When I was a child I was terrified by the Bharatanatyam dancer. How their feet thundered upon the stage. The kajal extending the eyes to their temples. The crimson lips in their garish grin. The whiteness of their eyes and teeth within. I hid behind the frayed edges of Asterix the Gaul, pretending I couldn’t feel my stomach drop every time my mother’s heel strike went off beat. And the teacher yelled and slapped his thigh. In that way I learned it is a Guru’s right to admonish his Shishya. The paan-red drool that spackled the floor with every scream. The dull beat of his battered wood baton banging away keeping score. Squatted over a commode in a 2x2 stall I tried to follow his commands. Stay on the balls of your feet. Grit the gut to hold shape. I was twelve or so. Not much between the ears. Cornered in the change room, I watched them apply their kumkum paste to their palms; line the boundaries of their feet. Cinch the waistband breathless tight. Chunky necklace, bangles, crown. At the performance, I was placed right at the front, so they could keep an eye on me. My eyes barely brushed the height of the stage and in my fear all I saw was a charging goddess. Kali hurtling towards me as the beat matched pace with my heart, and drummed my stomach into the ground. One moment she stood in pleasure, entranced by the rain, by the faith that it was some sort of sentient sign from her shepherd. The next, she’s fearsome in her fury, her body poised to strike; Nataraja quelling Apasmara. It wasn’t until I turned adult, whatever that means, that I appreciated it for art. I learned about cosmic empathy and artistic exaggeration. That the kohl and gold, the faces cold, the sarees bright and waistband tight, are meant to corset the body into divinity. An image of an almighty god, capricious and fierce, enlightened and all powerful. His emotions fleeting, his fire forever simmering just under the surface. His anger a force to reckon with. How else to turn a mother into myth?