Clubbing passion with profession

Clubbing passion with profession

Doctors find alternative therapies for selves

Martin and Flossy

Martin D’Costa is reluctant to talk about his humdrum 9 to 5 routine as a homeopath at a clinic. “It’s only a job to make a living,” he says. When evening falls, Dr Martin puts on his red boots and the gears change as he and Flossy, his wife, glide into their roles as ballroom dance instructors. The D’Costas have been at it for five years, and though they have somewhat conventional daytime careers - Flossy, an MBA, is a manager with a leading private bank and loves her job - dance is their passion. They teach it seven days a week every evening, leaving their three-year old child in the care of Martin’s parents.

A rooftop restaurant in Panjim serves as a makeshift dance hall for their classes. Their students range from children as young as nine, to teenagers and middle-aged couples out to make an impression at the relentless circuit of weddings, christenings and anniversaries that dot the Goan social life. Though Martin is somewhat contemptuous about “social dancing”, he and Flossy are game at helping the people fine-tune their Salsa and Jive, the more popular dance styles at parties in Goa. It takes a month to pick up the basic level of ballroom dancing and six months to achieve some degree of professionalism.

Running a dance school hasn’t come easy for Flossy and Martin. They’ve had to take professional dance lessons themselves in Mumbai and in more recent years in Singapore where lessons cost Rs 2,000 an hour. They also regret that teaching dance in India does not pay enough to make a career of it. “You can’t fall back on dancing 100 per cent to earn a living,” Martin rues. But their persistence has paid off in other ways. The Goa Dance Sport Association they started got affiliated to the national body and the D’Costas’ students have been the only ones to pick up prizes in standard ballroom dancing and the Latin style at the all India level. The Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep make the standard category, Martin explains, and the Rumba, Cha-Cha, Jive, Samba and Paso Doble are part of the Latin style.

Career option

While dance could well become a career option for young Martin sometime in the future, cardiologist Francisco Colaco’s weekend hobby of singing in a band helps him wind down from a highly stressful week at the clinic. Dr Colaco specialises in paediatric echocardiology and runs a small nursing home in his ancestral house in Margao. His job gives him a ringside view of the perennial interplay between life and death. He has seen priests die in agonising turbulence and fear over the afterlife, and otherwise non-descript ordinary men face up to death with equanimity. Being so close to life and death keeps him constantly alive to the inevitability of his own finality, Colaco says.

When he takes to the stage though, existential concerns fade away as Colaco, unbelievably 67, quicksteps, twists and shakes bringing to life the Jazz Ensemble at the Raj Pentagon restaurant every Sunday. “Music fulfils me, and I return home a happy man,” he says. Other members of the Jazz Ensemble -- Darryl Coelho (violin), Robin Barros (bass), Xavier Peres (keyboards) and Guilhermo Costa (drums) -- too have other jobs and play in the band purely for their love of music and for no charge.

“I’m just an average singer, but the music is a big outlet,” Colaco says. His repertoire runs from Portuguese ‘fados’ to Konkani ‘mandos’, from popular Jazz numbers to Italian classics. He has of late taken to Indian classical music as well, making time for voice lessons at the Pilar Music School.

‘Needed an outlet’

A generation apart from Colaco’s Portuguese-educated medical fraternity, Subodh Kerkar chose medicine as a career, because it was a “safe, well-paying profession” and because studying came “easily” to him. He spent eight years in the practice when it struck him suddenly that he didn’t want to spend a lifetime treating coughs, colds and malaria.

“Something was missing from my life and I felt I needed an outlet that was different.” Kerkar had been drawing cartoons and decided to revisit the use of water colours he had learnt from his father.

Kerkar’s career switch to art did not happen overnight. From dabbling in water colours and oils in the initial years he has grown into an installation artist of repute over the last two decades. The metamorphosis has brought him financial success and a measure of fame, taking his exhibits almost around the globe. “I don’t create an installation because I have a price for it in mind. I create it because I want to express an idea. Money is a by-product of my art. When what you love becomes your profession, what more can you ask for?” Kerkar says. Who would disagree with that?

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