Meet Ananda Shankar Jayant Who ‘Conquered’ Cancer With Dance. Isn’t That Great?

Cancer is a deadly disease. No doubt we have made huge strides in medicine, yet cancer continues to be a formidable disease, and it is slated to become the leading cause of death worldwide. Many people who are diagnosed with cancer lose all hopes in their lives. Their life worsens.

But not Ananda Shankar’s. So, who is she?

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Ananda Shankar is a noted Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi dancer. According to the TED-x blog, she started dancing when she was just 4 years old. She was told that she has very large eyes and therefore, should take up dancing. And since then, dancing hasn’t been a hobby or pastime but a reason to touch eternity.


The day when she came to know that she has cancer

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Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer in the year 2008. When she visited the doctor’s clinic, the word ‘carcinoma’ left her devastated. They were discussing ‘stage’ and ‘grade’ of the progression.

She relates her cancer news with the dance form called Navarasas (the 9 rasas of dance namely Shringara, Hasya, Karuna, Roudra, Veera, Bhibatsa, Adhbhuta, Shanta and Bhayanaka). She was under the impression that out of these, she understood Bhayanaka the most until the day she found out she had cancer. That day, she understood the real meaning of Bhaya.

Even in such a tough time, when anyone’s world can fall apart, all that bothered her was the fact that she’ll have to stay away from dance.


She tells how this cancer news affected her…

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She used to believe that she has complete control over her life. Instead, the cancer news drew her to a conclusion that she has control over 3 things – her thoughts, her mind and the images it created, and the action derived from them. She said, ”I was wallowing in anger, fear, frustration, misery”.


How she fought cancer?

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Her positive thoughts and the way to tackle the ambushed challenges of life is really praiseworthy. She had made up her mind that she will ride out cancer, come what may.

She told her tumor ‘Hail fellow, well met! But now be gone. I have no time for you.

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This is what she has to say:

Cancer is a mind game, like several of life’s setbacks. But how do you focus and stay on course, while the misery overpowers you? All I wanted to do was curl up and weep. But I told myself that my fear and tears were options I did not have. I’d drag myself to the studio every day, and practise as much as I could. Every time, cancer clutter invaded my mind, I’d rework my mental frequency. I focused on the mudras, on the imagery, poetry and metaphors of nritya. And slowly, I moved out of a miserable state of mind. My footwork drowned negative emotions, and my prana was recharged with the poetry of movement and expressions.

She has danced just weeks after her surgery and through chemo cycles.

Isn’t that inspiring? How many people do you meet who are really determined to fight the challenges and setbacks that life throws at us?


She wants to be known as a Cancer conqueror and not a cancer survivor

She believes that cancer is just a page in her life.


She has a message for all cancer patients

Don’t give cancer the importance it begs of you. Treat it, deal with it, but do not succumb to its emotional pulls. In addition to that, she tells the younger generation to chase and nurture their respective passions. Also, she teaches that don’t worry for it to become your career. It’d be much more than that – your core strength.

She has been honored with Padma Shri Award from the Government of India in the year 2007.

To see her graceful moves and to know more about her, you can see her talk here.

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