers, we went into our performance mode to performance those items in the classical dance costumes rather than the Margam. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our Maami’s impromptu plan and the Tamil community enjoyed our dance items. Praises were pouring in after our performance and we were ushered into the dining hall that served non-vegetarian meal in the temple ground. To our surprise they also made sure that we don’t leave without partaking in a good meal with them that comes with lots of laughter and warmth. It was a crazy night for us to forget.
Our next performance was for the closing ceremony of the Tamil Language Conference. By then most of the conference crowd knew who we were as we have also conducted a Dance demonstration on Bharathanatyam and other classical dance forms for one of their conference talks and for their Tamil Medium School. This time with no change in plans, we were pleased to perform the prepared classical dance items with no hiccups. The members of the conference and notable Durban Tamil leaders were present for the ceremony, the show went off superbly well and all of us gave the best of our energy in showcasing those items. As we ended our last item, we had a standing ovation and the atmosphere in the function room filled our hearts with great joy. It was indeed a memorable trip of my life.