Guest post by Kabir Sanjay Bavikatte
What some could not have escaped,
others will find by decision.
Each we call fate.
The Earth on its Axis, We in Our Skin: The Tantra of Embodiment wasn’t as much planned, as it was fated. And here’s the story of how it unfolded.
I first heard of Lata through Arvind, a mutual friend from Bangalore. He insisted that I meet Lata as we were kindred spirits who would have much to talk about. At that time I was a busy environmental lawyer based in South Africa. So I gave Arvind a perfunctory nod and replied with a non-committal: ‘yes, perhaps one day.’ I promptly forgot about this conversation until I returned to Bangalore in the summer of 2012.
I had been away for nearly ten years. Much had changed in my life and Bangalore was a different city. Seeking to reconnect with the city that was once home, I began to frequent my old haunts. Some had disappeared, but others thankfully remained. One of these places was the Blossom Book House on Church Street. The four storeys chaotically overflowing with new and used books is a monument to serendipity. Blossom’s disorder ensured one rarely found the book one was seeking, but discovered the book one was meant to read.
The book that literally fell into my hands while I was reaching for another in Blossom’s overcrowded shelves was titled ‘Interleaves.’ I still remember the day this happened. It was a sweltering Saturday afternoon and I had sought refuge from the bustle of the street in Blossom’s dark and book fragrant interior. Trying to stuff the stray book back into shelf, the author’s name- Lata Mani- caught my eye. The name sounded familiar and brought back memories of my conversation with Arvind. Deciding to give it a shot, I bought the book and returned home.
‘Interleaves’ turned out to be just the book I needed at the time. I was amidst a personal and a professional crisis and this slim volume of exquisite, meditative essays felt like a still point amidst the tumult. I devoured the book over the next couple of days and soon after rang Arvind and said I needed to meet this Lata Mani. The next week found Arvind and me sitting in Lata’s apartment sipping chai. Lata and I instantly hit it off and our chai and conversation became something of a ritual.
I would periodically make the hour-long journey from my end of the city to hers and there she would be, an oasis of calm in a city gone berserk. She would occupy the couch and I the armchair facing her and our conversation would meander and double back weaving in the personal, the political and the spiritual. For an entire year until I left Bangalore, Lata played the role of chai provider, sounding board, friend, philosopher and guide.
Even after that we would stay in touch via the occasional Skype or telephone call though I had come to sorely miss our conversations. Late last year, I established the Two Ravens Trust, a small grant making body that would support one-off projects working at the interface of art, culture and spirituality. Speaking to Lata about this, I persuaded her that the first project of the Trust would be a film on her writing and reflection on tantra and embodiment. The film would seek to artfully represent the essence of Lata’s work on isness, dharma and tantra. And who better to direct such a film than Nicolás Grandi, a masterful director, dear friend and someone who had worked extensively with Lata on other projects. We began shooting in Bangalore a few days before Christmas of 2014 and the film slowly took shape over the next few months.
‘The Earth on its Axis, We in Our Skin: The Tantra of Embodiment,' is a beautiful labour of love supported by several forces both seen and unseen. It is an attempt to get to the essence of who we are and our relationship with the world through deep reflection, thoughtful conversation and aesthetic presentation. It is a film that can either be watched in one sitting or small doses. It is definitely a film that one can return to again and again, and each time be surprised by another insight. More than anything else it is a meditative pause amidst the noise, and in a pause like that, you can remember things you always knew but could never quite recall.