The Literary City

The Art And The Realpolitik Of Mallika Sarabhai

September 14, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 2 Episode 37
The Literary City
The Art And The Realpolitik Of Mallika Sarabhai
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Being raised by very famous parents has its benefits. But equally, it is difficult to emerge from their shadows in which one must twist, and then find a spot upstage—for one’s creativity.

Growing up in India in the 70s was materially different from what it seems to be today. Materially being the operative expression, because there was not much money to go around.

For example, it did not really matter what car you drove…because there wasn’t much choice of automobiles. I’ll spare you the litany of examples of what else you could not do. But the good thing was that there were other ways by which you gained respect in society. Being well educated well informed and well-spoken—this is the domain of the nerds.

In America nerds are objects of derision. In India, they favoured candidates for matrimony. We marry them on priority.

And in the time when regular middle income folks had no choice but to study hard and get a good job, being liberal towards one’s children was something that was highly risky—like sending your kids to a Montessori school. Potentially denying them the feral ability to claw and elbow their way into a packed city bus.

My guest today is Mallika Sarabhai. She sums up all of the above.

She had famous parents—Mrinalini and Vikram Sarabhai. She went to a Montessori school. And then she graduated from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and then got a PhD in management by the time she was 22. And then she devoted her life to the Arts. Details of her career and her successes and awards are in the public record. And until her friends made her change it, she drove an old Indian SUV so her many dogs could fit comfortably.

Her recent book titled—In Free Fall, My Experiments With Living (Speaking Tiger)—is not as much an autobiography as a memoir of specific events in her life and a self realisation through curing her illnesses through alternate medicine.

Reading her book is to connect those dots to see a picture of her that is candid and funny—and, for all the descriptions of her troubles—is never tragic.

In a minute you’ll understand why. Let’s meet her.

Mallika Sarabhai is a dancer, actor and activist. As one of India’s leading choreographers and dancers, she has been co-director of the Darpana Academy for Performing Arts for nearly forty years. She played the role of Draupadi in Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata, first in French and then English, performing in France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, Japan and Scotland. An activist for education, human rights and women’s empowerment, her numerous stage productions have raised awareness, highlighted crucial issues and advocated change, developing her own contemporary dance vocabulary to create short and full-length works that have been presented throughout India and in over fifty countries of the world.

Buy In Free Fall: My Experiments With Living (Speaking Tiger):

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!",  where they discuss the words "MAMA AND PAPA".

Reach us by mail: or simply,
Or here:
Or here:

Photo credits: Jayanti Sagra
Intro Uppbeat music: License code: X1OORXRUZ2ZM46IB

What's That Word - MAMA AND PAPA