(A must share on what women can achieve when their minds are set on their goal and how having babies is just part of the journey) A Kathak dancer empanelled with the ICCR,(Indian council for cultural relations)I was offered the chance to lead a team of dancers and musicians on a tour to Tunisia. It was a wonderful opportunity for me- to present Kathak to audiences far removed from its cultural context. The hitch-I was pregnant, well into the second trimester. Luckily, this being my second pregnancy, I (and others around me) had generally behaved like I was not pregnant. Unlike the first time- which I sat out because of lower ab cramps during rehearsals in the first trimester- this time I was raring to go. I launched into full pre-performance mode-daily 8 hr rehearsals-composing and choreographing, post rehearsal sessions with the tailor, scourcing fabrics, dyeing them, organizing documentation etc- I was on my feet for most of my waking hours. When we went on tour, it was week 29-31 of my pregnancy. I had designed the costume to hide my clearly visible bulge but on the second or third day of the tour- in a University, faced by an audience predominantly of young women in hijabs and skinny jeans- I spontaneously announced, “Im pregnant”. There were cheers and claps and many came backstage later saying, ‘we thought so…its amazing..” I had not mentioned my pregnancy in my exchanges with the ICCR headquarters- a feeling that the official attitudes against pregnant dancers would be discouraging. They might decide that I was ‘fit to perform’-simply because I was pregnant And this I think is the crucial point. Too often female performers are told they have a ‘shelf life’ and that pregnancy, ageing limits their performative years. I was lucky in that I had a normal pregnancy and delivery-this does not hold true for everyone, my argument is-please let women decide. Pregnancy is a fragile time which requires cooperation and sensitivity from colleagues. Do not let the humungous stomach (breasts) scare you-do allow the woman to decide whether she is ‘fit to work ‘ or not. A pregnant dancer defies ‘classical’ norms of beauty, but we need to acknowledge the pregnant body and allow it on stage. Pregnancy does not automatically make women (in any profession)-‘unprofessional’. This tour pushed my boundaries as a performer and also as a administrator, a mother, a team player. Going into it, I didn’t even know what my boundaries were. I discovered them along the way. I am glad I had the chance to do so-my team was very supportive. I just hope the same for women everywhere. Ashavari Bv notes This renowned Kathak dancer travelled for her first birth two years back from Calcutta to Cochin This being her second pregnancy in 2016 saw her again at her very best She has clearly demonstrated that age or professional commitments are not a constraint even during pregnancy and that sky is the limit for a performer (the pic that you see shows her perform in her 8th month) Well done Ashavari we need more women like you to show the way…..

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