From Ganiyari to Paris

BIONIC WOMAN

Her persona is such that you remain glued to your seats. And you might break into an encore every now and then because when it’s Teejan Bai’s performance you expect nothing but the best.

God gift : Teejan BaiIn the City recently, the pandavani singer shares with Metrolife about her life beyond singing.
She says, “I am illiterate. I sometimes feel God wanted me to be that way. If I were an educated woman, I wouldn’t have done pandavani.”

While recalling her younger days, Teejan reveals how her mother was frustrated with her obsession for singing and dancing. “Dancing is not for women,” her mother would tell her, so Teejan was beaten up and even thrown out of the house for one whole night. But she was not the kind to give up. “Life in the village was not easy. It was very humiliating for my mother to have a daughter like me,” she explains. “She went to the well and people made fun of her, she went to the fields and women behaved nastily there too.”

Teejan was married when she was barely six-year-old and gave her first public performance at 13. Her breakthrough came when Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi and theatre director Habib Tanvir came to see her performance and since then, life changed for her. “Vajpeyi ji got me to perform at the Bharat Festival in Paris, and suddenly I was flooded with programmes,” she recalls.

But coming back to her personal life, Teejan remembers how her failed marriage affected her near and dear ones. “My mother broke down when my marriage failed. She was worried about my unmarried sisters. I felt sorry for her, but there was nothing called fear in my heart. My mother soon realised that only God could “rescue” someone like me,” Teejan smiles.

She soon had to live on her own and made ends meet by working in the fields. “I have never sat down for riyaz. I was always at it, so I never gave it any special, dedicated time,” she explains.
The practitioners of pandavani were enraged with Teejan because she performed in the kapalik style. “Kapalik style involves imagination, enactment and a bit of dance. Since it was more physical than the subdued vedamati style, in which you sit and recite the story of the pandavas, they were furious. But why should they decide for me?”

But this brave woman is a trendsetter because many women in and around Ganiyari, her village have now taken to pandavani. Teejan is their guru. “Now nobody has to struggle. I have done it for all of them,” she chuckles and says that she continues to live in the same village with her fourth husband, four children and grandchildren. “They must be proud that the village has become famous because of me. But they pretend to be indifferent. Of course, their attitude towards me has changed.”

She concludes, “Come home, there is still lots to tell!”

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