I started dancing in Class 5 as a hobby, and by the time I reached Grade 8, my mother wanted me to learn something classical. She just wanted her child to learn the culture, and she put me for Kathak classes near our house in Delhi. So the stereotypes and the taunts began there themselves. When I entered the class for the first time, I was the only boy there, and the rest of the students were girls. So everyone, including the teacher, a male dancer himself, asked me what I was doing there since I do not exist there.
During my 10th Boards, I dropped dancing to focus on studying. But after that, I would represent my school in several dance competitions. The worst part was that even the school teachers would question my choice and love for dancing. They would sarcastically ask me if I wanted to become a dancer after I grow up. If the teachers begin passing such comments, it becomes a green signal for the students to bully.
That was a period of my life when I felt so suffocated in familiar places. It was so bad that I attempted to take my life; my parents still do not know about it. I could not talk about or express what I was going through, and I thought that was the only way out. But after all these years, I can guarantee that it is not the only way out, and there are always solutions.
I had left dance to escape being targeted at school and other social spaces. For nearly seven years, I had left dancing, and I hardly spoke to anyone at that time. My parents stepped up and pushed me to start dancing again, so I started learning Odissi dance form at Gandharv Vidyalaya in Delhi. Since then, I have been dancing and have never looked back.
I genuinely believe that family support in any problem is the most important thing. Whenever I perform in big events, I feel the best when older people come and bless me; and praise my skill. I think the way we prioritise subjects like maths and science in schools, it is also important to prioritise dancing and other curricular activities. They are as crucial for a child's development as the mainstream subjects.
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