By Shilpi Madan
He makes magic with his moves on the floor. He makes his own decisions irrespective of social norms. He believes in following his own heart. Sandip Soparrkar is India’s first ballroom dance teacher, an international choreographer and a lover of mythology, as his latest dance drama “Death Conqueror – Karna” tells us. The recipient of four National Awards, Sandip decided to become a single father and adopted Arjun when the little one was two. Cut to 2019. Arjun is 14, and is making his Papa proud in more ways than one.
Excerpts from a conversation
As an adoptive parent, do you remember the first time you met Arjun?
When I met my son for the first time, and he walked into the room, I smiled at him and said “Hello”. He had a dinky car in his hand, and he held it out, offering it to me. That was it. We played with the car and post that, I realised that I was with a caring, friendly soul who did not even shy away from sharing his belongings with a stranger. I knew he would grow up into a confident, caring person. After our game, I asked him to kiss me. And Arjun did, joyfully. That melted my heart.
How is he as a teenager?
He wants less of me around (bursts into laughter). These days, children think we parents are fools. And that they know everything (laughs).
Are you saying he is too busy with the screen, like most other kids?
No. I have not given him a smartphone. He has a regular mobile phone, nothing fancy. But luckily he is not too fond of screens, even the television. He loves strumming his guitar, playing with the dog, going out with friends, swimming…Of course, now he does not want Papa around. He wants to do his own thing.
Do you involve him in your work?
He isn’t fond of dancing, and I am fine with that. But he does attend my rehearsals and give his expert comments (laughs).
I am working on this new dance drama centred around the historical character Karna, from Mahabharata. Sometimes I forget my lines, and then he gives the cues. I get a viewer’s perspective from him, too. He comments on how forgetful I am and I tell him that I am growing old.
How do you react?
Well, there is a line in the drama when I have to say “Arjunaaaa…!” rather theatrically. I employ that (laughs). But you know what, I am enjoying this phase too when he is going through his teens. It is fun.
What is the common thread?
I am a hotel management graduate and Arjun loves to cook. So on weekends, I am asked what kind of eggs I would like to eat. He likes making pasta too. Arjun loves gulabjamuns.
And a way in which he is not like you?
He likes to be with people but can manage a swift disconnect, unlike me. For instance, I always have my dancers over at home most of the time, when we are discussing or practicing. He spends time with us, then can get up and leave, go to his room and begin playing his guitar. He can switch off with ease, get into his own world. I envy that.
He is a single kid. Do you think that has anything to do with it?
Perhaps. I had a brother. So there was no “off time” as he was always around. Arjun has his own space. We spend a lot of time together and he enjoys his time by himself also.
How independent is he?
Post-sunset, there’s no going out alone. Otherwise, Arjun cycles to the market to run his own errands, like getting his passport picture clicked and travelling by auto-rickshaw. He is quite independent and level-headed.
Is he open to the idea of you getting married again?
Yes. Just the other day my mother asked me when I was planning to get married again and he responded before I could, “Let Papa decide first who he wants to marry!” I have always been transparent and truthful with him. I feel that is how we develop the best in our kids.
But he feels secure?
Yes. He knows that no one can take his space in my life. We go on holidays together, to movies and malls, dinners…
Now that he will turn 15 soon…
I want him to start working. As in, do a part-time job. He could assist his teacher in the guitar class as he is very good, or work a bit at the front desk at the gymnasium I go to…I feel 15 is a good age to start and it makes the child more independent, increases his interaction with people, makes him more confident of his own ability…that sense of achievement gets instilled in the kid and I feel it is very important for his growth as a person.
Is he a spendthrift?
Not at all. I give him Rs 200 as petty cash per week for his travel. No allowance per se as I get him everything. He lets me know the break up of the expenditure every week. I have got him to work things out within a budget, right from the very start. Like he asks me the budget for his birthday party and plans within that. Just the other day we were at Zara and he wanted a jacket costing Rs 6000. I explained to him it would be a waste once he outgrew it at the end of six months. I did not brush it off like many others, that “later” or “I will buy if for your birthday”. It is best to be honest. He understood.
What has Arjun taught you?
To be reflective. To question what I do, why I do it. I never did that earlier.
The best way that both of you bond?
He plays the guitar for me while I dance for him! Of course, there are some tunes that I find it impossible to dance to and we squabble. But that is what love is all about.