Shobha Deepak Singh on recovering from Covid-19: Jo Dara So Mara – art and culture


As the festive season approaches, artistes are trying to reclaim the stage and take the pandemic head on. The fight isn’t easy, but the fighters aren’t giving up either. “Woh dialogue hai na: Jo Dara So Mara. So, darna nahi hai,” says Padma Shri Shobha Deepak Singh, director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) in Mandi House, who recently resumed work after getting discharged from hospital where she was recovering from Covid-19.     

“Some friends of mine even went abroad or to remote places because they didn’t want to get corona, and still got it. One has to take precautions, but can’t stay afraid.”

“On September 20, I realised I was Covid positive, and soon got hospitalised,” says Singh, 77, who had been working out of her office all through the lockdown period. “I used to go every day for two or two and a half hours. So when I got to know that I’m Covid positive, I was so sure that some artiste at the institute would also have got corona. We got 40-45 people tested, but nobody tested positive besides me and my husband (Deepak Singh). The doctor has been thinking, how is it possible,” she quips, adding, “But I wasn’t afraid. Some friends of mine even went abroad or to remote places because they didn’t want to get corona, and still got it. One has to take precautions, but can’t stay afraid.”   

“I had decided that the Ramlila would happen this year as well! Its first show was in 1957 and has been happening since; I didn’t want to give it a break.”

A few days back, when Singh resumed work in her office, she was surprised to find that nobody was available at the rehearsal for SBKK’s Ramlila, which has received Government’s permission to be staged. “Then suddenly all the dancers appeared on the stage with flowers, and started clapping. It was such a touching welcome… I have been missing the noise of ghungroos in the institute. During the pandemic, we shifted all classes online since the parents of foreign students were concerned about the health of their children. But, I had decided that the Ramlila would happen this year as well! Its first show was in 1957 and has been happening since; I didn’t want to give it a break. The only reason why it could have been cancelled is if the Government didn’t allow us,” says Singh reiterating how performing artistes have had a tough time due to the pandemic. “During May-June, the Kalbelia dancers who I have worked with in the past contacted me saying they have no money. And without thinking for a second I sent them whatever I could.”

One who is known to be averse to the very thought of recording live performances, choreographed by her, and cringe when people miss out giving credits, Singh has for the first time agreed to this year’s Ramlila at SBKK to get recorded. “What to do! In life you always have to go along with how the society moves. Although 100 people can watch it live at the open lawns now, we had earlier thought of an alternative incase we didn’t get the permission. The alternative was to record the whole performance from October 10 to 12, and upload the video on YouTube, from October 17 (when Navratri begins), along with a ticker that says that its copyright lies with SBKK. Even now we’ll go ahead with this plan,” she adds.          

Author tweets @HennaRakheja

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