Stories

In Conversation – Alzheimer’s Association, Delaware Valley Chapter (Part1)

It is not often that you have existential conversations with someone you met less than an hour ago, and rarer still ‘during’ a Bollywood cultural workshop! This one’s for you, Michael…

 

In May 2016 I had the opportunity to conduct CBDP Bollywood workshops for the Alzheimer’s Association of Delaware Valley. As I introduced myself to the group of seniors, Michael complimented me on my smile. A joyful presence, smile on his face, his Hawaiian print shirt, Michael was the charmer of the group 🙂

At one point he said to me delightfully, “where did David find you?! You are a gem!” But beyond his generous words, it was his thought-provoking questions that I remember Michael for.

After I had presented an overview of India we moved on to a conversation about culture, diversity, and dancing. David, our client program coordinator, sensitively moderated the session and the seniors shared stories from their lives and asked me questions about mine.

At one point Michael looked at me and asked warmly, “what is the essence of you?”

NOBODY had ever asked me that! In fact, I had never quite asked myself that! My ongoing spiritual journey had not equipped me with succinct answers for my existential dilemma! 🙂

I paused and then shared that I would really need to think this one over, but right now I would attribute ‘my essence’ to being a celebration of life, no matter where you are and what you are doing! I scanned the room to see if my answer resonated any bit, and I got a few nods and smiles. Then he asked me another one.

Michael: “With regards to dancing, what do you see yourself doing that you haven’t done before?”

I had been so caught up in the current phase of my CBDP pursuits that I had to pause and think again. But I did have answers for this one: I wanted to learn the Waltz and dance to a Bollywood song (and I’m happy to share this dream did come true 7 months later in Jan’ 17!) and also wanted to do more with Bharatnatyam, the classical dance form I was training in.

The session moved on, the group conversation flowed, and we wrapped up with a round of Bollywood dancing – OF COURSE! 🙂 Michael had somewhat restricted movement in one arm, but he didn’t let that get in the way of dancing! He also talked about his beautiful marriage and that his wife had passed away. He also smiled and said that he may be older but he is young at heart! He truly was a joyful person 🙂

This year I was invited back to the Marlton-NJ chapter for a CBDP workshop in Nov 2017. I was excited to meet the group and was especially looking forward to meeting Michael to see how he was doing and to share how much I appreciated our conversation!

But I was saddened to know that he had passed away earlier this year…

 

I am honored to be able to bring a slice of the Indian culture and Bollywood flavor to this group of seniors who are dealing with Alzheimer’s at various stages/phases of their lives. I have enjoyed our conversations, I have loved listening to their life experiences encompassing various cultural backgrounds and different hobbies, and about their passions & their loves!

Bollywood dancing has been a medium that has created beautiful moments of connection with these lovely seniors.

My heartfelt gratitude to Musicopia, ArtReach, and The Alzheimer’s Association of Delaware Valley for giving me these opportunities to connect and serve. A BIG thank you to David Johnson, who is so present to each person in the room and moderates each session with skill and heart.

 And Michael – thank you for being so present to me… you were missed.

I don’t have a picture of Michael to share from last year’s session, but here is group shot from our recent CBDP workshop in Nov’ 17.

Marlton Chapter - Nov '17
Marlton Chapter – Nov ’17

I have some beautiful stories to share from this year’s CBDP workshops – looking forward to sharing those with you soon.

*Update – 12/21/2017 – Thank you Art Reach for your kind words and for sharing this story on your website 😊  (See link below)

https://www.art-reach.org/sharing-hearts-culture-diversity-dancing-teaching-artist-swati-chaturvedi/

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