Geeta Chandran is a renowned Bharatanatyam dancer/choreographer who leads Natya Vriksha, the cultural organisation she founded 25 years ago. Rajiv Chandran is Officer-in-Charge of the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan, where he promotes UN values and campaigns. Excerpts from an interview with them:
Both of you are highly successful individuals, extremely busy with your professions. What makes marriage work for you?
Rajiv and I grew up together; in fact, when he was 16, he went and asked my father when we could get married! So we have shared the pain of adolescence, and have decades of memories and shared dreams.
He is always social and has people eating out of his hand! I am more reserved.
(Rajiv says that she is very intense and emotional).
We got married in 1985, when he was 25 and I was 23. We fell in love, and so our parents arranged our marriage!
Does that make sense at all? The initial years were euphoric. We were stretching our skill set, establishing contacts and connections – which we have nurtured over the past decades…
And then there is our state-of-the-art perfect daughter Sharanya, whom both of us are incredibly proud of…
I think what is most important in any relationship is for both partners to be looking in the same direction. We are blessed in that our dreams, aims and aspirations are similarly aligned.
From the very beginning he told me not to fritter away my energies on mundane housekeeping chores or kitchen matters. He has efficiently managed that through an elaborate domestic arrangement that I am not involved in. He has created a structure where my energies are only directed towards the creative process.
At the same time, he too has a demanding career. But through meticulous time management, we both manage our professional and personal commitments.
Rajiv understands the pressures of my profession and supports me in every way possible.
You also collaborate and work together. Are there any differences then?
We are a creative combine. Rajiv fully understands classical dance; in fact, for over a decade he was India’s most acerbic dance critic! Today, he has stopped writing on dance, but continues to be my harshest critic and my fiercest supporter.
When we collaborate in creating a new work, sparks fly. We are both strong individuals with our own firm creative inputs. The creative dialogue is a tough language of no compromise. But we both know that the other only wants the best and that the outcome of creative discord can only be for the creative good. But where we are totally aligned is in the realm of values.
We may differ on how we have to say something, but never differ on what it is that we have to say.
What has been the most beautiful part of your relationship?
Friendship. And humour. Rajiv is extremely funny and his sense of humour never lets him down. In the past decade, when he started putting on weight, he was able to poke fun at himself, which is a rare quality! He claims he is World President of People Against Exercise, an imaginary NGO.
Plus, he also has no financial planning sense. So in a way, his humour helps him – and us – survive!
We have also faced family tragedies together – the death of our grandparents and our fathers…we grew closer after those sad, yet inevitable changes in our lives.
One thing you would like to change about your spouse…
I really wish that Rajiv managed finances better!
(Rajiv says: Geeta is a workaholic. She works every single day for 16-18 hours on dance-related stuff. She is obsessed. She could learn to slow down a tad!)
In what ways did each of you evolve as individuals in many years of marriage?
(Rajiv says: Geeta is, in fact, my Guru. She has taught me to be brutally honest. I admire her capacity for hard work and for continuous diligence.)
Both of us are committed to mentoring youth; that is our best relaxation. This has become a passion for both of us, and has helped us grow as individuals too.
The stability of our marriage enables me to feel fully secure. It is because of that inner security that the creative process can be fully pandered to. Rajiv taught me how to be fearless in what I feel and be able to communicate effectively.