Mohit Sameer Mehta, 35
Director, National Ballet & Academy Trust of India
It’s kind of comical to see how instantly Mohit Sameer Mehta’s face registers anger when a reckless motorist cuts in front of his car hastily, and a few metres down the road, a cyclist refuses to give any indication before changing lanes. It’s funny because Mehta gets annoyed as quickly as he cools down, and then promptly goes back to getting irritated. Mehta, the Director at the National Ballet and Academy Trust of India (NBATI), has learnt to deal with such minor disturbances the city throws at him from time to time. They, in a way, prepare him for the bigger challenges of life. Safe to say, he has learnt his lessons well.
An English literature student, Mehta has no formal training in ballet. He owes all his knowledge to his friend and apartment mate who he studied with in college at the City University in New York. “She’d been learning since she was a child. I was so inspired by her technique that I began to invest a lot of time learning from her. I must say, she was really good at what she did, and as uncanny as it may sound, she always reminded me of people back home, in Delhi, who just like her were always extremely obliging when it came to extending a hand of help. I’ve come to value such men and women, and through my institution, I try to uphold these finer values of being a human being,” he says.
NBATI, the city’s first classical Western ballet school, has conducted lessons for close to 400 students, from children aged 2.5 years to adults, since its inception in 2002. For the director, there’s nothing better than seeing the kind of aspirations some of these children and their families come with to the sessions. More than anything else, Mehta believes that it’s seeing his students grow into graceful dancers, who know their techniques well. It makes a mentor like him most proud. “It’s remarkable that more and more people want to learn different dance forms and harbour dreams of becoming professionals. They’re learning that the field of dance is an ever-expanding one and it has the potential of turning around an individual’s personality for the better,” he says, adding, “I’ve not seen this kind of enthusiastic spirit to get trained in the performing arts anywhere except in Delhi,” he says.
Delhi has a lot of people with an innate desire to work hard. While, that could be true of people from most places, Mehta believes that the way people toil here is quite distinct. “Being in a metro city makes you extra diligent. You have to be hard-working because there’s competition at every step. But the city is competitive in a good way, since it gives you a sense of purpose and a sense of achievement, if you succeed, instilling confidence and faith in your own abilities,” he says, adding, “Living here has certainly made me work harder. I am forever thinking about ways of improving the facility, taking on more students and increasing the faculty to keep our standards of dance education high. I have to however say, I’ve never regretted spending extra hours at work, since each moment of earnest effort has always found recognition; one that’s mine to cherish for the rest of my life.”