Sohini Roychowdhury Launches Her Book 'Indian Stage Stories'
On November 17, the House of Commons in the United Kingdom witnessed Sohini Roychowdhury's fiery speech and the stage stories of a dancer whose activism is her dance. Sohini, the internationally acclaimed danseuse, author and movement director, launched her book, 'Indian Stage Stories' by 'Shubhi Publications', which was presented by a Member of Parliament, Fabian Hamilton. Author extraordinaire Amish Tripathy also graced the occasion, along with other luminaries and members of the UK parliament.
" 'The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation' - Lord Jeremy Bentham," Sohini quoted to open her talk that centred on empathy and inclusivity through art and mythology. She stressed 'Natyasastra' and its similarities with Aristotle's poetics, Mother Goddess Kali and her occidental counterpart Santa Sarah, with Durga and Ishtar being similar in spirit and how Bentham's theory of happiness and welfare could only be achieved through inclusivity, empathy and the understanding that the world is one through dance, art and cultural links.
Sohini sharply mentioned the phenomenon of 'India Exotica' and 'India Idiotica' where Heidi Klum appeared as 'Kali' for a Halloween party because 'she wanted to dress as a scary Indian Goddess' and condemned it as unintelligent, disrespectful and offensive.
'Indian Stage Stories' is all about Indian mythology, Vedic knowledge and Puranic stories; excerpts from the 'Markandeya Puranas'; explaining Shaktism; exploring aspects of the 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata' in their global relevance and Shiva and his deep philosophies.
Sohini emphasised that at the very core was medieval Bengali poet, Boru Chandidas's quote: 'Above all is the truth of humanity, of humanism; there's nothing higher than that'.
As Sohini combined Lord Jeremy Bentham and Boru Chandidas to extol humanism, inclusivity and empathy as the holy trinity, the audience was greatly appreciative and seemed to resonate with her guiding philosophy and activism, which are expressed through her dance, books and university engagements.
'Saudha Arts', the prestigious platform for South Asian arts, hosted this event, followed by a poetry recitation by TM Ahmed Kaysher, Sree Ganguly and a violin recital by Greek artiste Dimitra Ananiadou playing Bach. Sohini performed body poetry to the powerful elocution. Kaysher, a poet, musicologist and artiste, creates global harmony through his organisation 'Saudha Arts' in the UK, which promotes Indian music in its true sense.
Sohini has recently been awarded the 'Rex Karamveer' award, associated with the United Nations, for her work and its social impact. She was the chief guest at the prestigious Symbiosis College Pune on their 14th Founder's Day and addressed the students by opening with Bentham's quote: "Kind words cost no more than unkind ones and we may scatter the seeds of courtesy and kindliness around us at so little expense. If you would fall into any extreme let it be on the side of gentleness. The human mind is so constructed that it resists vigour and yields to softness."
The dancer was awarded the ambassadorship of 'She Inspires' UK along with Edith Con, OBE, President of 'Red Cross' and Lady Kishwar Desai, Virginia Crosbie, Member of Parliament and the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bolton. Having recently performed at UNESCO's Durga Puja in Mumbai with her troupe and the 'COP 26', United Nations' conference on the environment in Glasgow, Sohini will be speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023, where her book will be launched on January 22.
Sohini's raging performances across the globe and her lecture demonstrations at 18 universities in Europe, Russia and South America, all underline the importance of empathy and inclusivity. Her mantra is 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' ('We are all one').