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Changing our Mindset from Speech to Abhinaya

The 100-Day Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab for Parents: Days 1-7

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

Who do you think of when you hear the word abhinaya? The picture by Morpheus shows a popular actress, Sridevi. We think of talented actors and actresses who engage audiences with enthralling performances.

This blog post is not about such actors and actresses. It is not about performances. It is about abhinaya as a tool for expression for everyone. Abhinaya as a tool for expression for parents. Abhinaya as a tool for communication for neurodivergent children.

This week is an exciting one! We launched the TAHD Lab for parents on December 5, 2022. TAHD offers many insights into effective educational practice for all children. One of the most important insights from TAHD for parents of neurodivergent children is captured in the notion of abhinaya in Indian natya. Dr. Ambika Kameshwar chose abhinaya as the concept of the first week of the TAHD 100-Day Lab. I think it an excellent choice for our community!

Concept of the Week: Abhinaya

Parents often worry about speech and language development. By changing our mindset to abhinaya rather than speech, we recognize that humans communicate in many ways. Speech is only one of many ways to communicate. Further, parents worry about speech means that they often overlook the struggles in other areas. In particular, they miss the struggles in nonverbal communication and emotional expression. These foundations of communication are developed long before speech! Abhinaya in Indian natya is a systematic framework of expression using varied modes of expression. Thus, abhinaya is a useful way of thinking about learning and development of children.

December 08, 2022

Abhinaya at the Airport!

I am very happy today! As we were waiting at entrance, a man came from behind and said “I have an 8.45 flight. Can I go?”

Ananth looked at him said “Go ahead” Usually he does not process unexpected things being said to him in crowded places. But he is very alert today. Indian airports are a good test of TAHD! He had the right posture, a pleasant face rather than stressed, and made a perfect entry through security while I went through the ladies line! I am very glad his Bharatanatyam lessons are shifted to TAHD mode. Everything is working together very well now!

An airport scenario is a good example to think about the various components of abhinaya. Vacika(speech) did not have to be used extensively. Angika (tracking people, knowing when to stop and when to go, handling security check) is much more significant. Satvika (expression) important too.

I think that the regular practice of open your eyes and smile and many reminders to smile throughout the dance class is already having some effect. Ananth didn’t a have flat or stressed affect but a more alert and with it look today! Finally, aharya or props. A simple example – handing boarding card to security person, scanning boarding card at entry.

Ananth’s Presentation

Watch Ananth’s presentation of The White Peacock presented at a SpecialSaathi webinar. We retaped this video as the video was blurry in the webinar.

Ananth’s presentation at the SpecialSaathi webinar on December 2, 2022 illustrates the four components of abhinaya:

  • Angika abhinaya: Body movements (e.g., bharatanatyam mudra and hand movements) are used throughout the presentation.
  • Vacika abhinaya: Story narration is the speech part of the abhinaya.
  • Aharya abhinaya: Thanks to Manu Sekar’s mother (Manu is the Founder of HashHackCode) for stitching the attire for Ananth’s birthday. Originally, Ananth wanted a maroon kurta. Then, he decided to choose colors that would work with the peacock story!
  • Satvik abhinaya: Facial expressions and hand gestures were used to communicate how the peacocks and humans felt throughout the presentation!

Read about the four modes of abhinaya in Indian natya on page 7 of the TAHD book:

Dr. Ambika Kameshwar. 2006 Theater Arts for Holistic Development. Ramana Sunritya Aaalaya Trust.

Thank you Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for your guidance and support. Thanks to Ms. Usha Sankaran for coaching him. Thanks to Dr. Ambika Kameshwar and Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna for ensuring that Ananth has the right mix of TAHD experiences at every stage. Thank you Shilpi Mayank Awasthi for a memorable 25th birthday celebration for Ananth. Some of our family members attended and I have also sent the video to a few family members.

Join the Conversation!

Join the 100-Day Lab on Facebook here.

Learn more about this 100-Day Lab here.

bloggersaathi Junior

My Mumbai Travel Blog (part 1) by Lavanya Iyer Bloggersaathi junior

I visited my Chitthi (aunt) in Mumbai recently. These are some of my experiences there. By Lavanya Iyer

Our home Gurgaon to Vasai Station (Mumbai) – “The boy on the train”

We came to the railway station and sat in the train which travelled across many stations. In the train there was a family with a small child. We played with him. We also gave him one of our toys. He took the toy.

Day 1: Chitthi’s House to Seashore-“My friend Ansh”

Finally we reached Vasai. I played with my cousin Ansh. The next day, we went to the beach. There I played in the water and ran with Ansh. We had fun in the water and on the beach.

Day 2 : Chitthi’s House to Church – “Curious me!”

We decided to go to the church. We saw many shops on the way. At last we arrived. We also saw a graveyard in the Church. I was very curious. It was fun in the church.

Day 3 : Chitthi’s House to Post office to collect TAHD book – “the budgie, the fish, the tortoise”

Next day we went to the post office and collected a book. On the way we saw a budgie shop. We also went to a temple. It had a pond with fish and tortoise. We had a lot of fun.

Day 4 : Chitthi’s House to a pond and temple : “my aquatic playmates”

Next day we went to a Talav (pond) and a temple. There was a Lord Hanuman statue there and the pond had fishes. It was fun to play with the fishes.

Day 5 : Chitthi’s House to Dattani Mall : “Malls are fun”

Next day we went to Dattani Mall. There were games and a children’s play area. We played games and that was fun.

Author- Lavanya Iyer

Lavanya Iyer is 9 years old and on Autism spectrum. She loves to read, draw, paint, and do traditional dance. She is a newly incorporated CreativeSaathi junior and a bloggersaathi junior with our team now.

Artwork by Kabir Vernal

The artwork/painting of a sea is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal 11 years


How to teach What’s the Difference Concept: Play and learn by Pinki Kumar

A video tutorial on how to teach our kids about finding the difference in two images.

Author Pinki Kumar

Pinki is a special educator, play therapist and a mother of a neurodivergent kid. She has a YouTube channel Play and learn to teach different methods and strategies. These videos are a great resource for the parents to help their child learn various skills.