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The Arts

Astad Deboo, a Creative Giant and True 'Guru'

He danced till the very end, his energy seemed inexhaustible.

Losing a friend and brother, Astad Deboo, has shattered me and my family. We were family in Delhi for him for the last 40 years or more. Wherever he was on this planet, he made sure to be in touch with each one of us.

I fondly used to call him ‘Hamaal Jamal Kamaal’, because he was his own peon, performer and persuader. He was a creative giant, who danced everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Alps, and made friends in all five continents. Today there will be mourning all over, his loss will be felt personally by each one whose life he had touched. And he touched everyone he met, because his very being was infectiously friendly.

People in high art will mourn him, his Manipuri dancers will be praying for his beautiful soul, his Delhi dancers from among the economically marginalised will be in shock to lose him, the children with disabilities he helped grow into accomplished dancers will feel his absence.

All these beautiful people whom he had trained into becoming world-class dancers had travelled with him to high art venues of the world, to perform and show how the weakest can conquer the world with their talent.

Astad Deboo. Photo: Instagram/astaddeboo

Astad constantly worried about the wellbeing and survival of these young dancers. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic saw Astad raising funds for his dancers and supporting them through the Astad Deboo Foundation. He was a true ‘guru’ in the Indian sense, constantly caring and providing for the welfare of his shishyas. He was pained at the plight of Indian performers and the absence of support systems in our country, and he did all he could on his own.

The last chat I had with him was when he was in hospital; he had recovered some of his strength and made a video call from his bed. He said, “Yes yes, I am composing a dance piece here from my hospital bed.”

Also read: Astad Deboo Danced His Way Into Hearts Across the World

He danced till the very end, his energy seemed inexhaustible. The pieces he composed and performed with his group of young dancers at all kind of locations inspire a sense of awe and wonder. He could not get his tests done during this lockdown and he must have been in great pain, yet he continued. He never rested.

Now rest my brother and friend. I will miss you. I still remember the time more than four decades ago, as if it was only yesterday, when you came home and cooked dhansak for all of us on Diwali.

Goodbye Astad, my brother.

M.K. Raina is a theatre actor and director.