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Sunday, 17th January 2021
Diverse Ethics - Atul Shah - Wisdom Blog

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Sophia Rajenthiran and Shrimat Susanna, from Naatya East

When genuine bridges between cultures are built, both cultures go to a different place after the experience, often to one where they did not even know they could go. This is the huge power and possibility of diversity. And I experienced it recently at a unique event.

On 12th October 2013, I was invited as Chief Guest for a Celebration of Dance Programme organised by the Naatya East Dance company, based in Essex. Founded by Shrimathi Susanna, who is the Director and principal teacher, the School trains children and adults and the classical spiritual Indian dance form BharataNatyam. The performance was a graduation ceremony for the students, and they all received certificates at the end. What was fascinating was that the participants were from different cultures, and they came together to perform traditional Indian dance in Colchester!

From the beginning, we were totally entranced by the music, the colourful costumes, the smiles and enthusiasm of the children and the whole atmosphere of the event, where parents, grandparents and relatives from the local community came to see the show. I have known Shrimathi Susanna for fifteen years, and in that time, single-handedly, she has brought this ancient dance form to Essex, and helped it to come alive and inspire and motivate local children. She has also taught and performed at many local schools, to huge acclaim.

I was asked to speak - and I recalled the timeless Indian tradition of the 'Guru' - giver of light and the role Gurus have played in retaining culture and passing it on over centuries. A Guru enables the student to experience the light within, to discover their own inner wisdom, and gives a ray of hope for society. The learning experience of these students has touched their lives forever, and has given them an appreciation of the beauty of divine dance, and Indian colour, music and creativity. This is a story which will not reach the national press, but deserves to as it shows practical peace making, through creativity and sharing. Out of a desert of Indian dance in Colchester, Shrimathi Susanna has built an oasis whose waters and fountains will spring far and wide as these students travel.

What is possible by humanity is often lost in the sea of bad news that we are constantly drip fed by the media. This show was a huge ray of hope for building a cohesive Britain, and it reminded me of my Masala Tour of Britain, which was exactly about sharing such positive stories of social cohesion and harmony. I travelled 1500 miles across Britain in November 2011 to bring out this rich true story.

The huge passion, commitment and sacrifice of Shrimathi Susanna has been matched by many British lovers of India. I recently met Sir Mark Tully, and he too is a unique ambassador of peace, someone who has tried to portray the vast spiritual strength of India positively. It was Yeats who brought Rabindranath Tagore's epic poetry to world attention - one can go on. We must celebrate the positive stories of grassroots diversity all over this beautiful Britain that we call home.

The children gave their very best to the show, and brought wisdom and vitality to Essex

Below Atul Shah with Sir Mark Tully veteran BBC broadcaster who gave a keynote address at the University Campus in Ipswich:

Article added on 20th October 2013 at 4:30pm