Veteran dancer Tara Balagopal made news in 2014 after she was found living in neglect and poverty. Things are now looking up for her, with the help offered to her taking a more concrete shape in the form of two fundraising campaigns. One of them has been initiated on the fundraising platform Ketto.org by the co-founder of lawrato.com, Nikhil Sarup. The campaign, which had initially aimed at raising Rs 3 lakh has ended up raising around Rs 8 lakh with 10 more days to go. As many as 398 people have contributed to the cause. Another campaign initiated on a similar platform, bitgiving.com, has also managed to raise over Rs 1 lakh. “This kind of response was not anticipated at all. It goes to show that people still care about art. We hope to give her a happier Diwali this year, which is why the campaign ends before that. We’ll be using the funds to renovate the house, buy furniture and anything else that she needs. We have also hired a maid who cooks and cleans after her,” Sarup said, adding: “We also need to keep a certain amount aside in case of a medical emergency, but more than money, she needs company as she has been living in isolation for a while.” Balagopal also has legal battles to fight.
After retiring from the post of Reader at Rajdhani College, Delhi University, she has been involved in a legal tussle with the University, over being denied her due after her service. “I was denied my rightful pension after retirement, and that is what I have been fighting for. The Delhi University claims that they have lost my files,” she said. Sarup will also be providing her with pro-bono legal aid for the case.
Once a director of the Delhi Institute of Music, Dance and Dramatics, Balagopal, 83, was a well known performer of dance forms such as Bharatnatyam, Kathak, and Kathakali. From being doted upon by Lord Mountbatten, to teaching dance to an eight-year-old Hema Malini, she recollects details from her dancing days with ease.
Pictures of her with Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru are some of the few that adorn the newly painted walls at her house alongside an enlarged version of a postage stamp, which was issued in her honour, after her performance in Parliament in 1960.
Balagopal, who has lived in New Delhi since the 1960s, has not left her house for many years. When talk about getting a wheelchair for her to do so comes up, she protests saying: “It’s very dirty outside. I don’t wish to go.” Talking about her recent years, she says, “Nobody has come to help me in the past few years. I did not even have enough money to get my husband cremated. However, things are looking better now.”