Mallika Sarabhai

Mallika Sarabhai – a synonym of woman power – is a multifaceted personality… a dancer, choreographer, publisher, activist, writer, actor… and above all a compassionate animal lover. But ask her and she always tends to call herself a communicator. Here’s more about her concern about care for all living beings … especially the tailwaggers.

Mallika SarabhaiMallika, daughter of reputed dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and renowned scientist Vikram Sarabhai, is indeed an extraordinary confluence of art and science. She is one of India’s leading choreographers and dancers. She holds a PhD in organisational behaviour and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM); she has also been the co-director of the prestigious arts institution, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, for nearly 30 years. At the same time she also got recognised as an exceptional young dancer in the classical forms of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. She has been conferred with Padma Bhushan (2010), third highest civilian award in India, besides numerous prestigious awards and honours.

Coochie-poochie love…
Despite her busy and buzzing life, she loves to spend time with her poochie pals. And she doesn’t want to limit her love to one…she has around 10 dogs at home and she feels equally compassionate for all four-legged furry angels. Mallika was always surrounded with pets. “I used to have Siamese cats. My father gave me what he thought was a pair of males. But they weren’t. By the time I was 10, we had 21! I used to name them after my favourite musical heroines like Eliza from My Fair Lady and so on. And we also had a dog named Sparku, officially my father’s. But they were all great friends,” she shared. Over the years, she had innumerable pets. “I switched to dogs after many years of having none. I have nine at the moment,” she added.

Unforgettable memories…
So having so many pets, is there any favourites and she replied, “Of course. There are those with whom you have a special bonding. My first Dachshund, Freddy Bark named after Frederik Bach, was like that. He would stay at my daughter’s pillow for hours. And he would inform my mother when I was at the crossroads on my way home from the office. Then, I had a gorgeous and super intelligent German Shepherd called Anna who we tragically lost to leukemia last year. I felt so bad to lose them but they are so much a part of me that unlike others who don’t keep them for fear of loss, I can’t think of a time without them.” Anybody can see the joy in her eyes when she discusses about her pets and she has many anecdotes to share. “I have a Lab called Panchali. She and her siblings Kana and Uttara often go to my organic farm. Once, the driver stopped to pay a bill and left them in the car with a window slightly open. When he got to the farm, Panchali was missing. When the driver retraced his steps, he found her sitting at the place where he paid the bill, as though waiting for a lift!”

More memories to cherish…
“My German Shepherd Socrates desperately wants to talk to me and to describe his day. He has long conversations of great musical and tonal merit. But after a point he gets frustrated that he can’t say more. And then he tries to hide under my arm as though he were a puppy. And he is so BIG,” shares Mallika with a twinkle in her eyes. Another one, she went on, “Labs love the water. Alsatians don’t. But going to the farm, Anna used to watch Maya and others jump into the pool. One day, she gently went paw deep into the water. Over the next few visits, when she thought none of us were looking, she went more and more into the water until she was completely in. And we continued to pretend that we hadn’t seen her go into the water, for which self respecting Alsatian would.”

“Some of my pooches are with me all the time, whether I am rehearsing, doing yoga or working in the office. They are my entourage so I am always crawling all over them. This is not a happy place for people who are afraid of dogs or don’t like them. Several sleep in my room, in my bed, or occupy my favourite chairs. Basically they are all over me all the time when I am here. And as I work and live in the same place, it is easy. They are lovely and I have long conversations with them,” tells Mallika as a matter of fact. Mallika loves everything about her dogs. Their presence is a must so that she can bury her face in them when she wants. And she feels they also love her and adds, “My abject slavishness to them is what they love most about me. So, they never make me feel lonely.”

Foodie facts…
She takes good care of her dogs and is indeed a caring mom to them, “All my dogs are vegetarians and they love to gorge on eggs and good cheese. And I love to cook for them. They just wait eagerly for eggs cooked by me for their Sunday breakfast at the farm.”

Message for readers…
“Love them and look after them as your beloved children. They depend on you and trust you. Don’t ever break that trust,” concludes Mallika.

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