Photos by Carlton Mackey

Photos by Carlton Mackey


By: Khatdija Meghjani

My mother used to tell me that the universe, at its inception, reverberated the sound ‘Om’. She used to tell me that this harmonizing utterance is the universal frequency where all the souls on earth meet. I think about this a lot. I imagine a physical location in some corner of the expansive cosmos where the dreams, yearnings, pain, and pleasures of all souls come together. Perhaps they discuss things with each other. Maybe they plan the meetings we think of as spontaneous. Maybe this is where soul mates meet.

‘Om’ is intimately related to Dhramic cultures and practices. It serves as a symbol of the interconnectedness of God. It serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of people. My graceful and unreservedly enchanting mother used to teach my sister and I of these things so closely inculcated into our Indian heritage. When my family migrated from India to the land of dreams, it became even more important to her that we remember our roots. I recall summer breaks spent reading the Mahabharata, an epic narrative of the lives and fates of Princes in the great Kurukshetra War. A text equated in its contribution to world heritage as the Bible, Quran, works of Shakespeare, and those of Homer. I, unknowingly, began to lead parallel lives. One of Western principles of punctuality, discipline, hard work and the other of Eastern values of compassion, honor, family. These kindred lives found their meeting point when I began to dance.

In an attempt to mimic my mother’s grace and my father’s gumption, my sister and I began taking lessons in Bharata-Natyam in a small studio in Atlanta. This ancient classical dance founded in the temples of Tamil Nadu, India became the outlet through which I found my ‘Om’. The Ghungroos worn on my ankles became my rosary beads. The floor upon which I practiced for countless painful hours became my temple. My stage became the physical space where the souls of an audience met mine for however brief a moment in time. I found the strings with which to weave together my two lives. My learned guru, Dina Sheth, cultivated within me the ability to do so. The invaluable lessons of integrity, movement, gratitude, tolerance and respect find their origin in the seven years of my training in Bharata-Natyam. My soul found its home in dance.

I identify as an Eastern and Indian woman because the strongest and most passionate women in my life have been my mother, my sister, my guru, fellow dancers, and countless soul sisters. I am who I am because I was privileged enough, perhaps lucky enough, to have found a teacher in all of these women. I am forever indebted to them for showing me how to live a life in harmony with the inevitable principles and values I will learn from my lived experiences. These women continue to teach me today. The closest I will ever come to finding a way to show them my immense gratitude is by performing in their presence and in their honor.

And so I dance on, I travel on, I move on, I grow and I become. My rhythm is my beating heart and that of the souls that came before me and all the souls that will follow.

Finding Beautiful in Every Soul.

Om. Om. Om.