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Ileana?s innermost expression

Ileana Citaristi had a pleasant surprise waiting for her when she arrived at the Bhubaneswar airport on Thursday, on her way back from visiting her ailing father in Bergamo, northern Italy.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 01:54 IST

Ileana Citaristi had a pleasant surprise waiting for her when she arrived at the Bhubaneswar airport on Thursday, on her way back from visiting her ailing father in Bergamo, northern Italy. The Odissi danseuse was swamped by a host of messages congratulating her on receiving the Padma Shri.

While she is grateful to the state and the Union governments for the honour, Ileana is equally pleased that they wrote “Orissa beside my name and not Italy”. And for good reason too. The late guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s son Ratikanta, who learnt Odissi with Ileana under his father, says it is a proud moment that a foreigner who strived so hard to popularise Odissi got the Padma Shri.

Citaristi now teaches Odissi and Chhau to local and foreign students at her institute, Art Vision, which she founded in 1995. As a PhD who did her thesis on ‘Psychoanalysis and Eastern Mythology’, Ileana reached India “in search of a land where I could express those inner questions that could not be satisfied by any of the solutions offered by the present Western civilisation”. She found her destination in Orissa. Dedicating herself to Indian dance through her guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, she was “able to shape the inner striving of human existence”.

As an Italian who made India her home 25 years back, Ileana is invariably asked if she is in touch with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “I met Sonia Gandhi a couple of times when she was not in politics. Now she is much more busier than me,” she says.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 01:54 IST