Time To Stay Together, Explore Within: Anita Peter

This is probably the worst time in our lives, but it is important that we stay healthy and alive to see better times and for this, we need to ensure we follow the safety guidelines without complaining, Anita Peter, Mohiniyattam dancer, leadership skill development facilitator and social awareness facilitator, author and initiator of I-pledge Awareness for change, tells Natyahasini in a chat on how to stay motivated and tackle the COVID 19 pandemic. Lasya Drutha, Centre for Performing and Fine Arts founder says: “As adults we need to ensure we let our children know that when situations don’t work in our favour, we find other ways to make situations work for us.” 

Anita Peter

The dancer emphasizes that this time is to stay together as individual families and explore ways of skilling or playing board games, watching TV shows together or reading, i.e., listing a few things that could be done together. “We will have to come out of this. Several people have lost their lives, let it not be that we still didn’t understand and did not contribute to the healing from this pandemic,” Anita says and calls to work together with love and responsibility.

She states that it is really unfortunate that the country is still going through this pandemic. “The complete lockdown in 2020 was like a lightning strike to many who did not have the privilege of the comfort of their home or the assurance of a meal the following day. Personally, I saw the time as one for self-introspection. I understood that there was so much that I felt I could not manage but the truth was I did not have any reason to try enough. When I had no option, I started to explore, about ways I could make things happen for me and for the family. I took a personal decision or a pledge that no matter what happens I will not complain about what I am not able to do i.e., by not stepping out, however, to do as much sitting at home,” she says. 

Accepting Change: The social awareness expert opines that human beings are social animals, who always need change in their lives, yet for one it takes a while to settle into the change and for others it happens naturally. “In the initial phase of the lock down, we have seen people exploring different ways of staying engaged. This in fact brought many families together and in some families the familiarity started breeding contempt for each other,” Anita says. 

The dancer shares that she has personally witnessed families attending yoga or others forms of workout as a family. “There are children and parents who took to making videos either on YouTube or Insta reels. Several individuals became fine home bakers or artists and so on. There are men who helped around in the house and others who refused to change and vice-versa,” she says. 

The motivator explains that adults fail to realise that most importantly it is the children in their Class X, Class XII and graduation years who struggled the most. “It is every students’ dream to complete their education and also have as much fun in their institution along with their friends. That came to a sudden halt,” she says.

Anita quickly adds what stays the same is the pressure from parents to get good grades and study. “Children had to face the brunt of the frustration, parents would have at work as well as home and yet their troubles were seen not substantial enough in the adult world. Many youngsters are struggling with no one to express their feelings to, or to vent out. There is a taboo when it comes to mental health even though it is spoken about more, currently.” But she rightly questions “Are we really there to understand them the way they want to be heard?”

Difficult For Women: The Mohiniyattam expert agrees that for women working from home is never easy. “In most cases, a woman’s job is not considered as important as a man’s job. So, children or husband take the liberty to barge into the room or ask questions while she is on a call. When it comes to a man, he could switch off entirely when he is at work. These are the set mindsets and it will take more time for the changes to happen and be accepted,” she points out.  

The economics post graduate opines that most times an emotional low is because there is no-one to talk to for the fear of being misunderstood, seen as a whiner or a person as being silly. “Bottling up leads to depression gradually.” 

Anita assures that she is always there for one in need. I generally never advice anyone, however, I am there for them to listen if they need me. I know each one has the strength within and I let them realise that for themselves,” she says. 

Stay Alive, Guide To Tide Over Troubled Times

Speaking about her book, ‘To Win Your Battles, Stay Alive, Anita Peter shares that the book aims at helping one to understand enough to give the required help to a person who goes through an emotional low and also to identify whether there could be possibilities that one would be going through depression. “I wanted the reader know that emotions are normal to experience, however, when it comes in the way of one’s daily functioning and stays on, that is when you seek help of someone who you could trust or at times when professional intervention is a necessity, with the help of a counsellor, psychologist or a psychiatrist. Many a times people are confused about the roles of the professionals they seek help from and I have taken care to address the same giving one clarity,” says the author. 

Anita says that the book with 26 chapters (194 pages) is divided into three sections, the first – Understanding the struggles of the mind, the second – After depression and the third – The way ahead. “The poem in the end, captures the essence of a person, right from the moment of birth. Being a Mohiniyattam dancer, I was always intrigued by the way a baby clutches the fist. Through the poem I have thrown light on what a baby is born with as a source of courage and that one needs to revisit that stage of being on four legs to be able to bounce back and stand on two, with the clutched fist, a source of strength and courage,” says the leadership facilitator. 

Anita reveals that she has been diagnosed with clinical depression three times in her life at different phases. She decided to write the book as she knew how it felt to be depressed or to stay depressed. “Being one who was able to communicate I felt it was important to let people know how it felt to experience the same and what would one expect as help from another. There were times I felt I would give up,” she says.

She decided that she had to let people know, what made her stay on. “It is never easy to end one’s life, however, it is also never the solution to any problem, I decided that to stay and to win the battle of the struggles all I needed to focus on was to STAY ALIVE. I started penning down my thoughts in 2005, however, it shaped into a book only in 2020 as this is an important subject and something that has to be a guide or a resource for one in need,” Anita says. 

Online Classes, A Big Hit With Students

Talking about her students’ enthusiasm to online Mohiniyattam classes, without batting an eye lid, Anita Peter says that they always look forward to it. She says that being a facilitator and also a certified Zumba instructor it works to her advantage as she teaches classical dance exploring different ways of teaching to make learning fun. 

“My students have homework and they have also formed their own online practice sessions of which I am not a part of. They have stayed together and formed a team on their own motivating each other and also helping each other to get better each day.” The teacher says that they have had an online party with a retro theme, with the same food menu, so that they all had the same food and felt they were together. “It was fun dressing up and enjoying the music as well as each one entertained the other with what they were talented in i.e., apart from dance,” says Anita.

The Mohiniyattam dancer after the situation eased in late 2020, started direct classes with one or two students following all COVID protocols, but now once again is back to only online classes.

To read more about the dancer :

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