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One soul, many lives

A poet, a tarot reader, a filmmaker, director of the Dalmia Group and above all a writer—Laxmana Dalmia is all this and much more.

Anshu Khanna

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Laxmana Dalmia.
Laxmana Dalmia.

She is a woman of many talents; many lives lived within the span of one. A poet, a tarot reader, a filmmaker, director of the Dalmia Group and above all a writer who looks at words as imaginary paintings that reside within our souls. Hence her recent work where she compiled all per prose in one book, One Soul Many Lives, was a coming together of her works and art from a hundred leading maestros of India.

Laxmana Dalmia is always lost with the threads of her thought, expressing them through verses and words. We meet her in one of the most distinguished old havelis of Delhi, driving down the long, very long drive-way of the Dalmia residence in Delhi. One of the many splendorous old homes where the far branched-out Dalmia family lives. Given that the grand patriarch of this family, Ramakrishna Dalmia married six times and had more than a dozen children. A typical manor built in the early 19th century, the house is majestically perched and to date remains preserved in its original form.

Laxmana Dalmia, the quietest amongst the Dalmia scions, is also the introspective daughter who grew up trying to catch “my father’s much distracted eye on silly little me even if it were for a Nano of a warm moment”. At the same time basking in the deep reservoir of her mother’s love. Laxmana Dalmia, born to the last and sixth wife Durgesh Nandini, is an author, poetess, filmmaker and activist who simply traced her mother’s footsteps and began walking in them.

 “My mother, who was a renowned writer in Hindi, introduced me to the world of literature. She would ask me to read aloud whatever she had written and then write it neatly as none could read her handwriting. My first attempt at serious writing was when I edited her biographical novels. Encouraged by my mother, I started writing when I was 13. Once I started I haven’t stopped,” smiles Laxmana dressed in a rich Bandhej sari.

A quest for words recently led her to launch her debut book, One Soul Many Lives, a compilation of verses that capture emotions in myriad hues. Free-wheeling in style and simply written from the heart, the poems take you on a walk called life. Life as Laxmana sees it. She talks of love beyond titles and bonds. The kind she has shared with famed theatre actor Aziz Qureishi who stood by her side from the moment they met at college in the 1970s. Ever since they are together as true soul mates.

She writes on the dichotomy of today’s world that builds walls and divides while offering lip service to egalitarianism. A sense of equality amongst people that IPTA introduced to India a few decades back and Laxmana as active member and treasurer of the organisation strives hard to keep alive. “IPTA is the reflection of my core values. I feel we have to not just feel equal but be truly equal as a nation.” Then in another poem she is a caring grandmother to her adopted son Rudra Dalmia’s children. A single woman who preferred to live in love, she doted on her two adopted son’s family. Laxmana Dalmia is an entrepreneur, with many years of experience in the world of multimedia. She has been actively involved in production, writing and direction for TV, radio and theatre.

 In tone and tenor her poems are like her heart speaking out loud. “When I read them now, I find that I have written more than I knew I was writing. If someone asked me what kind of poems I have written — I wouldn’t know how to typecast them. They are just my interpretations of a host of experiences. Life has made me run through an entire gamut of emotions ranging from fear, insecurity, frustration, jealousy, hatred and anger to love, comprehension, compassion, balance and then perhaps spirituality.

A filmmaker and theatre person Laxmana thinks visually and hence invited leading artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, Jayashree Burman, Raghu Rai, George Martin, Pooja Iranna, Benoy Verghese to match visuals to her verses. “It was such a fluid way of allowing two creative realms to co-exist together. Right from the spectacular launch to the book itself, I think we were able to weld the words with art very well,” says Ashwini Bahadur, the one who put it all together.

Agreeing with her is artist Jayashree Barman. “Poetry is an aesthetic representation of reality… it is ornamented with the choicest of words, the music of rhymes and the art of brevity. So yes, poems I have grown up with do crop up in my mind when I paint. I was pleased to paint Laxmana›s words and found the meanings of the verse translated into my palette.” Anjolie too, whose art is like poetry, found the inherent simplicity in Laxmana’s work endearing. Joining in on an exclusive shoot she felt that art is art, in any form.

George Martin, the intense artist who expresses through colour, created a special piece for Laxmana’s book. He says, “My work reflects the transition between conscious and subconscious states, investigating the tension between the natural and manmade situations. I often connect myself with time and space or images and memory, psychedelic outburst of colours. Laxmana’s poem Shadow or Substance — I transformed to visual poetry. Here images and shadows give a third meaning to the viewer.”

Pooja Iranna, who painted the poem titled “Nostalgia”, found an instant vibration with the words. “Yes, I believe that art is fluid. It is a downpour of expression and many times easily and effortlessly flows. My whole work revolves around this very beautiful poem. It’s a set of five works with dark backgrounds signifying thick dark nights with bright incorporated structures signifying nostalgia and memories of moments spent in them.” For the curator, this was a unique show, both in real installations and the book. “At the art show I tried to create a fairy-tale setting which felt as if you were walking through an exaggerated book,” says George.

 And to sum it all, Laxmana recites one of her favourite poems, The Devil and the Divine. For me, the boat filled with people, gliding in the foreground, represents people who have been victorious in eliminating the ‘devil’ and have climbed the bandwagon towards ‘divine’ salvation. The second boat with two figures, I imagine, is like the lone person making a clandestine, ignominious pact with the devil. The flautist playing ‘His’ tune is equally energising and encouraging — almost like a salutation to those who have risen above the odds and challenges life has thrown at them! “

 The poem and photograph by Raghu Rai are individually and collectively composed with cognitive and emotional elements that can be juxtaposed to create a reality every human faces, almost every day. Each word that is written in the poem and every nuance captured in the photograph say at least these two same things: “Don’t ever let the devil win!”, “Forgive, Forget and move on!”

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NEW DELHI : Months after working for filmmaker Laxman Utekar’s untitled film, actors Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan have wrapped the shooting in Indore.

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SHAH RUKH SENDS HANDWRITTEN NOTE TO ‘GOOD SOUL’ EGYPTIAN FAN

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UMBAI : Shah Rukh Khan has once again proved that he’s the king of hearts by his touching gesture of sending an autographed picture and handwritten note for an Egyptian travel agent fan.

On December 31, 2021, a Twitter user, Ashwini Deshpande, had shared that an Egyptian travel agent trusted her during a money transfer issue because she is from the country of Shah Rukh Khan. She tweeted, “Needed to transfer money to a travel agent in Egypt. Was having problems with the transfer. He said: you are from the country of @iamsrk. I trust you. I will make the booking, you pay me later. For anywhere else, I wouldn’t do this. But anything for @iamsrk. & he did!”

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She tweeted, “My husband & I finally met the man in this story today! I told him about the tsunami of good cheer his story generated. @RedChilliesEnt: he would be delighted with a photo of @iamsrk, autographed in his daughter’s name if possible. Please DM me if this can be arranged, thanks!” Their wish was fulfilled, as on Saturday, Deshpande updated that they have received three signed pictures of SRK along with a personalised message. She shared, “A very happy ending to this story. 3 photos signed by SRK arrived today, one with the nicest message for the Egyptian travel agent, one for his daughter & one for mine @Ketaki_Varma. Thanks @pooja_dadlani for getting in touch & of course to @iamsrk for the gracious gesture.”

In the handwritten note for his fan from Egypt, Shah Rukh wrote, “Thank you for being kind to my fellow Indian. Very gracious and generous of you. May your kind of good souls multiply.” 

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CLASSICAL MUSIC CAN BE YOUR SAFE SPACE

Nithya Rajendran

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I had an interesting session today with a student of music. This session was one that had to combine therapy with music, since the student in question had approached me with a specific purpose. She wanted to see how learning and engaging in classical music could help her through some life challenges she was facing. The first five or six sessions with her, over the past few weeks, were simply about trying to understand her life and difficulties. Through these sessions, I had taken her through some breathing and singing exercises that involved stabilizing her voice, breath and mind. I had also begun doing some music exercises with her. In today’s session, I began by asking her how she was feeling. This was just a general question I had posed, since I did not expect our sessions to have started influencing her mental state just yet. But what she said took me by pleasant surprise.

She said that she was already feeling very deeply helped because she felt ‘safe’ in the presence of music. She felt like she was in the presence of something pristine and beautiful, and that that itself was immensely healing. She had, in addition, been listening to links to my classical music concerts, and said that the sound of classical music made her feel safe and happy already. I responded by saying that I had not even begun doing the meatier stuff with her, and that this may actually be a placebo. She said with gratitude and conviction that, as a scientist herself, she was sure that what she felt was genuine and real. This was one of the most gratifying moments for me.

I have been advocating, for a while now, the use of classical music to develop mindfulness and awareness, and harness its immensely healing attributes. But I did not expect that I would see such profound effects even before beginning work that I thought was substantial enough to start helping someone. Today’s session made me realize that classical music, when served with compassion and kindness to the learner, has an almost instant healing impact. Music intrinsically has the ability to disarm and make people engage. If we can couple that with an environment that is understanding, forgiving and loving, we can create the perfect setting for emotional healing and catharsis. The learner can become aware, still and totally committed to the present.

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I have observed many a time that there is often a dearth of compassion and love in the way music is taught. Musical teaching sometimes lacks the handholding approach that a learner really needs. The reason this is the case is because, so far, classical music has been reserved for the few who are ‘deserving’, musically ‘gifted’ ones. My argument is that if music is meant to soothe and heal the spirit and is indeed a conduit to the divine, why should only some partake of this privilege? People may derive immense pleasure from listening to music. But they derive even more validation and pleasure when they can be taught to produce music, even if it is not perfect. It is beautiful and healing because it bears the student’s unique signature and comes straight from his or her soul. There is a reason we use the phrase ‘singing one’s heart out’.

Today’s session with my student taught me to have conviction in my belief that classical music has to break barriers and reach every soul. Because it is the birthright of every soul on this planet to have access to happiness and healing. It is right of every human being to ask for tools to be happy, and it is the duty of every classical musician to share the healing power of music with those who seek it. Classical music is not a property to be kept or preserved. It is a life force that needs to set free for people to thrive in.

So why should we wait any longer? Let us find our own safe space in music and allow others to find it too. A space to experience timelessness and bliss.

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Noor Anand Chawla

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Come January, the topmost things on everyone’s mind are their health and fitness goals for the year. However, crash diets and barely-used gym memberships are not the correct way to approach one’s fitness journey, if the idea is to stay on track long term. This was the lesson that Sahil Bansal and Mehakdeep (Mac) Singh learnt the hard way, before joining hands to simplify the fitness journeys of others through their unique fitness app – Fitelo.

In his fat-to-fit journey, Bansal’s biggest learning was that fitness is about building habits and changing one’s lifestyle. Singh was overweight since childhood and tried every possible weight loss solution but his weight would always come back. Finally, he lost 60 kgs when he made the switch to natural foods.

Their own weight loss journeys taught them valuable lessons, and together they launched Fitelo in 2019 to offer assistance to people in achieving their fitness goals. They do this by designing wellness plans customized and personalized as per individual needs on the basis of the person’s age, their body’s needs, their goals, lifestyle, diseases, family history, stress and activity levels, and other factors.

“We have experience of working with corporates and startups, and we understand human psychology as well as technology. We are also passionate about fitness. With more than 10 years of industry experience each, we have built a high-performance team that understands health, psychology, and customer service,” declare the founders.

Fitelo offers a subscription based model. Once a customer purchases a plan, a health coach is assigned to them, and throughout the journey, they are managed by the AI-enabled platform. The plans vary from ₹3000 monthly for weight management cases to 50,000 annual plan for disease management cases. With over 50 expert coaches on board, Fitelo has facilitated a number of amazing transformations.

The founders say, “Exercise has a 20 percent role in weight loss and diet is 80 percent. Therefore we mainly focus on the diet. We encourage you to do a 20 minute walk every day or get involved in household chores or take part in a home workout session to supplement the diet goals.”

Since the pandemic, fitness apps have gained tremendous momentum. According to a World Economic Forum study, India recorded a 156 percent increase in the download of health and fitness apps in the first two quarters of 2021. Hence, Fitelo is poised for success.

“Every fitness journey is different. So are each individual’s goals. As such, the length of the program could vary from 6-12 months. Habit building takes time. We request our users to enrol in our programs for a long-term period to see permanent changes in their bodies and lifestyle,” say the founders.

In the next five years, Fitelo plans to be a one-stop shop for sustainable and natural weight loss and fitness. The team is looking to make Fitelo into a platform where an unhealthy or unfit person can search for awareness on the subject, consult experts, and purchase products or services that can help them achieve their long-term fitness goals.

“Fitelo is the easiest way to get seriously fit. We work on modifying the lifestyle of an individual step by step. So, our clients get fit and are able to stay fit in the easiest possible way. Our methodology is completely natural. Our program doesn’t require having access to any gym, any fitness equipment. In fact, we don’t even recommend any fad diets or the use of any supplements or medicines. We help our clients gain better understanding of their behavioural habits and improve their nutrition and lifestyles on the basis of that,” share the founders.

The bedrock of being fit is to make a lifelong habit of it. One can only build a habit when they take small steps repeatedly over a period of time. Every weight loss product or service on the market, promises people instant results. As a result of this, unfortunately, people lose weight but regain it after a few months – and enter a vicious cycle in the process. For true fitness, one must inculcate healthy habits into their daily life. This is the only sustainable and long-lasting way to lose weight, stay fit and avoid diseases.

The writer pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on nooranand@gmail.com.

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